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Top Rated Attractions in Philadelphia

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Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

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.

Eastern State Penitentiary

This penitentiary was a 19th-century social experiment along with Quaker principles. Complete solitary confinement was the rule, on the theory inmates would use the time for prayer, reflection and penitence. In fact, the loneliness destroyed many and eventually overcrowding led to squalid conditions with no pretence of reform. It finally closed in the 1970s. The degree of infamy Eastern State Penitentiary experienced when in use made Alcatraz pale in comparison. Inmates formerly incarcerated here include arch-criminal Al Capone and bank robber Willie Horton. Although it stands today in crumbling condition, visitors get an eerie feeling when viewing the vaulted cell blocks and central rotunda.

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Philadelphia's South Street is home to one of the most remarkable creations of art in the city. Known as the Magic Gardens, this work by artist Isaiah Zagar spans almost an entire block and engulfs everything in sight including the pathways and building walls. The continuously evolving work is a colourful riot and incorporates tiles, bottles, bicycle tires, spokes; pretty much anything you could think of. With this stunning landscape and installations, the artist draws you into his world for a peek into his mind. This one is not to be missed.

Union Transfer

Union Transfer is a joint collaboration of Four Corners Management, R5 Productions and The Bowery Presents. Housed in a historic brick structure dating back to 1889, this music venue opened in 2011 and is now among the prominent concert spaces in town. It features three fully equipped bars and a few concession stands. Most of their shows are for all ages. Some of their previous listings are Metermaids, Jello Biafra, The Antlers, Mischief Brew, Sage Francis and Guantanamo School of Medicine.

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts

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.

Fairmount Park

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.

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