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Top Things to Do in Philadelphia
One of the country's most powerful symbols of freedom, the bell, replete with famous crack, now sits in its own dedicated center, still hanging from its original yoke. Despite the dispute among historians about its most famous ringing—for the first public reading of the Declaration—the bell remains a historic mainstay.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Ascend the very steps Rocky triumphantly galloped, and check out the Museum of Art's outstanding permanent collection, including masterworks by Renoir, van Gogh, Cézanne, and local boy Thomas Eakins, in addition to excellent ongoing exhibits. It's also host to one of the best views of the city.
Formerly in suburban Merion, Dr. Albert Barnes's astonishing collection of mostly Post-Impressionist art—181 works by Matisse, 69 by Cezanne, and 181 by Renoir—is now on view in a spectacular new building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. It's a must for anyone who loves art or modern architecture.
This relatively unimposing brick building on Chestnut Street is where both the Declaration and Constitution were composed, argued about, and eventually signed. From such humble beginnings do mighty nations eventually arise. Just behind it is a small park, perfect for walking around and mulling the fate of a new nation.
Reading Terminal Market
A massive, enclosed market in a former train shed, Reading Terminal houses more than 80 different vendors, ranging from fresh produce to seafood to killer cupcakes. The Amish community is also well represented with several outlets, including a sit-down diner that offers pancakes the size of a tractor tire complete with their own stick of (home-churned) butter.
Betsy Ross House
Whether Betsy Ross ever actually lived in this house in the Old City and whether or not she actually sewed the first Stars and Stripes flag is up for debate, but the house is fun to visit. Built in 1760, it's a great example of a Colonial house, and the rooms overflow with interesting artifacts including Betsy's reading glasses and family Bible.
The Franklin Institute
This science museum founded in 1824 to honor Philly's most famous scientist and inventor, Benjamin Franklin, houses multiple wondrous exhibits. Walk through the world's largest model of a human heart; sit in the cockpit of a T-33 jet trainer; or catch a show in the state-of-the-art planetarium or IMAX Theater.
Philadelphia's most elegant square often draws comparisons to its Parisian counterparts, and it's true it was designed by a Frenchman, Paul Cret. One of William Penn's five original squares, it has gone from a grazing ground for cows and sheep to ground zero for the city's grandest town homes to today's incarnation, a hybrid of preserved manses, swank apartment buildings, and lively sidewalk cafés.
The world's largest landscaped park is often impossible even for natives to fully conquer, but visitors should seek out at least a taste of it. Pick one attraction: stately Boathouse Row; Belmont Plateau, with a historic house and a killer view of the skyline; the historic Fairmount Waterworks along the Schuylkill River; or the Japanese House—a must when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
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