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Historic Philadelphia is the fifth largest metropolis in the United States. It enjoys a warm and friendly reputation, reflected in its nickname 'The City of Brotherly Love'. It's regarded as a happy home for millions of people as well as one of the world's most dynamic travel destinations.
Situated inland from the Atlantic coastline, it sits on a protrusion of land at the merging of the mighty Delaware River and the Schuylkill River. The land was granted to state founder William Penn back in 1682.
Penn's vision was to establish a town reminiscent of rural England. Because of its location controlling the Delaware Valley and its good freshwater port facilities, it soon outgrew its original boundaries and by the 18th century was the second largest English-speaking city in the world.
Today, Philadelphia draws tourists mainly for its wealth of history. Independence National Historical Park is regarded as the most significant historic square mile in America, where the United States of America was conceived, declared, and ratified.
On 8 July 1776, the Liberty Bell at Independence Hall summoned citizens to hear the first reading of the Declaration of the Independence. Today, the building stands proudly and is revered as the birthplace of the American nation.
The Independence National Historical Park is an eight block neighbourhood in the very centre of old Philadelphia. The Liberty Bell itself is on display in a pavilion in Market Street between 5th and 6th Street.
Originally built as the Pennsylvania State House in 1732, Independence Hall on Chestnut Street is now famous for being where the Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution of the United States were ratified.
Historically significant buildings and museums pack out the rest of the 34 acre park, interpreting the events and lives of main figures involved in Philadelphia's years as the capital of the USA from 1790 and 1800. These include former presidents George Washington and John Adams.
About 20 buildings are open to the public daily, with times varying according to season. Advance tickets are required for Independence Hall, obtainable from the adjacent Visitors Centre or bookable in advance through the National Parks Service.
One of Philadelphia's most frequented museums, the Franklin Institute on Benjamin Franklin Parkway opened in 1934 and fast became recognised for its innovative and imaginative exhibits, demonstrating the influence of science in our lives.
The museum complex divides into various sections. Firstly, the Franklin National Memorial is dedicated to Benjamin Franklin. It features a huge statue of its namesake and a collection of memorabilia associated with the famous statesman.
Another section features hands-on and interactive science and technology exhibits, ranging from a walkthrough model of heart to a lightning gallery. This section also includes the Discovery Theatre, with scientific shows each afternoon and a puzzle area. The basement is the location of the Fels Planetarium.
There are numerous permanent exhibitions in addition to an ever rotating roster of temporary offerings, such as Amazing Machine, The Franklin Air Show, and The Train Factory. Topics and themes covered include space, the earth, computers, chemistry, health, and electricity.
There is also an IMAX theatre, showing a variety of films. Located on the lawn between the main museum buildings, the CoreStates Science Park is a garden full of high-tech play structures like a stand-on organ, maze and a high-wire bicycle. The museum also features several restaurants and a snack bar.
Established in the 1870s, the elegant Philadelphia Museum of Art houses a permanent collection of more than 225,000 works in 200 galleries. The museum is recognised as being one of the finest art collections in the USA.
Exhibits include not only magnificent paintings, but also sculptures, period furniture, and faithfully restored historic rooms. Built in the style of a Greco-Roman temple, the beautiful building housing the collection stands upon a hilltop off Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The two storeys are designed with L-shaped wings leading off a central court, and exhibits are arranged in period groupings. The museum also has a cafeteria and a formal restaurant, regularly hosts visiting exhibitions.
The part of the Independence National Historical Park between 3rd and 4th Street is where the home of Benjamin Franklin once stood. While the actual house no longer exists, a 54-foot-high (16m) steel skeleton ghost structure covers the remaining courtyard.
It provides a novel and fascinating tribute to the life of Franklin, allowing great insight into the iconic former statesman. His many vocations included printer, diplomat, inventor, publisher, author, and postmaster, as well as the founder of the University of Pennsylvania.
Visitors can peruse an underground museum filled with paintings, objects, and inventions associated with Franklin. There is a bank of telephones with many testimonies from famous personalities about the achievements of the great man.
There's also a US Postal Service Museum and a nearby home displays an architectural exhibit explaining Franklin's fire-resisting building techniques. Another building houses an 18th-century printing office and bindery with demonstrations. Alongside sits the restored office of the newspaper published by Franklin's grandson Benjamin Franklin Bache.
