As an individual who thoroughly enjoys exploring the places I visit on foot, and enthusiastically recommends the same even for tour groups, I have written an article on group day hikes for groups in The Group Travel Leader that will appear later this year. However, on my recent East Coast trip, I was again reminded what a great opportunity is available to everyone visiting the “City of Brotherly Love” by simply heading out to spend a few hours wandering the streets of the historic downtown area. This allows you to take in some of the numerous impressive sights that simply cannot be seen (adequately or at all) from the windows of a motorcoach.
First, it is important to note that walking in the historic district is safe, there are no hills to climb as it is quite flat and the entire area is very compact. A tour group visiting Philadelphia is likely to include a standard city tour with a “step-on” guide in its itinerary, so the walk I am suggesting as a supplement can easily be accomplished independently within a couple hours of free time, although it could easily consume up to a full day if the visitor pauses to see virtually everything along the way.
Maps of the area are readily available, as are walking tour guides to create a more formalized experience, but I’d recommend just setting out individually and pausing to explore the points of interest that particularly grab the attention of the traveler. Using the impressive and impossible to miss City Hall as a starting and reference point, I’d suggest heading east towards the Delaware River and making a “loop” to arrive back at or near where one began the walk.
Just a few of the things to be seen en route will include:
• The famed Wanamaker Organ, the world’s largest pipe organ, in Macy’s Department Store
• All types of fresh and prepared foods, as well as gifts, in the historic Reading Terminal Market
• Philadelphia’s colorful Chinatown, another attractive alternative for a tasty lunch
• The National Constitution Center, U.S. Mint and African American Museum
• The site of Benjamin Franklin’s home, his final resting place, and the nearby Betsy Ross House
• Such historic houses of worship as the Free Quaker Meeting House and Christ Church
• Elfreth’s Alley, a particularly charming Colonial-era residential street
• City Tavern, Carpenters Hall and the First and Second Banks of the United States
• Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, “mother” church of the African Methodist Episcopal denomination
• The Liberty Bell, storied Independence Hall, and adjacent Congress Hall
• The Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldiers in Washington Square
Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers of the Revolutionary War, Washington Square
Historic Wanamaker Organ, the world’s largest pipe organ, and atrium in Macy’s Department Store