A Travel Guide for How to Visit Philadelphia on a Budget

Philadelphia is a major American city with much to see and visit.
Mark Kahler, licensed to About.com

The City of Brotherly Love draws visitors for business, sightseeing, and historical explorations. Make your visit memorable without spending too much money.

When to Visit

Winters can be very cold and snowy; summers are sometimes hot and quite humid. Spring and autumn offer the most pleasant weather options. Most visitors do come in summer, especially on Independence Day. Be sure to reserve well in advance for those popular dates. Shop for flights to Philadelphia and gauge the seasonal prices for airfares.

Where to Eat

Philly cheese steak sandwiches are famous and easy to find. But the region features a wide range of ethnic specialties that also should not be missed. Menupages.com provides quick online access to hundreds of menus and budget choices. Many of the restaurant choices, grouped geographically, have been reviewed.

Where to Stay

Central Philadelphia (commonly called "center city") is among the most densely populated areas you'll find anywhere in the U.S. Real estate is expensive and hotel rates reflect the costs of doing business there. Many budget travelers have success booking rooms along I-95 near the airport, but you'll have to factor in transportation costs if your goal is to visit center city. Do a baseline Philadelphia hotel search to determine the going rate for a room at the time of your visit. Online auctions such as Priceline work well in Philadelphia if you need a room in the downtown area.

 

Getting Around

Airport trains make ground transportation cheaper here. SEPTA is an acronym for Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority. SEPTA offers an $8 USD one-day pass that's good for eight rides on any bus, trolley or subway train (but not for regional rail). If you'll be spending more time, there is a one-week TransPass for $24 that allows unlimited travel within a given zone. Opt for cabs at night. In some areas, mass transit can be unsafe after dark.

Lancaster County

Although there are many Amish communities across the U.S., Lancaster County has one of the largest and best-known settlements. U.S. 30 is the best route from Philadelphia to the city of Lancaster. The trip takes about 90 minutes from central Philadelphia. Some of the attractions here are very touristy, but it's possible to visit authentic Amish farms, farmer's markets and sample some delicious meals at prices that won't break your budget.

Atlantic City

About 65 miles east of Philadelphia lies Atlantic City, a day trip enjoyed by many visitors to Philly. Much like Las Vegas, Atlantic City offers a wide array of casinos and top-name entertainment. You can find Atlantic City hotel room discounts with a little online shopping before you go. New Jersey Transit Trains leave 14 times a day from Philadelphia's 30th Street Station and stop at the Atlantic City Terminal, where a free shuttle bus serves a variety of casinos. The train ride is just $10.75 USD each way.

More Philadelphia Tips

For history buffs and nature lovers: Valley Forge

This is where George Washington and his troops spent a miserable winter that nearly cut his military numbers in half. You can tour the Valley Forge Historic Site on foot for free, but you'll pay for more elaborate tours. There's a nice flat path through wooded areas and picnic sites.

Parking is tight, so consider alternatives

Mass transportation is a good choice here when safe and practical. Philadelphia has a very active cycling community, and there are lots of places to rent a bike.

University City offers a college town experience

This was Philly's first suburb, and it is now a vibrant urban area that's home to several colleges and universities, including Drexel and the University of Pennsylvania. University City offers a variety of museums, cafes, shops and tree-lined streets.

Shop tax-free

King of Prussia Mall houses more than 400 stores and restaurants. They do not charge sales taxes on clothing or shoes. Not a bad deal if you can find items that start out reasonably priced. From I-76, take exit 327 onto Mall Blvd.