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Philadelphia Must-Dos

Our experts recommend the top attractions in and around Philadelphia—with advice on how to get the most out of your visit.

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Talluto’s Italian Market, with its spicy sausages and fresh mozzarella, is an institution in South Philly.

Bartram’s Garden

George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson strolled these still-bucolic meadows and gardens on the Schuylkill River, claiming the oldest gingko tree in America, brought from China via London in 1785. Glorious array of native plants include the delicate Franklinia alatamaha, saved from extinction by the Bartrams and named for their great friend. 54th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard; tel. +1 215 729 5281; fee.

Eastern State Penitentiary

“A real sense of history, both crime and architectural preservation.”—Sarah Schaffer, editor-in-chief, Philadelphia Style magazine. Literally, the big house. Sprawling, 11-acre (4-hectare) Gothic complex with church-like cells, built in 1829 under the theory solitary confinement is good for the soul. 2124 Fairmount Avenue; tel. +1 215 236 5111; fee.

Franklin Institute Science Museum

“Mr. Wizard kind of interactive activities that keep the kids busy for hours.”—Sarah Schaffer. A walk through the giant heart is a must. Tip: Combine a visit with a trek to nearby Fairmount Park, home to playgrounds, historic homes, and a nine-mile (four-kilometer) walking loop. 222 North 20th Street; tel. +1 215 448 1200; fee.

Independence Hall

In the sweltering summer of 1787, delegates kept the windows shut to keep their debate secret. Security is even tighter now, and visitors need timed tickets to enter. The Georgian-style interior is much the same, down to George Washington’s “rising sun” chair. Fifth and Chestnut streets; tel. +1 215 965 2305.

Italian Market

“An atmospheric place, lots of great food smells.”—Bill Kent, author, Philadelphia-based Street Smart detective series. One of the nation’s largest outdoor markets, brimming with bok choy, sausages, and sweat socks, now with Mexican taco makers and Vietnamese push carts. Ninth Street between Wharton and Fitzwater.

Laurel Hill Cemetery

“Beautiful and park-like, a monument to permanence, class, and impressiveness.”—Thomas Keels, author, Philadelphia Graveyards and Cemeteries. Bucolic eternal resting place of General George Meade and 39 other Civil War generals. Eerily enchanting showcase for opulent funereal sculptures. 3822 Ridge Avenue; tel. +1 215 228 8200.

Liberty Bell Center

An inside view of the famous bell, complete with X-rays of the legendary crack—and the hapless attempts to repair it. Dramatic glass enclosure with views of Independence Hall. Market and Sixth streets; tel. +1 215 965 2305.

Masonic Temple

“Stunning architectural features that look like wood or stone but are actually ornate plaster.”—Dave Davies, senior writer, Philadelphia Daily News. Stone Norman cathedral exterior and huge, lavish interior rooms with such themes as a Grecian temple and the Moorish Alhambra. One North Broad Street; tel. +1 215 988 1900; fee.

Mütter Museum

“If you’re into CSI, this place will pique your curiosity.”—Sarah Schaffer. Final resting place of Chang and Eng’s conjoined liver and other medical oddities. 19 South 22nd Street; tel. +1 215 563 3737; fee.

National Constitution Center

“An indispensable and engaging source of historic information about a young country.”—Dave Davies. Take the oath of office or a seat on the Supreme Court via interactive, family-oriented exhibits. 525 Arch Street; tel. +1 215 409 6600; fee.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

After years of exile, the Rocky statue is back in its spot outside the entrance—paying homage to the movie hero’s triumphant charge up the library’s stairs. Inside are 225,000 other works, including medieval armor, Philadelphia silver, colonial portraits, and five Van Goghs. 26th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway; tel. +1 215 763 8100; fee.

Rosenbach Museum & Library

“Like a private club, warm and cozy, where you would ask to see an original Joseph Conrad manuscript and they would reply ‘which one?’”—Thomas Keels, author, Forgotten Philadelphia: Lost Architecture of the Quaker City. Refined repository of manuscripts by James Joyce, Bram Stoker, Conrad, and other literary giants. Free Tuesdays. 2008-2010 Delancey Place; tel. +1 215 732 1600; fee.

Rodin Museum

“Smaller, off-the-beaten-path setting where you don’t have to worry about the etiquette of standing in front of a painting or sculpture for too long.”—Sarah Schaffer. Petite temple, gorgeous garden, and the largest collection of works by Auguste Rodin outside Paris, including a monumental cast of “The Thinker.” Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 22nd Street; tel. +1 215 568 6026; suggested “donation.”

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