Free Things to Do Philadelphia – 16 Must-Try Activities

Chock full of American Revolutionary history, diverse art, and some mouthwatering local specialties, the City of Brotherly Love can’t help but make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Nevertheless, a trip to Philadelphia doesn’t always come cheap.

Follow along to discover the 16 best free things to do in Philadelphia.

From replaying your favorite Rocky scene on the Museum steps to touring tons of historical sites such as the Liberty Bell, there’s no end to free things to do in Philly. Preserve your precious vacation budget when you take advantage of free admission at some of the world’s top art museums. Or feed your belly and soul when you wander through the Reading Terminal Market.

Stroll along the scenic banks of the Schuylkill River, or sharpen those photography skills on a self-guided street art tour.

However you choose to enjoy the Birthplace of America, our handy guide ensures you won’t spend a dime.

Philadelphia Hotels

Can’t wait to set those peepers on that infamous Liberty Bell crack? Before you get a jump start on all the amazing things to do for free in Philadelphia, you’ll need to secure some lodgings. While we have yet to figure out a way to score gratis hotel accommodations, we can offer a wide array of Philadelphia Hotels for every price point and budget.

Settle inside Center City and enjoy easy access to the markets, museums, and more. Or, enjoy rooftop pools and onsite eating in the Historic Center. Wherever you decide to rest in the Quaker City book with ease knowing you are always guaranteed our lowest rates online.

interior view of hotel room in Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USAFree Things to Do Philadelphia

Put down that Philly Cheesesteak because it’s time to start saving! No matter if you are dying to marvel at Monet’s footbridges, or walk down the hallowed halls where the Declaration of Independence was ratified, this city of grit and history is bound to impress without breaking the bank.

Independence Visitor Center

Woo hoo! So you’ve finally arrived in the City of Brotherly and Sisterly Love and you are wondering where your first stop should be? Get the lay of the land without spending a cent, when you swing by the Independence Visitor Center.

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Here visitors from all over can get acquainted with the city’s many attractions and landmarks. Chat for free with a dedicated expert and begin crafting your ideal itinerary, or explore the city’s largest digital interactive wall. Don’t leave without a stroll through the gift shop, or sneaking in a screening of the Official Welcome Film of Philadelphia.

Girl with her back turned to the camera looking up at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
photo credit: Independence Historic Area – Downtown Philadelphia via Facebook

Independence Hall

Ready to brush up on some American History 101? Return to our Nation’s roots when you traverse the grassy expanse known as Independence National Historical Park. Home to Independence Hall, history buffs will be in awe as they walk through the same room where both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were signed.

Originally constructed to be the Pennsylvania State House, this building once housed all three branches of Pennsylvania’s colonial government. Visitors can take in the Assembly Room, coat of arms, and more when they join one of several guided tours.

While Independence Hall offers free admission* tickets are required, and you must reserve yours ahead of time.

*Please note there is a $1 imposed administrative fee on free tickets. Tickets are not required in January or February.

Liberty Bell Center

Did you even go to Philly if you didn’t score a selfie with one of the world’s most famous symbols of Liberty? In line with its message of freedom, the Liberty Bell Center is always proud to offer free admission. Observe the infamous crack up close as you dive into the history of this stunning Philadelphia monument.

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Originally known as the State House Bell, this mound of metal actually cracked on its very first ring! In fact, the widened crack is actually the repair job.

Although first used to call lawmakers to meetings or alert the townspeople to hear the reading of the news, eventually this storied bell would become significant for its message of liberty. It would go on to be used by abolitionists, women’s suffrage activists, civil rights leaders, and others in their fight for equality.

Close up shot looking up at the Liberty BellMural Mile

Who says art can’t inspire change? Get swept up in the passion and creativity of Mural Arts Philadelphia when you take yourself on a  self-guided walking tour of the country’s largest public art program.

Revel in the vivid colors of hundred-foot-high murals which showcase freedom fighters, local poetry, climate justice initiatives, and more. With both walking tours—Mural Mile North and Mural Mile South you can learn about the history of the project as well as see some truly stunning street art.

Rodin Museum

One of the many jewels of the Philadelphia art scene, the Rodin Museum has been sharing masterpieces of plaster, bronze, marble, and more with the public for over 90 years. Within their gorgeous Beaux-Arts style building, visitors will discover the largest collection in the world of Auguste Rodin outside of Paris.

True Rodin aficionados will be in heaven as they observe seminal works such as The Gates of Hell and a bronze cast of The Thinker. In addition, guests can see Rodin’s creative process come to life with sketch drawings and designs.

No trip to the museum is complete without a wander through the gardens which contain numerous other sculpture works and a lovely reflecting pool. Entry to the Rodin is always pay what you wish, although the museum does suggest a donation amount.

Shot of a hallway with white walls and a blue ceiling with several pieces of abstract art hanging in it at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
photo credit: Philadelphia Museum of Art via Facebook

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Initially chartered for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, today the Philadelphia Museum of Art is home to a staggering collection of over 240,000 objects. Routinely named as one of the best art museums in the world, their various exhibits and permanent galleries include a wide range of sculptures, paintings, prints, armor, photographs, and more.

Observe 2,000-year-old archeological textiles or get lost in thought as you spot works by Renoir, Degas, and Cezanne. Looking to the future ahead? View thought-provoking contemporary pieces by Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, and Zoe Leonard.

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Make sure you carve out a minute to admire the stately Great Stair Hall and Diana statue and don’t forget to take a gander at “the strangest work of art in any museum” with a visit to Étant donnés by Marcel Duchamp. Score all of this beauty for free when you attend during the museum’s pay-what-you-wish days on both the first Sunday of the month, 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., and every Friday night, 5:00–8:45 p.m.

