This past weekend I visited two of my best friends from high school at Villanova University! Even though I spent most of the weekend in Byrn Mawr where Villanova is located, I was able to see some new places! I adventured to Delaware (hello state #24!!!) with my friend Sarah for dinner Saturday night and spent all of Sunday exploring Philadelphia! This post covers everything you must see during 12 hours in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!
Sarah and I were only in Wilmington for a few hours, but I’m glad I could check Delaware off the list! Wilmington is only a 45 minute drive from Philly. Check out Chelsea’s Tavern for dinner if you ever find yourself in Wilmington.
City Hall & Love Park
Begin your 12 hours in Philadelphia by sightseeing at Philadelphia’s City Hall. City Hall is the largest masonry-constructed building in the world! There was an iceskating rink set up in front of the building and a lot of families around enjoying the pleasant February weather when I visited!
Did you know?
City Hall’s tower, which was completed in 1894, was once the world’s tallest building!
Next, make your way through Dilworth Park to Love Park, located across the street from City Hall. Here you’ll find Philly’s famous LOVE sculpture and a line of tourists waiting for the photo op.
Pro-tip: Feeling hungry? Hit up nearby Reading Terminal Market for the best food in the city!
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Next, make your way down Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This road is lined with countless museums, including a Natural History museum, the Franklin Institute science museum, Rodin art museum, and the Barnes Foundation art museum.
At the end of this road is the Philadelphia Museum of Art! I didn’t have time to explore the inside of this museum, but the outside of it is extremely impressive! Here you’ll find the Oval- the art museum’s plaza full of various fountains, food trucks, the iconic statue of boxer Rocky Balboa, and of course, the Rocky Steps! Tourists will often run up these steps and pose for a photo like Rocky at the top. I really liked hanging out here because of the city views and lively atmosphere. Don’t miss it!
Pro-tip: If you have more than 12 hours in Philadelphia, definitely take the time to explore this area. There is a sculpture garden behind the museum and Boathouse Row is only a short walk away along the river!
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
From the art museum, I hopped in an Uber and checked out Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens! Located on South Street in Philly, these gardens are super unique. There is an entrance fee, but there are a few discounts offered at the door, including a student one! There was a long line of people waiting for a guided informational tour, but I decided to check out the gardens on my own.
The Magic Gardens spans three city lots and is an indoor/outdoor eclectic mosaic gallery. Not only were the walls covered in beautiful glass, I also saw bottles, wheels, light bulbs, plates, dolls, etc. It seemed like the artist, Isaiah Zagar, expressed himself with anything he could find!
What was once Zagar’s personal studio is now a well-known, non-profit museum that opened to the public in 2008. Check it out when you’re in Philly and remember to always support local artists!
Hungry again? From the Magic Gardens, walk 0.5 miles down Philly’s lively South Street to Jim’s Steaks! There are so many famous spots in Philly to grab a cheesesteak (maybe you’ve heard about the famous rivalry between adjacent Pat’s and Geno’s?), but I think Jim’s tops them all.
First, a local told me to eat at Jim’s. Second, when I arrived, there was a line out the door. Not convinced yet? This cheesesteak was honestly the best thing I’ve EVER had. I recommend ordering the classic cheesesteak with whiz (cheese sauce) and adding onions! It was to die for.
Pro-tip: Jim’s is cash only!
After Jim’s, I burned some calories by walking to Independence Hall. This historic landmark was #1 on my Philadelphia bucket list because it’s the place where the United States became…well, the United States!
The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were both signed and adopted here!
Want to visit? You’ll need to go through security and buy tickets for a guided tour. This is the only way to get inside of the building, but the 20 minute tour given by a National Park Ranger and was really informative!
Pro-tip: No tickets are required in January or February. I just had to go through security and wait in a short line for a free guided tour. Tickets are required from March-December.
Next, walk across the street to see the Liberty Bell! Admission to the museum where the Liberty Bell is located was also free.
The Liberty Bell is a symbol of freedom and pride for the United States. It was rung to celebrate the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. The bell has a large crack in it that people are unsure of the cause of. The bell has been on display for all to see and be reminded of our country’s values even though it hasn’t rung for hundreds of years.
From Independence National Historical Park, I walked through Philly’s Old City to Elfreth’s Alley, passing Betsy Ross’s house along the way! Elfreth’s Alley is the oldest inhabited street in Philly. It’s a historic landmark dating back to 1702. The houses on this street are so charming!
That’s all for my Philly recommendations… and yes I did all of this in just one day! I hope this post inspires you to visit Philadelphia, even if it’s just for 12 hours!
Interested in exploring more of the Northeast? Check out my travel guide covering New York City, Providence, Connecticut, and Washington DC!
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