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Philly has a lot to offer for tourists. You can easily spend a few days just visiting all the iconic sights like the Liberty Bell, the Rocky Statue, Independence Hall, Ben Franklin Museum, a trip to the waterfront, the Schuylkill River, to name some of the most famous ones.
Getting around Philly to visit the tourist attractions is fairly easy, and you have a lot of options. The first thing to decide is how to get around. On foot, bike, ride share or public transit. All are good options for visitors, and the place to do all of this is City Center.
All of the main tourist attractions are in the center, and it has everything you need. Hotels, grocery stores, shopping, shopping, and more shopping, and then eating. The restaurants range from food carts (some of the best options) to fine dining.
One Big Grid
What makes navigating the city center so easy is that it’s just one big grid. Downtown is to the north and the Schuylkill River is on the west and to the east is the Delaware River. Inside that there are six districts: the Parkway Museum District, Rittenhouse District, Convention Center District, Washington Square District, Old City District, Historic Waterfront District.
Philadelphia on Foot
An advantage of walking is that you get to experience more of the city. If you ride to each destination, you are missing out on some of the feel and charm the city has to offer.
In fact, Philadelphia has been listed as one of the most walkable cities in the U.S. of cities of more than 1 million people for years. In 2019 they were 4th with a Walk Score of 79. William Penn gets the credit for designing the city this way, and it makes it easy to navigate. Other than some potential hazards due to construction zones and distracted drivers, there’s not much to be worried about – you can comfortably explore Philly on foot.
From the Waterfront on the Delaware River, the streets going north and south are numbered 1st to 26th ending at the Schuylkill River, then there are named streets going east and west completing the almost perfect grid.
It’s a great system if you want to know where you are and to figure out where you want to be. So, get a map or a map app and start walking. Once you get out there, you’ll find colorful “Walk! Philadelphia” signs all around that will help you navigate around the districts, but my guess is, you soon won’t need them, but it’s nice to know they are there.
Philly by Bike
Not only is Philly walkable, it is also very bikeable with its 44+ miles of bike lanes, 300 miles of bike, and shared-use trails with another 350 miles planned. There are around 1300 e-Bikes available around the city with a great deal of those in Center City. Stations are located all around the center making it easy to find an e-Bike, rent the bike and return it.
You can also rent pedal bikes at spots all around the city center or you can bring your own. In any case, getting around the city on a bike is fairly easy. If you do bike, know that cycling on the sidewalks in the city center is not allowed (you didn’t hear it here, but it’s rarely enforced) so you’ll have to use the streets, but most of those have bike lanes making traveling fairly comfortable without too much accident risk.
Philly by Uber and Lyft
There is almost no free parking anywhere in Philly and you most definitely will not want to drive. When your next stop is more than a mile away and your feet are getting tired you’re better off taking an Uber or a Lyft. In most cases, your ride will be with you in under 3 minutes. Take a look around – at lease 25% of the cars on the street in Philly are ride sharing vehicles.
Philly by PHLASH Downtown Loop
One of SEPTA’s bus routes is dedicated to helping those in the city center to get around fairly cheaply. It makes a loop from river to river down the center with plenty of stops. Individual rides are $2 a ride, but if you are going to ride more than twice, then get the day pass for $6 for some savings.
Philly by Public Transit
If you want to go outside of the city center, you can use SEPTA public transit. You can access the greater Philly system at various points downtown and use the buses, trolleys, or subways to get around the city.
As of May 2020, the cost of public transit in Philly is $2 a ride. The day pass for $6 is a good deal, but be aware that it is limited to 8 rides. The pass can be used on buses, trolleys, and subways.