In many minds, Philadelphia comes across as little more than a historical day trip for residents of New York City and their children. Where could be more traditionally relevant than the sight where the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were signed, right? Or the city that acted as capital before Washington even existed? True, the history’s up there with any American city, and you can easily spend your entire visit soaking it up, but - as the locals will be quick to tell you - focusing on just the history of Philadelphia is to miss half the point.
In the areas around Independence Park – billed as ‘America’s most historic square mile’ – you’ll find the Liberty Bell (and learn plenty about it, too) and explore the Independence Hall (collect your free tickets early), where you can stand on the same spot where Jefferson, Adams and Franklin once towered over America’s two most famous documents. Franklin even lends his name to the Science Institute in the city too, which is looked over by a 30ft statue of the great man, and is home to its own huge planetarium.
It’s not all about history, though. In recent years Philadelphia’s gone out of its way to brighten up some of the previously unattractive neighborhoods, and become something of a nightlife hot spot, as well as a great place to enjoy fantastic multi-ethnic cuisine in some really sumptuous spots, and even bring your own beer restaurants. There’s an impressive sports scene too, of course, with the Flyers (NHL), 76ers (NBA), Phillies (MLB) and Eagles (NFL) all atmospheric teams to watch, and giving any visitor the chance to pick their sport.
There will always be that darker, edgy side to Philadelphia, too, the one bought to life by Stallone in Rocky, rough and dogged, and a far cry from the gentrified streets of areas like Elfreth’s Alley, full of dive bars, and to some as alluring as all the history.
From grabbing a cheese steak and heading to the ball game, to exploring some of the sites that once made America what it is today, it’ll take a while to run out of things to do in Philadelphia, and you’ll quickly learn that it’s far more interesting than the New York school outing reputation would have you believe.