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.
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 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 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.
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.
Fort Tender is not a fortress but a concert and DIY venue in the city. Only those in the know are aware of its location. Some of their previous listings are Heller Wahn, Planning for Burial and Anthro Rex.
Gothic and neoclassical influences dominate the features of City Hall. The statue of William Penn that resides atop City Hall's clock tower remains a Philadelphia skyline marker—until the 1980s there was a "gentleman's agreement" that no Philadelphia building would be built higher than the rim of Penn's hat. City Hall provides a majestic backdrop for shoppers and businesspersons alike as it is situated on the intersection of the city's two main arteries, Broad and Market Streets. The tour of the City Hall lasts for 1.5 to 2 hours.
Originally a floating festival of new American musicals, the Prince a permanent home to new work. New pieces by Laurie Anderson and Philip Glass, cabaret by Patti Lupone, a repertory film series, and the occasional visiting dance company make this converted movie theater an easy place to find something to do. Named for Harold Prince, the legendary Broadway director and a frequent visitor to the stage.
Wanamaker, established in 1902, is amongst the pioneer departmental stores in the country. Understandably a part of the National Register for Historic Places, it still continues to be one of the most important landmarks in Philadelphia. Located in the busy neighborhood of Chinatown, the building features some of the most unique artworks which include the humongous bronze eagle by August Gaul and the Wanamaker Organ, the largest known Court Organ in the world.
As the largest fully-functioning pipe organ in the world, the Wanamaker Organ has serenaded visitors to the Wanamaker Building with special concerts since 1911. Although ownership of the building has since changed over to Macy's, the organ can still be viewed and heard in all its splendor. The Wanamaker Organ is played at least twice daily Monday through Saturday, so be sure to stop by and hear it in person.
Philadelphia's history is deeply entwined with America's revolutionary period, the home to luminary Benjamin Franklin and the site of significant civic development for the then-fledgeling nation. The land changed hands repeatedly, first inhabited by the Lenape tribe before being seized by Dutch, Swedish and Finnish settlers. After several periods of conflict between these north European states, the territory was conquered by England. Philadelphia was instrumental to the early days of America's independence, an epoch-making past manifested in historic landmarks like the Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Notable resident Benjamin Franklin also made his mark on the civic landscape of America, founding the town's fire department and the colonies' first hospital. While Philadelphia's historic beginnings are undeniably significant, the city, which lies at the confluence of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, is also celebrated for its innate charm. One may find it in the urbane magic of Rittenhouse Square, in the gastronomical high that comes from biting into an authentic Philly Cheese Steak, or on the quiet cobbled streets of its leafy Old City. A historic city with a modern heart, Philadelphia is for those who want to connect with the landscape of America's revolution.