5 Things to Do in Philadelphia
1. REENACT ROCKY’S TRAINING SCENE
Follow in the footsteps of Sylvester Stallone's boxing legend of film and jog up the Philadelphia Art Museum's 72 'Rocky Steps,' raise your arms in triumph at the top and turn to take in the picturesque view of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and city skyline beyond. While you're up there, stay to stroll through some the museum's more than 200 galleries, including a particularly noteworthy collection of American art. On your way out, pose with the Rocky statue at the bottom of the steps. You never know – you might run into the real deal.
2. CELEBRATE LOVE
At the other end of Benjamin Franklin Parkway and across the street from Philadelphia's grand City Hall is JFK Plaza, known to the locals as Love Park. Stop by to take in Robert Indiana's iconic LOVE statue, situated in front of the fountain, and keep an eye out for couples getting engaged. (My brother proposed to his wife here.) If you're visiting between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, the park's German market-inspired Christmas Village is a festive place to pick up gifts and ornaments or sip a mug of mulled wine.
3. SAMPLE QUINTESSENTIAL PHILLY FOODS
Like New York's bagel or Chicago's deep dish, there are certain foods synonymous with Philadelphia, and you should try all of them. For the truest taste of this city, order a cheesesteak at Pat's, Geno's, Jim's or Tony Luke's, and make sure to get it with Whiz. Trust me. Pop in to Philly Soft Pretzel Factory for a chewy, salty snack topped with brown mustard. If you're visiting in the summer months, a refreshing lemon, cherry or chocolate Water Ice from John's or Pop's is in order – but remember, if you call it "Italian Ice" they'll know you're not from around here. Before you leave, pick up a few boxes of Tastykakes from Wawa. Founded in Philly and with a limited distribution, snack cakes like Butterscotch Krimpets and Kandy Kakes have a cult following for a reason.
4. EXAMINE THE CRACK IN THE LIBERTY BELL
Dating back to 1752 and once housed in Independence Hall's bell tower, America's symbol of freedom and justice is on display for visitors to see in an adjacent glass building aptly named Liberty Bell Center. Tour the museum to learn how the crack came to be, and head across the street to the stately Independence Hall afterward for an up-close look at the very spot where our Founding Fathers debated and signed the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.
5. WALK THROUGH A GIANT HEART OR SEE EINSTEIN'S BRAIN
Walking through the Franklin Institute's giant, two-story heart is a rite of passage for all field-tripping Philadelphia schoolkids, and definitely worth a trip for everyone else. The science museum has interactive exhibits on, among other things, electricity and the brain, as well as a cool planetarium. A few blocks away, The Mutter Museum is unlike any I've experienced, housing a fascinating collection of medical oddities, including a conjoined liver from Siamese twins, the tallest skeleton on display in North America and slides of Albert Einstein's brain.