Top Free Things to Do in Greater Philadelphia
Some of the city’s best inexpensive offerings...
We know that (some of) the best things in life are free.
So budget-conscious travelers, rejoice! It’s super easy to spend a few days (or more) seeing the sights in Philadelphia without spending much at all.
Here’s what’s free to do in Philly: quintessential historic attractions (like the Liberty Bell Center and other attractions in Independence National Historical Park ); outdoor hangs (like Spruce Street Harbor Park and Franklin Square ); iconic public art ( Rocky Statue , LOVE sculpture ) and much more.
Plus, there are a handful of pay-what-you-wish opportunities at some of Philadelphia’s top museums.
Here’s our guide to some of the best free (and almost free) things to do in Philadelphia.
Throughout the expansive, light-filled Liberty Bell Center , larger-than-life historic documents and images explore the facts and myths surrounding our nation’s most famous Bell. The 2,080-pound, mostly copper structure is housed here, too, and crowds line up for a glimpse. No tickets are required to visit the Liberty Bell Center, though residents and visitors may need to wait in a line. (Learn more about visiting the bell here .)
- Don’t miss: A photo with the Liberty Bell (obviously). The iconic cracked gong makes for a stellar photo backdrop with Independence Hall in the background behind glass-windowed walls.
In the heart of Old City is where the country was born. The grassy expanse between 5th and 6th Streets from Walnut to Race Streets — known as Independence National Historical Park — contains some of the most seminal locations in our country’s history. One of those spots, Independence Hall — where the good ol’ Declaration of Independence was signed — remains mostly free to the public, although tickets are required. (There is a $1 administrative fee on the free ticket.) Congress Hall and Old City Hall — also part of the Independence Hall complex — are free to visit.
- Don’t miss: The Assembly Room of Independence Hall, the place where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed.
Yo, Adrian! The Rocky Statue and the Rocky Steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art are two of the most visited attractions in Philadelphia — and they’re both free. Live a little piece of film history in the most Philadelphia way possible. (For inexpensive ways to head inside the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art, keep reading.)
- Don’t miss: A run up those iconic steps. Once there, turn around — arms hoisted in the air, of course — to cherish the spectacular view of the Philadelphia skyline. Then head back down to find the bronze statue of Rocky at the bottom that was originally commissioned for Rocky III .
Love don’t cost a thing. One of the City of Brotherly Love’s best-known landmarks is LOVE itself — the Robert Indiana sculpture in John F. Kennedy Plaza (or LOVE Park , as it’s known to locals). The sculpture was restored and repainted in 2018, and the park was entirely redesigned to add more green areas and a high-tech water feature. The AMOR sculpture — a Spanish version of the LOVE sculpture — is on display at Sister Cities Park , a short walk from LOVE Park.
- Don’t miss: Your chance to take the ultimate selfie. There may be a line, but it moves quickly.
The free-to-stroll-through Elfreth’s Alley was home to the 18th-century artisans and tradespeople who were the backbone of colonial Philadelphia. While a modern city has sprung up around it, the alley now preserves three centuries of evolution. Philadelphia citizens still occupy these homes, with their old-fashioned flower boxes, shutters, Flemish bond brickwork and other architectural details. Two adjacent houses, built in 1755, are now a museum and open to the public (for a small fee).
- Don’t miss: Bladens Court , the alley-within-the-alley named after a biscuit maker. It’s a tiny walkway between two of the street’s homes.
The gateway to all things Philadelphia, the Independence Visitor Center is the perfect place to begin a visit to the region. Just a stone’s throw from some of Philadelphia’s most popular attractions — Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell — visitors get a free comprehensive orientation to the culture (you’ll need it), history, shopping and dining options available throughout the region from the friendly and knowledgeable staff.
- Don’t miss: The free welcome film in the center’s theater and the interactive digital wall that lets visitors explore the city’s offerings via a touch screen.
For History Buffs
See where the first American soldiers made their icy winter home way back when. Valley Forge National Historical Park — the site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of General George Washington and the Continental Army — offers a glimpse into the Revolutionary War. Visitors can explore the park — including a renovated visitor center — and its historic structures (like Washington’s Headquarters and the National Memorial Arch) by car, by bike or on foot guided via the park’s cell phone tour .
