3 Days in Philadelphia

Philadelphia is known as the City of Brotherly Love and the famous Philly Cheesesteak.  It is a city full of history including the place where the Declaration of Independence was signed.  It is also where the first medical school and hospital was set up in the US.

This was a special birthday trip to reconnect with a friend.  The last time I went to Philadelphia was over 15 years, so it was as if I was seeing Philly for the first time.

Philadelphia is a small city, so you can cover a lot of tourist spots in a very short amount of time.  I think 3 days is the ideal time to cover everything in the city, you could do it in 2 days, but it would be a rush.  Most of the places you will want to see is divided in a few sections, the historical area, the waterfront, and places outside of Philly.

We stayed at the Warwick Hotel.  It was a wonderful experience.  The hotel lobby was so beautiful and modern.  The rooms were spacious for a hotel in a downtown area.  The hotel and our room were very clean.  It does not have parking, you either go park it in a garage or you can find street parking.

Day 1-Historical Area

  • Independence Hall Visitor Center-This is a great starting point, since it is a central location.  If you cannot find parking, the hall has paid parking underneath.  There is a restaurant on the top floor where you have a great view of the area. There are also certain dates where the parking is free. Check out the link here.
  • Liberty Bell-The Liberty Bell is limited due to Covid.  Go early because it is a long line. I arrived around 9:30 AM and we took almost 2 hours to get inside the building. 
  • Secondary Bank Portrait -The gallery is right down the street from Independence Hall.  You will see lots of portraits of politicians and important people during the 1700s.
  • Carpenter’s Hall– This building was the first one used for political meetings in Philadelphia. Click here for the times.
  • Betsy Ross House-Betsy Ross was the person who designed the flag for the United States.  The flag originally had only 13 stars representing the colonies at the time.  I really enjoyed the tour and I learned a lot about her life including her three marriages. You can buy tickets at the visitor center or click on the link here.
  • Elfreth’s Alley-This street is over 300 years old, it is considered one of the oldest streets in the US. You will spend about 15 minutes here. The homes are private residences, so please be respectful. Here is the link for more information.
  • Ben Franklin’s Grave-One of the most visited sights is the resting place of Ben Franklin. He was crucial in history, but also the inventor of the lightning rod and bifocals. You can see his grave from the street or pay $5 to enter.

Day 2-Waterfront, Gardens, and Other Places

  • Cherry Street Pier– This is a large building where different events will happen throughout the year. When we went, there were a few art exhibits around and a view.
  • Penn’s Landing– A view of the river can be seen from here.
  • Love Park-Location for the famous “Love” sign.
  • City Hall
  • Rocky Steps
  • Boathouse Row
  • Magic Gardens-This reminds me a lot of a Gaudi’s artwork.  This exhibit is outdoors and made up of recycled “trash.” The artist used glass, plates, items he found and pieced it together.  It was fun to wander through and take photos of the place.  It is very impressive how detailed it is.  Warning, there is a lot of naked artwork there for those with younger kids. I would allocate about 1 to 1.5 hours there.  Purchase tickets here.

Day 3-Places to see outside Philly

  • Valley Forge-This is about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia.  This is a historical national park; site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of the Continental Army.  I think two hours is enough to spend in the park.  There are a few places to stop and take pictures, but overall, it’s just a scenic drive. Check out the link here for updated hours.
  • Longwood Gardens-I love the gardens!  Each season they change the flowers, especially in the main botanical garden.  There is a water fountain show in the summer, and they are known for their elaborate decorations during Christmas.  I would plan on spending 3 to 4 hours here. You can purchase tickets here.

Philly Food Tour

Reading Terminal– This is the best place to sample a variety of food.  It’s like a food hall with every type of food you could imagine.  We went twice and split a variety of things both days. Check out all the options here. Below are all the places we tried from there.

Creperie-The strawberry Nutella crepe was delicious.  The customer service wasn’t as friendly as I expected though.

Sung Lee Peking Duck-The duck was amazing.  We wanted to get it the second day, but we decided to try an additional place.  The duck was very juicy and well-seasoned.  The employees were extremely nice as well.  The price was very reasonable as well.

Miller’s Twist-We had the crab seasoned pretzel with crab dip.  It was delicious!  I would recommend this from the shop.  We also had a pretzel wrapped hot dog, which was average.

