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Philadelphia

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Travel Guide North America USA Northeastern United States Pennsylvania Philadelphia

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Introduction

Philadelphia

Philadelphia

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Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania. In the Northeastern United States, at the confluence of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, Philadelphia is the economic and cultural anchor of the Delaware Valley, a metropolitan area home to 7.2 million people and the eighth-largest combined statistical area in the United States.

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History

In 1682, William Penn founded the city to serve as capital of the Pennsylvania Colony. Philadelphia played an instrumental role in the American Revolution as a meeting place for the Founding Fathers of the United States, who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution in 1787. Philadelphia was one of the nation's capitals in the Revolutionary War, and served as temporary U.S. capital while Washington, D.C., was under construction. In the 19th century, Philadelphia became a major industrial center and railroad hub that grew from an influx of European immigrants. It became a prime destination for African-Americans in the Great Migration and surpassed two million occupants by 1950.

Based on the similar shifts underway the nation's economy in the late 1960s Philadelphia experienced a loss of manufacturing companies and jobs to lower taxed regions of the USA and often overseas.[citation needed] As a result, the economic base of Philadelphia, which had historically been manufacturing, declined significantly. In addition, consolidation in several American industries (retailing, financial services and health care in particular) reduced the number of companies headquartered in Philadelphia. The economic impact of these changes would reduce Philadelphia's tax base and the resources of local government. Philadelphia struggled through a long period of adjustment to these economic changes, coupled with significant demographic change as wealthier residents moved into the nearby suburbs and more immigrants moved into the city. The city in fact approached bankruptcy in the late 1980s. Revitalization began in the late 1990s, with gentrification turning around many neighborhoods and reversing its decades-long trend of population loss.

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Neighbourhoods

Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods and most attractions, eating establishments, and bars are divided into sections of the city by neighborhood. For historical sites like Independence Hall & the Liberty Bell, stroll the streets of Old City and Society Hill where Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and John Adams once walked. Old City is also a haven for byob's (bring your own bottle dining), restaurants, bars, and galleries well within easy walking distance of one another. On "First Friday", named for obvious reasons, Old City hosts the openings of new displays in its many art galleries.

China Town offers an Asian flair to the city. You will find all styles of Asian dining and shopping in this section of the city. In the Art Museum area, some of the cities largest museums are located. The Franklin Institute, Please Touch Museum, Rodin Museum, and the soon-to-be-built Barnes Museum can all be found along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway within a mile of each other. Many of the cities festivals take place along the parkway, including the start and finish of the Philadelphia Marathon and the Manayunk Bike Race.

Just a little further to the North, the Fairmount area hosts numerous bars and restaurants. Try Northern Liberties for more byobs and bars. Into high society and high ticket shopping? Then the Rittenhouse Square area is for you! You will find what you're looking for on Walnut Street, Philly's Rodeo Drive, whether it be the latest Diesel jeans or jewels from Cartier. Several of Philly's highest rated restaurants can be found here.

On the other end of the dining scale, visit South Philly to partake in Philadelphia's most famous export, the Philly Cheese Steak. Philadelphia's alternative youth hang out on South Street where you can pretty much buy anything! Once a year the professional bike circuit makes its way to Philadelphia for the annual Manayunk Bike Race. Manayunk, once a center of large mills & immigrant workers, now hosts the toughest portion of the race: the dreaded Manayunk "wall". Many people come for the race and stay for the party as Manayunk's Main Street hosts over 15 bars and restaurants along with all sorts of shopping.

Finally, if you are a student at one of the multitude of universities, you will most likely find yourself in University City and West Philadelphia, which butt up against one another. University City extends between Drexel and the University of Pennsylvania. But you don't have to be a student to enjoy the area! It is also home to many of Philadelphia's newer immigrants with African, Indian, and Middle Eastern restaurants popping up all over.

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Sights and Activities

Travelers planning to visit multiple attractions may benefit from Philadelphia CityPASS, which grants admission to 6 Philadelphia attractions within 9 days of first use for a much reduced rate and includes expedited entry in some cases. The included attractions are: The Franklin Institute; Adventure Aquarium; Phila Trolley & The Big Bus Company, 24 hours of on-off privileges; Philadelphia Zoo; Option Ticket One with choice of either The Academy of Natural Sciences or the National Constitution Center and Option Ticket Two with choice of Please Touch Museum or Eastern State Penitentiary.

