Philadelphia is one of the most historic cities in America and a must-visit destination for anyone planning to spend some time on the East Coast this year. Budget travelers love Philadelphia because there are so many free things to do here, including museums, tours, art, and outdoor recreation. There’s no need to open up your wallet for many of the city’s top attractions, which leaves you a bit more freedom to experience the local foodie scene! Here are our top picks for free things to do in Philadelphia.
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Free Tours of Independence Hall
One of the best places to begin your exploration of Philadelphia is Independence Hall. This is where the nation’s forefathers gathered in 1776 and declared their independence from England. You can take a free ranger-led tour of Independence Hall and also see the Liberty Bell nearby for free. On a tour, you’ll see the Assembly Room where the Declaration of Independence was signed and even George Washington’s famous chair. Entrance to Independence Hall is only by tour, and these begin every 15, 20, or 30 minutes depending on what season it is.
Watch the Rowing Teams at Boathouse Row
Boathouse Row is where the sport of rowing is celebrated in Philadelphia and where the sport really got its start in this country. Depending on when you visit, you may be able to watch some rowing teams practice or compete right here along the Philadelphia waterfront. Even if there’s nothing official going on during your visit to the city, it’s still fun to walk along this landmark and view the historic buildings, the Schuylkill River, and the skyline in the distance.
First Events at the Barnes Foundation
The Barnes Foundation is a major art museum in Philadelphia, but at $30 per adult general admission ticket, it’s a bit pricey to visit. Fortunately, there are lots of free events hosted here that you can attend without shelling out that much cash. Check the museum’s website to see what free events are going on during your visit. Here you’ll often find information about the free mural arts studio, free family days with live music, free block party events with food trucks and a DJ, and social events that feature unique forms of art.
Free Tours of the United States Mint
Lovers of money and curious travelers will definitely want to stop by the United States Mint and take a free tour to see how coins are made. You can take a free self-guided tour of this facility, which is located in Independence Mall, to see how coins and paper money are created and the history of money-making. You’ll get to see coining operations from 40 feet above the floor of the factory, the Tiffany glass mosaics, the first coining press, and other historic artifacts. Expect the tour to last about 45 minutes, and all tours are free and self-guided. The general tour hours are 9am to 4:30pm on weekdays, but extended hours are offered in the summer and on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.
See the City’s Mural Art
You can see a lot of art in Philadelphia without ever paying a museum admission fee. There are many beautiful and creative murals around town, and the city’s Mural Arts Program is one of the largest public art efforts in the country. Rather than paying for a guided tour, you can do a self-guided tour down “Mural Mile” in Center City. Start your journey south of Market Street and travel along the 13th Street corridor to Lombard Street, passing through Chinatown, around City Hall, and into Old City. Famous mural hot spots around town include the Feltonville Recreation Center, “Transformations” at the B Street Bridge, the “We the People” Series all around the city, and “Curing Community” on the side of the Philadelphia Pharmacy.
Walk or Bike the Schuylkill River Trail
Philadelphia is also a great place to get active in the outdoors because there are lots of parks of trails in the region. Make sure to check out the Schuylkill River Trail, which is paved and perfect for walking, jogging, and biking. You’ll get amazing view of the Philadelphia skyline, Boathouse Row, and popular museums along this route. The trail is about 10 miles long. You can also stop at Schuylkill Banks between Locust Street and the Fairmount Water Works to attend entertainment events throughout the year.
Visit the Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site
Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most famous poets in all the world, and you can visit his house in Philadelphia for free. Poe spent about six years in Philadelphia, and you can learn about his life and time here by visiting this site. It’s free to enter the site, and you can either take a self-guided or a ranger-led tour. Stop by Friday through Sunday between 9am and noon or between 1pm and 5pm. It’s also fun to visit the reading room to browse the books or listen to a dramatic reading of one of Poe’s ultra-creepy works.
Explore Reading Terminal Market
Lots of great American cities have a public market worth visiting, and Philadelphia is no exception. The Reading Terminal Market is a farmers’ market that serves local foods, fresh produce, Pennsylvania Dutch specialties, and has over 80 merchants onsite. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it’s fun to walk through the market, watch live cooking demonstrations, learn about the history of chocolate, and soak up the energy of the city. This is one of the oldest and largest public markets in the country, first established in 1893, and it’s typically open every day from 8am to 6pm.
Free Tours of Yards Brewery
There are lots of great breweries in Philadelphia if you love craft beer, and one of the best ones to add to your itinerary is Yards Brewery. Although the beer isn’t free, public tours are, so you can stop by to learn about the brewery and how beer is made without paying anything. Guided tours last about 40 minutes, are available every day, and are for guests 21+ only. Tours kick off at 1pm and 4pm on weekdays and every half hour from 11:30am to 5pm on weekends.