College of Physicians, Philadelphia

Beware: Inside these doors, you'll find some of Philly's most unique items. (©Marc Toppel, Creative Commons)

Top Things to Do Off The Beaten Path in Philly

By Jessica Tzikas on 02/16/16, updated 10/14/16
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Are you looking for something a bit different to do during your visit? Philadelphia is home to some of America’s most iconic attractions (hello, Liberty Bell) and though we fully recommend visiting those spots, there really is nothing like exploring some uncommon places in a new area.

The city is made up of neighborhoods—each having its own personality. Head to Rittenhouse Square for high-end shopping and a very Philadelphia-esque brunch at Parc or Rouge (if you go here, order the burger). Old City is for the history buffs and if you're looking for a truly diverse experience, hop in a taxi and head to Fishtown, Philly’s unofficial artistic and cultural hub. No matter what vibe you’re looking for, each neighborhood holds something special inside of it. You just have to know where to look.

So to help you find these distinctive gems, I’ve rounded up some of the best—many of which locals will admit they have yet to discover. From prohibition-era bars that are hidden in alleyways to historic buildings with a twist, the following are great ways to spice up your vacation. You’ll feel like a local in no time. 

The Hyrtl Skull Collection

©George Widman, 2009, for the Mutter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Attractions

Mütter Museum

Warning: this museum is not for the faint of heart. You will see exhumed bodies, pieces of Albert Einstein’s brain and a full collection of skulls. And this is just in their permanent exhibits. Human remains and old-fashioned medical instruments also fill the grounds. Those easily disturbed may want to wait outside.

The Ranstead Room

(Courtesy The Ranstead Room)

Nightlife

The Ranstead Room

Concealed in an unlit alley and only marked with a double “R” on the door, it’s one of Philly’s best-kept secrets. Once you find it, a dark, romantic room awaits with some of the best cocktails around. A bartender will even create a personalized drink for you based on your favorite ingredients.

The Christ Church Burial Ground is where you'll find Benjamin Franklin's Ghost.

The Christ Church Burial Ground is where you'll find Benjamin Franklin's Ghost. (©R. Kennedy, Visit Philly)

Activities, Attractions, Areas to Explore

Ghost Tour of Philadelphia

With so many famous spirits roaming around, it’s only fitting to have this chilling tour on your schedule. The light of a candle is all you have to guide you as you uncover the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of buried cemeteries underneath Philadelphia. You may even spot the ghost of Ben Franklin’s past.

Dream Garden Mosaic

©G. Widman/Visit Philadelphia

Attractions

Dream Garden Mosaic

If you’re looking to fill some time, this quick (and free) art installation is how you should do it. Most locals only know of its’ existence after accidently stumbling upon it while inside the Curtis Center, but the huge mural made up of 100,000 pieces of Favrile glass is not to be missed.

Shofuso Japanese House and Garden

©G. Widman/Visit Philadelphia

Attractions

Shofuso Japanese House & Garden

Open April through October, this picturesque garden is a serene place to stroll inside of Fairmount Park. Register for one of their Japanese tea ceremonies in advance—only 30 people are allowed per ceremony and they are a fun inside look at Japanese culture.

Fabric Workshop and Museum

©N. Santos/Visit Philadelphia

Attractions

Fabric Workshop and Museum

The Philadelphia Art Museum is a staple attraction, but if you want to broaden your artistic horizons and save a few bucks, head to the Fabric Museum. Focused on contemporary art, many of the pieces here are publically funded or donated, so this is an ideal stop for the budget-conscious traveler.

Fairmount Park Houses

©R. Kennedy/Visit Philly

Attractions

Fairmount Park Houses

If you find yourself flipping between HGTV and the History Channel, these historic mansions will be a real-life treat. The six homes—now historic sites and museums—showcase some of America’s earliest living spaces from the pre-Revolutionary War era.

Sister Cities Park

Courtesy of Center City District

Attractions

Sister Cities Park

A green reprieve inside a bustling city is a good refresher after a day of cramming your brain with American history. If you have kids, bring a pair of waterproof shoes so they can run through the fountain in the summer. If not, head to the café for a light bite or caffeine pick-me up—both of which are always better enjoyed outside.

Yards Brewing Company

©C. Smyth/Visit Philadelphia

Attractions

Yards Brewing Company

Philadelphians love their beer. Join in and venture over to Yards, one of the only breweries inside the city, for a free weekend tour (samples included). Here during a weekday? The tasting room is open all week and offers beer on tap and great food. This should be obvious, but tours are for 21 plus only.

The Mural Arts Tour shows Philly's mural program from the comfort of a trolley.

The Mural Arts Tour shows Philly's mural program from the comfort of a trolley. (©R. Kennedy, Visit Philly)

Activities, Attractions, Areas to Explore

Mural Arts Program Tours

The Mural Arts Program has become increasingly popular in the last few years, but it’s the Love Letters Tour that we find unique. A guide takes you on and off the El (elevated train system) through West Philadelphia to see love-focused murals painted on the walls of the city. Clearly great for couples, it's just as fun to do with friends.

Rosenbach Museum

©M. Edlow/Visit Philadelphia 

Attractions

The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia

Book lovers rejoice. Located in one of Philly’s iconic row homes on the even more iconic Delancy Street, this is a great place to stop into and explore rare books before heading a few blocks up to Walnut Street for shopping and dining.

Mummers Museum

©M. Kennedy/Visit Philadelphia

Attractions

Mummers Museum

Yes, Philadelphia is home to the big shots of American history, but it’s also home to the flamboyant and colorful Mummers. Ordinary men spend New Year’s Day dressing in elaborate costumes and dancing through the streets. Don’t believe me? Go to this museum to see it for yourself.

Wanamaker Grand Court Organ inside Macy's Center City

The Wanamaker Grand Court Organ, the largest operational pipe organ in the world, sits inside Macy's Center City. (©dbking, Creative Commons)

Shopping

Macy's Center City

If you’re into architecture (or just appreciate pretty things), a quick venture inside the Wanamaker Building is worth your time. After viewing the elaborate designs inside—don’t forget to look up—and the world’s biggest pipe organ, get some shopping done—it’s now a Macy’s (with a Starbucks on the first floor).

Map of Top Things to Do Off The Beaten Path in Philly