Philadelphia’s streets and alleys lay claim to some of the most important events in American history – the colonists and the Brits traded cannon fire in the hilly northwest, delegates to the Constitutional Convention reworked the young government in Old City and the warships and arms that fought the Civil War were forged in our factories. These eras are over, but the Philadelphia that remains is a living, recognizable embodiment of the American experiment. While it is the country’s fifth largest metropolis, it enjoys the feel of a small town. Our closely knit blocks of rowhomes are as iconic as the works of Frank Furness, Willis Hale, I.M. Pei and the multitude of acclaimed architects represented in all corners of Philadelphia.
Everyone loves Philadelphia for different reasons, which is exactly the point. What has emerged – often painfully – from the city’s revolutionary roots, the excesses of its Gilded Age, its industrial booms and busts and the many rebirths that followed is a fascinating and dynamic place. It is a place where the cobblestone streets of the Revolutionary era are equipped with bikeshare docks; where abandoned factories have been reopened as art galleries and loft apartments; where neighborhood shot-and-beer bars live next door to artisan cheesemongers. It is as it has always been – a living, breathing city with something for everyone.
Sample the best fare in the city’s most intriguing neighborhoods by checking out A Taste of South Philly.
Keep the whole gang entertained with Philadelphia for Families.
Go way beyond the Liberty Bell and explore where the locals go with Off the Beaten Path Philadelphia.
Take advantage of Philadelphia’s enviable roster of low cost attractions and food with Philadelphia on $50 a Day.
Interested in a country getaway barely an hour’s drive from Center City? Try our guide to The Essential Upper Bucks.
Aside from the occasional snowstorm or flooding of the Schuylkill River, there’s really never a bad time to visit Philadelphia. Temperatures are moderate and the city and environs offer a wide variety of activities year-round. As with most American cities, it is wise to keep an eye on the convention and special events calendar, since these can dramatically alter visitor volume. Pope Francis’ September, 2015 visit, for example, drew an estimated million visitors and necessitated the closure of city roads downtown.
The weekend getaway a popular option for visitors who live along the northeast corridor, as the city is a manageable two hours from New York and three hours from Washington, D.C. You can pack a lot into a couple days, particularly if you are mainly interested in the historic attractions and museums clustered conveniently around Old City and Society Hill. Of course, there’s easily enough to occupy a week, particularly for outdoor enthusiasts who can indulge in a day trip to the countryside and have a deep well of parks and natural areas to explore.
Three to four days in spring or fall is ideal – this is enough time to take in the big draws around Independence National Historic Park like Independence Hall, a couple fine museums like the Barnes Foundation and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and peripheral recreational attractions like Wissahickon Valley Park.
Philadelphia has a robust tourist trade year-round, but there are certainly peaks and valleys. Spring and summer are generally the most popular times of year to visit – the weather is warm, squirrels hustle around Rittenhouse Square and the restaurants set up al fresco dining on the city sidewalks. Winter is the closest Philadelphia has to a low season, though this is typically when the Convention Center hosts the popular Philadelphia Auto Show.
For today’s weather and a five-day forecast for Philadelphia, click here.
Spring & Fall
The most pleasant time of year to visit Philadelphia is late spring or early fall, when temperatures average 60°-70°F.
On weekends in July and August, some of the town empties out as many residents like to spend a at least a weekend or two down the Jersey shore. When the temperatures stay under 90° this can be a very nice time to visit, as popular bars and restaurants may not be as crowded. On particularly humid days, however, the heat can feel oppressive and it’s easy to understand why many folks brave the traffic through central New Jersey for the ocean breeze.
As with the rest of the mid-Atlantic region, Philadelphia has experienced both mild winters and bitterly cold temperatures in the last few years. Snowfall averages 22 inches a year, and kids have come to expect at least a snow day or two.
Conventions and trade shows are a prime driver of visitor volume; the Philadelphia Flower Show in particular is a world famous event, and is held annually in early March. Summer is bookended by Independence Day (understandably a big draw) and the Made in America Music Festival, which transforms the Benjamin Franklin Parkway into a multi-stage, open air concert venue. Other popular events include:
Philly Craft Beer Festival (March)
The Penn Relays (April)
Broad Street Run (May)
Dad Vail Regatta (May)
Philadelphia International Cycling Classic in Manayunk (June)
Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary (October)
Philadelphia Marathon (November)
A comprehensive event calendar can be found here.
