When it opened in 1829 Eastern State Penitentiary was one of the largest prison facilities built in the country. The penitentiary experimented with previously unheard ideas of incarceration that prioritized reformation over punishment. A form of solitary confinement was the rule, on the theory inmates would use the time for prayer, reflection and penitence. Despite the cost and efforts taken, the system was not a success and numerous challenges finally led it to close in the 1970s, but not before inspiring numerous similar prison systems around the world. Inmates formerly incarcerated here include arch-criminal Al Capone and bank robber Willie Horton. Although it stands today in crumbling condition, visitors will find it fascinating to explore the vaulted cell blocks and central rotunda.
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.
In the 19th century, the Academy was the American equivalent of the best European art schools. A host of genres and mediums from the most prominent names in American art are constantly on display, with new pieces rotating their way into the collection. Some of America's best artists either taught or were students here, including Thomas Eakins and Mary Cassatt. The building itself is a work of art designed by Frank Furness, an influential 19th-century American architect.
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.
Please Touch Museum is a must-visit when in town. Located in Memorial Hall, it features whimsical installations, interactive exhibits and optical illusions. Create music with your feet by stepping on the Walking Piano, meet characters from Alice in Wonderland, cross rivers in the rainforest and manoeuvre a flying machine. Visitors can attend activities and programs on various topics, from history to science, in an educational yet fun way. Make a pit stop at their Please Taste Café, or attend a folk performance or puppet show at their theatre. A popular attraction among children is their wooden carousel and yearly themed Storybook Ball where their favourite fairy tales come alive.
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.
If you want to improve your bowling score at a hip teenage hangout, get over here. State-of-the-art lanes, pool tables, VIP lounge, and a scrumptious menu are some of the features. Chicken rolls, shrimps, skewered meats, pizzas, salads, sandwiches, desserts, and more, greet hungry players. You can book the place for a private celebration too.
This finger-snapping hip café is nestled just around the corner from the Bellevue Hotel and just a few blocks walk from the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau in Center City. It is a perfect stop for relaxing and enjoying live jazz six nights a week. Winner of two 'Best of Philly' awards, this is a serious jazz club featuring serious talent—the place jazz musicians go to hear jazz. It also serves an outstanding dinner menu which includes crab cakes and grilled ahi tuna.
Started in 2006, the Ocean Prime is a lovely restaurant which is a blend of a seafood serving restaurant, a steakhouse and a cocktails special place. The restaurant is known for its lobster bisque, steak bone-in fillet and the amazing variety of cocktails. The layered carrot cake is a favorite of loyal patrons and is a must try! Visit the Ocean Prime to experience a lovely ambiance and great service and you won't face disappointment!
Philadelphia Center for Architecture gives you a chance to learn about the city's magnificent architecture through guided tours. Throughout the tour, their learned guides will acquaint you with the architectural styles that were used in the construction of PA Academy of the Arts, Reading Terminal, City Hall, the Wanamaker building, the Union League Building and Comcast Center, with comparisons drawn from architecture in Chicago and New York. The tour also talks about the city's transportation and planning, and lets you enjoy a bird's-eye view of the historic city from certain platforms.