As a preface to this post I spent a year of my life in Philadelphia living in North and South Philly and I have been asked many times what people should see in Philly if they have some time there. Below is an edited version of what I have sent to 3 separate friends and relatives:
Fun to visit the top of Penn Tower is a cool way to see the city, you need to book a reservation.
(Everything above is about 11-12 Blocks away from everything below)
Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell
If you go to the Visitors Center which is North from the Bell and Independence Hall right when they open you can book a tour that is scheduled (for the hall) so you don’t have to wait in line. This is the NPS version of a fast pass and it is amazing. You can just go see the bell the line moves pretty quick as it is just a bell and once you look at it and take a pic that is kind of all you can do. If you have never been it is a must. As a side note just South West of here is Washington SquarePark block and it is the location of the tomb of the unknown soldier from the Revolutionary War.
I think you can book a tour here it is very cool but for one day I might skip it. But if you are into coins like me a quick lap in the gift shop is very cool
Like its counterpart in NYC (trinity church) Christchurch is where the founding fathers met. The steeple was funded by a lottery that Ben Franklin ran. It is a few blocks east of the mint. But just south of the mint is the Christ Church Cemetery it is a cool old cemetery where a bunch of signers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution are buried.
Home to the first post office in the US. There are lots of ‘Firsts’ in Philly, Bank, Stock Exchange etc. Ben Franklin founded the first post office in the US here near his old house which is just north across the street but no longer stands there as there was a fire i think. Now there is a museum that displays some of his inventions. It is cool but i would put this lower on my list
The oldest continuously occupied street in America. It is an old street a few blocks east of Christ Church. Its pretty cool but in the end is just a street. If you like colonial architecture it is a must if not it is a few blocks out of your way.
Betsy Ross House
With people dressed in colonial attire it is hard to not find this place a little cheesy. The house is real the furniture is correct to the period and the house is cool. I would do most other things on this list first but it is near Christ Church and Franklin Court and on the way to Elfreths Ally. So could be worth a stop.
Now for a list of things not near Center City but could be cool to see none the less
Tony Lukes Cheesesteaks
This is way in South Philly. Worth the Drive could be quite busy
An alternate would be http://www.patskingofsteaks.com/
which are right across the street from each other in the very Italian part of South Philly (think Rocky Running down the street with all the Italian Market Stores). All 3 are Great Tony Luke’s used to be more philly but now they have a location in Dubai so that may have changed. I have eaten at all 3 places and you can’t go wrong.
In West Philly near the river are a few things that could be worth your time but I would say more for day 2 or 3 which you don’t have but it is still worth mentioning.
University of Pennsylvania
Valley Forge is similar outside of the city just a place where people camped on winter
Day Trips Beyond the City
If you have more time I would recommend Intercouse, PA (yes that is the name) this is Amish Country. Great food and fun to see. Beyond here are Hershey, PA. Not worth a stop unless you are right there.
Gettysburg is a few hours west of Philly well worth it if you are close.