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Philadelphia is a huge city that’s packed with historical attractions, must-taste local delicacies, an arts scene that permeates every window, door, and alley, and famously friendly people. Like any big city, it can be tough to make headway and understand the lay of the land, and it’s a perfectly savvy travel move to find a great tour to help you catch your bearings. Philly has lots of great tours on offer, and no matter what your interest is (or even how well you already know the city), there’s something for you among the best of Viator’s offerings.
Best Walking Tour: Old City Walking Tour in Philadelphia
When the United States was in its infancy, Old City was Philadelphia, and although the city grew around it, most of the historic city center remained well-preserved. On this 90-minute walking tour, you’ll stroll past all of the famous sites: Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Christ Church burial grounds (where Benjamin Franklin and his wife Sarah are buried), the U.S. Mint, and the oldest residential street in the USA. You’ll also catch a glimpse at some contemporary additions to this area, like the Keys to Community sculpture, a bust of Benjamin Franklin made with over 1000 bronze keys donated by local schoolchildren. It’s a pleasant walk around a beautiful district that’ll give you a solid look at the city’s history but also a good feel for the Philadelphia of the present.
Best Segway Tour: Segway Tour of Philadelphia’s Mural’s
Philadelphia is home to some of the world’s most impressive large-scale urban murals, most of which are part of the nation’s largest (literally) public arts program, Mural Arts Philadelphia. This initiative sees the whole city as a blank canvas and thoughtfully transforms walls in both prominent public spaces and tucked-away alleys into collaborative pieces of art. And a Segway tour is a great way to see them. The self-propelled scooter lets you move quite a bit faster than walking, but you’re still outside and not looking through a bus or car window. This 2.5-hour tour starts with a quick Segway lesson (you can do it, really) and then it’s on to the murals. You’ll zip through several neighborhoods, including Old City, Northern Liberties, Spring Garden/Loft District, and Chinatown, seeing over 30 murals along the way and learning about the artists who created them and their inspirations. A small group ensures personalized attention from your guide.
Best Trolley Tour: BYOB Tour of Old City in Philadelphia
This ain’t your grandma’s trolley tour. Bring a six-pack or a bottle of wine and climb aboard this cheerful trolley for an informative twirl through Philly’s Old City. You’ll see the famous historical monuments, of course, but you’ll also get a chance to see some of the pop-culture spots that Philadelphia is also known for: the Love Statue and Rocky Statue, Chinatown’s Friendship Gate, and the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Yes, you’ll have time to do the Rocky run up to the top!) An informative, fun-loving tour guide will accompany your group the whole way, and be sure to ask them for restaurant recommendations and nightlife tips as you make your way through the city — they know their stuff.
Best Hop-On/Hop-Off Tour: Philadelphia Two-Day Hop-On/Hop-Off
Like most hop-on/hop-off tours, this may not be the most cutting-edge concept, but it’s a solid, affordable, comprehensive, easy-to-use service that lets you see a huge swath of the city of Philadelphia at your own pace. This two-day ticket allows you total access to the network of red buses with their 27 designated stops (including the Betsy Ross House, Chinatown’s Friendship Gate, the Rocky Steps, and the Korean War Memorial), so you can either ride the loop and listen to the audio commentary or jump on and off at your leisure. Or, likely, a combination of both. This combo tour also includes admission to the Eastern State Penitentiary, the notorious fortress-like former prison was once the temporary home of mobster Al Capone and bank robber Willie Sutton. It’s a huge building with lots of exhibits to enjoy, so plan for at least two hours for your visit there.
