Due to its spellbinding architecture and sheer grandeur, Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul is a must-visit place on the list of every tourist in Philadelphia. This beautiful cathedral is the centerpiece of one of the largest Catholic populations in North America. It was designed by celebrated architect Napoleon LeBrun and constructed between 1846 and 1864 by blending Palladian and Italian Renaissance architectural styles. A beautiful “baldachin” or “canopy” over the altar is evidence of the Italian influence while the church façade is in the Palladian style. In fact, you may be forgiven for thinking you are in Europe while viewing this glorious cathedral. Embark on an audio tour and learn more about its eight chapels, 2000-seat sanctuary, vaulted copper dome, and a spectacular apse featuring red marble carvings and stained glass work. During the tour, you will also be familiarized with the fascinating history of the basilica. As Pennsylvania's largest Catholic church, this monument is recorded in the National Register of Historic Places.
Sit on the sloping lawn or in the reserved boxes under the high shed awning. Pick up a drink or some food from the stalls by the back fence—everything from hot dogs to a full-course salmon dinner served by waiters. This outdoor stage is the summer home to the Philadelphia Orchestra, plus a schedule of jazz, rock, big band, the Philly Pops, opera, theatre, and dance. The acoustics can be unreliable and Philadelphia's erratic weather can be a problem, but you can sit in Fairmount Park, hear a good show, and look at the soft night lights of the downtown skyline.
Spreading across 9200 acres (3723.11 hectares) with 63 parks, Fairmount Park is among the biggest city park systems in the nation. It features picturesque trails, rolling hills, streams, historical structures, woodlands, public arts and more. The Centennial Arboretum, Horticulture Center, Japanese House and Garden and Philadelphia Museum of Art are some of the interesting sites located in this massive expanse. It also has recreational centers and sporting fields.
A working class Philadelphian himself, Dr. Albert Coombs Barnes established the foundation in 1922 to promote appreciation of the fine arts among the common man. Over the years, the Barnes Foundation has procured one of the most noteworthy collections of early French modern and post-impressionist paintings in the world. Works by artists like Renoir, Cezanne, Monet, Picasso and Rousseau are part of the collection. The collection has only toured once and then only a fraction of it was sent out. It is necessary to call ahead for a reserved admission ticket.
The Academy of Natural Sciences boasts one of the most extensive collections of dinosaur remains and fossils in the country. Visitors can view the 40-foot frame of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, the vanquished rulers of the Earth. In addition to the permanent displays, the academy often puts emphasis on ecological exhibits and their relevance to today's environment. It is conveniently located close to the Franklin Institute and other museums, as well as shopping and eating destinations.
Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) can best be described as—a large, square space filled with ideas and beauty. Past shows have included retrospectives of Agnes Martin, Robert Morris, Cindy Sherman, Robert Mapplethorpe, Paul Thek and Peter Campus. There's no permanent collection, so check ahead about the current schedule. From July 1, 2008 ICA has become free to all visitors.
Meadowbrook Manor Park is a community park popular among locals for recreation. This five-acre (two-hectare) green space features sports fields, volleyball courts, tennis courts and a playground.
Albert C. Miller Memorial Park is a scenic recreational park in the city. It features a basketball court, three tennis courts, a gazebo and a multi-purpose pavilion ideal for hosting local community events.
Exton Park is a sprawling 727-acre (294-hectare) natural oasis in the city. Its landscape features verdant flora ideal for sports, picnics and family recreation.
The St. Paul's Church is a beautiful hstoric church with pristine white exteriors that give it a ancient look. Established in 1828, it displays a mix of Rural Gothic and Gothic Revival styles of architecture. This church is a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The church continues to be active and hosts services regularly.