Planning a quick getaway to the City of Brotherly Love? Read on for a detailed look at how to spend a weekend in Philadelphia.
If you’re interested in American history, there’s perhaps no better city to visit than Philadelphia. It was here that the founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence and created a new nation in 1776.
With 2 days in Philadelphia, you can visit some of the most important historical sights in the country, watch a professional sports game, peruse public markets, check out the excellent museums, go bar-hopping or stuff your face with cheesesteaks!
For outdoor enthusiasts, there’s the scenic Penn’s Landing and the massive Fairmont Park. Depending on the time of year, you can enjoy hiking, kayaking, cycling, ice-skating, and more.
I spent my younger years living in Philly with my family and have fond memories of the city. I’ve been back several times over the years and discover something new every time.
I’m excited to share some insights into one of my favorite American cities with you in this post.
Let’s get to it and see what you can get up to with a weekend in Philadelphia!
Table of Contents
Day 1 in Philadelphia
With just two days in Philadelphia, you’ll want to get out there and make the most of your short time. For the first day, we’ll focus on the city’s rich history and dabble in the culinary and nightlife scenes.
Depending on how many Philadelphia attractions you want to see, you might want to consider getting the Sightseeing Pass, which includes entrance to 35+ attractions and costs $59. Click here for details.
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that’s definitely true when you have a big day of exploring a new city ahead of you!
One place I recommended for breakfast is FRIEDA, a European-style cafe with a killer weekend brunch menu.
With a full belly and a nice caffeine buzz, you’re ready for a big day in Philly.
Visit Independence Hall
Start your journey back in time by visiting Independence Hall, also known as “America’s birthplace.”
Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed in this historic building. One could make the case that it’s the most important building in the history of the United States!
To visit Independence Hall, you’ll need to jump on a guided tour. These run every day of the year except Christmas from 9AM-5PM. They’re totally free if you sign up in the visitor’s center. You can also reserve online in advance for a $1 fee.
The hall is actually just one part of a much larger national historical park. There’s lots more to see here, including the famous Liberty Bell.
This gift to the US from Great Britain arrived way back in 1752. It cracked, had to be reformed, and then cracked again. The bell has remained silent ever since!
If you’re wondering where the name comes from, it’s because of the quote that is etched into the side: “Proclaim Liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
For more info on Independence Hall and all that it offers, check out the National Park Service website.
If you’d rather join a fun, 2-hour walking tour that includes a visit to Independence Hall, check out this experience. The tour includes a beer at the end from the guide’s favourite brewpub.
How you decide to spend your first afternoon on a weekend in Philadelphia depends largely on your interests and the weather. Here are some suggestions:
See Some Museums
Should you want to keep the history lesson rolling and/or experience inclement weather, there are lots of museums to choose from in the Old City.
- There’s the National Constitution Center, which is an interactive museum that’s fun and informative for all ages. Tickets cost $14.50 and include a screening of the inspiring “Freedom Rising.” Head to their website to read all about the various exhibits.
- Another great option in the area is the Benjamin Franklin Museum. Here you can learn all about one of the most influential Americans through five different rooms, each focused on a different character trait of his. Tickets cost just $5 for this excellent museum!
- There’s also the Museum of the American Revolution, which features in-depth exhibits about this pivotal time in the nation’s history. Tickets cost $21 and you can buy them online here. (This museum is also included in the Sightseeing Pass).
For lunch, in keeping with the day’s historic theme, you can pop into City Tavern. Order off their 18th-century inspired menu in this classic restaurant where the founding fathers once dined.
Visit Penn’s Landing
Walk a few blocks to Penn’s Landing. Located on the Delaware River, this is the place to be on a nice summer day.
Enjoy a stroll along the tree-lined promenade or go out for some fun on the river. It’s possible to rent kayaks and paddleboats or you can just hop on the ferry over to New Jersey to enjoy the views of the skyline.
During the summer months, Penn’s Landing they frequently show movies and have concerts. I wouldn’t personally recommend spending 2 days in Philadelphia in the winter, but if you do, you can go ice skating here.
Join a Segway Adventure
Another fun way to see a lot of the city in a short time is by hopping on a 2-hour Segway adventure. Cruise along the river, pass through historic districts, and explore a bit of Philly’s Chinatown. Tours run at 12:30 and 3 and cost $55.
After a huge day, it’s time to celebrate a little! This is a beer-loving city, so sampling a few of the local suds definitely needs to be on your list of things to do.
