I live about 2 hours from Philly and hubby and I got down a few times a year to stock up on "good eats," so I have some favorite foodie spots... The Italian Market (S. 9th St. in the vacinity of Christian St., stretches for a few blocks) is not to be missed, for cheeses, meats, fresh veggies, etc. Expect "authentic," if not clean/neat/tidy, lol... Best hoagies and fresh bread are at Sarcone's Deli (734 S. 9th St.; their bakery is a few storefronts down the street). Best Italian pastries, cannoli, and cookies are at Termini Bros. (1523 S. 8th St.)-- we usually buy a few pounds of amaretti cookies and put them in the freezer. Tomato pie at Iannelli's (1155 E. Passyunk Ave.) is also excellent.
Other than food and the obvious (the big museums), check out the Mutter Museum (19 S. 22nd St) for a huge collection of medical oddities. Eastern State Penitentiary (2027 Fairmount Ave.) is also interesting.
*friend of bar.ka
"Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"
Historic Area - the Bell, Independence Hall, and the whole general area of Independence Park is kinda the core "Philadelphia" experience, aka, How Is This City Different From Pittsburgh? I recommend it, though at this time of year there's a definite mob of school groups swarming all over the place. The much fought-over slavery exhibit, The President's House, is literally at the door of the Liberty Bell building, and rather moving.
Foodwise - soft pretzels are far kinder to the stomach than cheesesteaks, and more affordable (around .50). They should have a briny crust, but not be rock hard; ones at food carts are usually awful. Beware buying from any source that has each sad pretzel pre-wrapped in plastic. The best source is generally small local stores with a bin near the register. The appropriate thing to do is trace each liberally with mild yellow mustard. Spicy is acceptable, but barely.
There's the Polish Museum, which is a tiny, rarely mentioned free museum on Walnut around 4th, and a pleasant place to cool down and relax a moment while in the area. Similarly, the Portrait Gallery at Chestnut between 4th and 5th (in the ornate Greek-style Second Bank, is free and a/c'd.
If you have smaller kids, you might like Franklin Square. It's just past the Independence Park area to the north, and has a carousel, fountain, playground, miniature golf, etc. Very new and snazzy.
If you're into medical stuff, DEFINITELY check out the Mutter Museum! (myoo-ter) It is a very historical collection of medical knowledge, instruments, and tissue samples. Boyfriend and I are medical people, and we could have spent all day there exploring all the things crammed into that space. It was fascinating to see what "cutting edge" medicine looked like 100+ years ago.
If you're not into medical stuff, physical specimens, etc, stay away from it!! I can easily see it being overwhelming and horrifying to others
One thing I would not recommend is getting lost in the Philly ghetto. We stayed on our trolley bus one stop too long and it went from a really nice, safe neighborhood to obvious crack houses, boarded up shanties, and thugs in just one stop. I have rarely been more thankful to have my 6'4", 300lbs boyfriend by my side. And, as an urban paramedic, he knew exactly the environment we were in, so he hustled us right out of there, no stopping at Go, no collecting $200.
The Liberty Bell is very moving. Also, we toured Independence Hall and had a talk by I think they called him a Park Ranger. He was excellent. About 50ish, very skinny, tall Black man. Excellent speaker, you could tell he was honored to be doing this job. I really enjoyed him.
Question is...what is there NOT to do in Philly?!!!!!
*The art museum
*Your typical tourist attractions (if you're in to that kind of dull thing)
*Check out Festival Pier
*Tons of Clubs
*One of the GREATEST MUSIC SCENES!!! Check out Jambase.com in case theres some good shows you'd wanna hit up while you're there
*Start walking around town, see where you end up, check out places that draw you in, meet some people, and be open to whatever awesome possibilitys come your way!!
I used to live 45 min from Philly and would go there and do that all the time and ended up going on tour with Phish and from there, on to Sound Tribe Sector 9!!! It was great!