Greetings Internet Stranger! Last time we met, I chose to follow a tour company for a one day in Philadelphia itinerary. My obedience was rewarded with good beer, broken pottery, and photos of dead dogs. That’s what I call a perfect 24 hours! But today we’re going to try something new. I’ve put together one day in Philadelphia itinerary all by my lonesome, with not even one small tour company to help.
We’ll go back in time to Independence Hall and the Benjamin Franklin Museum! Then we’ll take some ice cream to a grave. We’ll make friends with a cartoon squirrel. Just before dinner, we’ll visit the world’s most malfunctioning bell!
Are you asking me if there will be cheesesteak? That’s a little basic of you, Internet Stranger. Fine. There will be cheesesteak.
One Day in Philadelphia Itinerary
Where to Stay?
My favorite neighborhood in Philadelphia, as a tourist, is Old City. It is the birthplace of our democracy! Most of the major attractions in Philadelphia are within walking distance, like Independence Hall. And unlike many tourist areas, there are actually good places to go out for dinner here.
So I suggest spending your One Day in Philadelphia Itinerary at the Thomas Bond House. It’s an adorable and historic bed and breakfast. The house was built by Dr. Thomas Bond, who helped Ben Franklin found the first public hospital in the United States. It doesn’t get more historic than that!
But even if you don’t like American history (in which case, man have you picked the wrong city), you’ll love the tasty breakfast, wine and cheese-venings, and beautiful rooms. There’s no more convenient place to stay in Philadelphia.
One Day in Philadelphia Itinerary
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
If the weather is rainy or snowy, which happens quite often in Philadelphia, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out without feeling like some gauche tourist with gross feet.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
One Day in Philadelphia Itinerary
Morning: Franklin Trail!
The Franklin Trail is something I’m pretty sure I invented. Well, maybe the city of Philadelphia also has something they call the Franklin Trial but I refuse to look it up. I choose to believe the FT is mine, all mine.
Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, but he lived in Philadelphia for many years. Most of his famous achievements were in Philadelphia. Philly even named a freeway after him! So I think we’re safe in calling him Philadelphian. The attractions we will visit today are all (well, almost all) associated with the great man. Let’s kick off the our One Day in Philadelphia Itinerary on the Franklin Trail with…
Approximately top 5: ben franklin edition
1) Independence Hall
Independence Hall is perhaps the most important building in the history of our country. Independence Hall is where both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were created and signed. Any American with even a smidge of patriotism has to feel their heart stir when they enter Independence Hall. And Franklin himself signed both the Declaration and the Constitution so Independence Hall is the perfect place to start the Franklin Trail.
Independence Hall is operated by the National Park Service. It’s free to enter, but you have to reserve your tickets in advance online. Listen to my instructions very carefully because the whole thing is confusing.
24 hour tip
I suggest reserving 10 AM tickets for this One Day in Philadelphia Itinerary. You need to pick them up at the Independence Hall Visitor Center by 9:15 or they might release them. Then go across the street and through security. You’ll have some time to kill, so go in the little museum behind the security screening. Look at this inkwell.
Are you saying that’s just an inkwell? Don’t be ungrateful! This so-called inkwell was used to help sign the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. So it’s done a lot more for America than either one of us has.
Now you are ready for the ranger-led tour of Independence Hall. He will draw your attention to this portrait of the signing of the Constitution. Notice how one of the men has his back turned to you? That’s because no one knows what this guy looked like! So the painter just made it up. Way to think fast, patriot portrait painter. Now no one on Twitter can accuse you of getting it wrong.
Once you go into Independence Hall, you can see it is divided into two parts. This was the courthouse. The prisoner used to have to stand in that little cage. I don’t think that leads to the presumption of innocence, do you? The picture in the back used to be of the Lion of England. Of course after the Revolution it was replaced with a portrait of Sam the Eagle.
Now this room is where the magic happened. The Assembly Room is where Franklin and the other founding fathers debated and signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Franklin famously remarked on the image of the sun on the back of the large chair in the back. He said that he once hadn’t been sure whether the sun was rising or setting on our country, but that now he felt confident it was rising. I hope that remains true today.
2) Congress Hall
Remember, Philadelphia was the capitol of the United States before our country transformed the swamps of Virginia into Washington, DC. While they were waiting for DC to be deswamp-ified, George Washington and John Adams both served as president in Philadelphia. Of course that meant Congress needed a home too. You’re in luck because you can visit the original Congress Hall just next to Independence Hall. The House of Representatives met on the bottom floor…
And the Senate met on the top floor. The Senate gets a fancy room with an eagle on top and I don’t think that’s fair. You know who does think it’s fair? Marie Antoinette.
Why is there a portrait of Marie Antoinette in Congress Hall? Remember France was our ally during the American Revolution. It might have just been because the French hated the British, but it’s the thought that counts. Thanks for the support Marie! We’re sorry we couldn’t help you out with the whole being decapitated thing.
3) Benjamin Franklin Museum
As the Franklin trail continues, let’s dig deeper into the man’s life and mystery. The Benjamin Franklin Museum here is the ultimate place to research Fun Franklin Facts. Did you know that Franklin was so obsessed with chess that he considered it a vice?
How about that he invented a musical instrument called the glass armonica? He was inspired by the sound you get when you wet your finger and run it around a glass rim.
Were you aware that Franklin started a fire insurance company? This was their logo. I don’t see how these people can put out any fires if they are all holding hands.
Franklin was an inventing fool! You just couldn’t slow him down. I think my favorite invention of his was this soup bowl for ships. You know, so the soup doesn’t make a mess if the ship moves. Talk about a problem I didn’t know needed a solution!
