Philadelphia, PA

Destination Location

Overview

Home to some of the United States' most historic events, this world-class city is over three hundred years old. Besides being the place where the Declaration of Independence and American Constitution were signed, Philadelphia is one of the country's most historically and culturally rich destinations.

Over 1.5 million people call the City of Brotherly Love home, making it the fifth largest city in the United States. Even as early as the 1750s, Philadelphia was one of the country's largest cities and busiest port of the original 13 American colonies and one of the country's most important founding cities.

Philadelphia's Fairmount Park is the largest landscaped urban park in the world and sets the precedence for more outdoor sculptures and murals than any other American city. But if you'd rather peruse the artistic and historic offerings indoors, Philadelphia's museums range in diversity, much as the city's immeasurably diverse attractions. Museums here are historic and modern, funky and elegant, large-scale and intimate. Regardless which niche you choose, The Franklin Institute Science Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art are heavy-hitters and are a good place to start for any museum goer.

While visiting, you'll have ample opportunity to get a taste of Philadelphia's athletic offerings. A sports-fan's paradise, Philadelphia is one of only twelve North American cities to have a professional sports team in all four major leagues, and have been boasting this for nearly 100 years.

And it's not just history and sports that Philadelphia has bragging rights on, it's also their world-class fare. Philadelphia cheesesteaks are famous, and there is no shortage of authentic restaurants to partake in this tradition. On one side of South Philadelphia's most famous cheesesteak corner, you'll find Geno's Steaks. Geno's has been serving up these sandwiches from its location on East Passyunk Avenue for over 40 years. Open 24 hours a day, foodies visit Geno's at all hours on any day of the week. On the other side of the corner, you'll find Pat's King of Steaks. This shop's claim to fame is that its founder, Pat Oliveri, invented the steak sandwich in 1930. If you want to taste an authentic Philly cheesesteak, either of these locations is at the top of the list for locals and visitors alike.

There's no shortage of action-packed activities to partake in while visiting Philadelphia. For further details about this great city, go to visitphilly.com.

WestJet is pleased to offer service to this destination through our code-share agreement with our great airline partners.

Airport served by: Philadelphia, PA (PHL)

Destination basics

Summers in Philly are usually hot and muggy, while fall and spring are typically mild, which is not uncommon being so close to the Atlantic. Winters, however, are cold and come with variable snowfall, which is usually fairly light. Average temperatures in January sit around 0 C (32 F), but can drop as low as -12 C (10 F). July averages 25 C (77 F) and usually comes with high humidity. It's not uncommon for temperatures to soar above 35 C (95 F) during the summer.

The first thing visitors discover about Philadelphia is that it's a walking town. You'll find most places are within a mile of City Hall. Stroll on pleasant, tree-lined streets that display a rich mix of architecture ranging from Colonial to Victorian to Bauhaus, sometimes all presented within the same block. Each street connects to smaller and smaller streets and alleyways that hide small groups of houses, clever gardens, footnotes to American history and good coffee spots to take a rest. Downtown Philadelphia is referred to as Center City, but within this area there are even more neighborhoods.

Society Hill
Start your visit with the neighborhood around Independence Hall. This is where the Liberty Bell rang out and where the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights were written and signed. Sit under a tree in the gardens. Mail postcards home from Benjamin Franklin's Post Office (besides everything else, he was the first Postmaster General). This area is Society Hill, where you can tour Independence National Park, then do some shopping and have a cocktail at an intimate bar; then head up the block to a play, concert, or movie; then discuss the show over a late dinner and head out again to hear live music, all within a few blocks.

Old City
North of Market Street is Old City, which is Philadelphia's version of New York's Soho, with wonderful restaurants like Chlöe and Cuba Libre, small art galleries like Gallery Joe and a growing number of theaters and performance spaces like Painted Bride; this is the fashionable young hip scene in all its shades.

Penn's Landing
East of Old City, along the Delaware River, Penn's Landing is a backdrop for outdoor festivals and free summer concerts, as well as fireworks on holidays. Or you can take a ferry across the river to the aquarium. In the summer, open-air clubs north of the Ben Franklin Bridge (such as Dave and Busters or the River Deck) take advantage of the breathtaking view.

