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72 Hours In Philadelphia

Short stays require lots of research, as we want to see as many sites as possible. Our trip to Philadelphia challenged our ability to find a central location that allowed easy access by foot to a wide variety of attractions and restaurants. The Logan Philadelphia was a perfect fit, as it sat in between the art and historic districts. The view from the rooftop lounge (pictured at the top of the article) was quite calming, and allowed for great people watching. With only 72 hours in Philadelphia, we knew we’d have to make the most of every minuet.

Guns of the USS New Jersey.

Day 1: Breaking Out The Big Guns

Our flight in was in the afternoon, so by the time we got checked in the day was waning. Our first attraction would actually require us to cross over into New Jersey. Here we had the opportunity to visit the USS New Jersey battleship museum.  Our first impression was one of awe, and after a guided tour of this amazing ship, we were even more impressed. Our visit also included impressive sunset views, as we looked across the Delaware River at the Philadelphia skyline.

Betsy Ross actress.

Day 2: Steps Back In Time

After an interesting breakfast, (more about that later) we made our way toward the historic section near the Delaware River. Our first stop was at the Betsy Ross House, which was tiny in comparison to our previous evening’s site.  We self-toured the home, and even spent some time listening to “Betsy” tell some stories about her interactions with other famous characters from the Revolutionary war period. (read more about Betsy Ross here>)

View down Elfreth's Alley in Philadelphia.

As we continued toward the river, we took time to wander down Elfreth’s Alley. For over 300 years, this block of homes have been inhabited by Philadelphians, which makes it the oldest residential street in the United States. Walking the cobblestone streets, we could almost feel the history. It was certainly something unique, and we are glad we took the short detour.

Swan shaped paddleboats.

Philadelphia’s Riverfront Park

Our visit to Penn’s Landing gave us a chance to see the USS New Jersey from a vantage point across the river. It was still quite impressive. Of course, it is not the only ship we saw on the riverbanks. The Independence Seaport Museum sits on the Philly shoreline, and offers visitors a chance to learn more about the maritime history of this region. For those with limited time (like us), you can get a shore side view of two ships and a submarine that are part of the collection. Spruce Harbor Park sits beside the river and offers a peaceful gathering spot for locals and visitors alike. This urban park begs to be explored.

An assortment of sights in Philadelphia.
Left to right: Ben Franklin bust, Independence Hall, Philadelphia City Hall, China Town gate

Philadelphia’s Historic District

There are so many historic sites to see in Philly, that we were only able to skim by most.  Our walk through the historic district did produce some fabulous memories. A bronze bust of Ben Franklin is covered in the cast of 1,000 keys, supplied by local schoolchildren. It sits in Girard Park, which is just down the street from Ben Franklin’s grave. We stopped at the gravesite to toss a couple of pennies. This is a commonplace ritual, and we were told the money is used to feed the homeless.

The Liberty Bell had a line a couple of hours long, so we were forced to bypass it. This is certain to be added to our next visit. Across the street we stopped for a selfie in front of Independence Hall. This building is where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and signed.

As we continued our walking tour, we caught sight of the Philadelphia City Hall. It is certainly hard to miss, since it is the largest municipal building in the United States. Construction began in 1871, and was finally completed in 1901.

Later in the day, we would find ourselves in the heart of China Town. It covers about eight square blocks, but also spills out into the surrounding area. Here we saw plenty of shops, markets, and restaurant options. many had some interesting architectural designs.

American Revolution - Independence day - Revolutionary War - Philadelphia - Museum of Revolutionary War - Freedom - 1776

The New Museum In Town

Our trip just happened to occur a couple of months after the opening of the new Museum of the American Revolution. While there are so many historical options, this was an audio-visual masterpiece. It offered a great overview of the fight for independence, and really brought the events to life. Bonus points for it’s ability to show the war and it’s effects from multiple points of view.

