Philadelphia is perfect for a two or three day weekend excursion. It is an easy 2 ½ – 3 hour car or train trip from the Washington DC area. Likewise, if you live closer to New York City, it is only a 2 hour trip to this historic capitol.
Philadelphia was the first capitol of the United States from 1790-1800. Today you can visit historic Philadelphia and see Independence Hall where the Continental Congress met before and after the revolution, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and even the first US Supreme Court. And of course while there, don’t forget to visit the Liberty Bell. These are the two main sights, but historic Philadelphia has several interesting stops if you have the time. Travel Tips: While both attractions are free, you do need a timed ticket to see Independence Hall. You can get them the day of at the Visitor’s Center but the tickets go quickly during peak times. It is less stressful to get them online and pick them up a few minutes prior to your visit. https://www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/independencehalltickets.htm There will likely be a line to the Liberty Bell. Don’t be discouraged, this line moves very quickly and even if it wraps around the building to the exit, you will be inside in less than 10 minutes…you are really just waiting for security.
Just on the other side of the square, you can find the National Museum of American Jewish History. While I am not sure I would advocate buying a ticket, the first floor is free and is a quick stop where you can see Albert Einstein’s pipe, Steven Spielberg’s first camera, and the piano on which Irving Berlin wrote God Bless America. http://www.nmajh.org/
If you are up for a scenic walk, I recommend finding Elfreth’s alley before leaving historic downtown. This is America’s oldest residential street and on the way you can pass Betsy Ross’ house, Ben Franklin’s grave and several other historic sights. http://www.elfrethsalley.org/
Any art lover must stop at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The rest of us at least need to stop by to run up the steps, see the Rocky statue and get a wonderful view of the city skyline. Regardless of your taste, plan a stop at the museum. http://www.philamuseum.org/
It is definitely worth a trip to South Philly for a famous cheesesteak. I went to Geno’s on my last trip – the line moves fast so don’t let it discourage you from trying one! And for dessert there are cannolis and gelato next door! http://www.visitphilly.com/articles/philadelphia/top-10-spots-for-authentic-philly-cheesesteaks/#sm.000000bjfkc6rrd9btmx3bsb5slea
Two lesser known attractions my cousin took me to this last trip include Magic Gardens in South Philly and the Eastern State Penitentiary. I loved Magic Gardens and will definitely recommend this colorful wonderland to friends and family. https://www.phillymagicgardens.org/ However, I could have spent all day at the Penitentiary and will definitely go back again and again. Haunted with a “stew of souls” this penitentiary was considered enlightened when it opened in 1828. Built on the premise that solitude is key to rehabilitation, today we know better and consider it torture. The museum is a wonderful education on past and present prison conditions in the United States and around the world. http://www.easternstate.org/
If driving, on your way out of town you can stop at King of Prussia Mall which is the largest mall on the East Coast and 26th largest in the world. And nearby is Valley Forge where Washington wintered when British Troops occupied Philadelphia during the winter of 1777-1778.
Movies/Books: 1972 musical “1776”! I love this movie as it is a fun and historical account of the Continental Congress in the summer of 1776! Of course if you prefer you history without the musical song and dance then you can read David McCullough’s book also entitled 1776. And of course don’t forget the movie Rocky and its inspiring run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.