October 9, 2018

Philadelphia Tours Explore History, Art, Food & The Supernatural

Tours Connect Visitors With Sites By Foot, Horse, Segway, Cycle Or Smartphone

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Big Red Pedal Tours visit the sites of Philadelphia's Old City, via pedicycle. Photo by J. Fusco for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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PHLASH Downtown Loop makes 22 stops around Philadelphia. Photo by J. Fusco for IVCC
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Schuylkill Banks Kayak Tours offer 30 minutes of instruction and one-hour excursions on Philadelphia's Schuylkill River.se Photo by R. Kennedy for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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Horse-drawn carriages still take visitors throughout Philadelphia's Historic District. Photo by B. Krist for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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Visitors to Philadelphia can choose from an assortment of options to explore the region, including those of the air, automotive, audio, culinary, self-guided and water-based varieties. And the sightseeing fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. Those who come out at night can join tours that feature behind-the-scenes action and, if so desired, spirits from beyond.

Here’s a selection of tours available throughout the region:

History Lessons:

  • Alexander Hamilton Walking Tour For fans of the blockbuster musical who can’t get enough Hamilton, a downloadable app created by Philadelphia writer Catherine Price connects some of the hit songs to Philadelphia landmarks where it all happened. In addition, 20% of the proceeds from the app get donated to Friends of Independence National Park in an effort to reopen First Bank of the United States to the public. Available in the Apple App store or Google Play.
  • Architecture Walking Tours The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia offers guided walking tours that interpret the past, present and future of the Philadelphia region as expressed through architecture, urban design and social history. Tours are about two hours long and available May through October; private tours are available year-round. 1608 Walnut Street, (215) 546-1146, preservationalliance.com
  • Beyond the Bell Tours – Fresh on the scene, these Airbnb Experience-born tours offer a fresh take on Philly: Their guides touch on people, places and perspectives, notably, women and LGBTQ history makers who often are left out of historical overviews. beyondthebelltours.com
  • Bow Tie Tours – Learning about Philadelphia’s—and America’s—history through the true tales of real-life characters who walked the city’s streets is the secret to the success of these dapper Walking tours delve into the lives of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, the soldiers of Valley Forge and influencers who inhabited the original city—and, if the group is interested, the more intimate aspects of these influencers’ lives. (610) 642-2410, bowtietours.com
  • The Constitutional Walking Tour of Philadelphia – Visitors get an up-close look at historic sites such as the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall during this 75-minute walking tour. It runs daily from April through November and meets at the National Constitution Center. Private/group tours are available year-round with advance reservations. 525 Arch Street, (215) 525-1776, theconstitutional.com
  • Context Tours – Those seeking smart, accessible insights into American history look no further than these expert-led explorations of the colonial city from many angles. Academically minded, these tours go beyond the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, offering access to Christ Church, the Quaker Meetinghouse, the Powel House, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Hospital, Mother Bethel and more. (800) 691-6036, contexttravel.com/cities/philadelphia
  • Founding Footsteps This highly rated option offers a smart, lighthearted and thoroughly truthful take on both well-trod and well-hidden history. Founding Footsteps’ general option, Philly Phables offers 90 history-rich minutes of walking around historic Old City. Seasonally, the company offers holiday tours, Tavern Tours, BYOB (bring-your-own-bottle) Trolley & Comedy Tour and a Stand Up & Drink Tour, a trolley-based bar crawl hosted by professional comedians, with boozier perspectives on America’s birthplace. (609) 795-1776, foundingfootsteps.com
  • History of Valley Forge Trolley Tour This 90-minute guided trolley tour of Valley Forge National Historical Park highlights some of the key sites of the 1777-78 winter encampment. The tours take place year-round, including the December holidays (limited schedule until March). 1000 N. Outer Line Drive, King of Prussia, (610) 783-1074, encampmentstore.org
  • Horse-Drawn Carriages – Guides recount the past as visitors sit back in horse-drawn carriages. Tickets available at the Visitor Center. 6th& Market Streets, (215) 923-8516, phillytour.com
  • Historic Philadelphia Inc.’s Independence After Hours This evening walking tour visits historic landmarks and Colonial characters. The experience begins with a three-course meal at City Tavern. The Colonial host then “sneaks” everyone into the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall), where Founding Fathers are discussing the Declaration of Independence. The tour runs select days, late May through October, and departs from the Museum of the American Revolution. 101 S. 3rd Street, (215) 629-4026, historicphiladelphia.org
  • National Park Service Tours Rangers lead themed walking tours around Independence National Historical Park. Tour times and starting locations vary by season and are available at the Independence Visitor Center. Self-guided tours are always available in the Apple store or on Google Play. 6th & Market Streets, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov/inde
  • New Americans Tour – Developed by VISIT PHILADELPHIA®in partnership with the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs, the self-guided New Americans Tour celebrates the people, places and events that shaped America in a jaunt that doubles as a primer for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Civics Test. visitphilly.com/new-americans-tour-of-philadelphia
  • Philadelphia Historic African American Tours Lauded as one of Philly’s most engaging step-on bus offerings, Charlene Palmore-Lewis’ 3.5-hour tour entwines what she refers to as “traditional” American history with African-American history, which predates William Penn’s arrival and stretches from the 17th century to today. Visitors discover four out of five of Penn’s original parks—including Congo Square—along with the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Girard College and the Julian Abele-designed Philadelphia Museum of Art, with a single step-off at Mother Bethel A.M.E. (610) 892-0623
  • Historic Philadelphia, Inc.’s Tippler’s Tour From May through December, the over-21 set can sing along to 18th-century drinking songs, enjoy stories of the drinking traditions of Colonial times and sample a few drinks and snacks as they ramble through Philadelphia’s Historic District with a Colonial guide. Tipplers stop at local watering holes such as National Mechanics, City Tavern and the Victoria Freehouse. Along the way, they learn important information, such as Benjamin Franklin’s names for a drunk person (“nimptopsical” and “tipsicum grave”). Independence Visitor Center, 6th & Market Streets, (215) 629-4026, historicphiladelphia.org
  • Twilight Tours Mid-June through Labor Day, free guided walking tours show off Independence National Historical Park every evening starting at 6 p.m. Groups meet at the Park Ranger Desk at the Independence Visitor Center. 6th & Market Streets,
    (215) 861-4971, friendsofindependence.org