Sushi Umi Seafood-We couldn’t resist a good Lobster Roll.  It was $20 per roll, which I thought was pricey.  The lobster roll was one of the best I’ve had, so I guess you get what you pay for.  The portion aren’t very large, so if you love lobster, don’t split it!

Dinic’s Roast Pork & Beef -We got the Roast Beef Sandwich with greens.  The roast beef was very tender and the bread was fresh.  I really liked the greens in it as well.

Careda’s Caribbean Cuisine-We got a variety of patties.  I would consider them a “cheap eats” stand in the reading terminal. The patties were decent, they weren’t as good as we expected.  It was extremely oily as well and it wasn’t very flavorful.

Other Restaurants around Philly

  • Nine Ting-This was an all-you-can eat Korean BBQ or Hot Pot.  We did hot pot; the menu had the usual items you can get at a hot pot location.  The customer service was good, and the quality of their food was good too.  Their sauce bar selection was very limited. Check the menu here.
  • Weckerly’s-This is a vegan ice cream shop, so the flavors are limited. We had the lavender honey ice cream with shortbread, it is one of the best lavender themed items we’ve had.  Both Sarah and I dream about going back for that specific flavor. Check the menu here.
  • Franklin Fountain Old-Fashion Ice Cream– This is one of the most famous ice cream shops in Philadelphia.  The butter pecan is the best I’ve ever had.  If you get two flavors, we determined that you must ask them to put the butter pecan on the bottom.  If you eat the butter pecan first, you will always be slightly disappointed with the second flavor. Check the menu here.
  • Casa Mexico-This restaurant is the second location for Chef Cristina Martinez.  I had watched this documentary about her life story on Netflix a while ago.  She originally opened South Philly Barbacoa, which is always crowded due to the good food.  She was an immigrant and created a life for herself here and she is a big advocate for other immigrants.  We didn’t get to try the original location, but the tacos were delicious!  I would highly recommend this as a stop on your Philly food tour. Check the menu here.
  • Anthony’s Italian Coffee House-This was an accidental stop because I needed coffee, but it was worth it.  We got a vanilla latte and cannoli.  The owners were extremely nice and friendly, and the cannoli was delicious.  We got the pistachio one. Check the menu here.
  • Aki Nom Nom-This is an all you can eat sushi place.  I was impressed with their selection on the menu and their sushi was quality sushi.  What impressed me more was the service; our waiter was amazing and took care of all our requests. Check the menu here.

Philly Cheesesteak Showdown

You cannot go to Philly without a Philly Cheesesteak.  We decided to do a taste test to see which one is the best.  Pat’s and Geno’s are direct competitors.  They are located kiddie corner from each other, and both have long lines.  In order to do the taste test, we made sure to get the same thing at each place.  We got the cheesesteak with “wiz” at each location.  The winner of all three locations was Pat’s.  I had high hopes for Carmen’s, even though it was good it could not compete with Pat’s.  The bread and the tenderness of the steak from Pat’s put them ahead of the competitors.  We picked up Pat’s to go on the way back home, but this time with the toppings and it was so much better with toppings per our opinion. DON’T FORGET TO BRING CASH.

Other Notes

  • Parking in Philly is a challenge.  I have never seen so many one-way streets until I drove here.  There is street parking everywhere you go, but it is parallel parking.  You will also need to download park mobile to pay for it. I got tickets everywhere I went because the cops do not cross check if you paid using the app. 
  • We tried to look for the murals.  It was very difficult to find and when we did, it was very underwhelming.  I would skip this activity even though it’s listed as something to do.

Thanks for a great few days Philadelphia! Thanks for the amazing sunset as we left. Until next time!

Top Moments

  • Going to a tarot card reader and she was spot on with both of our readings.
  • Every time Sarah forgot something; she would say “I have a memory of a goldfish.”
  • We were sitting outside the Reading Terminal eating our food. A black sedan reversed into me and drove off.  He didn’t even have someone in front of him.  Two ladies ran up to me to make sure we were ok. Luckily my car wasn’t damaged.
  • While waiting in the Liberty Bell line for 2 hours, we were on quite a rollercoaster with Sarah pouring her heart out.  We had to pause to conversation in the museum since people were looking at us.
  • We tried and failed to take fun pictures at Valley Forge. 
  • We used a little ledge to take pictures of ourselves.

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