Psst… ready for your close-up? Live out your own Rocky fantasy when you recreate the Italian Stallion’s iconic jog up the Museum’s steps.

Barnes Foundation

Art, education, and horticulture come together at the Barnes Foundation. Founded on a belief that art should not segregate, this museum is home to one of the world’s greatest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modernist paintings. Alongside European works by Renoir, Picasso, and Van Gogh, visitors will discover African sculptures, metalwork, and more.

Let the new and the old collide as you marvel at pieces by Matisse or spot Native American pottery. From Van Gogh’s The Postman to French Medieval sculptures, there are untold delights to discover. The Foundation also contains a lush Arboretum* which is home to over 2,500 species of plants, flowers, and ferns.

The Barnes Foundation is always free for all guests under 12 and offers free admission for teachers, active service military, and others on select days.

pink cherry blossoms in the spring in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, USA
photo credit: Rikumo via Facebook

Free at the Kimmel

Take a break from Picasso and Warhol and let loose with some good tunes. Live entertainment doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg when you hightail it to the Kimmel Cultural Campus. This epicenter of performance provides both educational and exceptional experiences.

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Philly visitors would do well to check out their schedule of free events in the Plaza. Curated especially for the community, round up your rag-tag group of travelers and get ready to party underneath their 150 ft iconic high glass dome. Savor happy hour DJ sets or get down to nighttime shindigs of hip-hop, neo-soul, and salsa.

Elfreth’s Alley

A riotous display of color coupled with charming cobblestone streets enchant visitors of all ages to frequent the nation’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street. Elfreth’s Alley is a historic street that dates back to 1703.

A well-loved Philly landmark, the Alley was named after the blacksmith and property owner Jeremiah Elfreth and was home to a variety of 18th-century artisans and tradespeople. Observe the bright brick facades of 32 historic houses, or visit the area’s museum and gift shop.

exterior view of historic Elfreth's Alley with people walking past buildings in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USAOnce Upon a Nation Storytelling

Let history jump off the page when you settle in for an enthralling yarn about some of Philadelphia’s most intriguing true stories. Throughout the Historic District travelers can press pause when they engage with Once Upon a Nation Storytelling. From Franklin Square to Christ Church, guests will come across storyteller benches.

Each bench features a uniformed professional storyteller weaving a fascinating tale. Listen up and learn about famous seamstress Betsy Ross’ double duty as a munitions maker. Or, uncover the truth behind whether Independence Hall housed a mastodon skeleton.

LOVE Sculpture

Who couldn’t use a little more LOVE in their life? This instantly recognizable Robert Indiana sculpture can be found in John F. Kennedy Plaza just northwest of City Hall. Installed in 1976, LOVE briefly left in 1978 but returned to its original location in 2018.

While you may have to wait in line to capture a selfie in front of its cheeky red font, it’s well worth it to document some love to the Quaker City.

Shot looking up at the LOVE Sculpture by Robert Indiana in Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaSchuylkill Banks and Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk

Yearning to stretch those legs? Sneak in some steps and some sparking Schuylkill River views when you conquer 8 miles of winding trails at the Schuylkill Banks. Bike, walk, jog, or picnic as you relish the views and park that stretches along the river, and links the western edge of Center City to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Fairmount Park.

For even more free outdoor fun, be sure to check out the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, a 2,000-foot-long pathway that extends the Schuylkill River Trail from Locust Street to South Street. Dotted with overlooks and benches, the boardwalk delivers unparalleled views, fishing, and more.

Fairmount Park

The largest municipal park in Philadelphia, Fairmount spans both sides of the Schuylkill River. Escape the bustle of Philly’s crowded streets when you schedule in some R&R in Fairmount Park. This verdant oasis of rolling hills, gentle trails, and woodlands spans more than 2,000 acres.

Enjoy the tranquility of the waterfront, or take part in a game of organized frisbee. Keep costs down when you pack a family picnic to go or bring along your bike to take advantage of miles of off-road trails. Snap photos of the picturesque row of Victorian-era boathouses, or try to peek inside the Colonial Era mansions.

An older couple walking past a store in the Chestnut Hill are of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
photo credit: Chestnut Hill Pa via Facebook

Reading Terminal Market

Open since 1893, the Reading Terminal Market has withstood depressions, world wars, and more. An iconic Philly attraction, foodies from all over will be in epicurean heaven as they explore row upon row of vendors hawking fresh produce, meats, fish, groceries, flowers, baked goods, crafts, and more.

Devour some delicious samples of Amish items such as Pennsylvania Dutch–style chicken pot pie or a slice of sweet molasses-flavored shoo fly pie. While you can window shop for free, we highly recommend saving some cash to indulge in an epically greasy Philly Cheesesteak or fluffy Fruity Pebbles donut from Beiler’s Doughnuts.

The front of the historic Betsy Ross house in the daylight with a flag flying on the front of it in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
photo credit: Betsy Ross House via Facebook

Colonial alleyways covered in cobblestones, award-winning stories about Betsy Ross, and mountains of art museums ensure a day in Philly is always filled to the brim.

While many getaways to big cities can make a dent in your pocketbook, a Philadelphia trip is blessed with tons of free entertainment and attractions.

See if you can copy the famous Thinker’s position at the Rodin Museum or make time to admire works by Matisse, Dali, and Degas at the museum.

Take yourself on a complementary street art tour courtesy of Mural Mile, or inject your afternoon with some jazz, hip hop, or funky beats when you discover up-and-coming artists at Lunchtime Unplugged at the Kimmel.

From lush fields of grass and woodland trails in Fairmont to fishing in the Schuylkill River, this City of Brotherly Love is overflowing with free fun.

Tell us, What’s on Your List of Free Things to Do in Philadelphia?

Leave a comment below!

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Written by Isis Maya Nissman

A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central...

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