Visit the “City of Brotherly Love” and you may just fall in love. Arts, parks, history, and architecture make Philly a great place to visit.
The free City Center map separates Philadelphia into color-coded districts. After spending the day in Philly, I’ve come to understand why the demarcations are drawn so clearly. Each square has its own characteristics featuring parks, arts, history, and architecture.
The Historic Waterfront District
Beginning just across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and stretching south to take up twice the space of the other squares, the Historic Waterfront district includes historical sites and visitor information. The National Constitution Center, Liberty Bell, and Independence National Historic Park stretch across three blocks and offer tourists a walk through the city’s history with exhibits and explanations. If you’re arriving from New Jersey and crossing the Delaware River over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge brace yourself for slow going city traffic, pedestrians who don’t hesitate to exercise their right of way, one-way streets, and limited parking. Driving around the historic district for an hour was enough to make me want to leave the city, but I’m thankful I stayed. Avoid the hassle, park outside of the city, and take a bus or train into town.
Washington Square District
After finding parking, checking in at the Apple Hostel, and passing the historic district, I found my way to Washington Square. Drawn perhaps by proximity or maybe intuition, I immediately felt my former frustrations dissipating as I stumbled upon picturesque apartment buildings, quaint side streets, occasional mosaics punctuating the brick walls, and delicious food options. Even though there are few landmarks on the city map, you won’t want to skip over this part of the city. Here are a few highlights from my favorite part of town:
Talula’s Garden on W. Washington Square offers both formal dining and a more casual market place with both indoor and outdoor seating and bars. I enjoyed the Superfood Salad on the outdoor seating overlooking Washington Square.
Washington Square, the quiet area of trees and benches for which the district is named, contains the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to honor Revolutionary War soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Between 10th and 11th Streets, the Magic Gardens mosaic sculptures can be seen for a small admission price. Several surrounding houses also feature the multicolored tiles making the regular brick buildings works of art.
Separating Washington and Rittenhouse Squares, Broad Street or Avenue of the Arts features the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
Rittenhouse Square District
Most of the city’s upscale hotels are located in Rittenhouse Square. Relax by the fountain and listen to local street performers in the centrally located park.
Parkway Museums District
The Logan Square serves as a gateway toward the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the Philadelphia Museum of Art for which this district is named. Here you might also enjoy posing by the large LOVE sculpture by city hall or playing on the plaza with giant size game pieces including Bingo chips, Sorry sculptures, and Monopoly markers.
The Convention Center District
Although the Pennsylvania Convention Center is the main attraction in this district, it’s worth walking through Chinatown with its restaurants offering a variety of Asian cuisines. You’ll forget that you’re still in Philadelphia as you walk down the street and experience the culture of Chinatown.
Just beyond Chinatown you’ll find Franklin Square where you can take a carousel ride or sit and enjoy the lighted fountain in the center of the park.
Philadelphia Short and Simple
Each of Philadelphia’s five city squares has a different feature and feel from the historic landmarks of the Historic Waterfront District, to brick apartment buildings reminiscent of Beacon Hill of Boston in the Washington Square District. Rittenhouse District’s quiet center square leads the way to the parks and museums of the Parkway Museums District. Finally, Chinatown of the Convention Center District offers a glimpse of Asian culture. Although you can explore the squares in a single day, extend your stay to see the many museums that make Philadelphia a cultural powerhouse.