Museums

Center City West is home to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Academy of Natural Sciences, Franklin Institute Science Museum, Barnes Foundation, Mutter Museum, Rosenbach Museum & Library and Rodin Museum. Center City East is home to the African American Museum, and Atwater Kent Museum of Philadelphia History. Old City is home to the National Museum of American Jewish History and Independence Seaport Museum. West Philly is home to the Please Touch Museum.

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Events and Festivals

  • The Mummers Day Parade ( 1st of January) - The Mummers Day Parade is held on 1st of January every year and is unique only to Philadelphia. Clubs work all year on their sparkling costumes to dazzle the streets of Philly and welcome the new year in properly.
  • Philadelphia Flower Show (usually held the last week February, first week of March) -
  • Cherry Blossom Festival (the 1st or 2nd weekend in April) -
  • Memorial Day Celebrations (the last Monday in May) -
  • Manayunk Bike Race (1st Sunday in June) -
  • 4th of July Celebrations (July 4th) -
  • Labor Day Celebrations (first Monday in September) -
  • New Year's Eve Fireworks (December 31st) -

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Weather

Summers last from June to September and are nice and warm, between 25 °C and 30 °C during the day and between 15 °C and 20 °C at night. Expect a great deal of humidity since Philadelphia is surrounded by two rivers. Winters last from December to March with average daytime temperatures slightly above 0 °C. Nights can get below zero during this time, however typically not for an extended period of time. Precipitation is quite evenly distributed throughout the year, with a couple of snowfalls in winter. Snowfall occasionally exceeds 8 to 10 centimetres, and it is not uncommon to experience no snow at all. During summer, heavy showers can occur, especially after periods of hot weather.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max3.3 °C5 °C10.9 °C17 °C22.8 °C27.6 °C30.1 °C29.2 °C25.3 °C19.1 °C12.8 °C6.3 °C
Avg Min-5.1 °C-4 °C0.7 °C5.6 °C11.5 °C16.6 °C19.6 °C19.1 °C14.8 °C8 °C3.1 °C-2.2 °C
Rainfall81.5 mm70.9 mm87.9 mm91.9 mm95.3 mm95 mm108.7 mm96.5 mm86.9 mm66.5 mm84.8 mm85.9 mm
Rain Days7.97.38.18.58.78.37.47.26.55.77.57.9

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Getting There

By Plane

Philadelphia International Airport (IATA: PHL, ICAO: KPHL) receives many domestic as well as international flights and is one of the busiest airports in the world regarding aircraft movements.

To/from the airport

  • Rail: Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has regional rail services between the airport and Center City Philadelphia via the R1 Commuter Rail line with convenient stops at University City, Amtrak’s 30th Street, Suburban, and Market East Stations. The fare is US$6.
  • Bus: SEPTA also operates various bus routes to the Airport: Route 37 (South Philadelphia to Eastwick and Chester Transportation Ctr via Philadelphia International Airport), Route 108 (69th Street Terminal to Philadelphia International Airport or UPS), and Route 115 (Ardmore/Darby Transportation Center to Philadelphia International Airport).
  • Car: rental cars, shuttles and taxis are all widely available at the airport.

By Train

Philadelphia can be reached by both National and Regional Rail. Amtrak stops in Philly along the east coast, north/south and west while Regional rail extends throughout the metro area. Amtraks rail lines all run through the historic 30th Street Station while Regional Rail can be reached at all three of Philadelphia's train stations: Suburban Station/Market East in Center City and at 30th St. Station. The following Amtrak trains operate to and from Philadelphia:

  • Acela Express (Boston – New York – Philadelphia – Washington, D.C.)
  • Cardinal / Hoosier State (New York – Philadelphia – Washington, DC – Cincinnati – Indianapolis – Chicago)
  • Carolinian / Piedmont (New York – Philadelphia – Washington, DC – Rocky Mount – Raleigh – Charlotte)
  • Crescent (New York – Philadelphia – Washington, DC – Greensboro – Atlanta – New Orleans)
  • Keystone (New York – Philadelphia – Harrisburg)
  • Northeast Regional (Boston – Springfield/Providence – New York – Philadelphia – Washington, DC – Newport News)
  • Silver Service / Palmetto (New York – Philadelphia – Washington, DC – Charleston – Savannah – Jacksonville – Orlando – Tampa/Miami)
  • Vermonter (St. Albans – Burlington – Springfield – New York – Philadelphia – Washington, DC)

For information on Regional Rail, see SEPTA (South Eastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority).