Chinatown
West of Old City, between 8th and 13th Streets, is Chinatown. These days Chinatown is about half Chinese and half a combination of Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Burmese and Pan-Asian, and rivals any Chinatown in the country. It's also home to the Pennsylvania Convention Center and the Reading Terminal Market.

Rittenhouse Square
On the west end of Center City is the fashionable Rittenhouse Square district, where you can buy great clothing and then wear it to dinner at the place next door (possibly Monk's Cafe or Alma De Cuba). Lovers of the offbeat might venture into the Mütter Museum, a veritable cavalcade of creepy medical mysteries.

Avenue of the Arts
Broad Street, south of City Hall, is the Avenue of the Arts. The orchestra, the ballet and the Wilma, Gershman, and Prince theaters all reside here, interspersed with great restaurants and jazz clubs. Modeled on Parisian boulevards, the Ben Franklin Parkway presents a wonderful, tree-lined walk past Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, several expensive hotels, the main Library and several museums. At the end of the Parkway, atop a hill, is the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

South Philly
This is where rich Italian history and new communities of Vietnamese and Thai are just the tips of the iceberg when it comes to great dining. Cantina El Caballito brings the spice, and the old Italian Market has got a little something for everyone.

West Philly
Across the Schuykill River in West Philly, the University of Pennsylvania and six other major schools are the centerpiece of a deep blend of students, immigrants and old neighborhoods. Take in some art at the Institute of Contemporary Art and then take in some grub at White Dog Cafe.

Northern Liberties
And north of Old City, this is the "new frontier" of the hip scene. The Standard Tap will take care of your eating-and-drinking needs, and Johnny Brenda's will keep you entertained into the wee hours with its packed concert calendar. For dancing, head for the Barbary. After that, Silk City Diner at 5th and Spring Garden is the place to go for a grilled cheese sandwich at 4am Sunday morning or the best huevos rancheros for breakfast.

Philadelphia has a history of introducing new entertainment to the rest of the country. Broadway shows used to regularly try out their material here before moving on to New York. The popular television show, "American Bandstand" originated here and introduced rock and roll to millions of American homes. There are still lots of new plays and touring companies that perform here and this is still a town where they talk about the Philly Sound.

Museums
One of the world's best collections of Impressionist paintings is the Barnes Foundation, in the suburb of Merion. All of the pieces here are instantly recognizable from reproductions, but only a small number have ever traveled, and then only recently. The Philadelphia Museum of Art and its small companion, the Rodin Museum, represent a brief history of world art on the Ben Franklin Parkway: Ancient Egypt, Impressionism, Expressionism, Cubism and Post-Modernism comes with guided tours and souvenir reproductions available in the gift shop.


Historical Sites
Because of the city's rich history, there are plenty of historic sites that are innovative in the way they educate and entertain at the same time. One of the most famous Philly landmarks is the Liberty Bell, the bell from the Pennsylvania Statehouse commissioned by William Penn in 1751. Another key piece of American history found in this fair city is Independence Hall, the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. For some literary history, the Edgar Allan Poe House, where the famous poet penned “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” among other masterpieces. Another famous residence, Franklin Court, was once the home of Benjamin Franklin, and now houses seven different museums chronicling different aspects of this historic American’s life and contributions to the world.

Music
Every possible sound is available in Philadelphia on Wednesday through Saturday nights. On other nights, the choices are narrower, but if you look carefully there's always something going on. Philadelphia has always been a popular stop for national acts. There are concert halls from the massive stadiums of the Susquehanna Bank Center to the comfortably mid-size Trocadero, Tower, Electric Factory or Keswick, right down to the overheated and cramped rooms of the legendary bars where everyone from Bruce Springsteen to the Roots paid their dues. There is a string of clubs along Delaware Avenue on piers jutting into the Delaware River and more around South Street.

It is possible to find a string quartet, opera or symphony performance every night of the week. With the Curtis Institute and the various college programs, the quality of street performers brightens the parks and sidewalks in the spring. The Philadelphia Orchestra is legendary for conductors like Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, Ricardo Muti and Sir Simon Rattle.

