Campo’s in Philadelphia

Best Things to Do in Philadelphia

BY Fifty Grande Editors | September 2, 2020

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Philadelphia? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Philadelphia?”

Philadelphians aren’t afraid to go their own way. They invented the cowboy hat and popularized Cheez Whiz on sandwiches. They paint more murals than any other city. Their MLB mascot is a weird (but beloved) mash-up of animal features. And they’ve got so many “firsts” to their name — hospital, zoo, public library, general-purpose digital computer, the list is super long — that there are entire books on the subject. The point is, Philly is a visionary town. Whether you’re chowing down on hot sandwiches, admiring street art or searching for tucked-away BYOB restaurants, here’s your guide to the top things to do in Philadelphia right now.

Not sure this needs to be said, but you’re here for cheesesteaks

Everyone claims to have Philly’s best cheesesteak. But best doesn’t really matter here. As with the iconic dishes in other cities, try as many different ones as you can.

Pat’s King of Steaks in Philadelphia. Pic: Shutterstock
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Pat’s King of Steaks in Philadelphia. Pic: Shutterstock

Pat’s King of Steaks

1237 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Philly lore crowns Pat’s as the original cheesesteak. The only other items on their menu are fries and hot dogs. If you want to order like a true Philadelphian, ask for one “wit” or “wit-out” (onions). 

Cheesesteak at Jimmy G’s in Philadelphia
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Cheesesteak at Jimmy G’s in Philadelphia

Jimmy G’s

695 N Broad St, Philadelphia, PA, USA

For those of us who are particular about our meat, Jimmy G’s lets you choose chopped or shaved, then they cut it fresh. Plus, they offer pork, chicken and lamb options. 

Campo’s in Philadelphia
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Campo’s in Philadelphia

Campo’s

214 Market St, Philadelphia, PA, USA

A family-owned deli with a quaint storefront and outdoor seating. Vegetarians and vegans, they’ve got cheesesteak alternatives featuring mushrooms and sweet peppers. They make a mean hoagie too.

Geno’s Steaks in Philadelphia. Pic via Shutterstock.
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Geno’s Steaks in Philadelphia. Pic via Shutterstock.

Geno’s Steaks

1219 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA, USA

This showy staple features a neon-clad facade and walls covered in celebrity autographed photos. They’re a local fave that’s been serving classic steaks for more than 50 years.

Angelo's Pizzeria in Philly
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Angelo's Pizzeria in Philly

Angelo's Pizzeria

736 S 9th St, Philadelphia, PA, USA

While you’re there, you might as well grab an “Upside Down Jawn,” a square pan pizza that seems like the delicious offspring of Chicago- and Detroit-style pies.

Good news: Philly’s other iconic dishes are awesome too…

The cheesesteak might be king, but other Philly classics are vying for the throne. Try these before you leave town. 

Window at Tommy DiNic’s in Philly
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Window at Tommy DiNic’s in Philly

Roast Pork Sandwich at Tommy DiNic’s

51 N 12th St, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Some claim that the roast pork is Philadelphia’s real trademark sandwich, and DiNic’s is the best spot to get one. From behind their Reading Terminal Market counter, they pile sandwiches with thin-sliced pork, provolone and broccoli rabe. 

Water Ice at John's Water Ice
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Water Ice at John's Water Ice via John's Water Ice's Instagram.

Water Ice at John's Water Ice

701 Christian St, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Water ice is more like shaved Italian ice than snow cones, and there are stands all over the city. The icy treats at John’s are all made with real fruit and fruit juices. 

Pizza at Santucci's in Philly
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Pizza at Santucci's in Philly

Pizza at Tacconelli’s and Santucci’s

2604 E Somerset St, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Both spots—these are two separate places—are long-standing family-owned operations. Tacconelli’s churns out brick-oven, thin-crust “tomato pies,” and Santucci’s claims Philly’s original square pizza.

Cannoli at Termini Brothers Bakery in Philadelphia.
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Cannoli at Termini Brothers Bakery in Philadelphia.

Cannoli at Termini Brothers Bakery

1523 S 8th St, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Cannoli aren’t unique to Philadelphia, but Termini Bros. makes some damn good ones. You’ll find them in the Reading Terminal Market, which is worth exploring for more great eats.

Paesano’s in Philly
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Paesano’s in Philly

Hoagie from Paesano’s

148 W Girard Ave, Philadelphia, PA, USA

You might call them subs, grinders or heroes, but in Philly, they’re hoagies (and don’t forget it). Paesano’s in Northern Liberties is a local favorite for cold-cut creations. 