Food & Drink:

  • Chew Philly Food Tours– These 2.5-hour tours through the Manayunk and Chestnut Hill neighborhoods treat guests to eight tastings of savory and sweet foods from family-run businesses and include bits of history and culture along the way. (800) 656-0713, phillyfoodtours.com
  • City Brew Tours – “You drink, we drive” is the motto of this beer-centric tour company, where a van takes participants on three-hour-plus journeys to three to four craft breweries. Each venture offers drinkers lunch, dinner or a Philly soft pretzel. (215) 866-2337, citybrewtours.com
  • City Food Tours Themed private tours of the region’s culinary delights include a Decadent Gourmet Tour, Ethnic Eats of South Philly, Prohibition Cocktails, Philly Pizza, Flavors of Philly Tour and Highlights of East Passyunk. (215) 360-1996, cityfoodtours.com
  • Philly Food Adventures Food writer and blogger Jamie Shanker welcomes groups of four to 20 for her 2.5-hour walking and eating tour around Chinatown. Meeting under the neighborhood’s arch, she offers insights both on dining in China and in Philly’s own Chinatown, while taking eaters out for dumplings, noodles and less familiar fare at well-known and side-street restaurants, with a stop at a hidden market. cityfoodtours.com
  • Taste4Travel Food Tours South Philly’s own chef Jacquie leads behind-the-scenes tours of the 9th Street Italian Market and Chestnut Hill. The South Philly tour offers groups hearty tastes of meatballs and gravy at Villa di Roma restaurant and samples at other stalwart Italian and artisanal food vendors along the open-air market. In pretty and historic Chestnut Hill, Jacquie leads a tour of known and unknown spots. On Monday through Thursday evenings, she hosts a three-course progressive dinner along South Philly’s East Passyunk Avenue. (610) 506-6120, taste4travel.net
  • Tastings & Tours’ Winery & Brewery Tours Those who appreciate a good drink can enjoy a carefree day at some of the area’s finest wineries, breweries, brewpubs and distilleries, all while taking in some beautiful scenery. The guided, all-inclusive, private tastings are offered in Bucks County and beyond. (484) 695-6465, tastingsandtours.com

Ghosts & Spirits:

  • Ghost Tour of Philadelphia Do spectral spirits really inhabit Independence Hall, St. Peter’s Cemetery, the Powel House, battleship Olympia and other historic landmarks? Visitors find out when they listen to the ghost stories and visit real haunted houses during this candlelight walking tour of Independence National Historical Park, Society Hill and Old City. Signers’ Garden, 5th & Chestnut Streets, (215) 413-1997, ghosttour.com
  • Ghost Tours of New Hope Saturday nights from June through November, lantern-lit tours of New Hope feature stories about the town’s spine-chilling hauntings. Private tours are available year-round. Main & Ferry Streets, New Hope, (215) 348-1598, ghosttoursofnewhope.com
  • Grim Philly Twilight Tours Authors and professors lead these highly researched, grown-ups-only, year-round, off-the-beaten-path tours—all historic, many quite scary. Walking, tavern and riverboat tours include ghosts, Oktoberfest, speakeasies, the Jersey Devil and others. 599 Market Street, (856) 829-3100, grimphilly.com
  • Spirits of ’76 Ghost Tour The paranormal stories on this ghost tour are “one part history, two parts haunt.” Guests who dare to take this 75-minute outdoor walking journey see 20 of Philly’s frights, including haunted historic homes and graveyards. Public tours run April through November; private/group tours and VIP ghost hunts available year-round. Tours meet at Cosi Restaurant. 325 Chestnut Street, (215) 525-1776, spiritsof76.com

Art & Architecture:

  • Brandywine River Museum of Art Studio Tours – The Wyeths and the Brandywine Valley go hand-in-hand. Art lovers can choose from tours of the Andrew Wyeth Studio, the N.C. Wyeth House and Studio and the Kuerner Farm. All tour tickets include next-day admission to the museum. (610) 388-2700, brandywine.org
  • City Hall Tours Covering more than 14.5 acres, Philadelphia’s City Hall is the largest municipal building in the United States and one of the most elaborate. The exterior features more than 250 sculptures representing people of the world, as well as allegorical figures, all designed by Alexander Milne Calder. The most notable sculpture is the 37-foot, 27-ton statue of city planner William Penn that tops the building. The observation deck in the tower offers panoramic views of the city from 500 feet above the street. Visitors can enjoy an interior tour of City Hall that explores the building’s history, art and architecture, and 15-minute tower tours are available on weekdays, weather permitting. Both tour options include a view from the observation deck. Broad & Market Streets, Room 121, (215) 686-2840, phlvisitorcenter.com/cityhall
  • Covered Bridge Driving Tour Covered bridges serve as beautiful and historic landmarks for scenic Bucks County. Visit Bucks County offers turn-by-turn driving instructions for a self-guided tour of the county’s dozen quaint bridges. (215) 639-0300, visitbuckscounty.com
  • Emergence of a Modern Metropolis TourDeveloped by the Center for Architecture and Design and operated by the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, this two-hour tour explores the transformation of Philadelphia from an engine of industry to a 21st-century capital of business and culture. It features the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Wanamaker building, the Comcast Center and more. (215) 546-1146, ext. 4, preservationalliance.com
  • Hidden City Tours – Visitors and locals who want to discover lesser-known landmarks and stories choose Hidden City Tours. Itineraries include Life & Death at Mount Moriah Cemetery, David Lynch’s “Eraserhood” and Forgotten Broad Street. Schedules and meeting spots are determined tour-by-tour, and most sell out in advance. hiddencityphila.org/events
  • Morris Arboretum The official arboretum of Pennsylvania offers guided walking tours varying in theme and duration on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Free with admission, the walk over smooth and rugged terrain covers little known and hidden-in-plain view structures, sculptures, trees, vistas and plants within the 92-acre historic site on the edge of garden-filled Chestnut Hill. 100 E. Northwestern Avenue, (215) 247-5777, morrisarboretum.org
  • Mural Arts Trolley, Walking and Love Letter Tours Aboard an antique trolley, guides relay the stories behind a selection of Philadelphia’s some 4,000 murals during two-hour tours, running select days April through November. Aboard the Market-Frankford Line train (called “the El” for its elevated portion) to West Philadelphia, lovers, dreamers and street art appreciators are guided past artist Stephen Powers’ Love Letters, a series of 50 rooftop murals and street-level signs, weekends January through May and September through December. Those who prefer to view works on foot can sign up for two-hour walking tours, also offered on select days April through November. Reservations recommended. Tours depart from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 128 N. Broad Street, (215) 925-3633, muralarts.org
  • Mural Mile  With a map, art fans can move at their own pace. Those who opt for the mural tour go from commercial districts to residential blocks throughout Center City. The map is available online. Guided tours of the Mural Mile are also offered to explore the compelling stories behind each of the public art projects. (215) 925-3633, muralarts.org
  • Museum Without Walls: AUDIO  This free tour from the Association for Public Art offers an engaging and fun way to experience more than 65 outdoor sculptures along Kelly Drive and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, around City Hall, in Rittenhouse Square and throughout West Fairmount Park. Both art enthusiasts and recreational passersby can use their phones, a free mobile app, audio downloads or the website to hear three-minute interpretive segments. More than 150 authentic voices—people connected to the sculptures—reveal stories as unique as the artworks. (215) 546-7550, associationforpublicartorg/tours
  • Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens Beginning at the artist’s sculptural masterpiece, this 90-minute walking tour highlights Isaiah Zagar’s whimsical mosaics along South and Bainbridge Streets, between 8th and 10th  Neighborhood walking tours run on weekends from April through October, and weekends and bank holidays. Site tours through the mosaic installation last approximately one hour and take place November through March. 1020 South Street,
    (215) 733-0390, phillymagicgardens.org