Theater & Dance
For nearly a hundred years, Philadelphia was mainly known as a "tryout" town. New York producers would try out material here before opening on Broadway. These days it's more likely a play will originate here. The Walnut Street Theatre has produced the American premieres of two Tom Stoppard plays that were hits on London's West End, but have never played New York. InterAct hosts a new play reading every January which supplies work to regional theaters across the country. Keep an eye out for anything by Brat Productions, a young edgy company that often stages strong works in a bar.

The first ten days of September, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival takes over the Old City district with a mix of local acts and visiting troupes from the Edinburgh, Toronto and New York. There are still national touring companies that perform big Broadway musicals at the Forrest, maintaining a healthy balance of new and recognized work. From the Pennsylvania Ballet to The Philadelphia Dance Company (known as Philadanco), the dance performance scene here is low profile, but substantial. The city often acts as a lab for companies that are seen and celebrated in New York or Washington. Once again, because of the numerous collegiate dance programs, there are always visiting professional and resident performers to see.

Children
Philadelphia pays particular attention to its younger visitors. The National Park Service provides tours and multimedia, interactive, educational displays at Independence Hall. At the Please Touch Museum, children are encouraged to put their mitts on everything and the entire museum is scaled to kids. There are similar setups in the Academy of Natural Sciences and the Franklin Institute. Don't forget the popular petting pen at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Many of the larger chain bookstores around town have Saturday programs for children with readings and performances. The Free Library often has scheduled activities, including readings, films and performers. Then there are the children's theater programs at the Arden and Annenberg. To make your travels more convenient, children under the age of 12 ride free on SEPTA's buses and subways on Saturdays.

If every museum, business, historic site and theater in town burned down overnight, you could still have a terrific trip to Philadelphia simply by eating.

Rittenhouse Square
Many of the high-end restaurants are grouped along Walnut Street between Broad Street and Rittenhouse Square and are located in the Old City district around 2nd and Market. Everything is available here, starting with an extraordinary number of Italian and Asian restaurants. Philadelphia was also an early center for American nouvelle cuisine and this has developed into a heritage the locals take for granted. For a real, down home Philly joint, try the delightfully gritty Little Pete’s

South Philly
For a classic Philly Cheesesteak, two different places in the Italian Market stay open all night to supply the crowds. For some more casual food, the family owned Cosmo’s Deli is a crowd pleaser for all kinds of Italian deli items. For something a bit more upscale, but that won’t break the bank, stop in to Gayle Restaurant. Moving south of the border, Cantina El Caballito is sure to please with all your favorite Mexican specialties.

Chinatown
Chinatown is a haven for those visitors who are in the mood for a taste of Asian cuisines. The grand and elegant Ocean Harbor serves specialties from all over China, while vegetarians can delight in the meat-free fare at Harmony Vegetarian Restaurant. Although called “Chinatown,” there is more than just Chinese food on offer here; Penang serves up in-demand Malaysian cuisine. Leaving the Asian continent altogether, Johnny Brenda’s offers Mediterranean food in a lively, bar-like atmosphere.

Society Hill
The charming Society Hill neighborhood features many quality restaurants, ranging from fancy to cozy and casual. Bistro Romano is an elegant restaurant featuring delectable European specialties. For a more casual option, the South Street Diner is a late night favorite featuring everything you would expect from a traditional diner, as well as a variety of Greek specialties. Italian food is not lacking in this neighborhood with Sfizzio, one of the area’s most popular restaurants.

Philadelphia

State: Pennsylvania

Country: United States

Philadelphia By The Numbers 
Population: 1,567,400 (city); 7,183,500 (metropolitan)
Elevation: 39 feet / 12 meters
Average Annual Precipitation: 41 inches / 104 centimeters
Average Annual Snowfall: 22 inches / 57 centimeters
Average January Temperature: 33°F / 0.6°C 
Average July Temperature: 78°F / 25.6°C

Quick Facts

Electricity: 110 volts, 60Hz, standard two pin plugs

Time Zone: GMT-5; Eastern Standard Time (EST)

Country Dialing Code: 1

Area Code: 215 & 267

Did You Know?

Philadelphia has an international reputation for its Rowing competitions such as Head of the Schuylkill. Inter-collegiate and professional rowing teams are a popular sight up and down the Schuylkill River that runs through Philly. 

The City of Brotherly Love is also home to the Liberty Bell and the place where the Continental Congress met in 1776 to sign the Declaration of Independence.

