2 Days in Philadelphia: The Highlights

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2 days in Philadelphia is a perfect weekend getaway from Washington, DC. Like DC, Philadelphia is home to so much early American history. Explore Constitution Hall, see the Liberty Bell, and take in the room where our Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution in Independence Hall. Plus, Philadelphia offers a vibrant food scene and is easily walkable.

Day 1: Sightseeing and Top Sights

On your way to Independence Hall to start your day, grab a bagel at Knead Bagels or Cafe Walnut near Washington Square Park. Enjoy breakfast in the cafe or enjoy the green space in the park. In the park, you’ll find the Tomb of the Unknown Solider with a flame that represents the light of freedom which many have died for. It’s worth a quick stop before continuing your day.

Tomb of the Unknown Solider
Tomb of the Unknown Solider

Big Bus Tour

One of the first things I like to do in a new city is take a sightseeing tour to get an overview. While it’s always helpful to have an itinerary planned, sometimes a sightseeing tour highlights something I hadn’t considered visiting. In Philadephia, Big Bus tickets are $36 for the day, and you can add an extra day or two for a discounted rate. These buses are hop-on, hop-off, so you can use the bus as transportation or stay on the entire route to listen to the narrator. The full Big Bus tour loop takes about 90 minutes and includes stops like Independence Hall, The Rocky Steps, and the Betsy Ross House. You can catch the Big Bus at any of their stops, but I think starting at Independence Hall is the best.

You may also see red sightseeing buses in the city in addition to the Big Bus. These buses have slightly different routes, but your ticket will work for both. Bus frequency varies slightly by day, so ask the tour guides for a schedule and plan your return times accordingly.

Tour time: 90 minutes
Included in the Go City Pass

Big Bus Philadelphia Tickets

The Rocky Steps

If you only have one day with a Big Bus Ticket, I recommend using it to visit the Rocky Steps and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. At the Rocky Steps, take a photo of the Rocky statue and climb the famous steps. You can also cross the street and check out the George Washington Memorial.

Time to visit: 20 to 30 minutes

The Philadephia Museums of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art

While visiting the Rocky Steps, plan to spend a few hours at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Make the most of your visit by taking a one-hour highlights tour. If you are interested in something specific, the museum also offers tours highlighting American Art, European Art, Impressionism, the museum’s archetype, and more. All tours are included in the price of admission.

Open Thursday to Monday from 10 am to 5 pm. It is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. Extended hours on Friday until 8:45 pm. $30 for adults and free for children under 18. Some galleries will be closed for maintenance on selected dates this summer.

Time to visit: 2 to 3 hours
Included in the Go City Pass

Wooder Ice - a blue cocktail at Uptown Beer Garden in Philadelphia
Wooder Ice cocktail at Uptown Beer Garden

Love Park & Uptown Beer Garden

When you are ready to wind down for the day, head to John F. Kennedy Plaza, better known as Love Park, to see the famous Love sculpture. Love Park is also just a nice place to take a break or walk around. It is located near City Hall, which offers great views of the building’s famous architecture. Across the street, you’ll find Uptown Beer Garden, a cute spot for beer, cocktails, and a quick bite.

Philadephia Ghost Tour

Hearing a city’s history through ghost tours is one of my favorite types of walking tours. Join Philadelphia Ghost Tours for a fun evening about the city’s ghosts and haunted houses. The tour departs from Signers’ Garden at 5th and Chestnut and visits Independence Park, Old City, and Society Hill.

Philadephia Ghost Tours operate every night from March through November and weekends from December through February. Tickets are $25 in advance online or by phone ($27 at the door).

Tour time: about 90 minutes
Included in the Go City Pass

Buy Go City Pass

Day 2: Early American History

Photo of Independence Hall from outside on a summer day
Independence Hall

Independence Hall

See the room where it happened! Although a tour of Independence Hall lasts only 20 minutes, there is something special about seeing the room where our Founding Fathers debated the ideas that shaped our country. You can even see the original chair where George Washington sat. During peak season (usually summer), tickets sell out fast, so grab yours the day before at 5 pm. Tickets are free but cost $1 to reserve online. During less busy times, you can also get them at the Visitor Center. Arrive at least 15 minutes early to get through security and get some pictures outside.

