Philadelphia, the state’s capital and largest city, is widely recognized as the cradle of American democracy. The City of Brotherly Love is a cultural mecca, brimming with art and colonial history.

The weather is ideal, the parks are full of cherry blossoms, and there are fewer tourists in attendance in the spring, early summer, and fall.

It would make for a great vacation if you also explored the nearby countryside.


Following his arrival in North America in 1682, Quaker William Penn founded the colony of Pennsylvania, which eventually led to the establishment of the city of Philadelphia. Penn wanted to establish a Quaker-inspired community where people could live in safety and harmony without fear of persecution.

Many later American cities were based on his plan for a grid layout with public squares in each quadrant. Rittenhouse Square, one of four parks planned by Penn some 350 years ago, was directly in front of the hotel where we stayed.

When Paul Philippe Cret and Jacques Greber, inspired by the City Beautiful movement, which had its roots in the French Beaux Arts style, began building the tree-lined Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 1917, they made the first major alteration to Penn’s plan.

As my husband and I strolled along the parkway on a beautiful Spring morning, I took in the sights and sounds of Paris and appreciated the unique atmosphere of walking on the Champs Elysees. We walked along a leafy path, past sculptural fountains, monuments, and buildings in the Beaux Arts style.

The Free Library of Philadelphia was a sight to behold because it was designed in the same classical French Louis XV style as the nearby Place de la Concorde in Paris.


Philadelphia City Hall is a wedding cake-like architectural masterpiece that we were planning to visit. It’s the largest freestanding masonry structure in the world, and it’s made out of white marble, brick, and limestone.

Penn’s city plan from 1682 features a French Second Empire Baroque-style building with about 700 rooms, which was also the tallest structure in the world when it was completed in 1894.

When we got there, we did like everyone else and looked up at the top of the clock tower to see the bronze statue of Penn.

More than 250 sculptures, all created by Alexander Milne Calder, the grandfather of the famous 20th-century sculptor Alexander Calder, decorate City Hall.

When I looked up, I saw four enormous bronze sculptures at the four corners of the building, as well as four enormous bronze eagles.

The building’s foundation is made of solid granite, and being inside its vast interior, with its enormous columns and elaborately carved capitals, was eerily reminiscent of the Egyptian pyramids I had seen on film and in documentaries.


The best place to start your exploration of the city is at Independence National Historic Park, which is also free. Take a stroll through the park and you’ll see important landmarks that all contributed to the ideals upon which the United States was founded.

Independence Hall, aN.T.O.H.S. World Heritage Site, is the first place you must visit. The delegates from the original 13 colonies signed the Declaration of Independence here in 1776, and the United States Constitution was ratified here in 1787.

A modest Georgian mansion from the early 18th century, with a spire that belies its significance as the “birthplace of American Government,” the building itself is unremarkable.

As we strolled along the green spaces, we passed the First and Second Banks of the United States, as well as the American Philosophical Society, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743, the Museum of the American Revolution, and the Old City Hall, where the United States Supreme Court met from 1790 to 1800.


It was well worth the price of admission to take in the exhibits and participate in the center’s interactive programs at the National Constitution Center.

In the popular Signers’ Hall, the exhibit recreated the final day of the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787, and it was a delight to walk among the life-size statues of the Founding Fathers.

The Liberty Bell, an iconic symbol of American independence, is also located in the park and is worth a visit.

The historic bell that once hung atop Independence Hall is on display in the Liberty Bell Center, a magnificently modern glass building that overlooks the Hall.

The bell rung at the first reading of the Declaration of Independence was “adopted as the symbol of freedom by abolitionists, suffragists, and other groups,” as noted on the Visit Philadelphia website.

Walk for about ten minutes from the Liberty Bell Center to the Betsy Ross House, where you can learn more about the origins of the first American flag.

Betsy Ross, real name Elizabeth Griscom, was born in 1752 and is widely credited as the flag’s creator. Thought about because her relatives have provided crucial eyewitness testimony. However, due to the fact that she designed flags for over 50 years, historians agree that she may have been responsible for the Stars and Stripes.


To visit Philadelphia and not see the Love sculpture would be a huge mistake. Visit the John F. Kennedy Plaza, also known as LOVE Park, next to City Hall to see this.

Originally conceived of as a painting in 1964, this sculpture by American artist Robert Indiana was eventually realized in aluminum and displayed in Philadelphia during the 1976 United States Bicentennial.

The sculpture’s initial iteration featured eye-catching tones of red, blue, and green; however, after examining archival photographs of Indiana, the artists decided to switch to red, green, and purple to more accurately represent her original color palette.

Sister Cities Park, not far from LOVE Park, is where we saw Robert Indiana’s 2016 installation of the AMOR sculpture.

The sculpture, which means “love” in Spanish and Latin, originally stood on the famous steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to commemorate Pope Francis’s historic visit to the city in 2015.

The museums in Philadelphia range from the amazing to the eccentric, but they’re all world-class. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is a must-see for any visitor, whether it’s their first time in the city or they’ve been there before.

As we drove up Benjamin Franklin Parkway, we could see the towering structure rising on the horizon. It has more than 200 galleries filled with works from its exceptional collection, making it the third largest art museum in the United States.

There are eight sections displaying everything from European paintings to American masterworks to South Asian textiles.

Some of the highlights include the world’s largest collection of works by French painter Marcel Duchamp, the best collection of Constantin Brancusi sculptures outside of Europe, a wonderful collection of works by self-taught artists, and significant works by Black, Indigenous, Latin American, Shaker, and Pennsylvania Dutch artists that celebrate Philadelphia. As a final souvenir from your trip, be sure to take a picture of yourself on the iconic Rocky steps.

Renovations by renowned architect Frank Gehry, completed and opened to the public just last year, completely reconfigured the vast interiors by adding vast amounts of new public space and enhancing accessibility without altering the building’s instantly recognizable exterior.


Sculptures by Francois Auguste Rene Rodin (1840-1917), widely regarded as an early innovator in modern sculpture, can be seen at the Rodin Museum, a small but impressive institution located just off the Franklin Parkway.

Jules E. Mastbaum, a voracious collector of Rodin sculptures, marbles, and drawings, conceived of the museum after falling in love with the artist’s work during a trip to Paris in 1924.

Mastbaum passed away at a young age, but his wife and daughters carried on with building the museum in his honor until its opening in 1924.

The Barnes Foundation was established in 1922 next door by art collector Albert C. Barnes (1872-1951). Barnes was a revolutionary thinker and activist for social justice who altered the art world for good.

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