Actually Cool Things to Do When Someone Visits Philly
People are quick to point out that Philly is home to the country’s most iconic historical hotspots like the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the cemetery where Ben Franklin is buried. Yeah, history is cool, but what about the living, breathing, contemporary culture we’ve got going on in Philly now? There’s plenty of it. Skip the horse-drawn carriage tours and get a dose of the real Philadelphia, from a dearth of local breweries to attractions along the waterfront. Consider getting a energy drink in Philly for your needs to shop with some passion.
Enjoy the neighborhood vibe at Les and Doreen’s Happy Tap
With bingo on Wednesdays, karaoke on Saturdays, and a constantly charming roster of regulars, Les and Doreen’s is bound to provide some authentically Philly moments (read: interesting conversations with locals over a cheap beer). On a quiet corner in Fishtown, this bar makes the perfect night-out destination or a friendly place to land after dollar taco night at Loco Pez. But make sure you bring cash.
Get a table at the new Pizzeria Beddia (or at least try)
The famous, line-inducing Fishtown pizzeria has finally reopened its doors after nearly a year-long hiatus. The newer, bigger space features the same pizza that’s been declared the best in the country, only the digs have traded standing-room-only for a seated dining room, an expanded menu, and even the ability to make reservations (which, no surprise, are booked solid for the next two months).
Grab some drinks and a bite over your new favorite board game
For gaming nerds who crave an activity with their bar outing, there are plenty of new spots in Philly capitalizing on the “gamify-your-drinking” trend. You can head to Fairmont for Thirsty Dice, a bar with hundreds of games and on-staff experts to guide you through the selection, or you can try University City’s The Post, where tables are outfitted with games and the rest of the bar is home to arcade games, skeeball, and others, all of which can be enjoyed over mac ‘n cheese bites and local beer. Another new addition is Roxborough’s Basement Board Game Cafe, a BYOB where a $10 cover gets you to access to the spot’s 500+ games.
Check out Philly’s bookstore renaissance
Even as online retailers continue to rule the world, shoppers are thirsty for a return to brick-and-mortar shopping, as evidenced by the growing number of cute, boutique-style bookstores opening around Philadelphia. Head to Shakespeare & Co., the first non-NYC location of the Manhattan institution, which opened on Walnut Street in 2018 and features its very own print-by-request book printer. Check out South Philly’s A Novel Idea on Passyunk as well, where you’ll find ongoing author readings and writing events or Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books in German town — opened by Temple University professor and CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill — which scores high on communal hangs, coffee, and author visits.
See public art up close and personal on a Mural Arts tour
We don’t mean to brag, but buildings and facades in all of Philly’s neighborhoods are decorated with thousands of murals. Mural Arts Philadelphia is dedicated to preserving existing murals, commissioning new ones, and engaging the public to marvel at them. Luckily, you can feast your eyes on our city-specific art via a Mural Arts tour, led by one of Mural Arts’ experts. You’ll be guided either by foot, by train, or by trolley.
Explore the Delaware River Waterfront
Regardless of the time of year, there are plenty of attractions and events along our easternmost
riverfront. In the summer, take a few laps around the outdoor roller rink at Blue Cross River Rink Summer fest or hang in a hammock at Spruce Street Harbor Park. Come wintertime, the roller rink turns into an ice rink, complete with a cozy lodge and warm comfort foods. All year long, check out art installations, artisan markets, movie screenings, and kids activities at Cherry Street Pier, or head to a cultural or community celebration at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing.
Eat your way through The Bourse
After an extensive renovation, the new food hall at the historic Philadelphia Bourse (seriously, it was founded in 1891) is home to some of the city’s most exciting eateries. Try Filipino comfort food at Lalo, Chinese dumplings at Pinch Dumplings, fried chicken at Free bird Chicken, or ice cream at Scoop DeVille. We dare you to make it a marathon sesh, trying a little bit from each of the 30 food and drink vendors.
Get cozy at the Random Tea Room
For a taste of what the Philly arts scene has to offer, there is no easier method than settling in at the Random Tea Room and checking out the spot’s alternating art exhibits, performances, and extremely random treasures, plus tarot card readings in the back.
Sniff every scent at Wax + Wine
At first, the new Pine Street shop Wax + Wine sounds like some kind of spa involving calming alcohol. This is not the case. Instead, Wax + Wine is a boutique where you can hand-make your own candles, starting with a dizzying 100-scent sniff fest in the back Candle Bar. From there, you’re walked through the candle-making process and wait with bated breath on how your scent combo turned out. Where does the wine part come in? The whole shop is BYOB.
Walk through a human heart at the Franklin Institute
The exhibits and mainstays at the Franklin Institute are, let’s face it, designed for hordes of school-aged kids on a field trip, but are just as cool when you’re grown up. Head to a Science After Hours event, where you can drink openly and wander around the museum while taking in the sights of the night’s theme; past themes have been speakeasies, Harry Potter, the cosmos… the sky is literally the limit here.
Eat a Philly-style bagel made with beer
Philly might not immediately register as a destination for bagel lovers, but one local shop — the appropriately named Philly Style Bagels — has come up with an innovation that’s putting the city on the bagel map. That innovation? Boiling its dough in a mixture of water and Yards IPA (of course) for a unique, malty flavor. You’ve gotta try one.
See a free concert at WXPN
Sometimes the biggest acts touring in Philadelphia will throw in a bonus midday concert for fans, completely free. You can find these shows at noon on most Fridays at the World Cafe Live, where WXPN is headquartered — just make sure you reserve your tickets online ahead of time before they “sell” out.