Things for Seniors to do in Philadelphia
Being the sixth largest city in the United States, it would take much more than this brief article and more than a year of weekends to discover all there is to do in historic Philadelphia. Having said that, let’s look at sights and activities that are sure to make your next weekend trip to the city of brotherly love truly memorable. Philadelphia, famous for cheesesteaks, the liberty bell and Independence Hall, is less than an hour’s drive from Hamilton Township, making it the ideal destination for a quick weekend getaway.
Founded in 1812, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, formerly the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, is the oldest natural research institution and museum in the Americas. It’s dedicated to advancing research, education and public engagement in biodiversity and environmental science. Beyond their numerous exhibits, the museum features daily activities, programs including those specifically designed for adults, events and festivals. They even have online exhibits you can enjoy right now in the comfort of your own home.
Filled with many world-renowned works of art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a place where art comes to life through creative play and scholarly study and a place that connects people with art in rich and varied ways. Exhibits abound both indoors and out, including a sculpture garden (click on the link to enjoy audio tours right now) which is outside. The museum contains 200 galleries with more than 200,000 works of art. Check out their calendar to see what’s happening when you plan to visit. On the first Sunday of the month, from 10 am to 5 pm, admission is pay-what-you-wish. A handicapped accessible entrance is around the left side of the building.
Check out numerous interactive displays and historic artifacts including Irving Berlin’s piano, Albert Einstein’s pipe and Steven Spielberg’s first camera at the lobby (which is free) at the National Museum of American Jewish History, a Smithsonian-affiliated museum. Check out their event calendar to see what’s happening when you plan to visit.
Visit the Benjamin Franklin Museum which is dedicated to the life and legacy of America’s favorite Renaissance man. The museum provides interactive exhibits, personal artifacts, hands-on displays and computer animations – all exploring the public and private life of Ben Franklin.
The museum at the Science History Institute provides a journey through the weird and wonderful world of matter and materials and looks at how the successes and failures of discoveries have changed science. Admission to the museum is free.
Philadelphia’s Historic District, spanning 7th Street to the Delaware River Waterfront and Vine Street to Lombard Street, offers a wide array of activities, and best of all, many are free or have small entrance fees. Some of the museums already discussed above are located in the Historic District. This list is by no means all-inclusive.
Once the capital of the United States, Philadelphia is steeped in history and has a lot to offer the history buff such as Independence National Historical Park which includes The Liberty Bell Center, Congress Hall, Independence Hall and many other onsite historical buildings.
Investigate a juxtaposition of lives at The President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation which commemorates the lives of nine enslaved Africans at the site of the nation’s first executive mansion. This free open-air exhibit explores the paradox of slavery and freedom and is located at the remains of our nation’s first executive mansion.
Need to take a break and rest a minute between touring and shopping in the historic district? Franklin Square, located in the historic district, gives you a place to take a breather. It’s a beautiful, refreshing urban green space with benches, picnic tables, the SquareBurger (burger joint), a miniature golf course, a carousel, a fountain and one of the many Once Upon a Nation storytelling benches which are scattered throughout the district. At each Once Upon a Nation location, professional storytellers share five-minute tales and secret stories about some of our nation’s earliest “celebrity” citizens.
If outdoor gardens interest you, Philadelphia has two great options.
The first, Longwood Gardens, often called “the world’s premier horticultural showplace,” consists of more than 1,077 acres of magnificent cultured and tended gardens, natural woodlands and relaxing meadow gardens. The grounds also contain four acres of opulent conservatories and dancing fountains with scheduled performances that are illuminated at night. They also have guided group tours, events & performances and a picnic area. Check their calendar for events that may be taking place when you plan to visit.
The second is Bartram’s Garden, the oldest surviving botanic garden in North America and a National Historic Landmark. On its 46 acres, you’ll find an arboretum and a historic garden established in 1728 by John Bartram. He was recognized as “the greatest natural botanist in the world.” Check their calendar for events that might interest you.
The Reading Terminal Market, one of the nation’s oldest and largest public markets, has been in continuous operation since 1892. It’s an indoor farmers market with more than 100 merchants offering an amazing selection of locally grown and imported produce, locally sourced meats and poultry, plus confections, baked goods, cheeses, seafood, kitchenware, table linens, fresh cut flowers, a variety of restaurants and so much more. Make this your last stop so you can enjoy lots of fresh produce and meats long after you return home.
Tour the Philadelphia Mint where at least fifty percent of all circulating coins are made. See the actual coin-making process, view interactive displays and early coining equipment, plus rare and historic coins. Generally, the Philadelphia Mint is only open Monday through Friday, except during the summer when it’s also open on Saturdays. If you visit, be sure to check out the stuffed eagle in the lobby. Peter was the Philadelphia Mint’s adopted pet and allowed to fly among the coins for good luck until an unfortunate accident lead to his demise.
Gaze in wonder at the Dream Garden, a breathtaking mural made of hundreds of thousands of glass tesserae in over 250 color tones. It’s located in the lobby of the Curtis building at 6th and Walnut Streets. The mural is a collaboration between Maxfield Parrish and Louis Comfort Tiffany. The artwork itself weighs more than four tons.
