Where to Go
Most first-time visits to Philadelphia begin here. Independence National Historical Park is home to the most popular historic attractions including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the National Constitution Center. Old City has a wealth of dining and hotels, and the liveliest nightlife in the city.
A tranquil neighbor to Old City, Society Hill boasts many of the finest and oldest homes and cathedrals in the city. Bordered by leafy Washington Square Park to the west and Penn’s Landing, the waterfront strip, to the east, it is a lovely place to soak up American history.
Center City East
Broad Street, known as Avenue of the Arts just south of City Hall, divides the downtown business district into East and West. Center City East is home to Reading Terminal Market, Chinatown, and the Washington Square West neighborhood, the center of gay culture in the city.
Center City West
The west side of Broad Street is home to the most upscale restaurants, bars, and shops in the city. The action centers around tree-lined Rittenhouse Square and the chic Rittenhouse Row shopping district.
The broad, diagonal Benjamin Franklin Parkway is lined with flowers, sculptures, and flags from around the world. Here, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Franklin Institute Science Museum, and the Academy of Natural Sciences form the cultural center of the city. Just north, in the residential Fairmount neighborhood, lies the spooky Eastern State Penitentiary.
South Street, with its eclectic mix of tattoo parlors, independent record stores, dive bars, and upscale restaurants, forms the northern border of South Philly. The Italian Market embodies the area’s diverse mix of Italian and Asian influences. Further south, Passyunk Avenue has hip new restaurants and chic boutiques alongside centuries-old family-run pizza joints and tchotchke shops.
The University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University live just blocks apart in University City, the part of West Philly nearest to Center City. There are excellent museums, affordable ethnic restaurants, and plenty of shopping in the surrounding streets.
For many years considered the up-and- coming neighborhood, No-Libs has officially come up. Chic boutiques and the Edgar Allan Poe House draw a sprinkling of visitors by day, but the area—with its great restaurants and nightlife—truly comes alive at night.
The largest urban park system in the nation boasts miles of hiking, biking, and jogging trails. The Schuylkill River Trail is a paved loop that spreads out on both sides of the river. In addition to endless recreational opportunities, the park is home to historic sights, gardens, and the Philadelphia Zoo.
Separated from the rest of the city by a short drive, Northwest Philadelphia is worth the trip. Highlights include: Main Street in Manayunk, a high-end strip of boutiques and restaurants; the historic homes of Germantown; shopping on Germantown Avenue and gawking at the mansions in Chestnut Hill; and best of all, hiking in the peaceful Wissahickon.
© Karrie Gavin from Moon Philadelphia, 1st Edition