Beer, Brewery and Food Experiences
On this Philly beer tasting experience and tour, you’ll get to visit some of the most unique bars in the city. This includes the oldest continuously operating bar, which dates back to 1860.
Those interested in brewing may want to check out this highly rated brewery experience of Dock Street Brewery’s South Philadelphia location. You’ll learn all about the brewing process and history and get to sample six different beers.
Speaking of South Philadelphia, there’s a “No Reservations” food tour that follows the footsteps of the late, legendary TV host Anthony Bourdain. Be sure to come hungry for this one, as you’ll do lots of eating on the 3-hour tour!
If you just want to do your own thing, I recommend starting out with a drink at the outdoor Independence Beer Garden. They have an excellent Happy Hour menu as well as some reasonably priced all-you-can-drink packages if you’re really looking to party!
For a more swanky atmosphere, there’s the Stratus Rooftop Lounge. Located atop the Hotel Monaco, this is the place to see and be seen in downtown Philly.
Watch a Professional Sports Game
As I mentioned in the introduction, this is a city that absolutely loves sports. Philadelphia is home to the Eagles (NFL), 76ers (NBA), Flyers (NHL), and Phillies (MLB), so there’s always a game going on.
Check the calendar to see if one of the home teams is playing during your weekend in Philadelphia! Seeing a major sporting event in this city full of passionate fans is definitely an experience.
Day 2 in Philadelphia
Hopefully you didn’t go too hard on night one, but that’s totally understandable if you did. Philly is definitely a fun city to visit on the weekends!
Since there’s too much to do here to cram it all into one weekend, I’ll give you a few different options for how to spend your 2nd day in the city.
Start your day with a combination of history and donuts!
Visit The Market
A great way to start the day is on a trip to Reading Terminal Market. As is the case with so many places in Philly, there’s a lot of history here.
The market has been operating since way back when in 1893, making it one of the oldest public markets in the country. It almost had to shut down in the ’70s but thanks to a boost in public funding it was saved.
There are around 80 merchants here including several bakeries and restaurants, so you can easily find something for breakfast.
Donuts For Breakfast!
One of the best places in Reading Terminal Market is Beiler’s Bakery for their scrumptious donuts.
If you’re not that into the market but still want your fill of Homer Simpson’s favorite dish, head to Federal Donuts instead.
Get Some Exercise (“Rocky” Style)
After you’ve satisfied your craving for fried dough, it’s time to work it off with a little exercise — Philly style! One must-do on any weekend in Philadelphia itinerary is running up the famed “Rocky” steps to the art museum.
Get pumped up by putting on “Eye of the Tiger” and doing a bit of air-boxing and then run up the steps just like Stallone did in the movie. Is it a super touristy thing to do? It sure is. Should you still do it? Of course!
Those who are really into the classic film and want to take it to the next level can check out this Rocky movie locations tour. You’ll travel to four different sights that were used in the series, including the Italian Market.
Visit The Art Museum
If you’re going to run up all those stairs, you might as well go into the Philadelphia Art Museum at the top. It has a massive collection and is one of the best art museums I’ve ever been to.
Tickets for the museum cost $25. Click here to book them online before you go. You can easily spend the whole day here so you’ll have to move quickly if you want to see all the rooms.
You’ll be hungry again after climbing all the stairs and exploring the museum. Time to grab some lunch.
No Philadelphia weekend trip would be complete without sampling the city’s iconic sandwich — the cheesesteak. There are tons of places to try it, but first-timers should go try out the original.
Pat’s King of Steaks claims to be the inventor of the famous sandwich, which is made with thinly sliced steak and melted cheese on a roll.
American and provolone cheese are both common, but the most popular choice is Cheese Wiz. That’s right, the gooey, cheese-like substance that really isn’t cheese at all. Hey, it’s delicious!
Explore The Magic Gardens
After all that meat, cheese, and bread, you might need a walk. Good thing it’s just 15 minutes to the next destination on the itinerary, the Magic Gardens.
It’s the brainchild of Isaiah Zagar, an award-winning mosaic mural artist and native Philadelphian. Known as an “immersive mixed media art environment,” it’s a stunning place to visit.
Tickets are just $10, but you should grab them online in advance as it often sells out. You can also sign up for this South Philadelphia walking tour that includes a visit here.
Go On A Walking Tour
Those interested in getting a bit more out of their weekend in Philadelphia can check out this highly-rated Founding Fathers Historical Walking Tour.
The tour visits many of the places I’ve covered so far and also includes a beer in a local brewpub. Tours run at 11:30, 2:30 and 5:30 and cost $45.
Unless you decide to join the walking tour, wrap up a big weekend in Philadelphia with a stroll along the hip South Street.