Assortment of sights in Philadelphia.
Left to right: The Thinker, Washington Monument Fountain, Rocky, Boathouse Row

Day 3: Artful Parks

Our last full day in Philadelphia had us heading in the opposite direction. Heading West of our hotel took us along Ben Franklin Parkway. This wide avenue was the main thoroughfare to the art galleries. We paused at the Rodin Museum to pose with The Thinker. This museum holds the largest collection of the artist’s works outside of Paris.

The parkway splits to encircle the Washington Monument Fountain. This ornate structure is something to behold. Besides the large sculpture of George Washington on top, there are an amazing assortment of pieces all around the base.

Crossing the street from the fountain, we were now at the base of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. These steps are the ones Sylvester Stallone raced up in the movie, Rocky. The statue commemorating that scene has been moved to the side of the steps, but we still saw plenty of people recreating the scene.

A short detour led us to a bridge over the Schuykill River. From this vantage point we were able to see the famously picturesque Boathouse Row. This is the home of various rowing clubs dating back to 1853. It is certainly a beautiful setting for a boating adventure.

Peacock at Philadelphia Zoo.

America’s First Zoo

Our main goal for this day was a visit to the Philadelphia Zoo. We could not pass up an opportunity to visit the oldest zoological park in the United States. It is a place of many firsts, and although it is not the largest park we have visited, (42 acres) it did not disappoint. We were amazed at the way they were able to tuck in so many exhibits without the feel of the place being crowded. This is certainly a “must see” for any zoo lovers.

Franklin Institute-Philadelphia-science museum

Teaching Science To The Masses

The day was passing quickly, but on the way back to our hotel we made one more stop. The Franklin Institute is one of the oldest science museums in the country. Founded in 1824, it has since moved to its current home, which was just down the street from our hotel. While our visit was short, we did make the most of our time. The exhibits in this center are almost all interactive, so guests get a hands-on education. Kids of all ages (us included) were dashing from display to display to see what each did. You almost forgot that you were learning, as you played. This is another place that we will need to investigate further.

Night sky view in Philadelphia.

Head in the Clouds

A pleasure we enjoy in the larger cities we visit, is the experience of seeing the landscape from high ground. In Philadelphia, it meant a visit to Sky Philadelphia, which is located a block from our hotel. From the 51st floor we had a birds-eye view of the whole city. As nightfall arrived, we were also treated to a wonderful sunset.

Breakfast plate.

Much Needed Nourishment

One of the advantages of our location was the ability to walk almost everywhere we went. This had an extra benefit in helping burn off some of the extra calories we were enjoying at the many delicious locations we visited. There were so many options in Philadelphia, and we are only listing a smattering of the ones we tried. A visit to Le Pain Quotidien (Our Daily Bread) gave us the opportunity to sample a Belgian style breakfast. While a little different than what we usually eat, it was still just as delicious.

Bustling market scene.

To Market, To Market

The Reading Terminal Market is one of those places that must be experienced during a visit to Philadelphia. The hustle and bustle of thousands is amazing to watch, and the selection of food is unbelievable. Just about every cuisine is represented, and the dessert options are incredible. Stop in for lunch, but arrive early to get a prime people watching seat.

Candy display at Shane Confections.

A Sweet Tradition

One of the things we found in Philadelphia was that the city holds so many firsts. It seemed like just about every business we entered billed itself as the first of its kind. Take Shane Confectionery for example. It is hard to imagine any candy shop in America that has been in business since 1863. After sampling some of their products, it is apparent that all of those years have allowed them to hone their craft.

Sunset over Philadelphia.

It Ends Too Soon

Alas, but three days passed way too quickly, and soon we were facing our final sunset in Philly. With all of our sight-seeing completed, we were prepared to head home. Our visit had opened up a new world of attractions to us. For now, we are satisfied with the taste of the city that we received, but we know that a return visit is inevitable. Of course, our next visit will certainly have to be a lot longer. We hope you will continue to connect with us, and if you sign up for our emails, you will never miss a new article.

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