The Pennsylvania Convention Center is in the heart of Philadelphia’s downtown, making it super easy to get to and from all the major visitor areas in Center City. But if you’re short on time or don’t feel like venturing far, there are tons of cool things to do right outside the Convention Center’s doors.
Within a 10-minute walk of the main entrance at 12th and Arch streets, you’ll find foodie heavens like Reading Terminal Market and Chinatown, numerous attractions like Philly’s famous City Hall and more.
And save some energy for the evening hours as much to do awaits, including a stealthy speakeasy that’ll whip you up a cocktail to remember and plenty of venues to catch live music.
Get ready to go out and explore with our picks for the top 10 things to do near the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Reading Terminal Market has a rich history in Philadelphia, celebrating over 120 years of bringing fresh and local food to the area. Occupying an entire city block, it’s brimming with food options of all sorts, with styles and cuisines for every meal of the day. Pick up produce to take home at spots like Iovine Brothers or Fair Food Farmstand, or dive into a wealth of already-prepared eats from famous vendors like DiNic’s (the roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe), Beiler’s (the awesome Amish-styled doughnuts), Bassetts (the creamiest of ice cream) and many more. From cheesesteaks to hoagies, classic Philly eats abound as well, so come prepared for a full culinary tour. We have yet to meet a visitor who’s gone home hungry.
Where: Reading Terminal Market, 51 N. 12th Street
The City Hall Tower Observation Deck — located 500 feet above the ground at the base of the giant bronze statue of Billy Penn — offers amazing, 360-degree views of Philadelphia. You can look east and see the Convention Center, the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and New Jersey. You can peer north and south to view the entire 12-mile stretch of Broad Street, one of the longest straight streets in the country. You can look northwest out over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Fairmount Park. And you can look west into the heart of the Philadelphia skyline. If you take a tour during sunset, be prepared for an uncontrollable urge to take one too many photos.
Where: Philadelphia City Hall Visitors Center, 1400 John F. Kennedy Boulevard
A jewel nestled in the heart of Center City, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) boasts a vast collection of American art and treasures by local and national luminaries such as Charles Willson Peale (founder of the academy), Thomas Eakins (who taught here) and Violet Oakley. Browse exhibitions filled with many of the greats and get a peek at work from up-and-comers enrolled in the academy. And PAFA’s Historic Landmark Building, designed by Philadelphia-born architect Frank Furness and George Hewitt, is considered one of the finest surviving examples of Gothic architecture in the country.
Where: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 118-128 N. Broad Street
With a collection of fine and folk art, photographs, memorabilia and costumes, the African American Museum offers visitors a chance to explore a rich cultural experience from the kingdoms of Africa through to the present. The museum’s exhibits tell the story of African-American life, focusing on topics such as family life, the visual arts, entertainment, politics and sports.
Where: African American Museum of Philadelphia, 701 Arch Street
Beyond the colorful, 40-foot Friendship Gate at 10th and Arch streets lives Philly’s Chinatown, an always-bustling neighborhood filled with activity and authenticity, food and events. Within its boundaries, you’ll find steaming platters of hand-stretched noodles, unique flavors of bubble tea, delicious dumplings and more from restaurants that represent Hong Kong, Cantonese, Fujianese, Northern Sichuan and Taiwanese cultures, along with a sprinkling of Korean, Thai, Malaysian, Burmese and Vietnamese establishments. Be sure to grab a meal while you’re wandering through!
Where: Chinatown Friendship Gate, 10th & Arch streets
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A post shared by Michael Kimmey (@mbk317) on Jul 19, 2015 at 2:26pm PDT
Along with several floors of designer clothing, Macy’s is home to the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ, one of the largest working organs in the world. Catch its powerful emanating sounds daily at noon, excluding Sundays, or swing by for an evening listening session Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday at 5:30 p.m. or at 7 p.m. on Wednesday or Friday. After unwinding to some tunes, consider taking a stroll through the store, housed in the historic, 100-year-old Wanamaker building.
Where: Macy's Center City, 1300 Market Street
Not only is Midtown Village’s 13th Street brimming with restaurant options but it’s also lined with boutiques of all sorts that make the area perfect for a shop-till-you-drop – or shop-till-you-need-to-return-to-the-Convention-Center – opportunity. Browse apparel and accessory shops that’ll help you spruce up your wardrobe and your house, and peek into an array of independent stores with custom stationary, handmade crafts and other unique wares.
Where: Midtown Village, S. 13th Street
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A post shared by Jason Ferraro (@uncklejason) on Feb 2, 2016 at 7:51pm PST
Philadelphia’s music scene is booming, with concert venues in nearly every neighborhood, and there happen to be three within walking distance of the Convention Center that all offer their own unique experiences. For large-scale indie acts, head to Union Transfer, which boasts excellent light and sound quality and three full bars. A few blocks away stands Underground Arts, where both local and national acts play in a moodily-lit basement space. To experience a show within what used to be a burlesque theater, head into Chinatown where you’ll find the Trocadero Theatre, a favorite spot for live music, special events and weekly movie screenings.
Where: Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden Street
The area surrounding the Convention Center is swimming in places to score a post-event brew or drink. If you want to get fancy, check out the intimate speakeasy at Hop Sing Laundromat, where an extensive craft cocktail menu awaits (as does a gatekeeper who won’t let you into the low-lit, well-decorated establishment if you’re wearing sneakers). For a quality, no-frills sip of bourbon, head to Bank and Bourbon, where more than 75 ryes and international whiskeys stand out on the menu. Then there’s Aqimero, where you can relax with a seasonal cocktail inside the Pantheon-inspired grand lobby of the Ritz Carlton. All make fine choices for a chic evening out.
Where: Bank & Bourbon, 1200 Market Street
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A post shared by Visit Philly (@visitphilly) on Feb 15, 2018 at 5:02pm PST
Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE sculpture sits at the center of Philadelphia’s cosy John F. Kennedy Plaza, better known as LOVE Park. It makes an ideal backdrop for a romantic photo or memorable selfie, as does the matching AMOR sculpture, a few steps away in Sister Cities Park.
Where: Love Park, 1 S. 15th Street
Book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package for stays through November 30, 2018 and get FREE hotel parking as well as free tickets to the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art, a $25 gift card to the must-visit Reading Terminal Market, free Philly-themed mini-golf at Franklin Square and a $10 Lyft credit.