The Best Free Things To Do in Philadelphia

Philadelphia, voted one of America’s most walkable cities, has many parks, museums, and attractions that showcase its rich history and vibrant culture. While some experiences might have an associated cost, the city harbors numerous activities accessible to all, providing a delightful taste of Philadelphia’s eclectic vibe without spending a cent.

Free Things To Do in Philadelphia

Stroll through historical sites in Old Town, uncover iconic Philadelphia museums with complimentary or wallet-friendly options, or simply enjoy a stroll or bike ride followed by a tranquil park picnic. Travelers can choose from a wide variety of free things to do in Philadelphia.

Pro Tip: To help you reach Philadelphia’s top attractions on a budget, consider a Philly PHLASH one-day pass. For only $5, you can utilize the shuttle as much as you like during the day, with stops including Independence Mall and the Delaware River Waterfront. Single-ride and two-day passes are also available.

Free Things To Do in Philadelphia for History Lovers

Independence National Historical Park

Start at Independence Visitor Center, 6th and Market streets, in the heart of Philadelphia’s historic mile, at the official welcome center of the region and gateway to Independence National Historical Park. Stop in for other FREE amenities, including regional maps and brochures, historical films, cell phone charging stations, and WiFi access. 

A must-see includes Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were debated and adopted. Visitors can also tour Congress Hall, where George Washington was inaugurated as the United States‘ first President.

The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell symbolizes our historic past, on display in the Liberty Bell Center. Tickets are not required, and access is granted from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day on a first-come, first-served basis. A walk through the museum provides background and history around the famous bell, and visitors can get a close look at the renowned icon with a beautiful backdrop of Independence Hall across the street.

The President’s House

Philadelphia was once the capital of the United States. Head to the President’s House, site of the nation’s first White House from 1790 to 1800, to see the “Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation” exhibit.

Carpenters’ Hall

Carpenters’ Hall was the site of the First Continental Congress in 1774, a temporary field hospital during the Revolutionary War, and so much more. Step back into the past with a tour of this building.

Once Upon a Nation Storytelling Benches

Storytellers are 13 teak benches found within the grounds of Independence National Historical Park and at other sites in Philadelphia’s historic district share quick tales filled with fascinating historical insights into the surrounding area for free while visitors sit and relax.

Elfreth’s Alley

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Old City’s vibrant streets is America’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street, Elfreth’s Alley. Enjoy the beautifully preserved homes and walk the cobblestone streets to see what life was like for early American settlers.

Christ Church

You can stand in the same church where America’s Founding Fathers worshipped, in the heart of Philadelphia’s Old City. Christ Church’s Burial Grounds are located nearby at 5th and Arch Streets. They are the final resting place of one of the country’s Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin. Admission to the Burial Grounds is $5 for adults and $2 for children. However, you can glimpse Benjamin Franklin’s gravesite through a steel fence along Arch Street if you just want a quick peek.

Fireman’s Hall

Philadelphia is the birthplace of the first volunteer fire company, which was created in 1736 by Benjamin Franklin. Fireman’s Hall is a unique museum of firefighting and fire-safety tips located just steps from Elfreth’s Alley.

Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History

The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History is free to visitors, but all are encouraged to leave a donation. Take a selfie at the yellow YO/OY sculpture to remember your visit.

The American Philosophical Society

The American Philosophical Society Museum is the oldest learned society in the United States, founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin to ” promote useful knowledge.” Visitors can see the collection of manuscripts, rare books, photographs, and more.

The United States Mint

Visit the United States Mint for a free, self-guided tour, including a view of coining operations from 40 feet above the factory floor. Reservations are not required for this 45-minute tour, which is available to the public Monday through Friday.

Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church

Founded by Richard Allen in 1792, this site is the oldest owned property by African Americans. A small museum is located on the lower level, where the tomb of Richard Allen and 19th-century artifacts also can be found. The archives contain original copies of The Christian Recorder, a newspaper that began publishing before the Civil War.

Edgar Allan Poe House

Located in the Northern Liberties neighborhood and managed by the National Park Service, the Edgar Allan Poe Historic Site is the only remaining Philadelphia home of the influential author and is where he is believed to have penned some of his most iconic works, including The Black Cat. You can tour the house for free Fridays through Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1-5 p.m.

Pro Tip: Take advantage of a mural of Edgar Allan Poe for a photo op just across the street from the house.

Free Things To Do in Philadelphia Outdoors

Philadelphia’s Five Original “Squares”

Philadelphia’s original city plan included five public squares. Today, you can visit Philadelphia’s picturesque squares, including Rittenhouse Square, Washington Square, Franklin Square, and Logan Square. The fifth square is home to City Hall, in the center of the city. Walk to the center courtyard of City Hall to see a map of all five squares and then enjoy refreshments and seasonal activities in adjacent Dilworth Park.

The LOVE Statue & LOVE Park

Selfie alert! Head to LOVE Park for one of Philadelphia’s favorite photo ops with the LOVE statue. The park features a clear view of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway toward the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Recently redesigned, LOVE Park also offers plenty of seating and frequent food trucks.