Walk Old City

Old City is the epicenter of the American colonization and independence, where William Penn and the Quakers originally settled. Then, around 100 years later, some pals gathered there, maybe had a few drinks and decided they were fed up with being colonists. Today, it’s a bustling neighborhood that blends cobblestone streets and 18th-century architecture with trendy restaurants and bars.

Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Pic via Shutterstock.
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Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Pic via Shutterstock.

Independence Hall

Independence Hall, Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Quick, name the two most famous documents in American history. They were both drafted and signed here. See the assembly rooms and halls where John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence, or where Hamilton and Jefferson verbally duked it out over the Constitution. 

Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Pic via Shutterstock.
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Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Pic via Shutterstock.

Liberty Bell Center

526 Market St, Philadelphia, PA, USA

This herald of the Revolution and 1830s abolitionist symbol used to reside in the Independence Hall steeple, but now it’s across the lawn.

Bourse Food Hall
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Bourse Food Hall

Bourse Food Hall

111 S Independence Mall E, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Once a commodities exchange, this brick behemoth now contains 30 innovative artisanal eateries.

You could visit for the street art alone

Many people have heard of Ben Franklin and the Liberty Bell, but considerably fewer are aware that graffiti’s original roots took hold in Philadelphia. Darryl McCray, known to many by his tag, Cornbread, is regarded as the first true graffiti writer. He and his friends started writing their names around Philly in the late 1960s and became tagging’s earliest practitioners. Today, the city bears the fruits of these early labors. Its streets and train tracks are an unparalleled visual experience. Local artists to know: Texas and Gane, Kid Hazo, Meg Saligman.

Isaac Tin Wei Lin’s "Start From Here," painted on the Church of Scientology in Philadelphia
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Isaac Tin Wei Lin’s "Start From Here," painted on the Church of Scientology in Philadelphia. Pic courtesy of @isaactinweilin IG.

Street Art: "Start From Here"

1315 Race St, Philadelphia, PA, USA

See Isaac Tin Wei Lin’s gargantuan Start From Here, painted on the Church of Scientology.

Shira Walinsky’s vibrant mural "Migrating Home" in Philadelphia. Image via @thehaya83 Instagram.
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Shira Walinsky’s vibrant mural "Migrating Home" in Philadelphia. Image via @thehaya83 Instagram.

Street Art: "Migrating Home"

1000 Dickinson St, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Shira Walinsky’s vibrant mural, Migrating Home, pays tribute to South Philly’s rich diversity, and can be found at 1000 Dickinson St.

Phillip Adams’ Industrious Light: Leviathan Main Belting in Philly. Photo via @phillip_adam Instagram.
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Phillip Adams’ Industrious Light: Leviathan Main Belting in Philly. Photo via @phillip_adam Instagram.

Street Art: "Industrious Light: Leviathan Main Belting"

1241 Carpenter Street, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Phillip Adams’ Industrious Light: Leviathan Main Belting, which wraps the entire building at 1241 Carpenter St., tells a sweeping history of industry in Philly.

For the fam

Bars and galleries are great, but you’re not gonna bring the kids along. That’s okay. These are the city’s best spots for packed minivans. 

Fountain in Franklin Square. Photo via Shutterstock.
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Fountain in Franklin Square. Photo via Shutterstock.

Franklin Square

200 N 6th St, Philadelphia, PA, USA

This is “get the energy out” central. It’s got a playground, a carousel, mini-golf and burgers. The park’s centerpiece fountain also puts on a show every 30 minutes. 

Franklin Institute
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Franklin Institute in Philly. Photo: Shutterstock.

Franklin Institute

222 N 20th St, Philadelphia, PA, USA

It’s right down the street from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and has some fascinating hands-on exhibits, like Sir Isaac’s Loft (to explore physics) and a Tech Studio.

Pier at Penn's Landing. Photo: Shutterstock.
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Pier at Penn's Landing. Photo: Shutterstock.

Penn’s Landing

Penn's Landing, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Here you’ll find parks along the Delaware River, historic ships and numerous restaurants.

Take in the art

If the street art didn’t fill you up, you’ve got a heck of an artistic appetite, but Philly has plenty more to offer. 

Philadelphia Museum of Art
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Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo: Shutterstock.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Yeah, the stairs were in that one movie, but the real attractions are inside — 200 galleries highlighting major Impressionist and post-Impressionist European, American and Asian artists. It’s one of the world’s most visited art museums, where you’ll find pieces by Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso and Dali.