Best History Tour: Founding Fathers Tour of Philadelphia
If you want to learn about America’s founding fathers, Philadelphia is the place to go and this tour is the tour to take. Your two-hour walk will start at the Betsy Ross house, where the first stars and stripes (which had just thirteen stars, of course) is said to have been pieced together. From there, continue strolling through the Old City Historic District, where you’ll learn about William Penn and his Quaker brethren and how they founded the city, as well as the founding fathers who would later meet in this area to draft the Declaration of Independence. You’ll see homes where Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and John Adams lived, see the Liberty Bell and the Tiffany mosaic at the Curtis Center, and view Independence Hall (from the outside; if you’d like to tour inside, you’ll have to go separately). Your final stop will be for a cold beer or other frosty beverage at a local brewpub, where your guide will explain a bit more about the city’s history and send you off with good cheer.
Best Brewery Tour: Sip of Philly Brewery Tour
Philadelphia is heaven on earth for craft beer enthusiasts, with dozens of award-winning micro and craft breweries and brewpubs dotted throughout the city. Pub crawls and brewery tours are always more fun if you don’t have to drive, and a tour is a great way to guarantee that someone else will be behind the wheel. This 3.5-hour tour takes the leisurely route, with your expert guide accompanying you for three different stops at local breweries for a behind-the-scenes tour and tasting at each.
You’ll sample a dozen or so different brews, nosh on some Philly-style pretzels, and learn all about the history and the latest news on the Philadelphia brewing industry. Your guide is a bona fide beer expert, so whether you’re a casual enthusiast or a serious microbrew geek, you’ll have lots to talk about as you make your way through the city. Stops vary by date and day of the week, but typically include some combination of Flying Fish Brewing Company, Philadelphia Brewing Company, Lunacy Brewing Company, Dock Street Brewery, Crime and Punishment, Yards Brewing Company, and Cooper River Distilling.
Best Food Tour: Philadelphia Iconic Foods Tour
Though they’re almost definitely the most famous, cheesesteaks aren’t the only food that came out of Philly. This tour takes you on a deep dive of some of the foods that true locals consider iconic, things like Philadelphia-style pretzels and tomato pie, all while strolling Manayunk. Manayunk, once a suburb of Philly but long since absorbed into the city’s larger fabric, is a 300-year-old neighborhood filled with charming Victorian houses and a fascinating history that hinges on various waves of immigration.
Like many historically working-class neighborhoods, it’s a fantastic place to eat. Your food-loving local guide knows their way around and will take you to several of the neighborhood’s finest mom-and-pop joints to sample the classic wares. The tour includes at least 6 tasting samples and a helpful booklet that you can take along with you to guide the rest of your visit. And yes, there’s cheesesteak on the day’s menu.
Best Ghost Tour: Dark Philly Adult Night Tour
Leave the kiddos at home. This tour is scary. Developed by a local university professor, the R-rated adventure takes guests on a nighttime walk throughout the Old City, revealing all of its darkest secrets. There are legends to be told, of course — a ghostly pirate ship that is said to sail up the river, a tavern that has been haunted for as long as anyone can remember — but it’s the true stories that really terrify. See the sights of whipping posts and gallows, former brothels and the homes of serial killers. It’s a fun (and at times downright bone-chilling) look at a different side of Philadelphia’s history than the one that makes it into textbooks.
Best Building Tour: Macy’s Center City History Tour in Philadelphia
Why would a person take an entire tour of a department store? Well, Philadelphians will gladly tell you that Macy’s Center City, the former Wanamaker’s Department Store, is so much more than just a store. Built in the grandiose neo-Renaissance style around a massive central court, Wanamaker’s was the first department store in Philadelphia. John Wanamaker himself was a retail game-changer on an international level, being one of the first mercantilists to offer contemporary-style employee benefits (healthcare, for example) and dramatically rethinking the customer experience.
Now a Macy’s, the building is still home to the world’s largest functional pipe organ and the famous 2,500-pound bronze eagle in the Grand Court. Your guide will show you around the building while explaining how groundbreaking the establishment truly was, and you’ll come away with a new understanding of retail history and turn-of-the-century architecture, as well as a discount coupon for your Macy’s purchase. (Hey, may as well get your shopping done while you’re here!) This tour is fully wheelchair-accessible.