Ben Franklin reminded us “haste makes waste.” So he’d be dismayed when tour groups blow through Philadelphia on their way to Washington or New York.
Franklin lived in Philadelphia most of his long life, and if he returned today, he’d agree with Annie Jirapatnakul of the Philadelphia CVB.
“We are,” she says, “more than a day trip.”
A World Heritage City
The nation’s birthplace, Philadelphia was the first in the U.S. to be named a World Heritage City. Its historic district, often called America’s “most historic square mile,” is “walkable with low-cost and free attractions and nearby hotels at all price points,” says Jirapatnakul. But even though it is compact, tours should schedule at least a day and a half to absorb it all, she says. Good ways to start are a walking tour or a trip aboard one of the city’s double-decker buses.
A number of the historic district’s sites are tied to Franklin, including Independence Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were hammered out; the Benjamin Franklin Museum, which explores Franklin’s curiosity, inventiveness and other personality traits; and Christ Church Burial Ground, where visitors toss pennies toward Franklin’s grave, a nod to his financial advice that “a penny saved is a penny earned.”
The Museum of the American Revolution, a newer addition to the district, focuses on how everyday colonists took up the revolutionary cause. In 2023, a special exhibit will examine the impact of a Black Philadelphia family, the Fortens, on the revolution and abolition. Other stops include the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House and the National Liberty Museum, as well as a new and decidedly different Museum of Illusions.
Along the way, groups can enjoy dining spots like Campo’s, which has been serving Philly cheesesteaks and hoagies since 1947. The restaurant is small but has a knack for making tasty box lunches and delivering them to places where groups can gather to dine, such as the welcoming, Old Pine Community Center. For a stop to please diverse tastes, Reading Terminal Market offers a world of foods. Voted the best public market in the nation in 2022 by USA Today 10Best, the Market offers Cajun, Caribbean, Chinese, cheesesteak, pasta, Pennsylvania Dutch, seafood, sushi and even Georgian.
While Philadelphia is without a doubt a hotbed of American history, as Jirapatnakul reminds, it is also packed with art, music, Broadway shows, murals, museums and sporting events. New exhibitions at two institutions are likely to draw groups in 2023 — the new Mediterranean gallery at the Penn Museum and the world premiere of Disney100: The Exhibition at The Franklin Institute.
“With so much new development, we are more than we used to be,” said Jirapatnakul.
Ben Franklin would agree.
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