- Don’t miss: Valley Forge Visitor Center, complete with a new-in-2022 exhibition that traces the history of the Continental Army’s encampment and the efforts by residents to preserve Valley Forge in the decades that followed. Visitors also get their first look at many Revolutionary War artifacts that had been shelved during the renovation process.
Forrest Gump isn’t the only bench-dwelling storyteller. In Philadelphia’s Historic District , storytellers hold court on three Once Upon A Nation benches . Learn fascinating details about some of our nation’s earliest “celebrity” citizens in the places where the history actually happened. Find the uniformed storytellers at Independence Square, Franklin Square and the Betsy Ross House — as well as in Valley Forge National Historical Park.
- Don’t miss: Stories about the Revolutionary War encampment at Valley Forge.
Where: Independence Square, 111 S. Independence Mall West
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Franklin Square, 200 N. 6th Street
Betsy Ross House, 239 Arch Street
Valley Forge National Historical Park, 1400 N. Outer Line Drive
The President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation is an open-air exhibit located next to the Liberty Bell Center . At the site, visitors explore the paradox of slavery and freedom at the nation’s first executive mansion, where Presidents George Washington and John Adams lived during their terms — and where nine enslaved people served the first president.
- Don’t miss: Structural remains uncovered during a 2007 archeological dig.
The recently reopened 100,000-square-foot, five-story Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History brings the story of Jews in the U.S. to life. Among the 1,200 artifacts and documents are Albert Einstein’s pipe, Irving Berlin’s piano and Steven Spielberg’s first camera. On the way in, don’t miss Deborah Kass’s OY/YO sculpture outside, an eye-catching new installation. Admission to the museum is free with a suggested donation.
This circa-1898 fire station-turned-museum offers lessons in the history of firefighting via old trucks, ladders, helmets, photographs and a tribute to the heroes of September 11, 2001. Kids can try on firefighter coats and boots, play with puzzles and learn how to make emergency calls. While admission is free, donations are welcome.
- Don’t miss: The Apparatus Floor , home to horse-drawn fire engines and early motorized engines.
Although he only lived in Philly for six years, Edgar Allan Poe created some of his most famous works here, like The Fall of the House of Usher, The Murders in the Rue Morgue , The Mask of the Red Death and Ligeia . (Philly has that effect on people, you know.) You can take a tour of the house (be sure to check the attraction’s hours beforehand) to get your creepy creative juices flowing.
- Don’t miss: The Reading Room, a recreation of the room Poe described in his 1840 essay The Philosophy of Furniture .
Over five centuries of scientific discovery are packed into the walls of the Science History Institute . The permanent exhibition showcases hundreds of 18th- to 20th-century artifacts. Together, they tell the stories of the successes, failures and surprises behind the scientific discoveries that changed our world.
- Don’t miss: The Whole of Nature and the Mirror of Art , an exhibit featuring glass-mounted photo reproductions of engravings from 17th-century alchemical books.
Re-live the Ryerss family’s glory days at The Ryerss Museum , located inside the Northeast Philadelphia mansion the family owned. Inside, guests can find artifacts that the trading family acquired during their travels, including statues from Japanese Buddhist temples, European art, Native American woven baskets, and the family’s personal collection of shells, rocks and even sea creatures. While admission is free, donations are welcome.
- Don’t miss: Front parlor, dining room and rear parlor, which display the original art and furniture that decorated the house.
It’s all about science, art and history, so it’s no surprise that the American Philosophical Society (ASP) was another of Ben Franklin’s ideas. Exhibitions come from APS’s collection of nearly 13 million early American manuscripts, maps, Native American languages, scientific instruments and more.
- Don’t miss: The rotating special exhibitions that encourage multiple visits.
For Cultural Connoisseurs
Taller Puertorriqueño , in El Centro de Oro’s El Corazόn Cultural Center, serves as a community center, art gallery and event space for symposia, readings, film screenings, artist workshops and more.
- Don’t miss: Author visits and cultural talks.