Fairmount Park

Bike or hike in Fairmount Park on more than 270 miles of recreational trails. The expansive park system provides endless outdoor opportunities to enjoy nature. The park connects with the greenways of the Schuylkill Banks and Boardwalk—named one of the best riverwalks in the nation—which features a 2,000-foot-long pathway for walking, running, or bicycling that hovers over the Schuylkill River.

Bartram’s Garden

Bartram’s Garden, America’s first botanical garden, spans over 45 acres along the Schuylkill River. This off-the-beaten-path gem includes trails, historical buildings, educational programming, and a boat launch.

Spruce Street Harbor Park

Relax in a hammock or enjoy the breeze off the river at Spruce Street Harbor Park. Situated atop several floating barges, this park features plenty of seating and spaces to lounge in, food vendors, and more. The LED light installations glow beautifully at night along the Delaware River Waterfront.

Cherry Street Pier

Cherry Street Pier is a redeveloped, century-old municipal pier that offers performances, pop-up shops, food vendors, and more year-round. The pier’s open-air section on the eastern end is home to the Garden pop-up dining experience. Tables can be reserved online to enjoy food and drink while admiring breathtaking views of the Delaware River.

Race Street Pier

Just north of Cherry Street Pier, Race Street Pier is a multi-level recreational pier popular among runners and features lawns perfect for riverside picnics. Enjoy stunning views beneath the Benjamin Franklin Bridge as ships sail along the Delaware River.

The Rail Park

Visit one of Philadelphia’s newest green spaces in the Callowhill neighborhood. Swing on a bench and walk the paths of The Rail Park on unused rail lines that have been transformed into a beautiful public space. Head to Chinatown nearby for a bite or a sweet treat afterward.

Cira Green

Located 12 stories up and on top of a West Philadelphia parking garage, Cira Green is a park in the sky. The park hosts events like movie nights and yoga classes in warmer months. Or come by with a group and enjoy local fare and an ice-cold cocktail.

Benjamin Franklin Bridge—Pedestrian Walkway

Check out the beautiful sunset along the Benjamin Franklin Bridge’s pedestrian walkway. Enter at 5th & Race streets and head east to encounter one of the city’s best views.

Free Arts, Food & Culture Activities in Philly

Self-Guided Public Art Tours

Enjoy self-guided tours of Philadelphia’s exceptional public art collection with digital maps offered by Mural Arts Philadelphia and the Association for Public Art. With over 4,000 murals and treasured public art pieces in every neighborhood throughout the city, these self-guided experiences are a great way to get to know Philadelphia’s walkable communities.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rocky Steps

Follow in the steps of Rocky Balboa with a morning jog up the Rocky Steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art – and don’t forget to take your photo with Rocky’s statue once you’ve cooled down. The museum has a “pay what you wish” offer on the first Sunday of every month and each Friday from 5 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. 

The Barnes Foundation 

With one of the best private collections in the United States, The Barnes Foundation provides visitors with a holistic art view experience.  Set up just as the owner stipulated (one piece complementing another in a grouping). The Barnes Foundation should not be missed (including free tours). Located on Benjamin Franklin Parkway beside the Rodin Museum, it offers free admission on the first Sunday of the month.

The Rodin Museum 

Directly beside The Barnes Foundation is the Rodin Museum and Garden. The outdoor space is free to walk around in. Admission to the Rodin Museum is pay-what-you-wish every single day. 

Curtis Institute of Music 

The renowned Curtis Institute of Music offers free admission to their student recital series. Enjoy concerts by some of the most talented young musicians in the world in a historical and inspiring setting. Curtis Institute of Music

Philadelphia Magic Garden

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG) is an immersive mixed-media art environment that is completely covered with mosaics. The creator, Isaiah Zagar, used handmade tiles, bottles, bicycle wheels, mirrors, and international folk art to chronicle his life and influences. PMG has a free walking tour of the neighborhood.  Are you a member of a local Philadelphia library? Look into the Experience Pass, which is available at some locations to borrow and use towards free admission. 

Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market has served as a public market since 1893 and is considered one of the best public markets in the nation. At the Market, you’ll find a blend of Philadelphia’s people, history, and flavors. More than 80 shops, restaurants, and grocery stores are in the Market. Here are some of the must-try vendors during your visit.

The Italian Market – South Street

Philadelphia’s Italian Market, which runs along approximately ten city blocks of Ninth Street in South Philadelphia, is one of America’s oldest and largest open-air markets. Not just an outdoor market, there are plenty of shops, bakeries, and restaurants.  Visitors should stop into the Italian Market Visitor Center and Gift Shop to chat with the managers and get a free lesson on the history of the Market and the surrounding neighborhood. No purchase is necessary!

MARGARITA IBBOTT
Margarita Ibbott is the creator and author of DownshiftingPRO.com a travel and lifestyle blog that focuses on travel to the US, Canada, Colombia and Europe.  Bringing unique insight on museums, cultural activities and luxury accommodations.  She loves a good girl’s getaway and traveling with her adult children – family travel but with cocktails.  Colombian by birth Canadian by nationality she’s here to help others organize their lives and travels. 

This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.