Wander Around South Street
South Street It’s the perfect place to do a bit of window shopping and snap photos of vibrant street art.
South Street is also home to a wide variety of bars, from classic Irish pubs and hookah lounges to hipster bars with names like Tattooed Mom. It’s easy to choose your own adventure and have a fun night out here, especially on the weekend.
Listen To Live Music
If you were hoping to squeeze some live music into your 2 days in Philadelphia, you can see what’s playing at the Theater of Living Arts. Another option is the nearby Twisted Tail, which usually has live blues and also has an open jam session on Sunday.
Whatever you decide to do, give yourself a pat on the back and order up your favorite drink. You’ve earned it for completing this massive itinerary for a Philadelphia weekend trip!
Insider Tips for a Weekend in Philadelphia
Following this itinerary will guarantee a good time in Philly. You’ll have an even better time if you follow these tips as well:
Diet later. Spending a weekend in Philadelphia is best when it includes the finer things in life, like cheesesteaks, donuts, and craft beer. Save that diet for after your trip and enjoy yourself. The quinoa will still be there when you get back.
Walk or use public transport. Philadelphia is one of the most walkable cities in the US. Getting around on foot ensures you take in the surroundings and also burn off some of those calories!
When your feet get tired, the city has a pretty solid public transportation system. For just a 2 day trip, you can rely mostly on the Philly PHLASH Downtown Loop bus, which costs just $2 per ride.
Skip the winter. I grew up between Detroit and Philly and lived in Beijing, so I’m no stranger to cold weather. If you’re traveling to the city for the first time and are looking to enjoy yourself, I recommend giving winter a hard pass. Philly is much more enjoyable when you can walk between attractions and enjoy the riverfront.
Go to a ballgame. I know I mentioned this a few times already but it’s worth repeating — Philly is a sports city. It’s a big part of the local culture and something you should experience, even if you’re not a huge fan.
Drink local. It should come as no surprise that a city that loves its sports team also loves beer. Don’t come to Philly and order a Heineken or a Corona. Go with the local stuff instead. I recommend reading up on the craft beer trail before traveling there.
Getting to Philadelphia
Most travelers will arrive at the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). It’s located 7 miles (11 km) from downtown and there are several options for traveling there.
The regional rail network known as SEPTA provides an efficient and economical way to travel downtown from the airport. It only takes 25 minutes to get there and trains run every half hour.
A one-way ticket costs $8 if you buy it on board but just $6.75 if you book in advance.
Taxis are also readily available at the airport. It’s a flat-rate charge of $28.50 to Center City, where you’ll likely be staying for your weekend in Philadelphia.
Both Uber and Lyft also operate at the airport and are also good options for getting around the city during your 2 day stay.
By Train Or Bus
If you’re already traveling in the US, especially from other big cities on the East Coast, you can easily get to Philly by train or bus. The city is a major hub for Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor and Keystone lines.
There are trains coming into Philadelphia from Washington DC and New York every hour during the day, for example. They arrive at the 30th Street Station and you can transfer to the SEPTA for free to get to Center City.
Several companies also operate bus routes in and out of Philly, including Greyhound, BoltBus, and Megabus. I only have experience with the latter, traveling in from Pittsburgh and out to NYC. Tickets can be super cheap if you book well in advance.
Best Places to Stay for a Weekend in Philadelphia
With just a weekend, you’ll want to maximize your time spent enjoying the city and minimize time spent moving around. The best way to do that is by staying in either the Old City or Center City area.
They’re right next to each other and either one puts you in close proximity to the best sights like Independence Hall and Penn’s Landing. It’s also super easy to come and go from the airport or train station, making your travel days less stressful.
Being in the center of Philadelphia also means you’ll be spoiled for choices when it comes to shopping, dining, and nightlife. You also have plenty of options for accommodation.
Here are a few of the best to suit all budgets:
If you want to be near the action but not quite in the middle of it, you can look to neighboring areas such as Logan Square or Society Hill.
Now You Know What To Do With 2 Days in Philadelphia
That about does it for an epic weekend in Philadelphia. I hope you enjoy your trip to the City of Brotherly Love so much that you want to come back. It’s definitely a city you can return to again and again and always discover something new.
As you can see, while Philly may live in the very big shadow of New York, it has plenty to offer travelers! Book your trip and enjoy your 2 days in the city.
Have you been to Philadelphia? Got a great attraction, restaurant, or bar to recommend? Drop a comment below!
Images for Philadelphia in this article are courtesy of Shutterstock.
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