Before the advent of a public library, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia was founded in 1814 to provide knowledge through books. You can schedule a tour to see tons of old books and ornate reading rooms.
- Don’t miss: Ornate reading rooms.
The three-story 19th-century exhibit hall at the Wagner Free Institute of Science houses mounted birds and mammals, fossils, rocks and minerals, insects, shells, dinosaur bones, and the first American saber-toothed tiger.
- Don’t miss: William Wagner’s personal mineral collection.
Originally the sole water pumping station for the city circa the early 1800s, Fairmount Water Works is an educational and environmental center, teaching visitors about sustainable uses of land and water. (It’s also a fancy event venue, too, though that’s not free.)
- Don’t miss: Parts of the original turbine that have been housed in the facilities since 1851.
See contemporary art from international and national artists and students enrolled at this visual arts school for women .
- Don’t miss: Black Lives Matter: Ceramic Mural , first created in 1975 by artist John Costanza and students and teachers at Philadelphia’s University City High School, and now permanently housed at Moore.
Students enrolled at the Curtis Institute of Music perform free recitals multiple times a week. Just make sure you reserve your spot ahead of time.
- Don’t miss: Graduation recitals — they’ve been practicing so long for this!
“Gee, I’d love to see some top-notch musicians for free.” If you’ve ever had that thought, then Free at the Kimmel is for you.
- Don’t miss: Events with a dance floor — any excuse to dance.
Non-commercial radio station WXPN hosts free concerts at World Cafe Live on Fridays at — you guessed it — noon. Past performers have included Parquet Courts, Christine and the Queens, and Fantastic Negrito.
- Don’t miss: Anyone who could go on to win a Grammy.
For Lovers of the Great Outdoors
In a city of many cool parks, this one is definitely one of the coolest. Open in the late spring through early fall, Spruce Street Harbor Park faces the Delaware River and is populated with colorful hammocks, Adirondack chairs and lights galore.
- Don’t miss: Grabbing a spot on one of the floating barges.
Spanning eight miles of riverfront winding through the heart of Philadelphia, Schuylkill Banks is open year-round for walking, jogging, cycling, picnics and dog-walking. Part of the Schuylkill River Trail , the park stretches along the Schuylkill River and links the western edge of Center City to the Philadelphia Museum of Art , Fairmount Park and Kelly Drive. One of the coolest parts of Schuylkill Banks: the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk , a 2,000-foot-long pathway that extends the Schuylkill River Trail from Locust Street to South Street — and also enables visitors to literally walk over the river and enjoy some of the best skyline views around.
- Don’t miss: Yoga on the Banks , a pay-what-you-can community yoga practice.
Hanging out in the expansive, delightful Franklin Square and marveling at the fountain show is 100% free. Partaking in the carousel, Philly-themed mini-golf and SquareBurger requires a small fee.
- Don’t miss : The fountain show (spring into fall) and the Electrical Spectacle Light Show (during the holiday and winter season).
Stroll through the fragrant flower gardens and riverside meadows at Bartram’s Garden , the place where gardening first took root in America.
- Don’t miss : Ann Bartram Carr Garden, created by John Bartram’s granddaughter and the first public green space here.
A quarter-mile stretch of green space situated on the elevated former Reading Railroad tracks is free and open to the public, boasting rustic plantings, industrial artwork, plenty of benches and some very cool giant wooden swings.
- Don’t miss: Final Fridays , fun gatherings featuring artists, activities and more during warmer months.
One of the oldest playgrounds in America is best known for the circa-1899 Ann Newman Giant Wooden Slide and offers tots (ages 10 and under) a safe place to play, jump, swing, climb and learn about nature.
- Don’t miss: The aforementioned giant wooden slide.
Parks are even cooler when they’re sky high. Located 12 floors up, this University City park in the sky is open year round for chill hangs (and food, drink and movie nights if you’ve got a few bucks.)
- Don’t miss: Sundown Social on Saturdays, complete with lawn games and sunsets.
The Delaware River waterfront has no shortage of alfresco chilling destinations, two of which offer excellent views of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Cherry Street Pier is home to artists in residence who open their studios for free tours too. Race Street Pier is a photography hotspot for its unique perspective under the bridge and the river.