At noon on most Fridays at the World Café Live, some of the biggest acts touring Philadelphia will throw in a bonus midday Free at Noon Concert at WXPN for fans. Be sure to reserve your tickets online as they sell-out quickly.
Enjoy a lunch, brunch or dinner cruise aboard the Spirit of Philadelphia. Catch an unmatched view of the city’s skyline while sailing down the Delaware River under the Benjamin Franklin and Walt Whitman bridges, enjoy freshly prepared foods and get in a little dancing under the stars – all for one price.
For those who enjoy the ambiance of a ship or who want to experience something a little different, how about a meal aboard a four-masted ship? Enjoy lunch, dinner or a bottomless brunch at the Moshulu which is docked on the Delaware waterfront.
Take some of the stress out of visiting local attractions by taking advantage of sightseeing tours. There are several options to choose from including hop on/hop off city tours on double-decker buses or trolleys, walking tours, carriage rides and the Lancaster Amish Experience.
Philadelphia Sightseeing Tours offer hop on/hop off city tours (one-, two- and three-day passes are available) with more than two dozen stops along a sixteen-mile tour route dropping you off at or close to nearly 100 popular attractions allowing you to see the attractions you want at your own pace. Along the route, you’ll also learn about Philly’s history and attractions with live on-board commentary. They also offer a 90-minute Twilight Philly Night Tour.
Philadelphia Trolley Works also offer hop on/hop off city tours (one-, two- and three-day passes are available) aboard double-decker buses or an authentic Victorian-Style “open-air” Trolley with more than two dozen stops dropping you off at or close to nearly 100 popular attractions See the attractions you want at your own pace and hop back on the trolley when you’re ready to explore more. Along the 90-minute route, professional tour guides bring Philadelphia to life by sharing information about its past and present. They also offer a Philly Pass and City Pass to help you save money at many of the local attractions and a 90-minute Philly By Night Tour.
Philadelphia Trolley Works also offers leisurely horse-drawn carriage tours through the tree-lined streets of Independence National Historic Park, Society Hill and Old City. Various carriage tours are available lasting from 15 minutes to one hour, depending on which tour you choose.
The Amish Experience tour, a specialty tour to Lancaster County, is a fun-filled day of sightseeing and shopping in one of the oldest and largest Amish Communities in the US. The Amish Experience tours are only available Monday through Saturday from April through October.
Note: Be sure to contact the company in advance if you need a handicap-accessible trolley. Not all of the fleet is fully handicap-accessible. However, drivers make every effort to accommodate persons with physical limitations on the hop on/hop off trolleys.
For the more active older adult, a walking tour may be one of the best ways to experience Philadelphia, which is considered to be one of the country’s most walkable cities.
- Several name-your-own-price or pay-what-you-like tours are available by reservation through Free Tours by Foot. Tours include The Independence Mall Tour for history buffs and general tourists (2.5-hours and 1.5 miles long), the Real Philly Insider Guide tour (4.5 hours with food and refreshment breaks), the Philadelphia China Food Tour (3 hours of flavor and history), the Italian Market Food Tour (2 hours of food and history) and the Ghosts of Philly tour for a two-hour exploration of the city’s historical spooks. Check their calendar for tour dates and times.
- The Constitutional Walking Tour is a 75 minute, 1.25-mile stroll to more than 20 of the most historic sites concerning America’s birthplace including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and Constitution Center
- The Italian Market Immersion is a two-hour walking tour exploring this country’s oldest and largest open-air Italian market. Shop and chat with owners and employees at various shops and stalls.
- Grim Philly Twilight tours offer several itineraries focusing on various “adults only” subjects. Depending upon the tour and its subject matter, guides share well-researched tales of serial killers, ghost hunting, gangsters, vampires, pirates and more. Pub tours, which include the consumption of alcoholic beverages, are available.
- The Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia offers an extensive line-up of walking tours that explore the architecture of Philadelphia and its suburbs. Check their events calendar for tour dates and times.
- The Constitutional Self-Guided Walking tour gives you the opportunity to venture out on your own. Their PDF brochure contains a map and descriptions of various sites along the route.
- Many other walking tours exist. More information on some of them can be found at GPSMYCITY.
Transportation While in Philly
Need help getting around the city? The bright-purple Philadelphia Phlash buses are handicap-accessible and offer free fares to seniors 65 and older with a SEPTA Key, TrailPass, TransPass and one-day Independence Pass. Even without the required passes, you can purchase an all-day bus pass for five dollars. Remember, these buses are public transportation and do not provide narrated tours.
Rover Community Transportation is another option for senior transportation needs in Philadelphia. They’re able to provide transportation often for a dollar or less. Contact them for more details.
There’s No Place Like Home
After you’ve enjoyed all of the sights and activities Philadelphia has to offer, it’s a wonderful feeling to head back north to Hamilton Township and Homestead at Hamilton. The amenities and services, programs and recreation and dining options at our premier senior living community make everyday life feel inspired. Contact us to schedule a tour or come to one of our open houses every Tuesday from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm. We look forward to showing you just how good retirement living can be.
Looking for other weekend getaway ideas? Check out our blog, Plan a Weekend Getaway in NYC: Senior Travel Tips & Thing to Do for Seniors and Easy Day Trips from Hamilton Township, NJ.