Driving in a different city can add a level of stress you don’t need when traveling with your family. Finding parking. Navigating turns. Missing the sights while focused on street signs. Getting around Philadelphia is easy enough without a car.
We stayed within Historic Philadelphia at the Sheraton Society Hill (you can see my room tour video here). After an 8 hour drive we were grateful for the hotel’s valet parking. We handed over our car keys and didn’t pick them up again until we headed home, 2 days later.
Getting Around Philadelphia is as Easy as Walking
I was delightfully surprised to discover how easy it was to walk around historic Philadelphia, steps from our hotel in Society Hill. We explored museums like the Museum of the American Revolution, Philadelphia History Museum, and the National Liberty Museum, discovered history at the Betsy Ross House, National Constitution Center, and Independence Hall, imagined the stories of those who passed while walking through historic urban graveyards and listening to volunteers at the ‘Once Upon a Nation’ storytelling benches.
We walked among heritage homes inhabited by every day Philadelphians and rambled down narrow roads and over cobbled walkways. American flags, heritage plaques and urban art appeared everywhere we ventured.
And the food!
From greasy spoons for cheesesteaks and bagels to nostalgic soda fountains and food markets at Reading Terminal. Historic dining at the famous City Tavern to a step into a different type of past at the retro Jones restaurant and all the taverns in between.
It seemed no matter which way we turned, something new hit our senses. Of course I had a bit of a plan when visiting Philadelphia, like hitting these ‘must do’ spots, but a few of our unplanned discoveries happened only by chance walks while getting around Philadelphia. And looking at the state of parking, I was glad we were walking. For an urban center parking was at a premium.
I would recommend just walking and see where your journey takes you but if you’re looking for a bit of a guide you can try some of these free waking tours:
- Follow the founding fathers’ with the Constitutional self-guided tour.
- Pay-What-You-Can Ghosts of Philly Haunted History Tour.
- Self-guided Mural Walk.
- Historic Walking Tour app for Philadelphia.
- Historic Philadelphia Walk.
- Explore the city’s public art with the Museum Without Walls tour.
- US Mint tour in Philadelphia.
The Big Bus for Getting Around Philadelphia
Even as a very walkabout city, little legs can often get tired quickly. Having our Hop-On/Hop-Off pass for the Big Bus Tours came in handy more than once. My youngest loved the open aired double decker version. This gave you a very unique perspective driving between towering buildings or past open spaces. We have a very different view of the Rocky statue and the Chinatown gate riding high above the pedestrians and cars.
The Big Bus Tour made it easy to get around Philadelphia without fuss, with buses hitting the various stops often throughout the day. It even took us out further than the downtown neighbourhoods we explored on foot, taking us to the eerie Eastern State Penitentiary (highly recommended if you are looking to enthral teens and tweens).
Families with younger kids will love that the Big Bus Tour has stops at the Philadelphia Zoo and the Memorial Hall Please Touch Museum.
Even if you’re not looking to get around Philadelphia, getting to a specific destination, you can sit back and enjoy the Big Bus Tour as your guide points out interesting points of interest as well as shares Philadelphia facts you may not know. Did you know Philadelphia is home to America’s first zoo and first hospital? Or that it is known as the mural capital of the world with an estimated 2000 outdoor art murals?
The city makes a great road trip destination for the family but knowing you can get around Philadelphia without a car makes it that much more appealing. Take to the streets (or bus) and take in the history and art and food that Philly has to offer without working about traffic congestion or finding parking.
What our cities do you like for their walkability when traveling with the family?
Thanks to the folks at Visit Philadelphia for the ideas and inspiration for our visit. All ideas and experiences are my own.