- Don’t miss : First Friday at Cherry Street Pier.
Where: Cherry Street Pier, 121 N. Christopher Columbus Boulevard
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Race Street Pier, Race Street and Christopher Columbus Boulevard
Cast a line or go birdwatching at this wildlife refuge just beyond the grounds of the Philadelphia International Airport.
- Don’t miss: Wildlife watching .
Historic headstones and ornate mausoleums combine history and eye candy at this historic cemetery , open for free visits.
- Don’t miss: The gravesite of longtime Phillies’ announcer Harry Kalas. It’s adorned by a microphone monument and seats from Veterans Stadium.
Spanning nearly 200 acres, this vast cemetery features an iconic crumbling brownstone gatehouse, perfect for Instagram photos.
- Don’t miss : Revolutionary War veteran graves — it’s history!
More Free Things to Do
Philly’s parks and trails are calling — and almost all of them are free to enjoy! Our guide to running and biking includes route lengths and recommended starting points for more than 20 scenic trails. Find acres of gardens, picnic spots, athletic fields and unbeatable skyline views in our guide to Philly’s top parks — a collection of restful spaces in Center City and beyond. And our roundup of spots for outdoor adventures highlights places for kayaking, horseback riding, fishing and more.
- Don’t miss: Fairmount Park , one of the largest urban parks, spanning 2,050 acres on both sides of the Schuylkill River.
Sometimes the best way to learn something new — or discover history that’s hidden in plain sight — is to explore on your own. Take advantage of Greater Philadelphia’s self-guided driving and walking tours — many of which are free! — that put you in control of when and how you explore top attractions and important historical sites. Great for solo excursions or small groups, these self-guided explorations are an excellent way to uncover interesting facts about the region’s anti-slavery history, the encampment at Valley Forge National Historical Park and even the historic barns of Bucks County.
- Don’t miss: Mural Arts self-guided tour to see some primo public art.
Where: Various locations including Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 20th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Speaking of public art, Philadelphia is home to one of the largest collections of it in the country. The city has thousands of artworks thanks to organizations like the Association for Public Art and Mural Arts Philadelphia, the nation’s largest public art program. Stunning sculptures sit outside of museums and in parks, while captivating murals brighten the facades of skyscrapers in Center City and walls in quieter neighborhoods. And new works are commissioned and added to the city’s collection all the time, joining well-established pieces by accomplished artists like Robert Indiana, Amy Sherald and Auguste Rodin in Philly’s giant outdoor art gallery. Peruse our guide to essential public art in Greater Philadelphia for more on where to see these works.
- Don’t miss: Chinatown Friendship Gate, the ornate arch at the entrance to Chinatown.
Every Friday night starting at 5 p.m., the Philadelphia Museum of Art is open to visitors who can pay what they wish to explore the entire main building, featuring works by Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí, Himalayan artists and many others. Budget-conscious art lovers can also pay what they wish on the first Sunday of every month .
- Don’t miss: The Large Bathers by Cezanne and Marcel Duchamp’s Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors (The Large Glass) .
On the first Sunday of every month, visitors can enjoy free admission (with registration) at the Barnes , home to one of the world’s most important collections of impressionist, post-impressionist and early modernist paintings by renowned artists like Renoir, Cézanne, Picasso and Van Gogh. The museum also showcases American paintings and decorative arts, metalwork, African sculpture and Native American textiles, jewelry and ceramics — all presented in Albert C. Barnes’ distinctive arrangements.
- Don’t miss: African art, Native American ceramics and Pennsylvania German furniture collected by Albert C. Barnes.
Housing the largest collection of works by Auguste Rodin outside of Paris, the Rodin Museum features treasures such as The Gates of Hell and a bronze caste of The Thinker . The surrounding serene gardens are free to explore and a great place to find artistic inspiration. Gallery admission is always pay what you wish, though the museum does provide suggested donation amounts.
- Don’t miss: The Thinker because it’s so instantly recognizable.
For History Buffs
For Cultural Connoisseurs
For Lovers of the Great Outdoors
More Free Things to Do
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