Visiting Philadelphia: A Local's Guide

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: the City of Brotherly Love, Rocky's hometown, where it's always sunny and the locals pronounce water as "wudder." Philadelphia's history is intrinsic to the city; you can't turn around without seeing a Ben Franklin-this or a Liberty-Bell that. Even so, this city rooted in the past lives an exciting, dynamic present, with a lively arts and culture scene. Truly a city with something for everyone, Philadelphia is an ideal destination for those looking for an approachable big city experience.

Must See In Philadelphia
You can't visit Philly and not check out the birthplace of American independence: Independence Hall. For visitors interested in the arts, head down Benjamin Franklin Parkway and hit up world-class art museums like The Barnes Foundation and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (don't forget to snap a selfie with the Rocky Balboa statue out front). For a fun afternoon, head to the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, home to a wealth of restaurants, large retail chains and local boutiques.

Where to Stay in Philadelphia
For the history buff, stay in Old City, a short walk from the National Constitution Center, the Liberty Bell, and the house where Betsy Ross created the first American flag. For the foodie, the ideal starting point is the up-and-coming East Passyunk neighborhood in South Philly. If you want easy access to shops, fine dining, and theatre, think about booking a room in Center City--there are many large hotels right around City Hall, good for families.

Best and Worst Time to Visit Philadelphia
One of the best, if busiest, times to visit Philadelphia is from May to July, when beer gardens and street festivals are aplenty. Fair warning, though: driving through the city on weekends throughout the summer can be a pain, as every Saturday and Sunday morning seems to be devoted to another marathon.

August and September, when it's hot and humid, is one of the least pleasant times to explore the city. Instead, think about visiting during or immediately after the holidays, especially when hotels are cheap. South Philly neighborhoods in particular go all-out in decorating for Christmas.

Where to Get Lost in Philadelphia
One of the most dynamic areas in Philadelphia is the Northern Liberties/Fishtown area, where the young and young-at-heart are bringing in interesting restaurants (the world's largest pizza museum!) and shops. Check out North Bowl for a stylish bowling experience--complete with a gourmet tater tot menu--or head to PYT for psychedelic burgers like the D'oh! Nut, a burger topped with chocolate-covered bacon served between two glazed donuts.

The Best Deal in Philadelphia
Arguably the most notable attractions in Philadelphia, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, are free on a first-come, first-serve basis every day, though you can reserve your tickets online for a small fee. Looking for a great deal on some local foods? Head to the famous Reading Terminal Market in Center City and the Italian Market in South Philly. Both are free to peruse and full of unique ambiance.

Transportation in Philadelphia
It is extremely easy to get around Philadelphia via SEPTA public transportation; buy a day or week pass and hop on and off the subway, trolley or bus lines that criss-cross the city. SEPTA is fairly reliable, if a little smelly, and its network extends far out into the suburbs of the city.

Getting in from Philadelphia International Airport
The cheapest way to get from Philadelphia International Airport to Center City Philadelphia is via the dedicated SEPTA rail line, which makes trips to and from the airport every 30 minutes throughout most of the day. Cost is $8 each way, or $6.50 if you purchase in advance. Philadelphia taxis offer a flat rate of $28.50 one way for trips between the airport and downtown. A typical trip between the airport and the city, via rail or car, takes about 25 minutes.

Local Tips for a Visitor to Philadelphia
Locals will take opportunities like Center City Restaurant Week (though most neighborhoods in the area host their own throughout the year) to try out the fare at local restaurants without breaking the bank. Similarly, the Center City District hosts Center City Sips from June to September--think of it as a city-wide happy hour, where participating restaurants offer very-low prices beer, wine, cocktails and appetizers every Wednesday evening.

Author's bio: Jeff Birou is an education administrator by day, travel and freelance writer by night. You can find him at his blog, Lance+Jeff, or on Twitter at @Jetsetter_Jeff.