8 fun and photogenic things to do in Philadelphia

8 fun and photogenic things to do in Philadelphia

If you ask anyone what there is to do in Philadelphia, the most likely answer will be the Liberty Bell.

But my trip was not just about seeing Philly’s number one attraction. We had a whole weekend to explore, and as much as I enjoyed seeking out all the filming locations from National Treasure (and yes, I may have seen the movie more times than I care to admit), I discovered there’s a lot more to Philadelphia than I originally thought.

I found a surprisingly artsy city, with loads of photogenic spots to stop and admire. My camera, which had been in sitting the dark for little while, got a much-needed workout.

So in no particular order, here are 8 fun and photogenic things to do in Philadelphia!

Mural Mile, Philadelphia

1. Mural Mile

I get rather excited about cities that are filled with street art. Philly was no exception – I was surprised at the number of murals that covered the sides of seemingly unfinished buildings.

self-guided walking tour of the Mural Mile took us through old town to see some of the best artworks, and included a bunch of super cute cobblestone streets, too.

Magic Gardens, Philadelphia

2. Magic Gardens

The Magic Gardens stands out as one of the best and most interesting things we did in Philadelphia. You can do the gardens on your own or as part of a South Philly tour.

What was once an ugly, empty block on South Street has been beautified with mosaics by artist Isaiah Zagar. Everything surface is covered with items that were once trash, and are now compiled into a wonderfully magical maze of colour. Definitely worth the $7 entry fee.

South Street, Philadelphia

3. South Street

While you’re on South Street, check out some of the bars and shops around the area. You can do some art spotting as you walk down the street, and you might notice that the mosaics of the magic gardens has spread throughout the neighbourhood.

Check out the Tattooed Mom bar for some crazy graffitied walls, and if you’re veggie and want to try a famous Philly cheesesteak, you’ll find a vegan option on the menu here!

Boathouse Row, Philadelphia

4. Boathouse Row

The above photo was the best one I got of Boathouse Row (and I’m supposed to be good at photography?).

We figured we’d drive along the river then pull over and take a photo, but apparently that’s not possible. Driving along the highway, we spotted Boathouse Row – then realised there was nowhere to pull over and nowhere to turn around.

We got our glimpse, then gave up. Still, the pretty row of lit up riverside buildings were lovely to see even if we didn’t get the photo we were hoping for.

Rocky Steps, Art Museum Philadelphia

5. Art Museum (and Rocky steps)

Ok this one is kind of touristy because people who are obsessed with Rocky tend to act out the movie scene where he runs up the stairs and pumps his fits into the air, but I like this spot purely because it’s so damn pretty.

From the top of the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, looking back down Benjamin Franklin Parkway gives you a nice view of City Hall with the buildings of downtown beside it. I really am a sucker for views!

Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia

6. Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market was super crowded when we wandered in for Saturday’s lunch, so I would recommend trying it on a weekday if you have that option. Even with the crowds, the market had tempting smells coming from every stall and a smorgasbord of vendors to cater for every taste.

I ended up going with a portobello burger from Hunger Burger (because the line was long and in New York that means that the food must be good), but I wasn’t all that impressed. That aside, there are about a million other food options to choose from. You can sample the goods from these markets on a Philly food tour.

Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia

7. Eastern State Penitentiary

We decided that the penitentiary would be a good idea when we accidentally drove past it and thought it was a castle. Totally not a castle, by the way.

The $14 entry ticket includes an audio tour, most of which is narrated by Steve Buscemi (that creepy-looking guy from Con Air. I’m not obsessed with Nicolas Cage movies, I swear). The historic jail is falling apart in many places and it’s peeling paint made me feel like I was back in Chernobyl.

We spent a good 2 hours in the penitentiary, wandering down each of its long halls and seeking out Al Capone’s cell. I walked out feeling as though the tour was as every bit as good as Alcatraz in San Francisco. Definitely a thumbs up!

30th street station, Philadelphia

8. 30th Street Station

We actually visited 30th Street Station by chance as we arrived to catch our bus back to New York. What a find! At 5PM, the sun had set and the lights of the station and the city behind it looked freakin’ spectacular.

Not only that, inside the station was just as stunning. If you want some good city photos, this is the perfect place to get them.

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15 Responses to “8 fun and photogenic things to do in Philadelphia”

  1. Polly

    Wow, who knew Philly was so cool? All I remember about Philly is the looong bus ride from the DC-area during school field trips. I may need to head back as an adult and experience it again!

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Oh of course, I forgot that local kids would have done field trips to Philly in school! But I imagine they wouldn’t include any of the fun parts. It’s probably a completely different experience to explore the city as an adult!

  2. Holly

    I have never been but I hope this will be our year for travelling more of the states! I would definitely check out ‘Mural Mile’!

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I think a lot of people underestimate how much there is to see in this country, you could be occupied for years seeing it all! I hope you get to visit Philly on your travels, Holly 😀

  3. Erika

    How cool! I’ve never been to Philly, and had never really thought about it as one of my top places to visit. But your photos are definitely changing my mind!

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Erika! I’d never really thought about visiting it until the opportunity came up, and I’m so glad I did! There’s much more to it than most people think 🙂

  4. Lulu Persons

    If you get on MLK Jr Drive instead of the highway (76), there’s a spot where you can park and get out and snap pics of Boathouse Row! But be aware that it’s not a parking lot, literally just a parking space with room for 2, maybe 3 cars. If you’re heading West, the pullover spot will be on the right hand side. I haven’t been lucky enough to snag a parking spot here yet, but it’s definitely on my to-do list as the weather gets warmer. The entrance to the road is a little tricky, but it’s accessible from the Ben Franklin Pkwy, behind the Art Museum. However, they do close this road down during particular times (weekends, I believe…but you’d have to double check on that one) for cyclists and runners. But even when traffic is allowed to pass through, there’s still space to be a pedestrian a great scenic place to exercise, watch the crew teams and be outdoors. And if you’re commuting to and from Center City to West Philly or through Fairmount Park, MLK Jr Drive is a super express short cut during high volume traffic times!

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Oh wow, thanks for the tips, Lulu! I wish I’d been able to find some valuable information like this before I went – it would have made my journey to see Boathouse Row a much more relaxed experience!

  5. Suzanne Fluhr

    You can actually walk or ride a bike to a place along Martin Luther King Parkway (formerly known as West River Drive) to take a photo of Boathouse Row, but I imagine it could be a little scary at night with cars whizzing by.

    Thanks for sharing some of the nice parts of Philly with your readers. BTW, in addition to the walking tour of murals in Old City, you can also go on a bus tour of the murals out in the neighborhoods in other parts of the city. They leave from the Independence Visitors’ Center on 6th Street between Chestnut and Markets Streets near the Liberty Bell Museum and Independence Hall. You’ll see that even some of the grittiest parts of the City have lovely murals that for the most part stay graffiti free because they are painted by the local residents.

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Suzanne! I did see the bike track/walkway from the road, and wished I’d known about it before attempting the drive by.

      I didn’t know about the bus tour of the murals – thanks for sharing! It’s great to get tips from people who have explored the city in depth 🙂

  6. Artemis

    Take a walk along Kelly Drive. One of my best recreation spots in philly. Also spend some time in Rittenhouse Square Park. Oh and China Town is amazing for some bubble tea.

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks for the recommendations, Artemis! I definitely need to go back and explore these spots 🙂

  7. Anna

    Hop on the Philly Phlash bus and see a lot more of the city you can get off and on all day for $5..00… Great ride….


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