The state of Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, is located in the Eastern time zone (GMT-5).
To check the local time in Philadelphia now, click here.
Daylight Savings Time (DST) begins in spring on the second Sunday in March, when clocks are advanced one hour. In the fall on the first Sunday of November, clocks shift back one hour to standard time. With few exceptions, the entire country (including Pennsylvania) participates in this ritual of “springing forward” and “falling back.”
Philadelphia is a casual city. While you’ll find a fair share of the white collar workforce in suits and ties Monday through Friday in Center City, it’s nothing compared to the dress-to-impress denizens of Wall Street or Capitol Hill.
The city stays open later than it used to – back in 80s, even downtown could feel close to uninhabited after 10 pm – and most essentials are always available. Still, when traveling anywhere, it’s best to double check before you go. Bring chargers for all electronics, including car chargers for any road trips. A GPS isn’t necessary if you’ve got a mapping app on your smartphone. If you’re traveling with children, bringing your own car safety seat can save you money. Otherwise, book ahead to rent a car seat (legally required for infants and small children) from your car rental agency.
Don’t forget to pack all of the prescription medications you might need in clearly labeled containers, along with copies of all of your prescriptions (using the generic names of drugs).
A passport and often a valid U.S. tourism visa is required for foreign citizens who arrive from abroad, including from Mexico or Canada.
Sandwiched between the northeast corridor’s priciest metropolises, Philadelphia is a relative bargain across the board – hotel bills and restaurant checks typically run 20-30% less than what you’ll find a couple hours north or south on I-95. This is changing to an extent, as the recent influx of young professionals and empty-nesters priced out of Manhattan and many neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. have brought Philly newfound disposable income. The shift in demographics has created markets that simply didn’t exist before – you’ll find gastropubs throughout greater Center City serving $14 grass-fed beef burgers and $12 cocktails mixed with locally distilled artisan gin. Longtime residents have been known to grumble about such things on occasion, but to this writer’s mind Philadelphia offers the best of all worlds – first rate high end dining and entertainment for those who want to pay for it, a wide variety of low cost, high quality options for those who don’t, and a whole lot in between. Were one so inclined, one could begin an evening sipping Orange Blossoms with the swells at XIX atop the historic Bellevue hotel and end that same evening throwing back $2 Miller High Lifes (or is it “Lives”?) at Locust Rendezvous less than a block away.
A word about hotels – while dining options run the gamut from civilization’s finest soft pretzels at Center City Soft Pretzel Company ($2 for a half dozen) to the Tomahawk ribeye at Butcher and Singer, hotels are a somewhat different matter. The majority of lodging in and around Center City can be considered middle to upper middle tier in quality and price with the flags one would expect – Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton, etc. Expect to pay $150-$200 per night most of the time and up to $350-$400 per night during major special events and conventions.
One nice trend has been the adaptive reuse of several older, architecturally significant buildings as modern hotels. This started in 1998 with the preservation of the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society tower – a famed early example of the International style – through its transformation into the Loews Philadelphia Hotel. Other recent successes include art deco gems like the Market Street National Bank (opened as a Residence Inn by Marriott in 2002) and The Architects Building (converted into the Hotel Palomar Philadelphia in 2009).
Until fairly recently, Philadelphia suffered from a shortage of hotel rooms. In 1993, former mayor and Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell noted that downtown Little Rock, Arkansas had more hotel rooms than downtown Philadelphia (the country’s fifth largest city). This is no longer the case, but bookings do spike up from time to time, so do a little homework and plan ahead.
Prices often fluctuate depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in $US.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $200 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double
$ => $1-15 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$ => $16-40 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $41 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person
Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.
But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.
Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.
That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings.
Have Car, Will Travel
Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping.
There are also name-your-own-price sites, like Priceline, where you tell ‘em what you want to pay and they hook you up with a car rental company who can fit the bill. There are some great deals here, if you are not too picky about the make and model of your rental.
