If you are on vacation in the City of Brotherly Love, a big chunk of your trip budget can be consumed with your necessary transportation and lodging fees. Or maybe you are a new resident in the city but don’t have a lot of extra dough to spend on events and dining after paying deposits and fees. Thankfully, Philadelphia has several free events, museums and historical sites to explore when you’re low on cash and just want to get out and explore.
Philadelphia's Best Free Things to Do
Independence Visitor Center/ Independence Hall
When in Philly, there is a big focus on historical events that happened here and influenced the early history of our country. Head to the Independence Visitor Center early in your trip to really understand what happened here and why it’s essential. You can access Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were created. Tickets need to be booked in advance, and there is a small processing fee (of one dollar per ticket) to tour the building. The knowledgeable staff here can help you outline all the must-see sites in the city, whether you’re focused on history, culture or famous movie sites.
Independence National Historic Park w/Liberty Bell Center
Nicknamed “America’s Most Historic Square Mile,” Independence National Historic Park surrounds Independence Hall and includes several critical sites from the American Revolution. From here, you can access the original banks and taverns frequented by settlers, the President’s House and Franklin Court, all worthy of their own visits. The biggest draw, of course, is the Liberty Bell, on display at Liberty Bell Center. The iconic cracked bell is free to see, and the Center includes additional exhibits and films to learn more about its meaning and creation.
Signature Philly Photography
Did you really go to Philadelphia if you don’t have a Rocky selfie to prove it? Debatable, but even if you somehow haven’t seen this classic movie, stop by the Philadelphia Museum of Art to run up the steps and take a quick photo or ten. The classic LOVE sign at (where else?) Love Park is perfect for snapping a group photo to remember your trip. If architecture or history is more your jam, the Benjamin Franklin Bridge or Boathouse Row also make great backdrops to document your visit or stage a special moment.
Philadelphia Area Museums
Knowledge is power, and where better to get brain gains than museums? The city of Philadelphia has a significant focus on history generally but a wide range of museums covering topics from science, art, literature and music to be able to find something for everyone. The Science History Institute, Fireman’s Hall Museum, Fairmount Water Works, and Ryerss Museum and Library are all free to visit for a quick hour or two of educational content. If you plan in advance, the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site is open seasonally for those who want to learn more about the life and times of this classic American author. Some museums require online registration or strategic scheduling for their free or discounted days, like The Barnes Foundation, both free on the first Sunday of each month.
Reading Terminal Market
Open since the 1800s, the famous Reading Terminal Market is a historic farmer’s market and food hall with local merchants selling everything from produce and breads to artisan jewelry and housewares. RTM is regularly listed as one of the best public markets in the country for its diverse range of foods and restaurants and makes a good spot for visitors to grab souvenirs like fresh jams, breads and candles. Browse around and try classic Philly fares like loaded cheese steak sandwiches, sweet cannoli and whoopie pies and Amish apple dumplings. This market is typically open daily and located indoors, with seasonal displays and decor to check out during the holidays.
Wissahickon Valley Park
Spend some time in the great outdoors at Wissahickon Valley Park. Biking, fishing, bird watching, horseback riding and hiking are all available in this massive green space featuring over 50 miles of trails. Sprinkled throughout are sculptures, bridges and educational displays for visitors to learn about the native plants and animals. Over twenty historical and geological sites are located inside the park, with local scientists and community educators often on hand to answer questions. Remember to bring water and snacks, stay on marked trails and leave no trace.
Philadelphia is home to Bartram's Garden, the oldest botanical garden in the country. Visitors can browse over 50 acres of famous trees, flowers, fruits and vegetables. Bring your binoculars for birdwatching and pack a picnic for lunch to make a day of exploring and learning.
Turn it into a family-friendly scavenger hunt to find the oldest living Gingko tree, the pawpaw fruit grove and the carnivorous plants exhibit. The gardens are right on the banks of the Tidal Schuylkill River, with fishing access and educational displays about the wetlands ecosystem.