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The most popular tourist attraction and the symbol most identified with Philadelphia is the Liberty Bell.
The city of brotherly love
Philadelphia is the second largest city on the East Coast and the fifth largest city in America. It has a metropolitan population of 5.8 million people with an average winter temperature of 33 degrees (1 C) and an average of 75 degrees (23 C) in the summer. Driving time to Philadelphia is six hours south from Boston, two hours south from New York, three hours northwest from Washington, D.C., two hours from Baltimore and one hour from the coastal resort of Atlantic City.
William Penn, an English Quaker, founded Philadelphia in 1682 on land purchased from the King of England. You can arrive via Philadelphia International Airport only eight miles from downtown or by Amtrak which takes you into the middle of the city at 30th Street Station. SEPTA is the public transportation service within the city which can get you anywhere you need to go.
Because of its prime location along the East coast, Philadelphia quickly became the cultural center of the New World. With a rich history, “The City of Firsts” is considered the birthplace of American democracy and the home of the American Revolution. Before Washington, D.C., Philadelphia was the nation's capital form 1791 to 1800. Today it is a major metropolitan business, cultural and tourist attraction.
Philadelphia is best known for its rich American history and its monuments of freedom and liberty. Independence National Historical Mall is the most historic mile in United States. It holds two of the country’s most treasured symbols of freedom, the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.
The most popular tourist attraction and the symbol most identified with Philadelphia is the Liberty Bell. A new Liberty Bell Center features several exhibits on freedoms including slavery, women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement. Independence Hall, also known as the birthplace of our nation, is the place where discussions of freedom and liberty began. It is where Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776 and the Constitution of the United States was written in 1787. Tours are given every day and printed guides are available in eight different languages.
The Betsy Ross House, built in 1740 and named after the woman who made the first American flag, is the second most popular tourist attraction in Philadelphia. Her house is open seven days a week and offers a great view of the revolutionary war period. The National Constitution Center, located on Independence Mall, has more than 100 interactive, multi-media exhibits and artifacts about the U.S. Constitution, one of America’s most treasured documents.
On the Mall, you will also find The Lights of Liberty, an impressive sound and light show guiding you through the events of the American Revolution and making you feel as if you are there witnessing the events as they unfold. The U.S. Mint, also located on the Mall, produces between 11 to 20 million coins annually and holds the nation’s $100 billion worth of gold and silver assets. The Mint offers tours by appointment, which must be scheduled two weeks or more in advance.
The Philadelphia Zoo, named America’s first zoo, is known for its endangered wildlife conservation efforts as well as its educational programs, workshops, special events and recreational activities. It is the region’s number one family attraction with more than one million visitors coming every year to see over 1600 rare and exotic animals and 42 acres of beautiful gardens.
The Philadelphia Courthouse in downtown Philadelphia
Sesame Place is a great spot for families to spend a fun-filled day. Fashioned after the universally famous, award-winning children’s television program, this theme park located 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia in Langhorne Pennsylvania has more than 50 activities such as different water slides for all ages. Most exciting of all, the children will get an opportunity to meet and hug their favorite Sesame Street characters. They can visit Bert & Ernie’s home, watch dance shows, participate in parades and play all types of games. The price is $40 per person, but children under two years are admitted for free.
More than 1 million people visit the Avenue of the Arts section along Philadelphia’s Broad Street every year. This district is divided into North and South and houses over 37 cultural organizations, entertainment venues plus outdoor murals.
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, founded in 1805, is America's oldest art school and museum. The New Freedom Theatre is the nation's largest African-American theatre and the Philadelphia Doll Museum is the nation’s only African American museum of its kind. Visit the Uptown Theater, an old movie house where famous Americans such as Pearl Bailey, Lionel Hampton, Dinah Washington and Count Basie performed. The Metropolitan Opera House, known as The Met, is universally famous. Built in 1908, it has the largest stage in all of Philadelphia.
