When it comes to travel, many times seems like your wallet never gets a break. While there are often sites in cities such as Philadelphia that you’d like to see, being able to visit and enjoy them all (as well as pay for your lodging and food) can be quite a feat.
In Philadelphia, there are quite a few venues that offer visitors free admission. The sites, many iconic historic powerhouses, deliver on value while not shortchanging you on educational or entertainment returns. For instance, did you know that you can stop in and snap a photo of yourself next to the Liberty Bell for no cost at all? True story. You can also walk the rooms of Independence Hall like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and the rest of the Second Continental Congress did, all free. The U.S. Mint will not require you to pay, nor will Christ Church or it’s burial grounds. In case you are thinking all of the sites are historical, there are other activities available that will not require you to remember a thing from your school days.
Whether you’re watching your wallet, or just looking to cut down on the cost of going from site to site, these venues offer up great opportunities to experience the many faces of Philadelphia, all on a budget. Make a deposit into your inner educational bank, beef up on your history, walk where famous changemakers walked. No one has to know you kept your George Washingtons to yourself while doing it.
For many visitors to the City of Brotherly Love, one of the most recognizable and interesting landmarks to visit are the Art Museum steps. These steps were made famous in the Rocky movies, and folks love to run up the steps like the famous boxer did in the films. You can stop to do just that, free of charge, as many times as you like. You can also make a few boxing moves to really play the part. Whether or not you choose to also go into the art museum is up to you, but visiting and running the steps is free of charge. There’s also a statue of Rocky of to the side of the museum, and you may get your picture taken there or on the steps to say you’ve been here. Many people love adding this budget activity to their visit, as it’s quick, fun, free and gives them some bragging rights as well.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: There are few activities in the city with as many bragging rights and fun as running the steps of this museum.
Sharon’s expert tip: Get a friend or family member to take your picture when you’ve conquered the steps, as it’s certainly something to be proud of.
Everybody loves money. Now you can learn the mystery behind the fascinating coin-making process via a free, self-guided tour of the United States Mint. Located in Independence Mall, this facility produces nearly one million coins every 30 minutes. Paper money is also printed here. Audio stations are set up to guide visitors through the building. On the self-guided tour, you’ll be able to stop at the coining operations factory and view the coin-making through a long glass window. Other highlights include displays of important coins, the first coining press and the Key to the First Mint. Tours here tend to last approximately 45 minutes. View and learn about money without dropping a dime; now that’s magical.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Since the dollar is part of our lives here in the U.S., it makes sense that people are curious about how it’s made.
Sharon’s expert tip: The gift shop here is fun. You can purchase gifts made from money, or those made to look like money.
One of Philadelphia’s five original squares, Franklin Square is certainly one of the best for kids. Children can take a ride on the Philadelphia Park Liberty Carousel that’s located here before heading to the playground for a more active adventure. The park’s 18-hole mini-golf course is Philadelphia-themed, and all will enjoy guiding their ball through traditional city landmarks like Elfreth’s Alley, the LOVE statue and the crack in the Liberty Bell. Afterward, a bite to eat here or a dessert is the perfect way to refresh. There are also great light shows during the holiday season, which are wonderful for families to view together. Together-time where no one has to worry about draining their bank account is a win all the way around.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Free, pretty, fun outdoor enjoyment are all part of the entertainment at conveniently-located Franklin Square.
Sharon’s expert tip: If you’re here during the holidays, do not miss the lights show which is relatively new to this square. Warmer months offer fun as well, and special events are on deck for other times of the year, so keep an eye out for them.
If you’re in town during the first Friday of each month, don’t miss a chance to explore Philly’s incredible art scene. First Friday is a free open house that takes art enthusiasts through many of the galleries in the Old City Arts District. Found mostly between Front and Third, and Market and Vine Streets, the 40-plus galleries open their doors to share a wide range of artistic creations, including everything from contemporary works in various mediums to ceramic arts. You don’t need to be an art expert to enjoy it either, just wander in and take in what you like about each venue and exhibit. It’s a refreshing way to unwind after work or start the weekend out with something different when you’re in town.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: First Friday is both a fun and fascinating night out on the town. The bonus is that it’s also free of charge!
Sharon’s expert tip: Make a standing date with friends for this event, or if you work in town, stay and play after the quitting bell sounds.