Orientation

Located in the Delaware Valley, Philadelphia is one of the largest cities in Pennsylvania. It is 97 miles (156 kilometers) south of New York City and 139 miles (224 kilometers) north of Washington DC.

When the American colonies were founded in the 1600s, the guiding principle for the New England colonies was freedom to practice religions not popular in England; for the southern colonies the aim was agricultural development extending the holdings of British landowners. There were two exceptions. New York, established by Dutch companies, has always been a place for trade. The other exception was Pennsylvania, and the town of Philadelphia.

William Penn (1644-1718) arrived in 1681 from a London that had recently burned and was just discovering sanitary plumbing. He wanted Philadelphia to be "a green country Town, which will never be burnt, and always be wholesome." Founded on Quaker principles of tolerance and harmonious living, Philadelphia had a religious foundation like its New England neighbors, but welcomed other beliefs and races. Like its southern neighbors, it started with an agricultural economy, but slave auctions were banned early. A community of ex-slaves grew, centered around the Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the cornerstone of the A.M.E. movement. By 1790, there were 300 slaves in Pennsylvania and 7,579 free blacks. By 1860, there were 22,185 free blacks and Philadelphia was an important stop on the Underground Railroad, the secret network that helped slaves escape from southern slave states.

Instead of sprawling mindlessly, streets were laid out on a grid system with five public squares (the present day Washington, Rittenhouse and Franklin Squares, Logan Circle and City Hall). The town was built with no fortifications. Native Americans were welcome. Even the name of the town demonstrated peace; while most other colonial towns were named for founders or expedition sponsors, Philadelphia is Latin for "City of Brotherly Love."

Of course, when you invite everyone in, there's the likelihood of disagreement. By 1690, scarcely nine years after the first Quaker Meeting House went up, arguments over the direction of the city had turned into formal ideologies. Philadelphians have been arguing ever since.

Penn had originally envisioned his colony as a "wholesome" farming community, but the port quickly became one of the most important trading spots in America, rivaled only by New York. The rising merchant class wasn't terribly interested in the simple Quaker lifestyle. Pubs, theaters, circuses, dances and races soon entered the scene. The tolerant attitude attracted many immigrants. British Quakers were followed by German immigrants as early as the 1690s.

In 1723, Benjamin Franklin arrived from Boston. He eventually started his own publishing house, producing several newspapers and an annual farm guide, Poor Richard's Almanac. In his spare time, he invented the Franklin stove, the glass harmonium and bifocals. He helped write the Declaration of Independence. He was a founding member of the University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Hospital, the first public library, a fire insurance company, the Post Office and the Constitutional Congress. His 1751 book, Experiments and Observations in Electricity, was considered the most important scientific work in the world in its time. His name is on everything here.

The city is filled with reminders of the colonial period. Fairmount Park is dotted with colonial homes that were moved there as museums. Elfreth's Alley is the oldest continually occupied neighborhood in the country. Old Swede's Church offers a perfect example of the "public" architecture typical at the country's founding. Delegates to Congress were astounded at the wealth and beauty they saw here. Because of the active seaport, food and fabrics from the Indies and China were readily available, even with the difficulty of getting past British warships. There were some of the finest examples of colonial silversmith, textile work and furniture in the homes.

In 1800, the nation's capital moved to Washington, DC. New York began to overshadow Philadelphia as a financial and cultural center. Also in the 1800s, Irish, Polish and Italian immigrants came in waves, drawn by employment on massive projects like the new turnpike system, the canals and the railroad. Coal mining upstate created more jobs and the coal provided steam power for the factories of the Industrial Revolution that made Philadelphia a major manufacturing center. The Centennial Exhibition of 1876 brought 100,000 people to Fairmount Park to see the wonders of industrialism.

By the end of World War II, things were looking up again. While heavy industries moved out, the economy stayed robust. Always known for its hospitals, medical schools and research facilities, Philadelphia is now leading bioengineering research and development, and the city has become a popular film location thanks to innovators like M. Night Shyamalan.

The Philadelphia of the present has achieved what previous generations had thought impossible: New Yorkers come for a quick visit, fall in love, and decide to look for a house, hearkening back to the year 1776, when Congressional delegates were bowled over by the quality and comfort of this city.

Points of interest in Philadelphia, PA

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