Zipcar is another choice for rentals. Available in many major cities and college towns in the U.S., Zipcar is a great alternative for super-short term rentals. Picture this scenario: you are in a big city with terrific public transportation, so you don’t need a car. But then you hear about an amazing restaurant 20 miles away in the suburbs. You can’t go home without trying it. A taxi would cost a fortune. You’d have to wait a long time to get a return taxi. Open the Zipcar app; search for a nearby Zipcar locale. You need to apply for membership and download the app in advance. Memberships cost about $7 a month; rentals are about $8 to10 per hour; gas and insurance are included. Foreign drivers can apply and you don’t need to pay a monthly fee if you’re an occasional driver (from $25 per year for a membership).
Ride-sharing companies, Uber and Lyft, are also ubiquitous in major cities. Through a smart phone app, you can line up rides all over town. It’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.
Money Saving Tip: Costco, because of its behemoth size and price negotiating power, offers great low prices for most major car rental companies. Yes, you need to purchase an annual Costco membership first, but it more than pays for itself with what you’ll save with a typical week’s car rental (i.e. searches turn up a mid-size car through Costco for $225 and a comparable car through another aggregator for $325.)
Hopefully, your trip to (or within) the U.S. goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?
Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.
Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:
Trip Cancellation: About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.
Medical: Health services in the U.S. are expensive for the uninsured. This is a major reason to consider purchasing insurance. Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other nations. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000.
Trip Interruption: For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.
Travel Delay: Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.
Baggage: Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.
Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.
Do I need travel insurance?
If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. So is your destination. If you’re traveling to a hurricane-prone area during hurricane season, for example, you’ll probably want some coverage “just in case” … no matter what.
Your English language skills are also an important factor. Insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.
How do I choose an insurance provider?
Do your homework; check around.
The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregator sites like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.
Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).
If you have pre-existing health conditions: Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.
Credit card insurance: If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.
The travel insurance business is expanding and evolving rapidly. As “shared space” lodging options like VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway become more popular in the travel and leisure market, so does the need for insurance for both property owners and travelers.
For more information, visit the US Travel Insurance Association.
The U.S. dollar fluctuates against other world currencies, but its value has steadily risen since early 2015. For current exchange rates, click here.
U.S. dollars come in $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills. They are all the same size and color, so non-Americans may have a tricky time telling them apart. The $2 bill is in circulation but rarely seen.
Coins in wide circulation include the penny (one cent), nickel (five cents), dime (10 cents), and quarter (25 cents). The 50-cent and one-dollar coins are seen occasionally.
Smaller businesses may not accept $50 or $100 bills, so have twenties or smaller bills in hand. ATMs usually dispense $20 bills.
Philadelphia’s many hardworking service sector workers depend on tips. As elsewhere in America, a 15%-20% tip for restaurant service is standard (double the 8% sales tax for a rough approximation). Bartenders generally get a dollar a drink and bellhops $2-$3 a bag. Leave $3-$5 per day for housekeepers.
The city levies an 8.5% hotel tax on top of the 8% sales tax, so factor those costs in when you see room rates quoted online or over the phone.
The day trip to Philadelphia is a staple for Americans in the northeast and mid-Atlantic states, partly due to the city’s easy accessibility. Interstate-95 runs parallel to the Delaware River on the city’s eastern border (a widely acknowledged mistake from an urban planning perspective, but such is life) and Amtrak trains run regularly into 30th Street station from Boston, New York, Washington D.C. and western Pennsylvania. Regional rail service brings in visitors from central and southern New Jersey and the city is served by three major private bus lines. Philadelphia’s international airport (PHL) – recently expanded and renovated – transports more than 30 million passengers annually.
Located on the southwest edge of the city (and spilling into adjacent Delaware County), the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is a hub for US Airways and the 20th busiest airport in the world.
Philadelphia also has the fastest (and cheapest) airport-to-downtown transfer of any major American metropolitan area. SEPTA runs regional rail service from all airport terminals to Center City every half hour from 5 a.m. to midnight. The trip takes 20 minutes and tickets are just $8 if you buy them on the train ($6.50 in advance). Cabs from the airport will run about $30 before tip.
Philadelphia is roughly two hours from New York City, three hours from Washington, D.C. and five hours from Boston. Most drivers coming from these cities use I-95, which can be a traffic headache, particularly through Connecticut and New Jersey.
Amtrak’s popular Northeast Regional train services Philadelphia from points north and south. Coming from New York, it is significantly cheaper to take New Jersey Transit to Trenton and a SEPTA train from there into Philadelphia, but it will add at least an hour to the trip.