Time to visit: about 30 to 40 minutes

Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell

Visitors can get surprisingly close to the Liberty Bell. Walk all the way around the bell and take photos with Independence Hall in the background. Before you reach the viewing area, there are several plaques about the bell’s history to read.

Lines to see the Liberty Bell vary but can be a little longer on weekends and holidays – particularly during the summer. Consider going early or visiting on a weekday if your schedule allows. I visited on Sunday in June and the line was only about 10 minutes. The Liberty Bell is free to visit.

Time to visit: About 30 minutes, depending on wait times

Inside the Betsy Ross House

Betsy Ross House

Just a short walk from Independence Hall is the house where Betsy Ross briefly rented a room and sewed the first American flag. Take a tour of this house to learn the full story of Betsy’s dynamic life through grieving her first two husbands, becoming a business owner, and navigating life at the beginning of our country’s history. Tours of house are $10 for adults but I highly recommended getting the audio tour for an additional $2 to learn the most history. There are also often actors who play Betsy and other figures in her life around the grounds to answer questions.

The house is open daily from March to November and closed on Tuesdays from December to February. It is also a stop along the Big Bus and Phlash bus routes. If you walk to the house from Independence Hall, you will easily pass Benjamin Franklin’s grave. The cemetery has a small fee to enter, but there is a viewing area for the grave outside.

Time to visit: about 1 hour
Included in the Go City Pass

Constitution Center

Across the lawn from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, is National Constitution Center. This museum focuses on – you guessed it – the Constitution. Inside, you’ll find life-size statues of the Founding Fathers in Signers’ Hall, interactive exhibits detailing the drafting process and landmark Supreme Court cases, and a new exhibit exploring the importance of the First Amendment.

The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday (closed Monday and Tuesday) from 10 am to 5 pm). Tickets are $19 for adults and $15 for children 6 to 18.

Time to visit: 1 to 2 hours
Included in the Go City Pass

Independence Beer Hall

Independence Beer Garden

Right next to the Liberty Bell, you’ll find Independence Beer Garden, a large outdoor space with cover for rain and direct sun. Try a variety of local beers and bites, including a memorable cheesesteak. This is one of my favorite touristy outdoor spots in the city. The beer garden is open daily and offers happy hour from Wednesday to Sunday from 3 to 7 pm.

Best Time to Visit Philadelphia

Philadelphia is beautiful year-round, but the best times to visit are typically in the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November). In the spring, enjoy mild temperatures (50 to 70 degrees) – perfect for exploring the city’s parks and attending outdoor events. The fall season also offers comfortable weather, with similar temperature ranges and stunning foliage that enhances the city’s historic charm. Both seasons provide a balance of fewer tourists and numerous festivals, including the Rittenhouse Square Spring Festival. Summer brings longer days but be prepared for heat and humidity with larger crowds. Winter offers a quieter experience and lower hotel rates, but the cold weather might limit outdoor activities.

Where to Stay in Philadelphia

Philadelphia has a wide variety of neighborhoods to choose from. The city is easily walkable with a lot of options for public transportation. Center City is a great choice at the heart of Philadelphia’s historic and cultural attractions, plus various dining options. Old City, rich in colonial history, offers charming cobblestone streets, boutique shops, and the bustling nightlife of Market Street. Rittenhouse Square offers a lovely park plus high-end dining and shopping. Each of these neighborhoods offers a unique slice of Philadelphia, ensuring a memorable stay no matter where you choose to explore.

Getting Around Philadephia

Philadephia is one of my favorite walkable cities. If you stay near the main touristy areas, you can walk almost anywhere. If you need to go farther, the Septa is easy to use for subway transportation, and it is easy to catch ride share. If you don’t get a Big Bus pass or need extra days of transportation around the main attractions, check out the Philly Phlash. This bus is a very affordable way to hop around town. Single rides are $2 and free for seniors, children under 4, and Septa pass holders. You can also get a day pass for $5, a 2-day pass for $9, or a day family pass (2 adults, 2 children) for $12.