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
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Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Photo via Shutterstock.

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

1020 South St, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Local artist Isaiah Zagar went on a mosaic rampage, tiling every available surface with ceramic shards, bottles, mirrors, bike wheels and basically anything else he could get his hands on. The result is less of a garden and more of a colorful, eclectic maze. Zagar created 100+ mosaics around the city, but this is his magnum opus.

Where to catch a show

Kung Fu Necktie in Philly.
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Kung Fu Necktie in Philly.

Kung Fu Necktie

1248 N Front St, Philadelphia, PA, USA

If you couldn’t tell by the name, this two-story venue is a little off-kilter. It’s a dive bar with cartoonish street art, themed music nights, a dance floor, leather booths and (best of all) cheap drinks. 

Nabes to check out

Downtown might have soaring buildings and bright lights, but the tucked-away neighborhoods are where Philadelphia really comes to life.

Northern Liberties, Philly via @northliberties
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Northern Liberties, Philly via @northliberties

Northern Liberties with a stroll down North Second St.

Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Never mind the overpriced townhomes; you’re in NoLibs for the hippest bars and restaurants, housed inside old warehouses. Grab a six-pack and try BYOB spots like Dimitri’s, Baan Thai or Apricot Stone. Or get a hearty breakfast any time of day (or night) at Honey’s Sit ’N Eat. For nightlife, try the long-standing Jerry’s Bar or a popular hangout like The Blind Pig.

Sign in Fishtown neighborhood in Philly.
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Sign in Fishtown neighborhood in Philly. Pic via Shutterstock.

Fishtown

Fishtown, Philadelphia, PA, USA

If you didn’t already guess from the name, Fishtown’s roots are in the commercial fishing industry. But it’s traded trout and bass for boutiques and cafés seemingly overnight. Start the day with a latte from La Colombe. As the sunlight wanes, you might find yourself at Fishtown’s favorite corner bar, Johnny Brenda’s, or perusing 800 bottles of beer at Bottle Bar East.

Relax on the waterfront

The Delaware River waterfront was once one of the region’s economic hubs, but now its main exports are entertainment and riverside relaxation. Penn’s Landing is the most well-known destination, but each pier has a unique personality. 

Cherry St. Pier. Pic via Shutterstock.
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Cherry St. Pier. Pic via Shutterstock.

Cherry St. Pier

121 N Christopher Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Here, resident artists display their work in repurposed shipping containers and culinary creatives sell theirs from former trolley cars. 

Morgan’s Pier
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Morgan’s Pier. Pic via Shutterstock.

Morgan’s Pier

221 N Christopher Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Attention beer and food lovers: Morgan’s Pier features local brews and a revolving door of acclaimed chefs-in-residence. Even better, its outdoor seating has some stunning views of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. 

Spruce St. Harbor Park
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Spruce St. Harbor Park

Spruce St. Harbor Park

301 S Christopher Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA, USA

This essential summer boardwalk is lined with waterfront hammocks and outdoor games like bocce ball, not to mention restaurants and a beer garden.

Trek the craft distilleries and spirits trail

Philadelphia is no stranger to small-batch distilling. Here are some of the best places to sip something strong.

Philadelphia Distilling in Philly
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Philadelphia Distilling in Philly

Philadelphia Distilling

25 E Allen St, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Their tasting room and distillery inside a Fishtown warehouse have a laid-back industrial vibe. Make sure to try the Bluecoat American Dry Gin.

New Liberty Distillery in Philly
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New Liberty Distillery in Philly

New Liberty Distillery

1431 North Cadwallader Street, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Whiskey lovers, now’s your time to shine. New Liberty’s Dutch Malt Whiskey is for you.

Explore the ruins of a prison

The Eastern State Penitentiary was operational until 1971 as one of America’s largest and most famous prisons, one that housed notorious inmates like Al Capone and Willie Sutton. Now, it’s a sprawling ruin containing several exhibits, and it’s open for tours Friday through Sunday. If you’re in town around Halloween, you can see it transformed into the “Terror Behind the Walls” haunted house.

Eastern State Penitentiary
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Eastern State Penitentiary in Philly. Photo via Shutterstock.

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary, Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Bonus tip:

Film and boxing fans might want to raise their arms next to the Rocky statue, which isn’t on top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps (like in the movie), but at the bottom. Just look for the crowd of photo-snapping tourists.