When William Penn founded Philadelphia, he named it by combining the Greek phileo and adelphos, conveying love and brother. This philosophy formed the cornerstone for the East Coast's second-largest city.
The City of Brotherly Love now adds "and Sisterly Affection," welcoming all, regardless of origin or destination. Well situated between New York and Washington, DC, the "Birthplace of America" has history, culture, museums, performing arts and offers ways to make enjoyment affordable. Here we show you how to get the most out of Philadelphia without breaking the bank.
Enjoying Philadelphia On A Budget:
Cheap Flights And Trains
Finding cheap airline tickets to Philadelphia is surprisingly easy. How many destinations let you fly cross-country for just $227? We searched for Tuesday round-trip flights a little over a month in advance, finding Sprint's nonstop evening flights between Los Angeles' LAX and Philadelphia International.
Flying from Seattle, however, we had to resort to 1 stop for prices less than $400; Delta and United both had 1-stop deals for $264, with flying times tipping 7 or 8 hours.
From Las Vegas, Spirit could take you there and back nonstop for $157, taking just 4 hours and 32 minutes going; add an hour to your return time thanks to headwinds.
Fly from Dallas-Fort Worth on an afternoon flight, and you could travel nonstop on Spirit for $99. From Tampa, we found $138 deals through Orbitz on Frontier for nonstop 2½-hour evening flights.
Coming from the Northeast, we switched modes of tranportation, preferring Amtrak's high-speed Acela Express running from Boston to Washington, DC.
We found economical Amtrak options like $39 one-way fares between New York City and Philly, but $195 from Boston's South Station; for comparison, you can fly from Boston on JetBlue round-trip for just $107 in a little over an hour.
Cheap Hotels And Lodging
If you must stay in Center City, the Roost Midtown on South 15th Street (4 stars) had a 1-bedroom apartment with a king bed, full kitchen and free Wi-Fi for $215 a night. That may sound pricey, but they sell out.
For comparison, we found a king suite at Homewood Suites on City Avenue at $143 a night, with free hot breakfast, complimentary weekday-evening manager's selections, free Wi-Fi and full amenities.
Farther out, Extended Stay America on Bartram Avenue had a 2-queen-bed studio suite for $102, with full kitchen, grab-and-go breakfast, free Wi-Fi, fitness center, pool and shuttle service.
With hotel prices $200 and up, we checked Airbnb, narrowing our search to apartments and homes. We found a neat, clean, pet-friendly, fully equipped 1-bedroom apartment near Temple University for $51 a night; the rental also had cleaning and service fees and taxes but came to just $465 a week.
Amid the museum district, we found a modern duplex apartment furnished in art, smart and eclectic, for $90; with fees, a week was $755, but amenities included a laptop with high-speed Internet access and attractions within easy walking distance.
Using the rewards you've earned with a hotel credit card or travel credit card is a good way to offset your lodging expenses. If you've collected Membership Rewards® points on your American Express card, it's worth noting that you can redeem your points towards Airbnb stays.
CityPASS And Philadelphia Pass
Visitors can pay just 1 discounted fee to see numerous attractions through CityPASS and Philadelphia Pass. Each, however, is a bit different:
- CityPASS covers 1 admission to 4 attractions: the Franklin Institute, Big Bus Company and Philadelphia Trolley Works, One Liberty Observation Deck, and either Adventure Aquarium or Philadelphia Zoo. It reduces single-admission prices totaling $108 to $59 for adults and $39 for kids and lasts 9 days. It also provides 1-day unlimited access to the double-decker Big Bus.
- Philadelphia Pass offers 1 admission to as many qualifying attractions as you can fit into a 1-, 2-, 3- or 5-consecutive-day pass priced at $55, $80, $100 and $115, respectively. Buying online may offer deeper discounts, but check attraction lists and details carefully. The pass also comes with 2-day access to the 27-stop Big Bus, admittance to guided walking tours, and dining and entertainment coupons.
