Whenever I need a change of scenery, I can visit Philadelphia and count on having an amazing time. There is always something happening in town which makes it one of my favorite cities to visit on the East Coast. I especially love that history and art are woven into the city’s fabric. Where else in the world can you run up the Rocky Steps and visit the first American penitentiary?
If you’re short on time and want to plan a Philadelphia weekend trip, there’s plenty of things to do. During my recent trip, I stumbled on unique finds that are exclusive to the City of Brotherly Love. If you’re into food, art, or history, you’ll definitely want to add these Philadelphia restaurants and attractions to your itinerary.
Where to Eat in Philadelphia
Federal Donuts serves coffee, chicken, and donuts. But we’re not talking about just any chicken – we’re talking about Korean-style fried chicken with succulent glazes. And we’re not talking about just any donuts – we’re talking about fancy, butter pecan, chocolate eclair and guava poppy donuts. During your trip to Philadelphia be sure to get your hands on these delicious donuts that are exclusive to Philly.
Named after the owner’s daughter, Sabrina’s Cafe is one of the best brunch spots in Philadelphia. There are multiple locations throughout the city and you can find one a few blocks away from the Italian Market.
There’s often long lines at Sabrina’s Cafe so I recommend going early and bringing an appetite. While you wait, head back over to the Italian Market and grab yourself a bottle of wine or beer. Sabrina’s Cafe allows you to B.Y.O.B (bring your own beer) while you dine.
The café was warm and cozy and it was really unique because it seated a handful of guests at a time. My waitress was friendly and her super chill attire (casual jeans and a hoodie) made me feel at home.
I ordered a hot latte and stuffed challah french toast with a side of eggs and potatoes. When the bill came out to $15 USD, I left the café feeling so happy that I found a gem in Philadelphia.
For more recommendations on where to eat in Philadelphia, consider having lunch at the Reading Terminal Market or trying Big Gay Ice Cream!
Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat
Satisfy your inner foodie with brunch at Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat. Honey’s offers hearty Jewish cuisine with a southern comfort twist. I ordered “Toad in a Whole” and shared “Three Giant Pancakes”. Can you say finger licking good!
Independence Beer Garden
Across the street from the Independence National Historical Park, the Independence Beer Garden creatively combines food, beer, and games in a unique way. The open-air space has lots of different sections including a shady rock garden and outdoor seating. Picnic tables accentuate the casual ambiance and the “picnic” menu is perfect for sharing.
The Pickle Chips and the “Everything” Pretzel Bites were my favorite snacks. There’s lots of regional and domestic craft beer to choose from. Expect good food, great beer and a laid back atmosphere.
Take a stroll through South 9th Street and check out the South 9th Street Italian Market. It’s the oldest market in the country and on Saturday mornings, the market is a lively foodie haven. Flooding the narrow streets, the market has been active since the 1880s. The strong smells of cheese, fish, meat, coffee beans, and vegetables are distinct and I had fun watching all the buzz and commotion.
The Italian Market is also home to butcher shops, bakeries and ethnic restaurants like Korean Barbecue, Vietnamese Pho, and Mexican. If you’re interested in taking a culinary tour or learning more about the market’s history, there are plenty of walking tours that you can book. The Italian Market is a refreshing sight to see in such an urban city.
Things to Do in Philadelphia
Board Game Art Park
After visiting the LOVE Park, I ran into giant board game pieces at the Municipal Services Building Plaza. I couldn’t resist taking photos with a few Monopoly pieces. There were also giant Dominoes, Bingo chips and Chess pieces scattered around.
I wonder if the artist was trying to poke fun at our messy and childlike government?
Lastly, if you’re into people watching, the Board Game Art Park is an interesting place to people watch. Grab your camera and take action shots of the skaters as they skate by.
Rooftop Vegetable & Herb Garden
Sofitel Philadelphia at Rittenhouse Square has a really cool rooftop garden that features all sorts of fruits, vegetables and herbs like strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, lemon thyme, mint, parsley, and sage. The herbs and vegetables infuse fresh flavors into Sofitel’s contemporary French inspired cuisine.
I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Luke Rogers, Sofitel’s Executive Chef. He guided me through the rooftop garden and explained its importance and uniqueness. Sofitel’s rooftop garden also houses one of the largest collections of honey bees in Philadelphia. It has over 100,000 honey bees. They help pollinate the garden and their honey sweetens a variety of the hotel’s beverages.
Philadelphia City Hall Tower and Observation Deck
Visit the beautiful Philadelphia City Hall built in the 1860s and marvel at one of the largest municipal buildings in the USA. It was once the tallest building in the world and it has over 700 rooms. For spectacular views of the city and neighboring states, head over to the observation deck. Above the observation deck stands the statue of William Penn, the founder of Philadelphia. In 1682 William Penn named Philadelphia, The City of Brotherly Love in Greek. He envisioned Philadelphia being a place where anyone could worship freely.
The elevator ride to the top took 2 minutes. You’ll only have 15 minutes to explore the observation deck so take as many pictures as you can before you have to head back down.
Helpful Tip: Arrive early to secure your observation deck reservation. Tickets sell out fast because only four passengers can ride the elevator at a time.
The Rocky Statue and Steps
The Rocky Steps are a symbol of perseverance and rising to the occasion. Climb the 72 steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art while singing the iconic “Gonna Fly Now” song by Bill Conti. At the top, recreate the Rocky movie scene and throw your hands in the air in triumph.
Porch Street at 30th Street
Porch Street at 30th Street offers a colorful outdoor space that featured chairs, tables, and green grass. One of my favorite things about The Porch are the adult-size swings. Individuals, couples, and even families could swing and lounge around. The swings come in all different sizes and made me feel youthful. This is a great place to appreciate Philadelphia’s playful side.
Rittenhouse Square is one of the oldest parks in Philadelphia. It has some of the most dramatic art sculptures like the ferocious “Lion Crushing a Serpent” symbolizing the fight for good and evil, and the sculpture of the girl carrying a duck under her arm.
Another interesting thing to do in Philadelphia is spot wall murals. I found four murals while walking towards the city center but there are over 3,600 wall murals in Philadelphia. They feature different art styles and are part of the Mural Arts Program which allows artists to showcase their talent all over the city.
In 1776 the Liberty Bell summoned the people of Philadelphia to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. The bell has been an iconic symbol for oppressed groups including the abolitionists and women’s suffrage movement. If the line to see the Liberty Bell is too long, skip the close-up and get partial views from the side windows.
Once Upon a Nation Benches
In the summer, you can hear short stories and tales about events long ago exactly where they happened in Philadelphia. Right behind the Independence Hall, I heard a short story about how the second floor of the Independence Hall was once a prison holding American soldiers during the British occupation. A few officers were able to sneak up to the attic and escape.
Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park is a beautiful park and a great place to people watch. It also houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that commemorates those who died in the American Revolution.
Best Hotels in Philadelphia
Lastly, here are some of my favorite places to stay in Philadelphia.
Danielle is a travel finance strategist, author, speaker and podcaster. She paid off $63,000 of student loan debt in 4 years, bought a house at 27 and has traveled to 26 countries. She refuses to let her financial responsibilities hold her back from living life on her own terms.