Philadelphia Zoo opened in 1874, the first of its kind in the USA. Today, it's one of the world's most renowned zoological gardens, replete with animal exhibits, award-winning education and conservation programmes, recreational opportunities, and scientific accomplishments.
More than one million visitors flock to this leading city attraction. Among special features offered are more than 1,600 rare and exotic animals and 42 acres of picturesque Victorian gardens. Highlights include the Peco Primate Reserve, an interactive exhibit featuring around 10 primate species.
The Rare Animal Conservation Center allows intimate views of some of the world's most endangered animals. The Reptile and Amphibian House has an interactive adventure path, showcasing dozens of species like the King Cobra. Additionally, there is an African animal section, helium balloon ascents, and a children's petting zoo.
The Please Touch Museum is located in Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park and is a shining example of what must be one of the rarest cultural attractions anywhere in the world: a museum where children are actually encouraged to lay their hands on exhibits.
Mainly aimed at kids aged seven years and younger, the museum seeks to educate and entrance its young visitors in equal measure, offering them a hands-on experience of an assortment of life-size interactive exhibition zones.
Although the exhibits change frequently, highlights have included an Alice in Wonderland area complete with rabbit holes and garden mazes, a miniature supermarket, and a scaled down SEPTA bus display.
Parents and grandparents are undivided in their approval of the museum and its child-friendly approach, describing it as an ideal way to spend a day out with the kids. The museum also offers a delicious selection of wholesome food and drinks.
Philadelphia enjoys a humid subtropical climate, with hot, muggy summers, mild shoulder seasons, and cold winters. Rainfall spreads fairly evenly throughout the year with some wet weather every month. In summer, between June and August, temperatures average between 63°F (17°C) and 87°F (31°C).
In winter, between December and February, temperatures average between 25°F (-4°C) and 44°F (7°C). Snowfall is unpredictable, with some winters experiencing only light snow and others characterised by continual snowstorms. The city centre and inner suburbs generally have light snow, with heavier falls experienced to the north and west of the city.
With its origins in the 1800s, the Philadelphia Mummers Parade is the traditional celebration of the New Year and is one of the country's oldest folk customs. Mummery in America is as unique to Philadelphia s Mardi Gras is to New Orleans.
Decked out as masked and costumed merrymakers, various groups of mummers compete for originality, themes, and outfits in a colourful extravaganza of feathers, sequins, elaborate floats, music, and dance.
The parade consists of three divisions: the Comics, who are unstructured division of dancing clowns and satirical performers; the outrageously dressed Fancy Costume Brigade; and the String Bands with marching musicians and precision drills.
The Battle of Gettysburg was the most significant battle of the American Civil War. Over three days in early July, the blood of almost 50,000 soldiers spilled on the fields outside the town of Gettysburg. This battle would become a turning point of the Civil War. Re-enactments take place as close to the original days as possible (1-3 July). They feature thousands of participants to educate and make others aware of the history, violence, and bloodshed. The event is hugely popular and receives visitors from across the country. There are also plenty of food and merchandise stalls.
The Fringe Festival in Philadelphia serves as the stage for compelling, high-quality, and thought-provoking entertainment. It's an unfiltered event, providing a platform for local and international dancers, actors, artists, and musicians.
The downtown event's organisers claim that the purpose of the Philly Fringe is to 'create a cityscape' filled with dance, music, and theatre performances, and with nearly 200 self-produced shows taking place in a fortnight, it is bound to do just that.
The city of Philadelphia is well-equipped with public transport, most of it run by SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority). There is a subway system, but this does not serve the city centre. It's mainly useful for accessing the extremities of the city.
Good, reliable buses are the main standby, particularly the purple PHLASH bus service designed for visitors. The PHLASH route loops through downtown, covering numerous major attractions near about 22 stops.
SEPTA buses and commuter trains cover numerous fixed routes through the rest of the city and suburbs.
Taxis are plentiful in the city centre but scarcer elsewhere, particularly at night. It is possible to rent cars, but not strictly necessary. Having a vehicle can be useful for those wanting to explore further afield. Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hailing app services are also available.
