A boon for budget travelers, Philadelphia is packed with American history. Here are all the attractions—from the United States Mint to the Liberty Bell—families can experience for free.
Home to many famous historical figures, public spaces and works of art, Philadelphia has plenty to offer visitors. Whether you’re interested in learning about the history of our nation’s first capital city or you want to soak in the local culture, here’s our guide to seeing Philadelphia’s highlights—without spending a dime.
Parks and Public Spaces
- Schuylkill River Trail: Over 26 miles long, this beautiful walkway runs from Philadelphia to Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Bring your bikes or enjoy a nice walk along the Schuylkill River. End the outing on the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk for a fantastic view of Philadelphia’s skyline. For more information, visit schuylkillbanks.org
- Smith Memorial Playground: For a kid-friendly afternoon, head to the Smith Memorial Playground, a 16,000-square-foot playhouse situated on a six-and-a-half acre playground. The playhouse is designed for children 5 and younger, while kids as old as 10 can enjoy the outdoor play area. For more information, visit smithplayground.org.
- John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge: Get a taste of the great outdoors without leaving the city limits. Go hiking on the park’s 10 miles of trails, borrow binoculars to check out the local wildlife, or check out the exhibits at the Visitor Center. For more information, visit fws.gov.
- Bartram’s Garden: At this 45-acre historic park, enjoy free kayaking and canoeing on the Schuylkill River, classes on gardening and cultivation, artists workshops, free outdoor movie nights and more. You can also explore the grounds on your own or join a guided tour (offered between April and December). For more information, visit bartramsgarden.org.
- Dream Garden: Though it’s not an actual garden, this work of art is a beautiful glass depiction of one. Located in an office building around one of Philadelphia’s more historical squares, this beautiful display is worth the short walk from Washington Square Park. For more information, visit visitphilly.com.
Museums and Historical Attractions
- Philadelphia Museum of Art: After 5pm on Fridays, pay as you wish to gain access to the museum’s collections and take part in fun activities like art-making workshops, yoga classes and board games. For more information, visit philamuseum.org.
- Institute of Contemporary Art: If you’re interested in what’s new in the world of contemporary art, stop by the ICA, where admission is always free. The Institute can be closed for a month or more between exhibits, so be sure to check the dates ahead of time. For more information, visit icaphila.org.
- The Barnes Museum: On the first Sunday of the month, entrance to the Barnes Museum is free. Aside from the extensive art collection, the museum also offers free hands-on activities and story time for kids. For more information, visit barnesfoundation.org.
- Chemical Heritage Foundation: If you’ve got a scientist in the family, this museum is a must-see. Learn about alchemy, the history of chemistry sets and more. For more information, visit chemheritage.org.
- Rodin Museum Garden: The Rodin Museum is “Pay What You Wish” every day (with a suggested donation of $10). Even if you don’t go inside, you can always snap a photo in front of the famous Thinker statue and enjoy the other statues in the garden free of charge. For more information, visit rodinmuseum.org.
- Independence Hall: Visit the building where the founding fathers debated the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. Tickets are necessary for entrance, but you can pick them up from the Visitor Center on the day of your visit. Make sure to get there early, because tickets can run out by late afternoon. For more information, visit nps.gov.
- The Liberty Bell: Take a gander at the original Liberty Bell, with its famous crack, for free at the Liberty Bell Center. Read about the bell’s effect on history any day of the year except for Christmas. For more information, visit nps.org.
- Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site: Love scary stories? See where the famous horror writer got the inspiration for the spooky short stories and poems we all know and love. For more information, visit nps.org.
- United States Mint: Watch as real United States coins are made (2 million every minute!) and see the first coining press of the United States. For more information, visit usmint.gov.
- Reading Terminal Market: This century-old market hosts vendors selling everything from local Amish goods to exotic produce. For more information, visit readingterminalmarket.org.
- Sedgley Woods Historic Disc Golf Course: Got a Frisbee handy? Head to Sedgley Woods for a free round of disc golf! The 27-hole course is a great place to spend an afternoon outdoors with the family. For more information, visit sedgleywoods.com.
- Philadelphia Brewing Company: Join a tour for a behind-the-scenes look at this historic brewery between noon and 3pm on Saturdays. For more information, visit philadelphiabrewing.com.
- Yards Brewery: Tour the 100% wind-powered brewery Saturdays and Sundays from noon until 4pm. Kids are welcome on Sundays if accompanied by a parent. For more information, visit yardsbrewing.com.