By Car

Philadelphia is located at the crossroads of many of the region's and the nation's most vital Interstates. Interstate 95 runs along the Eastern edge of Philadelphia as it traverses the East coast from Maine to Miami. In addition, Philadelphia is linked to the Pennsylvania Turnpike which traverses the state from east to west. The Northeast Extension of the Turnpike connects Philadelphia to the Poconos and Wilkes-Barre-Scranton. It is also served by I-76 and I-676, which connect directly to the New Jersey Turnpike and Atlantic City Expressway, and indirectly to the Garden State Parkway. Within the city, Route 1 (also called the Roosevelt Expressway) as well as Roosevelt Boulevard serves as a connector for Northeast Philadelphia and Center City. There are also bridges across the Delaware River that link Philadelphia to New Jersey. Of these bridges are Tacony Palmyra Bridge (Route 73), Betsy Ross Bridge (Route 90), Benjamin Franklin Bridge (US 30) and Walt Whitman Bridge (I-76).

By Bus

Most national bus companies head in and out of Philadelphia at the Greyhound Bus Terminal at 1001 Filbert Street in Center City. The terminal is centrally located between the neighborhoods of Old City and China Town. You can reach both regional rail and the city subway system, located at the Suburban Station, a block away. Check Greyhound for more information about schedules and prices to a number of cities throughout the northeast of the USA.

By Boat

The RiverLink and Freedom Ferry services provide travel from Philadelphia to neighboring Camden, NJ between April and September. The service provides direct service to Camden's Susquehanna Bank Center on the Waterfront, a popular concert venue for the Philadelphia area. Access to the other waterfront attractions, including an aquarium, is also provided by the ferry service.

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Getting Around

By Car

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Public Transport

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) operates buses, trains, rapid transit, trolleys, and trackless trolleys throughout Philadelphia, the four Pennsylvania suburban counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery, in addition to service to Mercer County, New Jersey and New Castle County, Delaware.
PATCO provides rapid transit service to Camden, Collingswood, Westmont, Haddonfield, Woodcrest (Cherry Hill), Ashland (Voorhees), and Lindenwold, New Jersey, from stations on Locust Street between 16th and 15th, 13th and 12th, and 10th and 9th Streets, and on Market Street at 8th Street.

By Foot

Philadelphia is one of America's most walkable cities. This has been taken advantage of and the city is marked extremely well by "Walk! Philadelphia" signs that are placed on each block, sometimes only several feet apart, that guide visitors toward shopping, dining, gallery perusing, cultural enjoyment, local must-sees and public transportation should it need to be taken. The city has two very walkable shopping districts as well as the walkable Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which is home to many museums, including the Franklin Institute and the Museum of Art that was made famous in the "Rocky" movies.

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Eat

Cheesesteak

No trip to Philadelphia is complete without trying the cheesesteak, Philly's most famous homegrown food, a sandwich made of a fresh roll filled with grilled shaved beef and cheese (as well as onions, mushrooms, and other optional sides). The spiritual homes of the cheesesteak are Pat's King of Steaks, where the cheesesteak was invented, and Geno's Steaks, where they claim to have improved on Pat's version. They are located across from each other in South Philly at the intersection of 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue.

There are many ways to order a cheesesteak. Some cheesesteaks are made with chopped steak (Pat's and Geno's), while others are made with sliced top-round (Steve's). While Cheez-Wiz is a local favorite, many people also enjoy American or Provolone cheese on their cheesesteaks. The way the cheese is served makes a huge difference. Some cheesesteak joints simply place the cheese on top to melt (Pat's and Geno's), while other's such as Steve's ladle hot melted cheese on top, adding to the delicious grease from the meat. Any local will tell you as well that the most important part of the cheesesteak (or hoagie, for that matter) is the roll, which is why many have found it difficult to replicate the cheesesteak outside of the Philadelphia region. Many displaced Philadelphians who have started their own restaurants elsewhere have encountered trouble making authentic cheesesteaks, and import their rolls from the Philly area.

