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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrSituated in the Northeast of the United States is the “City of Brotherly Love”, Philadelphia. It is ranked as the fifth most populous city in the country with a population of over 1,553,000 people. It is also the largest city in the Commonwealth of Philadelphia, and is the economic and cultural hub of the Delaware Valley (or the Philadelphia metropolitan area). Philly consists of several tourist landmarks, and is renowned for its historical significance and rich cultural background.
Philadelphia is also filled with many interesting historical facts, such as being home to the Liberty Bell, the city where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution was signed, and where Betsy Ross made the first American flag. Philadelphia also was once the capital city of the United States, while Washington D.C. was being established.
HistoryDuring the 17th century, Delaware Valley was occupied by European immigrants, with the Dutch as its first settlers. The Dutch claimed the land as their New Netherland colony, and other Swedish and Finnish settlers over the area were involved in skirmishes against the Dutch in order to establish their territories. The New Netherland colony was taken by the English in 1664, and became part of the Pennsylvania colony in 1681 as partial repayment of a debt by Charles II of England.
By the following year, an English real estate entrepreneur and founder of the Pennsylvania colony, William Penn, established the city of Philadelphia as capital of the colony. The land on which the city sits was also home to the Lenape Indians, Penn bought the land from the Lenape and made a treaty of friendship to ensure the safety and peace of the Pennsylvania colony. The treaty of friendship inspired Penn to name the city Philadelphia, using the Greek words “philos” and “adelphos”, which means “brotherly love”.
Independence National Historical ParkWith more than 3.5 million visitors annually, the Independence National Historical Park, or INHP, is simply Philadelphia’s most-visited attraction. It is a national park that spans over 55 acres and houses several landmarks and institutions associated with the country’s founding history and revolution.
Landmarks such as the Liberty Bell Center, Independence Hall, Independence Visitor Center, National Constitution Center, and many others, are all contained within a three-block plaza on the INHP called the Independence Mall (similar to Washington, D.C.’s National Mall in which all historical sites are located in one place). For Americans, this is one of the most significant places in the country that they should visit.
Independence Visitor CenterLocated between 6th and Market Streets is the official visitor center of the Independence National Historical Park and Philadelphia. Tours around the city and its historical landmarks starts in the visitor center, this is also the exclusive pick-up location for tours to the Independence Hall. Visitors can get free tickets on the day of their visit, starting at 8:30 AM. They can also order advance tickets online by visiting the center’s official website.
At the beginning of each tour, a free orientation about Philadelphia’s culture and history, shopping districts, and dining options will be given by the center’s friendly guides. Tourists will also be given a free pedometer on their visit, this will be used to keep track of each step they have taken during the tour on America’s most historic square mile. Be sure to make the Independence Visitor Center the first item on your itinerary.
Liberty BellThe Liberty Bell Center is a building on the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, where the famous Liberty Bell is currently housed in. It is one of the main attractions of the city (they are famous for it) and is visited by millions every year. Its main highlight, the Liberty Bell is an iconic symbol of the country’s declaration of independence from the British Empire.
The bell was made by a firm in London in 1752, it included an inscription of a verse from the bible (part of Leviticus 25:10). The bell weighs about 2,000 pounds and is suspended from its original yoke, made of American elm. It used to be on display at the Liberty Bell Pavilion, it stood there for 30 decades. In 2003, the bell was transferred to its current location and the pavilion was demolished a few years after. Also, there are no fees required for admission to the Liberty Bell Center. Tourists who wish to know more about the Liberty Bell and its history can visit the Liberty Bell Museum in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Independence HallKnown as the location on where the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution was held and adopted, the Independence Hall is the main feature and a World Heritage Site of the Independence National Historical Park. It was established in 1753 and is located on the south side of the Independence Mall.
The hall was constructed as a colonial legislature building, later becoming the Pennsylvania State House. According to its history, it is where 56 patriots gathered and defied the King of England towards revolution. The Independence Hall is also where representatives from 12 states gathered to create the U.S. Constitution. A tour inside the hall is available for free and are led by park rangers.