Inexpensive bus service to Philadelphia is offered by Boltbus and Megabus, both of which have pickup/dropoff locations just west of 30th Street Station. Greyhound has a small terminal building near the Convention Center and Chinatown in Center City.
Philadelphia benefits from both a compact, easily walkable downtown and an accessible band of suburban style neighborhoods. Center City is approximately two miles from river to river. SEPTA runs a fast, inexpensive subway line along the north-south artery of Broad Street and the east-west artery of Market Street. SEPTA also has an extensive regional rail system which, while designed for commuters, is a great resource for tourists who wish to explore neighborhoods like Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill and Manayunk. If you are coming from a northeast metropolitan area and plan on staying in Center City for a couple days, a car will not be necessary – arrive via Amtrak or bus and rely on SEPTA to get you anywhere you’d rather not walk. If you do rent a car, renting from an airport location is typically cheaper than from a downtown branch or from 30th Street Station, where all major rental companies keep an office.
This brings us to parking – a touchy subject in Philadelphia and one which has scared away more than a few potential day trippers. The city played host to A&E’s “Parking Wars” television program from 2008 to 2012, gaining considerable notoriety for the town’s purportedly confusing street signage and take-no-prisoners enforcement mentality. The main conceit of this show was to document the colorful interactions that occur between Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) employees and the local citizenry (many of whom do not, it would seem, enjoy being ticketed). In truth, parking in any large city can be difficult and is arguably easier in Philadelphia than elsewhere. To play it safe, downtown garages and surface lots are abundant. Most will charge $30-$40 a day. Several have early-bird specials, which can get daily rates down to around $15. If your hotel offers free parking with your stay (some do) consider it a significant perk.
Philadelphia debuted Indego Bikeshare in 2015. Currently boasting 60 stations and 600 bikes spread throughout greater Center City, Indego ridership has exceeded initial expectations, and expansion plans are already in the works. Modeled after Capital Bikeshare in Washington, D.C. and Citi Bike in New York, the local interpretation is well-conceived and easy to use. Aside from our occasionally aggressive drivers, Philadelphia is a terrific bike city. Take advantage of the east-west bike lines along Spruce Street and Pine Street in Center City. While the real bargain is the monthly membership ($15 for unlimited rides up to an hour), non-members can bike in half hour increments for $4 a trip.
Amtrak’s Philadelphia hub is 30th Street Station, located just west of the Schuylkill River. A short cab ride or quick trip on the Market-Frankford El will get you downtown. SEPTA has two Center City rail hubs – the confusingly named, centrally located Suburban Station (completed in 1930, when today’s downtown was a less densely populated area) and Jefferson Station on the east side of town.
A SEPTA Independence Pass can be an excellent value, particularly for families. The pass is good for one day, and allows riders unlimited use of all subway, bus, trolley and regional rail lines. It costs $12 for individuals and $29 for a family of up to five people.
SEPTA also offers a one day convenience pass for $8, which entitles the holder to up to eight bus, trolley or subway rides in a single day. This pass cannot be used for regional rail.
A private company, Philadelphia Trolley Works (also known as Big Bus Philadelphia), sells unlimited-use one, two and three day passes that loop around town, stopping at 27 attractions in Center City and nearby areas. The three day pass ($48) makes the most sense if you expect to keep very busy and hit attractions outside of Center City like the Philadelphia Zoo, which can be expensive to access by cab.
The joy in visiting Philadelphia is that it is in many ways a thoroughly modern city – a busy metropolis of gleaming office towers, fashionable restaurants and high-end condominiums – which has preserved much of what made it special many generations ago. This is readily apparent to visitors who stop by for only a day or two – a testament to how the city’s social, political, architectural and cultural history is woven through its present like thread through cloth.
Philadelphians have strong preservationist instincts. And after the challenging post-WWII period marked by suburban flight and loss of industry, the city has experienced a different kind of renaissance than many other large American cities. As new residents move in and make Philadelphia home (the city reversed a 50 year population decline in the early 2000s) the city has managed to re-imagine and re-purpose much of its old architecture. Even more impressively, outside of a handful of downtown office towers, Philadelphia has preserved its scale.