Restaurants

  • Jem Restaurant - Fun 1950's style diner decorated with all kinds of interesting things to look at. The food is typical diner fare and reasonably priced. Address: 2931 Swede Rd, Norristown, PA 19401, Phone: (610) 275-1598
  • Little Pete's - Located near Rittenhouse Square, this greasy spoon is open 24 hours a day. They also do bike delivery 24 hours a day to nearby areas, which is rumored to be quite quick. Address: 219 S 17th St, Philadelphia, PA 19102, Phone: (215) 545-5508, Hours: 24/7
  • Pat's - Pat's or Geno's Steaks - These two cheesesteak shops are located directly across from one another on 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia. There is a longstanding rivalry between the two shops, and whether you're a Philadelphian or just visiting, you will be forced to choose a side. But if you don't order your steak correctly ("Can I have whiz, without please?" meaning with your cheesesteak with cheese whiz, and without onions) you will be sent back to the end of the line. Address: 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia

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Drink

Because of the state of Pennsylvania's complicated liquor laws (which date from immediately after Prohibition and were designed, in the words of the governor at the time, to "discourage the purchase of alcoholic beverages by making it as inconvenient and expensive as possible"), supermarkets won't sell beer or spirits, although some small neighborhood convenience stores might. State-sponsored liquor stores are all over the place but don't sell beer, and beer distributors sell beer only in bulk and are scattered in inconvenient locations, and neither will be open late or on Sundays. Thus, even for locals, the most convenient way to get a drink is to find a local bar or restaurant with a liquor license. In part because of this complicated setup, Philadelphia has a visibly strong, public beer culture, celebrated in events such as the annual summertime Philly Beer Week or the Philly Craft Beer Festival in March.

Local beers include Yuengling, Yards, or Troegs, just to name a few. Many bars will have a varied selection of beers you already know and love alongside ones you've never heard of. If you're ever stuck on a choice but don't want to look out of place, just ask for a "lager", which in Philly specifically means the Yuengling Traditional Lager, a pre-Prohibition style amber lager rather different from the mass-market pale lager you find elsewhere.

Primarily, most of the nightlife scene takes place in Center City (West and East) and in Old City. The areas around Rittenhouse Square in Center City, and Headhouse Square and Penn's Landing in Old City, are popular destinations that have a large concentration of bars and clubs, many of them attracting the hip, young, pretty people of the suburbs or the universities. Slightly further out, the rapidly-gentrifying Northern Liberties district is another solid nightlife destination with more of a "yuppie" or "hipster" vibe. Yet another area that has a vibrant nightlife is the Manayunk neighborhood.

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Sleep

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Apple Hostels of Philadelphia32 Bank Street Philadelphia, PA 19106Hostel85
Hostelling International - Chamounix Mansion3250 Chamounix Drive West Fairmount ParkHostel76
The Quality Inn Gloucester City1200 Crescent Boulevard Route 130 and Market StreetHotel-
America Best Value Inn Cherry Hill2389 Route 70 West, Cherry Hill, NJ Cherry HillHotel72
Super 8 - Philadelphia341 South Black Horse PikeHotel-
Quality Hotel Philadelphia International Airport45 Industrial Highway EssingtonHotel-
Red Roof Inn Trevor / Philadelphia3100 Lincoln Highway US Route 1 TrevoseHotel-
Knights Inn Trevose2707 Lincoln Highway TrevoseHotel-
Days Inn & Suites525 Rte-38 East Rte-38 and Cuthbert BlvdHotel-
Motel 6 Philadelphia - King of Prussia815 West Dekalb Pike I-76 W at W Dekalb Pike, Exit Exit #326 King of PrussiaHOTEL-
The Philadelphia House325 Cherry StreetHOSTEL83

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Learn

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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Quick Facts

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Population
1,540,351
Coordinates
  • Latitude: 39.951639
  • Longitude: -75.163808

Philadelphia Travel Helpers

  • Travel_Is_Life

    I live just outside of Philadelphia in South Jersey, work in Center City Philadelphia, and have explored and become familiar with many neighborhoods and attractions throughout the city during my 17 years here. I can offer advice on where to go, what to see, where to stay, how to get there, etc. I'm also familiar with and can offer similar advice on the Jersey Shore areas, primarily Ocean City and Atlantic City, New Jersey.

    Ask Travel_Is_Life a question about Philadelphia

This is version 52. Last edited at 9:15 on Sep 7, 16 by Utrecht. 78 articles link to this page.

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