By Air, Water, Bike & Segway:

  • Big Red Pedal Tours Aboard Big Red Pedal Tours, participants explore Philly by day or by night aboard a 15-passenger pedicycle. Together, the group propels the open-air “tour bus” to a series of stops around town. The daytime tour includes historic sites such as the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and Betsy Ross House. After dark, it’s a pub-crawl-on-wheels, stopping at three bars in roughly two hours. A food tour is offered anytime, and come winter, riders can take hot toddies tours too. (215) 625-2509, bigredpedaltours.com
  • Biplane Rides Over Philadelphia High-flyers can choose from unforgettable 30-, 50- or 75-minute open-cockpit rides that include flying over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and Penn’s Landing, staring eye-to-eye with William Penn or catching an aerial view of the Main Line and New Hope. (800) 247-2371, biplaneridesoverphiladelphia.com
  • Patriot Harbor Lines Up to 45 guests board two reproduction classic 1920s commuter yachts for tours of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. Options include private charters, the Boat to Bartram’s Garden Cruise, Hidden Architecture Cruise, Grim Philly Terror Cruise, Secrets of the Schuylkill Tour, Delaware River Harbor Cruise, Sunset Cruise, Patriot Harbor Wine Cruise, Walnut to Walnut Cruise, EcoUrban Cruise to Petty’s Island and Philly By Boat Cruise. Schuylkill River tours depart from the Walnut Street Dock, and Delaware River tours depart from the Independence Seaport Museum. (267) 908-3076, phillybyboat.com
  • Philadelphia Segway Tours After a half-hour hands-on training, visitors take off on motorized Segways on one of four tours, including a two-hour, 10-mile showcase of historic landmarks from river to river, a cheesesteak tasting and a two-hour Mural Arts Philadelphia tour through Old City, Chinatown and Northern Liberties. Tours depart from the Philly Tour Hub. 229 Arch Street. (215) 607-2852, philadelphiasegwaytours.com, phillytourhub.com
  • Philly Bike Tour Co. Guided bike tours feature routes through different sections of Philadelphia, including the City Highlights Tour, covering main attractions such as the Liberty Bell and the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Hidden River Sunset Tour around the Schuylkill River, including Boathouse Row; and the Fairmount Park Historical Tour. All include a bicycle, helmet and water bottle. 2015 Fairmount Avenue, (267) 521-2150, phillybiketours.com
  • Schuylkill Banks Kayak Tours Visitors receive 30 minutes of kayaking instruction before heading out on the Schuylkill River for one-hour excursions, which run most weekends and select Thursday evenings through September. Specialty experiences, including moonlight tours and private group tours, are also available. Departs from the Walnut Street Dock. Schuylkill Banks at Walnut Street, (215) 309-5523, ext. 100, schuylkillbanks.org
  • Wheel Fun Rentals At historic Boathouse Row, those who prefer to tour on two wheels can rent a bike and everything else they need for a self-guided cycling tour—route map, helmet and lock. Wheel Fun also offers surrey rentals. 1 Boathouse Row, (215) 232-7778, wheelfunrentals.com