The Academy of Music, built in 1857, is the oldest opera house in the United States. City Hall is the largest municipal building in the United States, with over 250 pieces of marble sculpture and motifs. Philadelphia International Records is the home of some of the USA’s best-known R&B, soul and hip-hop artists. The Philadelphia Music Alliance has established a Walk of Fame along the avenue that honors many area musicians and music industry icons with more than 100 bronze plaques.
Shopping is a part of every vacation and Philadelphia has plenty to offer in this area. The best news is that clothing and shoes are tax-free throughout Pennsylvania. Rittenhouse Row is a high-end shopping center with brands by famous names such as Nicole Miller, Ralph Lauren and Tiffany. Jewelers' Row is America’s oldest diamond district with more than 300 businesses. Antique Row is a paradise for antique and treasure lovers.
If you like shopping malls, Philadelphia has several. The Gallery is the largest city mall in the U.S. with more than 120 shops. The Shops at Liberty Place holds more than 60 stores and restaurants and is in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. Outside of the city you’ll find King of Prussia Mall, the largest retail complex in the country with eight department stores and more than 365 retailers. Also outside the city, Franklin Mills has more than 150 outlet stores for bargain and discount lovers. The town of Reading Pennsylvania, just 65 miles (100 km) northwest of Philadelphia, is known as outlet city because it has over 90 factory outlet stores.
The Pennsylvania Academy of The Arts, built in 1876, holds a vast collection of American art by famous painters such as Charles Wilson, Thomas Easkins and Winslow Homer. The Academy itself is a great work of art with a grand stair hall decorated with gold leaf, silver stars, intricate carvings and bronze ornaments.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the third largest art museum in the country and holds some of the most impressive Renaissance, American, Impressionist and Modern art pieces by the most respected artists from all over the world. There are more than 80 period rooms from Medieval Times to Ancient Greece.
The Masonic Temple, completed in 1873, is like a magnificent cathedral. It is located across the street from City Hall and is amazing inside and out. The grand exterior is matched by interior rooms made of Moorish, Gothic and Alhambra designs. The grand staircases are lined with Masonic paintings and sculptures by William Rush, the father of American sculpture. A museum, located inside the temple holds artifacts such as George Washington’s Masonic apron.
Dining and Entertainment
Philadelphia is considered one of the best restaurant cities in America and dining can be a wonderful experience in itself. Old City, a district that rose from old foundries, factories and warehouses, is now a dining and cultural destination with more than 100 restaurants offering anything from classic American to the finest in foreign cuisine from some of the best chefs in the city. You can also find unique dining and entertainment experiences in Chinatown, the Central City Area and on Chestnut Hill.
For sports, the city has a lot to offer such as the Eagles for NFL football, the 76ers for NBA basketball, the Phillies for baseball and the Flyers for hockey and much more. The most popular areas for nightlife entertainment are South Street, the Delaware River Waterfront or University City. You can find plenty of comedy, jazz, rock, R&B and dance clubs as well as various themed bars in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia is situated along Interstate highway 95, the main traffic artery that extends along the East Coast of the USA from Boston in the north to Miami Florida in the South. It is an easy drive of just a few hours from Philadelphia to New York City or to Baltimore and Washington DC. The beach resort of Atlantic City, often called the little Las Vegas of the East Coast, is only a one-hour drive to the southeast. There you can find gambling casinos and glitzy shows just like in Las Vegas but on a much smaller scale.
Lancaster Pennsylvania is less than a two-hour drive to the west. That is the location of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, known for its quaint German-speaking communities and its technology-shunning Amish religious sects. Less than an hour west of Lancaster is Gettysburg Pennsylvania, location of one of the greatest battles of the US civil war.
Written by: Angela Winters
Top Photo Credit: © USATourist.com
Photo Description: Independence Hall, also known as the birthplace of our nation, is the place where discussions of freedom and liberty began.