Philadelphia is a city to enjoy and appreciate in a slow and extemporaneous way. It is eminently walkable and easy to navigate. A compelling mixture of new and old, Philadelphia retains the capacity to surprise. Spend a little time here and see for yourself…
Much has been written on the rich history of Philadelphia, originating with the lives of the native Lenape, whose agrarian settlements stretched across most of what is today New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania and down through northern Delaware. The arrival of Swedish colonists in 1643 marked the beginning of a European colonial project that ended with English domination and a land grant from King Charles II to William Penn, as a debt owed to Penn’s father. Penn’s Quakerism and social vision gave early Pennsylvania a distinct character from other colonies (most evident compared against Catholic-dominated Maryland and Puritan-dominated Massachusetts). Philadelphia was built up quickly from a small agrarian town into the commercial hub for both Pennsylvania and the colonies as a whole.
Philadelphia was critical to both the American Revolution and its aftermath, hosting both the Second Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention. It was, for a time, simultaneously the center of American government and the young country’s financial capital. Upon the formation of the Washington D.C. and the gradual migration of high finance to New York, Philadelphia assumed the role of “Workshop to the World,” manufacturing everything from clothing to beer. In 1876, nearing its Industrial Age peak, the city hosted the Centennial Exposition – the first World’s Fair held in an American city, and a showcase for the innovation economy that flourished within Philadelphia and the rest of the United States.
Much of this history remains with us. Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park, originally an Exposition gallery, lives on as the Please Touch Museum. The Ohio House – the state’s contribution to the Centennial Exposition, built entirely with materials from Ohio – still stands. And Center City is a living museum – Federal style townhomes inhabited by the early American elite make up Society Hill, just steps from Second Empire style banks that financed the industrial era.
Get to Know Philadelphians
In certain quarters, Philadelphians have a reputation as brusque, bordering on impolite. While there are obviously exceptions, the vast majority of Philadelphians are kind, compassionate, down-to-earth people. It is true that the city does retain a sort of collective chip on its shoulder, largely a symptom of the “Second City” mentality derived from its heritage as a blue collar manufacturing town situated between the country’s main seats of finance and government. In a related vein, a stoic cynicism flows naturally from many residents, particularly those who lived here through the 1970s and 80s – easily the city’s most difficult decades since the colonial era. But there’s also a wonderful dry wit that runs through the most curmudgeonly corners of the city and a fellowship that keeps communities intact. These are broad generalizations, to be sure, but a city of neighborhoods like Philadelphia could not be where it is today without a neighborly citizenry.
In the U.S., the minimum legal age for smoking or purchasing tobacco is 18 years old. In Philadelphia, smoking is prohibited in all pubs and restaurants with the exception of certain bars which do not serve food and were grandfathered in to allow for it.
Bars, Nightclubs & Booze
In the U.S., the minimum legal age for drinking or buying alcohol is 21 years old. Most bars and all nightclubs strictly enforce this policy, so expect to be “carded” at the door before you enter. That means you will need to carry photo I.D. to prove that you are of age (for example, show a U.S. state driver’s license or your international passport). Philadelphia’s bars are prohibited from staying open past 2 a.m.
When Travel & Leisure deemed Philadelphia “America’s Next Great Food City” in early 2015, the town let out a collective “well, yeah.” The city’s restaurant boom has been in full swing for the better part of the last 20 years. The staples of a Philadelphia diet remain widely available – cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, and water ice to name a few – but a generation of ambitious young chefs and restaurateurs open dozens of exciting new restaurants each year, bringing all imaginable fare to what was once a minor foodie destination at best.
As discussed in A Taste of South Philly, a fine cross section of the city’s culinary diversity can be found below South Street. But there’s plenty more. You can venture to the Olney neighborhood of North Philadelphia for Korean food, the far Northeast for Russian and Eastern European cooking and West Philadelphia for African and West Indian delights.
As a final note, let us put to rest the myth that Philadelphia brand cream cheese has anything to do with Philadelphia. It was invented in New York state in the late 19th century. Philly did, at that time, enjoy an outstanding reputation for the quality of its dairy products, so to name a cream cheese “Philadelphia” made marketing sense. For a taste of real Philadelphia dairy, try a couple scoops of premium Bassetts brand ice cream at Reading Terminal Market.