Once home to the founding fathers, Philadelphia is the birthplace of the United States and the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Most of the city's tourism revolves around these historic events and sites, while the Philly Cheese Steak shouldn't be underestimated.
Top attractions in Philadelphia include the Liberty Bell, a symbol of freedom across the country, and Independence Hall. The National Constitution Center boasts a number of historical exhibitions, while Franklin Court is the former location of Benjamin Franklin's house.
Elfreth's Alley is the oldest residential street in the USA, while Christ Church, founded in 1695, is where many of the country's leader are buried. However, this is just a smattering of what the city has to offer and sightseers will have their hands full.
The Philadelphia CityPass saves visitors about 45% on admission to some of the city's top attractions, with the added bonus of allowing holders to skip entrance queues. The pass costs about $55 for adults and purchasable online via the official website.
About 25 miles (40km) north of Philadelphia, the city of Doylestown sits in the centre of Bucks County. Also serving as the county capital and renowned for its historic district, containing more than 1,0000 structures dating from 1851 and 1910.
This treasure-trove of architectural heritage draws hundreds of visitors to the city, named as one of a 'Dozen Distinctive Destinations' by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The city also offers antique and handcraft shops, numerous restaurants, and vast recreational possibilities in the surrounding Bucks County countryside.
One may discover the 300-year-old Fallsington Village, go fishing and boating on the wide Delaware River, or hike scenic nature trails. Also nearby is the site where George Washington crossed the Delaware River and changed the course of the American Revolution.
Rated as one of the most popular summer drives in America, a tour of Pennsylvania's Dutch Country is a relaxing and rewarding experience enjoyed by millions of visitors every year. Central to the area is Pennsylvania's scenic Lancaster County, just one and a half hour's drive west of Philadelphia.
The main drawcard is the fascinating lifestyle of the local Amish farming communities. They live according to age-old traditions and values without making use of any modern conveniences, even eschewing electricity and telephones.
The area abounds with interesting historic and rural attractions, including 28 picturesque covered bridges on quiet country roads, the oldest Mennonite meeting house in America, and the home of a former US president.
Many visitors opt to tour the area in a horse and buggy or hire a bicycle. A big attraction in the region is food, benefiting from the local agriculture mantra of being 'fresh from the farm'. This homestyle cooking makes its way onto the menus of many local restaurants and markets.
Be sure to try the area's famous Shoofly Pie, an open pie made with molasses and sweet crumbs. To wash down the farm fare there are wineries and breweries open for tours and tastings. Shopping for local crafts and antiques is another popular pastime.
The small town of Gettysburg in Adam's County, south central Pennsylvania, was the site of the largest battle in the American Civil War. It was the inspiration for Abraham Lincoln's celebrated Gettysburg Address.
The Battle of Gettysburg started on 1 July 1863, lasting two days and resulting in a Union victory. The Gettysburg National Military Park stands testimony to the battle, incorporating about 6,000 acres of land, 26 miles of park roads, and more than 1,400 monuments, markers, and memorials.
One of the most famous military encounters in US history, the Battle of Gettysburg has been immortalised in many books, paintings, poems, and movies. The town is now a pilgrimage of a sort for military history buffs and anybody interested in the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln.
No chocolate lover should miss out on the treat of visiting Hershey's Chocolate World in the town where chocolate making has become an art. Billed as 'The Sweetest Place on Earth', it's about 90 miles (145km) from Philadelphia via Lancaster. The official visitors centre of the Hershey Foods Corporation offers free-of-charge factory tours.
The Chocolate Tour begins in a tropical rainforest where the chocolate beans grow, following the journey as the beans make their way to the Hershey's factories. People can attend a 20-minute presentation on how Hershey's Chocolate is made, run every half hour in the 3D Theater Lobby. There are also gift and souvenir shops and a food court.
The cultural and historical hub of Brandywine Valley sits about 35 miles (63km) west of Philadelphia, on US 1 which is accessibly by both bus and train. It has magical landscapes, country inns, fascinating museums, and beautiful gardens, all found in the heart of Chester County.
Visitors can enjoy Longwood Gardens, the Brandywine River Museum with its unique art collection in a grist mill, the Chaddsford Winery, the Simon Pearce glassblowing studio, and shopping in historic Kennett Square.
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