National Constitution CenterThe National Constitution Center is a 160,000-sq0.0 meter building was established in 2000. It is an interactive museum, a center for civic education, and its main exhibit includes one of the most important documents in the history of the world – the U.S. Constitution.
The museum also features exhibits, artifacts, and life-size bronze figures of the 42 Founding Fathers of the United States in its Signer’s Hall. Unlike other places in the Independence Mall, the constitution center requires visitors to pay an admission fee to enter.
Eastern State PenitentiaryThe Eastern State Penitentiary is one of the world’s first true penitentiary and is considered as one of Philadelphia’s most historic sites. The creepy ruins of the prison used to hold infamous inmates such as notorious gangster, Al Capone, and bank robber, Willie Sutton. The facility was established in 1829 and was deserted by 1971. Today, it remains well-preserved and haunted with eerie legends and stories. The Eastern State Penitentiary is located along Fairmount Avenue, and is open every day, from 10AM – 5PM.
The Philadelphia ZooWithin the Centennial District of Philadelphia is the first zoo in the United States and one of the premier zoos in the world, the Philadelphia Zoo. It opened to the public in 1874 with an initial collection of 813 animals. The Philadelphia Zoo spans 42 acres and currently houses more than 1,300 rare and endangered animals. The main exhibits in the zoo are the First Niagara Big Cat Falls, Carnivore Kingdom, The Primate Reserve, and the Rare Animal Conservation Center.
The zoo also includes many other firsts in the country, such as being the first Children’s Zoo, having the first orangutan and chimp births, and first exhibit of white lions in a U.S. zoo. Aside from its collection of wildlife, the zoo also features over 500 plant species in its Victorian gardens. Each year, the Philadelphia Zoo is visited by over 1.2 million people.
Reading Terminal MarketDubbed as the country’s oldest farmers market, the Reading Terminal Market is an indoor one-stop shop for everything fresh and delicious. It is conveniently situated at 12th and Arch Streets, and is visited by more than 6 million people every year. Reading Terminal is served by over 100 merchants, offering all kinds of fresh groceries, specialty and ethnic food, baked goods, crafts, and clothing.
It is also popular for its wide variety of unique merchandises, making it one of the hottest shopping destinations in Philadelphia. Reading Terminal Market is open 7 days a week, Monday to Saturday from 8AM – 6PM, and Sunday from 9AM – 5PM.
Longwood GardensA few minutes from downtown Philadelphia is the Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. The “Europesque” botanical garden and arboretum is one of the first of its kind in the United States. It has a total area of over 1,077 acres and consists of 40 indoor and outdoor gardens, meadows, and low-density forests. The gardens is home to nearly 11,000 different types of plants, including rare and exotic types that can be found inside their conservatory. It also features holiday displays, and hosts several special events and concerts year, including summer fireworks and festivals.
Philadelphia Museum of ArtA temple of art, and recognized as the 3rd-largest art museum in the country, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has over 227,000 objects and art pieces, including vast collections of Renaissance, American, and Modern art. It is situated at the west end of Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and is toured by more than 800,000 visitors every year. Another amazing feature of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is “The Rocky Statue and the Rocky Steps”, a very popular cultural attraction in the city. The 72 steps going to the entrance of the museum is called the Rocky Steps (as a result of its appearance in the Rocky film franchise), the bronze statue of the fictional character, Rocky, can be found northeast of the museum’s steps. The Museum of Art is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10AM – 5PM.
Philadelphia’s ChinatownPhilly’s Chinatown was established when Cantonese immigrants settled in Philadelphia in the mid-19th century, their businesses and restaurants where set up in one place and in close proximity to the city’s wharves. In the mid-1960s, Chinese families from all over the state began moving to Chinatown, creating a strong community that was active in local development. Today, Chinatown is one of the city’s main attractions and consists of several stores, boutiques, and restaurants. Its Friendship Gate (located at 10th and Arch Street) is its main draw, a symbol of cultural exchange and friendship between the Chinese and the people of Philadelphia.