Spruce Street Harbor Park is a pop-up park on Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia. Offering fun amenities such as hammocks, lawn games, chairs by the water, food and drink options, music and good times to locals, visitors, friends, family and even strangers. There’s so much fun to be had at this venue that all can leave friends when the night is over. Spruce Street Harbor Park is free to enter, and features sponsored Happy Hours periodically throughout the summer, along with music and special events. It’s a great way to start or finish off a weekend in the city with people you care about or just by yourself. Food and drink are extra, but being here is cost-effective and enjoyable.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: What’s not to like about a park with hammocks, lawn games, colorful LED lighting, special events, and the option to eat, drink and be merry?
Sharon’s expert tip: Visit here during the evening when it’s pretty to see the lights on the water and the view of the bridge.
Did you know that you can explore the house where famous author Edgar Allan Poe wrote and published some of his greatest tales? It’s true! This National Historic Site, located in Philly’s Northern Liberties neighborhood, was once home to Poe, his wife and, for about a year, his mother-in-law, during which time he wrote “The Black Cat.” Today, visitors can enjoy self-guided or ranger-led tours of the three-story, red brick home, as well as an eight-minute audio-visual presentation on Poe’s life, all for free. It’s a great way to see an offbeat site when touring the city while still remaining within your budget.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: There are many iconic sites to see while in Philadelphia. Sometimes it’s fun to shake it up and see something out-of-the-way. Bonus: it’s free!
Sharon’s expert tip: Visit during the weekends, as this interesting site is not open weekdays.
Independence Hall was built between 1732 and 1756 as the State House of the Province of Pennsylvania. It is one of Philadelphia’s most popular attractions. It also costs you nada to check it out. A guided tour is part of your admission, and they are available year-round. Beginning in the East Wing, tours take visitors through the building, pointing out what is important in each area. It served as the meeting place for the Second Continental Congress and the site where the Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776. Although tours are available year-round, timed tickets are needed from March through December and are available at the Visitors Center.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: As part of the National Park System, this landmark adds to your knowledge of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence without depleting your bank account.
Sharon’s expert tip: If you’ve got a smartphone, you can download the NPS app, which gives you immediate access to maps, tours, sites and even a Junior Ranger program.
Take a stroll through Franklin Court to get to Christ Church, the first parish in Pennsylvania of the Church of England. This building was the place of worship for colonists like George Washington, Betsy Ross and Benjamin Franklin. Still in use today, the late 1700s building is considered one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the country. The chandelier inside is authentic and was supposedly lit when Benjamin Franklin’s daughter was married here. Historical talks and tours of the church and burial ground are offered daily. The venue is free of charge to visit, as are the burial grounds on-site, although donations are certainly appreciated.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Visiting and/or worshipping in the same place as some of the most famous names in American history, free of charge, is simply amazing.
Sharon’s expert tip: You can visit the site on your own, but many insist that a guide can add depth and insight into what may just be an old building to some.
Take a step back in time (free of charge) when you visit this, the oldest continuously inhabited street in the US. It is located in Philadelphia’s Old City section, and although the cobblestone alley here opened in 1702, the 32 buildings lining the block were built between the 1720s and 1830s. The homes here are owned and occupied privately now, but the street still contains the look and feel of the Colonial period. Free cell phone tours guide you through this residential street, while two connecting houses, the Museum House and the Chairmaker’s House, permit visitors to enjoy a public tour for a small fee.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Elfreth’s Alley is interesting, offbeat, affordable, colorful and historical. What a cool combination.
Sharon’s expert tip: Visit the Elfreth’s Alley museum, located here, which is comprised of two adjacent homes and offers a host of interesting facts about the street.
The Liberty Bell is obviously one of Philadelphia’s most famous sites, but did you know it’s also one of the most memorable free attractions in the city? Yes, we said free! Located on Market Street, the Liberty Bell Center is open year-round and offers visitors a chance to learn more about this iconic piece of history. A video presentation and various informative exhibits focus on the bell’s origins, how it cracked, its role throughout history and its significance today. The cherished bell itself is displayed at the back of the center and is the perfect place to grab a photo.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: It’s hard to believe a sight so iconic to the city of Philadelphia is free to visit.
Sharon’s expert tip: You can post your pictures with the bell right on social media if you’d like, as Liberty Bell Center offers free WiFi on-site.