So you’re coming to town for CONDUIT, and thought you’d like to see more of Philadelphia but aren’t sure where to go. Here is a guide to help you scout out some interesting must-see tourist spots.
I once taught a class to some out-of-town visitors whose sole interest in Philadelphia was the Liberty Bell. They took a train into town, saw the bell, and then got back on the train and left town. While they had a great time, there is so much more to Philadelphia. Take advantage of this World Heritage city while you’re in town!
CONDUIT 2019 is located in the heart of the Museum District, and is located in one of our great museums, the Franklin Institute. The Franklin Institute is a science education museum which adds fun to learning. While some of the museum is for kids, there is an Omniverse Theater, a planetarium, and areas for traveling exhibits. The standard exhibits include a giant heart you can walk through, and a Baldwin steam locomotive that you can ride.
If natural science is more your speed, check out the neighboring Academy of Natural Sciences. This museum is one of the first of its kind, and features dinosaurs, taxidermy, and a butterfly room. Founded by Charles Wilson Peale, the preeminent early American scientist and artist, this museums features specimens that delight everyone.
Perhaps weird science is more your speed? Why not visit the
Mütter Museum, America’s finest museum of medical history. The Mütter Museum displays its beautifully preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments in a nineteenth-century “cabinet museum” setting. Get your fill of human skulls and the soap lady here. This is a few blocks south from the Franklin Institute at 19 S. 22nd Street.
Directly across Logan Circle from the Franklin Institute is the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, and just to the north is main branch of the Philadelphia Library, which features a fascinating rare books collection.
If art is more your speed, this area of the city is bursting with art. An iconic modern image of Philadelphia is the sight of Rocky running up the Art Museum steps. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is within walking distance, just up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. There is a Rocky statue at the base of the main stairs for your photographic happiness. On your way there, you can see the small, but impressive, Roden Museum, featuring the largest collection of his works outside of Paris – including the world famous Thinker. Nearby on the parkway is the recently relocated Barnes Foundation, a collection of impressionist paintings arranged by their collector. If you head east towards City Hall, you can see the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in a beautifully restored building. This smaller collection is exquisite and is wonderfully presented.
If you’d like to stretch your legs on a fine spring day, head up to Fairmount Park, which begins at the Art Museum. Behind the Art Museum you’ll find gardens, sculpture, and a path along the scenic Schuylkill River along Boathouse Row. If you want to see an old wonder of America, stop into the free Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center. In early 18th century America this engineering marvel was a top travel destination in the US, second only to Niagara Falls.
Old City is the section of Philadelphia close to the Delaware River, between Vine Street and South Street. CONDUIT is located 20 blocks west of Old City, so if you’re staying near the conference but want to explore the Colonial parts of Philadelphia, be prepared for a nice walk, or take an Uber. Old City is filled with what most people expect to see in Philadelphia:
- Independence Hall: Free to tour and get your free, timed tickets first thing in the morning at the visitors center across the street (6th and Chestnut).
- Liberty Bell: Free to see and has a great photo shot of Independence Hall behind it.
- Betsy Ross House: 2nd and Arch, where our flag may have been born. Separate entrance fee.
- Museum of the American Revolution: New museum at 3rd and Walnut.
- Carpenters Hall: where the founding fathers first met.
- City Tavern: a reconstruction of the founding father’s favorite place to relax. Features authentic recipes from Martha Washington, as well as Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin’s own ale recipes. At 2nd and Walnut.
- Washington Square: In colonial times, this was a Potters Field. Nearby was one a prison, which was the site of the first hot air balloon in the US.
- Franklin Square: At 6th and Race, features miniature golf, a carousel, and gardens.
- The Franklin Fountain: 2nd and Market, an old time ice cream parlor with the oldest soda fountain in America.
- Shane Confectionery: Front and Market. Go in the back and try the exotic colonial hot chocolates.
- The Constitution Center: A surprisingly interesting museum about how our government works.
- The US Mint: just a few blocks above Independence Hall. You can see lots of coins being made.
- Christ Church: worshiping place for many founding fathers. 2nd and Market.
Center City is the downtown area of Philadelphia. Technically everything I’ve talked about so far is in Center City. I’m using this name for the area around City Hall.
- City Hall: The tallest non-steel structure in the world. Tours are available and you can go to the top and look out underneath William Penn’s feet. Located at the center of the city, at Broad and Market.
- Reading Terminal Market: the original supermarket for Philadelphia. Get a cheese steak or maybe some pastries at Termini Bros. Or just grab a live lobster.
- The Wanamaker Building: Now a Macy’s, this building holds the world’s largest pipe organ with free daily concerts. Victorian shopping splendor at its finest. Worth a walk through. SE corner of City Hall. Try and find the star marking the spot where Pres. Taft stood for the dedication of the Grand Court, near the brass eagle.
- Academy of Music and Kimmel Center: The center for fine musical arts in Philadelphia. South Broad Street at Locust. Home to the Philadelphia Orchestra and Philly Pops.
- Chinatown: On Race and Arch between 10th-6th, explore exciting shops and restaurants.
Outside of those categories you may enjoy seeing Rittenhouse Square, home to many a fine restaurant. Or the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology, home to many a fine mummy. The Philadelphia Zoo is the nation’s oldest, and is located along the Schuylkill, on Girard Avenue.