January 27, 2017

Essential Philadelphia: Keys To The City

History, Art & Culture, Food, Music, Neighborhoods & More In The City Of Brotherly Love

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Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of Philadelphia’s pioneering hip-hop group The Roots at the Roots Picnic. Photo by M. Kennedy for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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Philadelphia hosts the NFL Draft, April 27-29, 2017—and this city has plenty of stories to tell. Here’s a brief lowdown on the city’s history, food, neighborhoods, sports, beer and other key areas of interest:


Philadelphia is the birthplace of the United States and the country’s first World Heritage City. Our Founding Fathers met, discussed, debated and formed a new country in Philadelphia. The two most important documents in our history, the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, were drafted and signed here. Independence Hall, one of only 20 World Heritage sites in the country, stands just steps away from the mighty Liberty Bell, a symbol of the abolitionist movement.

The independent streak that forged a new nation lives on today. It’s a distinctly Philly attitude and a forward-looking promise that’s obvious in the city’s independent shops, owner-run restaurants, artist collaboratives and grassroots innovation and tech movements.

Art & Culture:

Philadelphia bursts with beauty inside and out. The region is home to one of the country’s top five art museums (Philadelphia Museum of Art); the world’s greatest collection of impressionist, post-impressionist and modern works (Barnes Foundation); an internationally lauded public arts initiative (Mural Arts Philadelphia); and under-the-radar gems.

Museums and institutions house collections devoted to science, animals, literature, African-American culture, Jewish-American history, chemistry and even medical oddities.


There should be a championship event just for Philadelphia’s food. Chefs choose Philadelphia for their passion projects; it’s where they can run their (usually small) restaurants and fully commit to their vision. As such, there’s a lot of good food to eat here, and there’s a story behind every dish.

What makes up Philly’s diverse dining scene? Street food, 300+ bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) restaurants, sidewalk seating reminiscent of European cities, bars with great food, craft pizza spots, vegetarian and vegan eateries (that aren’t just for vegetarians and vegans) and the storied Reading Terminal Market and Italian Market. And, of course, cheesesteaks.


Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods—personality-packed districts inside and surrounding Center City. Each neighborhood has its own history, storied streets, buzzed-about restaurants, artistic expressions, parks and festivals.

In 1998, the Rittenhouse neighborhood saw Philly’s first restaurant with sidewalk seating (Rouge), a trend that’s now ubiquitous, with nearly 400 alfresco establishments across town. Old City’s success story began nearly 20 years ago when Ellen Yin opened Fork just a couple blocks away from America’s most historic square mile. Midtown Village, which includes the Gayborhood, forged its personality thanks to a small-business influx along 13th Street. South Philly’s restaurant-packed East Passyunk and north-of-Center City’s Fishtown have become destinations all their own for families, professionals, artists. Graduate Hospital experienced a similar boom, with most of its public and retail space along South Street.

Recently, Kensington and Point Breeze have grown into newer development stories thanks to the momentum from neighboring Fishtown and Graduate Hospital, respectively.


Philadelphia fans have known joy and heartache, anger and exultation in their 100-plus years of living with professional sports teams. “Philadelphia is the most sophisticated, knowledgeable sports town in America. The fans don’t expect you to win all the time, but they demand you play hard,” said Bill Campbell, the “Dean” of Philadelphia sports, who broadcast the Phillies, Eagles, 76ers and “Big Five” basketball during his 50-year career.

Philadelphia is one of the few cities with a professional franchise in five major league sports. Most of Philadelphia’s pro teams play within a few miles of Center City at the Wells Fargo Center (76ers basketball and Flyers ice hockey), Lincoln Financial Field (Eagles football) and Citizens Bank Park (Phillies baseball). The Philadelphia Union soccer team plays at the Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia.

Parks & Public Spaces:

Residents and visitors are heading outdoors in huge numbers thanks to the activation of many under-utilized spaces in recent years—think Schuylkill River Trail, Dilworth Park, Race Street Pier, The Porch at 30th Street Station and Spruce Street Harbor Park. Much of the development action can be spotted in Center City and on Philadelphia’s two rivers, the Schuylkill and Delaware.

Started in 2015, Indego bike share further boosted Philadelphia’s reputation as a bicycle-friendly city, where a grid layout, mostly flat terrain and 435 miles of bike lanes make it ideal for two wheels.


It was in Philadelphia taverns that the American Revolution took hold (see City Tavern for proof), and 100 years ago, Philadelphia was known as the greatest brewing city in the Western Hemisphere, or the “Cradle of American Libation.” In the mid-19th through the early 20th centuries, 90 breweries operated in Philadelphia proper, and another 100 operated in its environs. Prohibition in 1920 brought the brewery boom to an end, and the decline—and near demise—of virtually all of Philadelphia’s beer producers.

Today, craft breweries have reclaimed the region’s reputation by brewing some of the world’s best beer. Victory, Sly Fox and Yards produce and distribute some of the Philadelphia region’s most well-known and accessible craft beers, and in recent years, they’ve been joined by newer microbreweries and brewpubs, such as Tired Hands, Forest & Main and Round Guys, along with spectacular craft distillers.

In the warmer months, beer lovers head outside. The seasonal Independence Beer Garden offers a beer break right on Independence Mall, while Spruce Street Harbor Park and Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest attract people to the Delaware River waterfront with food, beer, hammocks, games and a roller-skating rink. Pop-ups including The Oval and the PHS Pop Up Gardens activate underused spaces, much to the delight of beer fans and urban dwellers.


There would have been no 1970s soul, no R&B, no disco, without Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the inventors of the Sound of Philadelphia. One of the most important moves Gamble and Huff made was to differentiate their sound from Motown’s by incorporating strings, horns and harps—courtesy of The Philadelphia Orchestra. Founded in 1900, The Philadelphia Orchestra is one of the world’s greatest classical music organizations and one of the most prolific recording acts in history.

Other major music names have hailed from Philadelphia. Think Chubby Checker, Hall & Oates and Patti LaBelle, and more recently, The Roots, Will Smith, Pink, The Dead Milkmen, Chill Moody and Kurt Vile.

The city also has played host to big music events in the past, including Live Aid in 1985 and Live 8 in 2005. Today, artists of all genres entertain crowds at large and intimate venues and during music events, such as the Roots Picnic, Made in America and Wawa Welcome America’s free Fourth of July concert.

VISIT PHILADELPHIA® is our name and our mission. As the region’s official tourism marketing agency, we build Greater Philadelphia’s image, drive visitation and boost the economy.

On Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com, visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.