Land of Liberty – Philadelphia
Philadelphia is home to some of the most historic sites in America. The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were created here, and even today large parts of the old city survive in a fascinating blend of historic must-sees and vibrant neighborhoods.
Philadelphia is also a large and exciting modern city, home to world-class entertainment, sports and cultural attractions, plus a wide array of great restaurants, nightlife and shopping opportunities.
The region is served by an excellent public transportation system go to septa.org, and several area RV campgrounds are close to train stations. Some campgrounds also provide tours of Philadelphia and the surrounding region. Downtown Philadelphia is fairly compact and very walkable, but not a convenient place to drive or park an RV. It’s best to use the SEPTA subways, trolleys and buses. Taxi cabs are also numerous.
What to see in historic Philadelphia
Many historic sites are free and part of Independence National Park, though some free attractions require tickets. Start at the Independence Visitor Center for tickets, maps and tour information. At the top of the list of key sites is Independence Hall (visiting the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Constitution was written is an unforgettable experience). Other important sites within easy walking distance include the Liberty Bell Center, Carpenter’s Hall and Franklin Court. Also worth a visit is the excellent National Constitution Center. Adjacent to the national park are the historic neighborhoods of Old City and Society Hill. Often overlooked by tourists, both contain a wealth of architecture dating back to Colonial times, including historic churches, homes and gardens. The area is ideal for walking and exploring, and includes many gems like Christ Church (attended by George Washington), Elfreth’s Alley, Quince Street and the Merchant’s Exchange Building.
Philadelphia would be a great place to visit even without its many historic attractions. Among the city’s excellent museums, The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the worlds finest (and home to the steps made famous in the movie “Rocky.”) The Franklin Institute science museum is ideal for families, as is the Natural History Museum next door. Depending on when you travel, check out a game by one of the city’s professional sports teams or a concert by the renowned Philadelphia Orchestra. When locals want to escape the noise and stress of city life, they often head to Fairmount Park, one of the largest municipal parks in the world. Spreading along both sides of the Schuylkill River, the park contains miles of bicycle paths, woodland hiking trails, bridle paths, picnic areas and several historic homes that are open to the public. The park also houses the Philadelphia Zoo (America’s first) and a notable collection of outdoor sculpture. Philadelphians often think of their home town as a city of neighborhoods. The distinct characteristics of places like South Philadelphia and its remarkable Italian Market, University City (home to the University of Pennsylvania), Chinatown and historic Chestnut Hill give these areas a small town feel. These and other neighborhoods are ideal for exploring on foot and are easily accessible via public transit. Many neighborhoods are off the beaten path for most tourists but are well worth the extra effort to visit.
Not far from Philadelphia, RVers will find an impressive array of attractions. While many are not accessible by public transit, most have convenient parking. Valley Forge National Park is a must for history buffs; the rustic Pennsylvania Dutch region is wonderful for relaxed rambling along country roads (and includes the delightful Dutch Wonderland amusement park) and Hershey is heaven for chocolate lovers (look for the streetlamps shaped like Hershey kisses). Other regional highlights include Longwood Gardens (you could easily spend the day here), the Strasburg Railroad and Museum (where you can ride a restored steam train) and Brandywine Battlefield Park (site of a major Revolutionary War battle). For information to plan your trip, contact visitphilly.com.