A Bit Of Everything:

  • Big Bus Company – Riders can see the sights from an outdoor seat atop these double-decker buses, or they can ride in the bottom. Day passes allow passengers to hop on and off at 27 stops throughout the city. Tickets are available online, at the Independence Visitor Center at 6th and Market Streets, or at the Big Bus stop at 12th and Filbert Streets. (215) 389-TOUR (8687), phillytour.com
  • Philadelphia Trolley Works A Victorian-style trolley allows riders to hop on and off while visiting popular attractions throughout the nation’s most historic area and beyond. Passes are good for up to 72 hours, and passengers can explore from 27 stops throughout the city. Tickets are available online, on the trolley or at the Independence Visitor Center. 6th & Market Streets, (215) 389-TOUR (8687), phillytour.com
  • Philadelphia Urban Adventures  Online or in person at Philly Tour Hub in Old City, visitors can choose from a variety of traditional to off-the-beaten-path tours. Options include the Italian Market Immersion tour, during which visitors meet vendors and sample their goods; Markets, Mosaics & Magic, which includes Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens; two-hour Philly On Tap, complete with local beers during happy hour; two-hour History in HD, combining history and refreshments; and the newly added City Tour, co-created with The New York Times and based on the newspaper’s travel feature, “36 Hours.” Lengthier options for 21-and-over visitors include the 4.5-hour From History to Happy Hour, featuring iconic sites interspersed with great watering holes; and Total Philly, a whopping nine-hour rundown that includes the Historic District, South Street, the Italian Market and absolutely essential bars. Two-hour to all-day driving tours allow visitors to customize their city or regional experience in order to explore the countryside, churches, wineries, neighborhoods or sites from Rocky—all with the convenience of a personal driver and hotel pick-up. Seasonal options include the Center City Holiday Tour. 229 Arch Street, (215) 280-3746, philadelphiaurbanadventures.com, phillytourhub.com
  • PHLASH Downtown Loop The PHLASH bus is the quick, easy and inexpensive connection to key historic attractions and cultural institutions. Making 22 stops, the purple vehicle charges just $2 per ride or $5 for an all-day pass. Passes can be purchased online, at all Visitor Center locations or on the bus (exact change required). It runs every 15 minutes from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., May through Labor Day. From Labor Day until Thanksgiving (and during the month of April), PHLASH operates Fridays through Sundays only, with no service on Thanksgiving Day. After Thanksgiving, daily service resumes, except on Christmas day, through December 30. (800) 537-7676, phillyphlash.com
  • The Yo, Philly! Rocky Film Tour  In a town of Rocky impersonators, Mike Kunda is one of the most dedicated. His popular three-hour, by-reservation-only tour takes fans through Philly to every important stop from Rockyto Creed II. therockyfilmtour.net
  • Watson Adventures Scavenger Hunts Even Philadelphia experts are sure to learn something new during a Watson Adventures scavenger hunt. Topics range from the family-friendly Wizard School Scavenger Hunt at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the adults-only Haunted Philadelphia and Munch Around the Market. (877) 9-GO-HUNT, watsonadventures.com

Visitor Centers:

  • Independence Visitor Center – The Historic District’s Independence Visitor Center—and three more Visitor Centers—serve as gateways to the city and the region. Visitors can find information, get tickets to popular attractions or take a snack break. At the main 6thand Market Street location, visitors can pick up free timed tickets for Independence Hall. Independence Visitor Center, 6th & Market Streets, (215) 965-7676; other Visitor Centers: Sister Cities Park Visitor Center, 18th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (267) 514-4760; City Hall Visitor Center, Broad & Market Streets, Room 121, (215) 686-2840; Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch Street, (800)-428-9000, phlvisitorcenter.com
  • Philly Tour Hub People from around the world can enhance their Philadelphia experience at this meeting space, which is dedicated to the traveler experience. Here, visitors can sign up for tours, engage with other travelers and local experts, get basic information, use free Wi-Fi, sip coffee or just relax between activities. 229 Arch Street, (215) 280-3746, phillytourhub.com

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.