Even if you’ve never visited Philadelphia, you probably know these three things about the “City of Brotherly Love”:
1) that it played a pivotal role in the birth of America, 2) that Elton John sang a chart-topping song — "Philadelphia Freedom" — about it, and 3) that this is where Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa ran up the 72 stone steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum in what has since become one of the film industry’s greatest cinematic moments.
Sprinting up the “Rocky Steps” and posing for a photo next to the bronze statue of the fictional boxer has become a must-do for tens of thousands of Philadelphia visitors each year. And once you’ve made your triumphant trek to the top of the steps, you can reward yourself with a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Main Building, which houses thousands of paintings, sculptures, decorative arts and more.
The art museum and other major attractions can be easily accessed aboard the Philadelphia Trolley Works and Big Bus Company’s city tour. The tour lets riders hop on and off the bus at any of the 27 stops along the tour route, including Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was adopted and the Constitution of the United States was signed; the National Constitution Center, which celebrates that landmark document; the Liberty Bell; and historic Reading Terminal Market, whose dozens of restaurants and food stands make this an ideal place to stop for lunch.
The Franklin Institute
Most people associate Philadelphia with its most famous citizen, Benjamin Franklin. And there’s no better place to learn about the man and his love of science than The Franklin Institute. This is no stuffy museum. It’s a terrific, all-ages collection of electrifying science demos, movies, a dozen exhibition galleries, a planetarium—even a full-sized Baldwin 60000 steam locomotive.
Ranked by the Travel Channel as one of the best aquariums in the country, Adventure Aquarium lets you get face to face with sharks and actually touch sea stars, freshwater stingrays and jellies. Its new Hippo Haven exhibit offers an unparalleled hippo viewing experience both above and below the water.
The Philadelphia Zoo
When is a zoo historical? When it’s the first one in America. The Philadelphia Zoo was founded in 1874 and its 42-acre (17 hectares) Victorian garden is packed with diverse award-winning animal habitats, primates, reptiles, 100 spectacular bird species, bears, animals of the African plains and more. For a grittier, but fascinating, look into the past, visit the Eastern State Penitentiary. Now a museum, this former prison’s crumbling cellblocks include notorious gangster Al Capone’s cell and intriguing art installations.
Please Touch Museum
A good alternative for the little ones is the Please Touch Museum, which has two floors of exhibits, including Flight Fantasy, which lets kids imagine what it’s like to blast into space, and River Adventures, where they can experiment with river currents, build and race boats, or just splash around. There’s even a beautifully restored carousel.
Philadelphia is one of 11 American destinations offering the CityPASS program. Each Philadelphia CityPASS ticket booklet saves travelers nearly half off combined admission to five attractions: The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia Trolley Works and Big Bus Company, One Libery Observation Deck, and a choice between Adventure Aquarium OR Philadelphia Zoo.
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