6 things to do in Philadelphia (given by locals) + a free map!
Come along to discover what are the first places locals will recommend you in the city of brotherly love!
This article is the first part with out-of-the-box ideas, for a second one I will give you the traditional destinations you must see when in town. So stay tuned! And of course, if you want to be sure to not miss it, subscribe to the blog’s newsletter.
A little disclaimer, until then I only gave the fee information. Now I would like to give you how much time you should consider for each place. It is an indication of the average time you would spend there. I personally spend way more time if it is an art-related institution, however, I know not everyone will do the same. So please keep an open mind and I hope you will find this useful!
Mural Mile Walking Tour
The Mural Mile was created thanks to the work of the artist Jane Golden starting in 1986. Commissioned by the city the goal was to stop the rise of unwanted graffitis and connect with the different communities. So she got in touch with the graffiti’s writers and the locals. The program facilitates a connection between artists and neighborhood so they can create murals together. It was such a success that today it is the largest public art program in the country and an international model on community development. And of course, their actions have evolved into multiple actions, educational programs, artists-in-residence and so on.
TIP: You can do a tour or grab a map and discover them by yourself. You know… if you happen to have a good sense of orientation.
Fee: $23 (walking tours)
Time: 2h at least
In the art world, there are a few artists who decide to turn their neighborhoods or living spaces into their artwork. Among them is Isaiah Zagar. Who in the late 60’s decided to take action and beautify his neighborhood. He chose the space near his studio and step by step turned this backyard in a beautiful mosaic space, with an aesthetic that will remind you of Antonio Gaudi’s. Now it is a non-profit museum and gallery space dedicated to educate and engage with the surrounding community.
Fabric Workshop Museum
An amazing art museum founded in 1977 dedicated to help the artists in their creative process and bring it their work to audiences. At first, it was focused on using fabric as a medium now it has also expanded to other innovative ones. They also have an education program, artists in residence and exhibitions. Unfortunately, every time I went to visit their shows it was in-between and the gallery space was closed.
HOWEVER, if that happens to you they will show you the artists’ studios! You can see them work on designs and learn more about their techniques.
Fee: FREE (donations welcomed)
Eastern State Penitentiary
Get ready to shiver… This is a decommissioned prison turned into a museum. It is also a National History Landmark. Created in 1829, it was in use until 1971, then it got turned in a museum so the architecture and the building’s history would be saved. You will be able to walk around the halls, see the cells, the guards quarters. You will get to see AL CAPONE’s cell and yes he had a very comfy one. They also invite artists to present work in the space in relation to the theme. More info on their website.
TIP #1: There are two great times to visit it, Bastille Day (July 14th) you can then do a twilight tour and Halloween. In order to collect funds and preserve the space, they turn it into a zombie attraction! No, I did not visit it at that time, my vocal cords would not have liked it I think.
TIP #2: BRING YOUR CAMERA, especially if you are a photographer you will be glad you did.
Time: 2H (unless you are scared and want to leave. I did the twilight tour and seeing the light going down when you are within the walls is something I won’t forget.)
ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art)
Well, this one is quite self-explanatory. You might know about it or not. But this art institution is worldly acclaimed. It is located on the campus of the famous Ivy League university UPenn. The ICA was created in 1963 by the dean of architecture who wanted to confront students to art which was “new” and “happening”. Sounds like a great teacher! Like a lot of art centers and Kunsthalle, they do not have a permanent collection and are only dedicated to temporary exhibitions and research. To give you an example of the importance of this museum to the art world: in 1965 they presented Andy Warhol’s first ever solo show. Yep, quite impressive.
TIP: Visit the show and walk around the UPenn campus for a little green scenery.
Reading Terminal Market
Just go walk around the beautiful stands of produce with so many colors. And eat everything. Get ready to not wanting to leave before you have smelled, eaten or seen every booth.
Fee: FREE (not the food of course)
Time: 1 or 2h
Which one do you want to visit?
Check the map for all the places to eat, visit and enjoy Philly!
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