Philadelphia has a rich religious tradition dating back to the early colonial era. Many among the first wave of English settlers were adherents of Quakerism like the city’s founder, William Penn. These settlers joined the Lenape and the Swedish colonists who arrived in the region decades earlier and established a half dozen houses of worship throughout the Delaware Valley. One such site – the oldest standing church in Pennsylvania – is Gloria Dei. Today an Episcopal congregation, Gloria Dei’s Old Swedes’ churchyard is a remarkable urban oasis, its peaceful garden and modest graveyard sandwiched between busy Columbus Boulevard and I-95.
Remnants of the city’s Quaker heritage exist throughout Philadelphia and its suburbs. Arch Street Meeting House in Old City is the country’s largest active meeting house. Merion Friends Meeting House in the inner ring suburb of Merion also maintains a congregation and has done a nice job preserving the feel of the 300 year old grounds, down to the still-standing horse sheds and hitching posts. And while it no longer hosts an active congregation, you can still visit the Free Quaker Meeting House whose membership once included a band of non-pacifist Quakers supportive of the American Revolution and its call to arms.
Of course, the Swedish Christians and early Quakers represent only a thin wedge of the religious pluralism that exists in Philadelphia today. The city has had a robust Catholic base in South and Northeast Philadelphia since Irish, Italian and Eastern European immigration picked up in the 19th century. It also has handsome Christ Church and burial ground (the final resting place of Benjamin Franklin), America’s first African Methodist Episcopal church in Mother Bethel, some of the country’s oldest Jewish congregations and several large, active Muslim communities concentrated in Germantown and West Philadelphia,
Some potentially helpful Philly slang and terminology:
addytood – the local pronunciation of the word commonly known as “attitude”
down the shore – the barrier islands of New Jersey; generally Long Beach Island to Cape May
hoagie – local term for a sub sandwich or grinder
jawn – a kind of universal word; can be inserted into a sentence at the discretion of the speaker
wiz wit – the proper terminology for ordering a cheesesteak with cheese and onions
youse – you, typically plural (as in “youse guys”)
Memoirs of Notable Philadelphians
Main Line Wasp (1990) by Thacher Longstreth
In Goode Faith (1992) by W. Wilson Goode
The Last Mouthpiece (2001) by Robert Simone
Closing Time (2010) by Joe Queenan
Walking Broad (2011) by Bruce Buschel
History & the Social Sciences
Miracle at Philadelphia (1966) by Catherine Drinker Bowen
The Private City (1968) by Sam Bass Warner
Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia (1979) by E. Digby Baltzell
Philadelphia: A 300 Year History (1982) edited by Russell Weigley
Building Little Italy (1998) by Richard Juliani
Lost Philadelphia (2013) by Ed Mauger and Bob Skiba
Philadelphia Architecture (2005) by Thom Nickels
Ed Bacon: Planning, Politics, and the Planning of Modern Philadelphia (2013) by Gregory Heller
Fiction & Literature
The Quaker City (1845) by George Lippard
Caught Dead in Philadelphia (1987) by Gillian Roberts
Brotherly Love (1991) by Pete Dexter
Some terrific films have been made in and around Philadelphia, spanning all genres. Widely known titles include:
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Rocky (1976) and subsequent sequels
Trading Places (1983)
Twelve Monkeys (1995)
In Her Shoes (2005)
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
While it’s a fine song, Bruce Springsteen’s Streets of Philadelphia is a touch maudlin for a road trip. Elton John’s Philadelphia Freedom has more pep and tips its hat to the famous Philadelphia Sound of recording artists like The O’Jay’s, Patti LaBelle (still a resident of suburban Philadelphia) and the songwriter/producer duo of Gamble & Huff. Along those lines, The Orlons’ South Street is a catchy tribute to the party atmosphere that prevailed down there in the 60s. Other fine choices include:
Motown Philly (Boyz II Men)
Yo Home to Bel-Air (Will Smith)
Gonna Fly Now – Theme from ‘Rocky’ (Bill Conti)
Website for the city’s major daily newspapers, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News
The city’s major monthly magazine, with content on greater Philadelphia politics, restaurants, real estate, arts & culture, etc.
The last of the city’s alternative weekly newspapers
The country’s oldest newspaper serving the African American community
Philadelphia Gay News
The country’s oldest weekly LGBT publication
SEPTA Regional Rail and Rail Transit Map
Detailed Center City Map (from Where Philadelphia)