City of MuralsPhiladelphia is known to be a very beautiful place, imbued with art and culture. Aside from the several tourist attractions listed, the city is also renowned as the Mural Capital of the United States for having over 2,000 public murals, which is more than any other places in the country. Philadelphia also has its own “Mural Arts Program” that encourages and educates children in arts and creation of murals.
DiningSoft pretzels and cheesesteaks (or most popularly known as Philly cheesesteaks) are iconic to the city’s culture and cuisine, which was directly attributed by the city’s mixture of ethnicities. Tourists should definitely try Philadelphia’s different flavors with historical roots, like their funnel cakes, pork rolls, and beer brewed locally. For breakfast lovers, they can visit Little Pete’s along 17th Street and Penn Avenue. The all-day breakfast in this diner is among the best in the city for 25 years.
Barbeque and dry-rubbed meats are also popular among visitors flocking to the city; Fette Sau and Serpico are must-visit restaurants that offers these flavors on their menu. Cheu Noodle Bar, an Asian foodie paradise, is also highly recommended by locals and out-of-towners. The Rittenhouse Square Farmers Market and Reading Terminal Market are also great places to find inexpensive and exquisite cuisines.
ShoppingTourists who are ready to explore the myriad of shopping scenes in Philadelphia are riddled with several choices on where to go first. The city offers all kinds of malls and shops that6 will suit their tastes; there are upscale shopping districts for the sophisticated, and all-around malls for the sensible shoppers. First on the list is the largest mall in the city, the King of Prussia Mall, with more than 400 stores and nearly 40 dining options. Next stop could be the Old City Shopping District or The Bellevue, both are frequented by tourists and locals for their finest assortments of restaurants and shops, they also have a wide collection of luxury goods, from chic designer clothing to jewelry.
Philadelphia is also sought after for its antiquities. The best place to shop for these items is at the Historic Antique Row, the oldest operating antique district in the United States. Within the row are also different delis and bars that are great spots for lounging and spending time with friends.
AccommodationWhen finding the right accommodation option in the city, tourists should not only choose one that fits their budget, but also one that matches their interests and overall Philly experience. Hotels located at the heart of Philadelphia’s business district are The Ritz-Carlton and the Le Meridien, these are accommodations that are nearly a half mile from the Reading Terminal Market. Those who want to splurge and get the finest things out of their trip can visit the posh and upscale attractions and hotels in Rittenhouse Square. The Hotel Palomar is great for tourists that are looking for places that are “dog-friendly”, admittedly, the most famous hotel in the Rittenhouse Square is its very own 4-star Rittenhouse Hotel. The square is also just a stone’s throw away from historical landmarks in the Independence Mall.
TransportationPhiladelphia is being served by two airports, primarily by the only major airport in the state – Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), and the Northeast Philadelphia Airport (PNE). The international airport is the primary hub for US Airways, a major airline in North America. It was also ranked 15th in 2013 for being the largest airport in the world measured by traffic movements. Tourists can get in and out of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and its surrounding areas through PHL.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is the regional transit authority in the city. They offer trips around West Philly on five subway-surface trolleys, and several buses around downtown area. SEPTA also operates a subway tunnel system around Center City. Amtrak, a federal-owned rail system offers trips to other major cities like Washington, Boston, and Pittsburgh. Taxi cabs are also available anywhere in the city, these is a good option especially when you’re in a hurry to go places.
Tourists are also encouraged to get around the city by walking. Not only is Philadelphia one of the top 5 most-walkable major cities in the country, they can greatly appreciate Philly’s culture and public murals by taking a stroll downtown.
Annual FestivalsWhen visiting Philadelphia, it is highly recommended to time it during one of its hottest and exciting annual festivals. One of the most popular events in the city is the Mummer’s Parade celebrated every January 1st. Every 4th of July, people from all over the East Coast also visit Philly for its spectacular free concert and grand fireworks display. Nothing is more exciting than celebrating America’s independence in the city where its declaration was held. Other cultural festivals renowned in the city include Pennsylvania Dutch Festival at Reading Terminal Market and the 9th Street Italian Market Festival.
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Author: radiantan. Last updated: Feb 12, 2015