Free Things To Do
Independence Hall is free, but you still need a timed ticket from the Independence Visitor Center; afterward, swing by Congress Hall, Old City Hall and Liberty Bell Center. You can also see Carpenter's Hall, the President's House, the U.S. Mint, Chemical Heritage Foundation exhibits, the Edgar Allen Poe National Historical Site, Fireman's Hall Museum and the University of Pennsylvania's Institute of Contemporary Art. Relax in Franklin Square; carousel rides and mini-golf games do have fees, however.
For art, the Barnes Foundation offers Free First Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on first-come on-site basis. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has "Pay-As-You-Wish" Wednesday Evenings and First Sundays. Check out the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts website, too; the venue regularly offers free performances, and even purchased tickets are often affordable.
If you have a Merrill Lynch® or Bank of America® credit card or debit card, you can get into these museums for free on the first full weekend of every month: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, National Constitution Center, African American Museum of Philadelphia, and the National Museum of American Jewish History.
Bartram Gardens on Lindbergh Boulevard is "America's oldest botanical garden." Even parking is free, and the gardens are accessible from the #36 Trolley, river cruise and the Schuylkill River Trail.
Take the trail, and you can walk, run or bike past Boat House Row and the Philadelphia Museum of Art right into the gardens, which hosts all sorts of events, including Free Saturday boats and kayaks from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For an early-morning challenge, return to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and take a selfie to by the Rocky statue before knocking yourself out running the 72 steps!
For photographers, history buffs and "gravers," Laurel Hill Cemetery is one of a very few such places recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
This "sculpture garden" is quite alive with walkers, runners, guided history tours and assorted events. Over 40 Civil War-era generals rest here as well as quite a few notable women; look them up!
A new access at Kelly Drive and West Hunting Park Avenue provides entry from the Schuylkill River Trail; clear your smartphone's photo storage before you go.
Places To Eat For Good Value
Each year, Philadelphians determine a list of best cheap eats. You expect cheese steaks, but roast pork and pizza are big winners, too.
For breakfast, Sabrina's Café with locations on Christian, Callowhill and North 34th Streets is a good value bet. Honey's Sit N Eat on North 4th Street and The Dining Car on Frankford Avenue are also favorites.
For Philly cheese steaks, try Chubby's Steaks of Henry Avenue, Sumo Steaks on North 22d Street or John's Roast Pork on East Snyder Avenue. Contending for best burger were Lucky's Last Chance on Manayunk's Main Street and Fountain Porter on South 10th Street; Fountain Porter also has an extensive draft menu.
For pizza and healthy lunches, voters liked The Couch Tomato in West Chester and Manayunk. Downtown are Tony Roni's Pizza (Neapolitan) and Tacconelli's Pizzeria (brick-oven), each with multiple locations.
For food trucks, enthusiasts love The Pizza Wagon Catering Co. which shows up at festivals and events, Spot Gourmet Burgers, Steaks & Pork at Drexel University and its West Girard Avenue brick-and-mortar location, and The Creperie at Temple.
Be sure to give Reading Terminal Market a try. It's all delicious, from walk-ups to sit-downs, with every price range, ethnicity or quirk. You can piece a meal or graze all day as you tour nearby sights.
With prime market real estate, DiNic's Roast Pork & Beef has the "Best Sandwich in America," according to Adam Richman of Travel Channel's Man v. Food. Yep, food's fine in Philly. Just watch your nickels and dimes!
If you can't resist slots and dice, Philly has SugarHouse Casino; however, 163 Yelp reviews averaged just 2 stars.
As for cheese steaks, joining the snaking lines at Pat's or Geno's may not be worth it. Following the local food recommendations above may prove more pleasant and easier on your wallet.
Morris Arboretum's 92-acres of beautifully landscaped and labeled gardens will delight amateur botanists and plant lovers. But it will cost you a $17 admission fee ($15 for seniors, and $9 for students and active or retired military service people with ID. You could save that money by opting for Bartram's Garden instead.
If you're not a fan of counterculture, East South Street is best viewed during daylight hours.
Finally, we all hate lines, but with more than 1 million people visiting the Liberty Bell each year, crowds consume time, raise stress levels and challenge ideals of brotherly love.
Philly has plenty to do and see (for free!), but plan times and venues accordingly.