If you have young children, they’ll enjoy the little squirrel cartoon mascot sharing fun facts around the museum. His name is Skuggs and he even has his own picture book called Skuggs: The Patriot Squirrel Who Helped Save America. Okay, first I met an inkwell that’s more patriotic than I am, and now it’s a cartoon squirrel. I’m starting to feel bad about myself.
4) Sonny’s famous steaks
OK, this is the one non-Franklin related stop on the One Day in Philadelphia Itinerary, but I’m sure Franklin wouldn’t want us to starve. He cared about food! After all, he invented a soup bowl for ships. Sonny’s is purportedly the best cheesesteak in Old Town. In fact, GQ called it the best cheesesteak in the whole city. Each cheesesteak is made to order so there’s a bit of a wait, but I think it’s worth it.
When ordering a cheesesteak, there are only a few options and you need to decide in advance to keep the line going. The choices are usually American, Cheese Whiz, and sometimes Provolone. I never check if American and Provolone are available because I only like Cheese Whiz. The cheesesteak is the only appropriate use of Cheese Whiz.
Then you need to decide if you want onions or not. (You do.) So the proper way to place my order would be to ask for a cheesesteak “Whiz With”. (No need to specify that the with means onions.)
If you have a Philly accent, it’s going to sound like Wit’, not With. But I don’t recommend affecting the accent just to blend in.
5) Franklin Fountain
Now it’s time to head back on the One Day in Philadelphia Itinerary with…ice cream! My favorite place in Philadelphia, and quite possibly the world, is the Franklin Fountain. Though it looks 100 years old, it’s only been open since 2004. It was founded by a couple of brothers who wanted an olde-tyme ice cream parlor. They named it after Franklin because apparently it used to be common practice in Philly to name businesses after Franklin for no particular reason.
My go-to move here is to always get the College Ice. This is one scoop and one topping, perfect for a snack. Their sinuous hot fudge is as warm and comforting as a patriotic squirrel. I like to pair this with one of their more unusual flavors. This time I ordered caramelized banana. The sugar of the caramelized banana combined with the sugar in the hot fudge almost sent me into a coma right on Market Street. Worth it!
6) Christ church burial ground
We’ve seen where Franklin used to live. Now let’s see where he lives now. Or rather, where he has been buried. It’s remarkable how many people come to pay their respects to Ben Franklin even to this day. You can tell from the state of his grave.
It’s good luck to toss pennies onto Franklin’s grave. (Franklin was famous for the saying “A penny saved is a penny earned.”) I’m sure Franklin’s ghost manages all those pennies wisely!
If you have time, Christ Church Burial Ground is worth a visit for its other inhabitants. There Benjamin Rush who signed the Declaration of Independence and founded Dickinson College. You can also find members of the Biddle banking family and founder of Pennsylvania Hospital Thomas Bond. But none of them is as famous as Franklin. (A fact I’m sure would have pleased Franklin enormously.) And the proof is that Franklin is the only one who gets his own trail.
One Day in Philadelphia Itinerary
Afternoon: National Constitution Center
We’ve been following the Franklin Trail all morning, so let’s try to stay in one place this afternoon, okay? The National Constitution Center was created by Congress to spread knowledge of the Constitution. An excellent goal for all Americans! If we don’t know our laws, we might elect politicians who don’t respect them either! Photography is discouraged in most areas of the Constitution Center, unfortunately. But that doesn’t mean I can’t share with you…
Three fun facts about the constitution
1) what about alexander hamilton?
There was a small exhibit on Alexander Hamilton at the Constitution Center. I think they were trying to capitalize on the popularity of the musical Hamilton. (And who isn’t?) But it was still informative about the main debates concerning the Constitution. Hamilton believed the Constitution should help create a strong central government. His adversary Thomas Jefferson was more in favor of states’ rights. This is a debate that continues in our country to this day.
Eventually Jefferson and Hamilton did team up to oppose Aaron Burr because they felt he was unstable and unqualified. Eventually Burr killed Hamilton in a duel and then was involved in a conspiracy to steal part of the southwestern United States. Thomas Jefferson had him arrested for treason. I guess that will teach people to think Aaron Burr is unstable!
2) what’s the best exhibit?
In order to enter the main exhibits (where photography isn’t allowed), you have to sit through a live presentation called We the People. An actor performs a speech about how America came to be, which is then followed by a multi-media presentation. The speech is open and honest about ways in which people have been excluded from “We the people” throughout history.
At the end the actor turns to the audience and tells us that our government is in our hands. Then various dramatic film clips from American historical events play while the music soars. I always tear up at everything. “Ask not what your country can do for you.” More like ask not why mascara is running down my face.
“I have a dream!” I have a dream of a pile of tissues to soak up my tears. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Mr. Gorbachev, give me a handkerchief so I can blow my nose. I do have political convictions, but I guess I’m a bipartisan crier.
3) where can i take foolish selfies?
The best selfie spot in the center is the replicas of the signers of the Constitution. You’re supposed to sign with the representatives from your state. For me that’s Alexander Hamilton, which makes New York State the coolest, yet again.
And here is Franklin again! Didn’t you get enough love on the Franklin Trail today, sir?
One Day in Philadelphia Itinerary
Late Afternoon: The Liberty Bell
The Liberty Bell is free of charge but you need to go through security to get in the bell’s house. So set aside at least 30 minutes if you want to be sure to see the LB. It’s open until 7, so it’s the perfect thing to do before dinner.
The Liberty Bell is one of the oddest symbols the country has. It used to hang in Independence Hall, but it cracked in the 1840s and hasn’t been usable as a bell since. One reason it’s considered a symbol of liberty is that there’s a quote from the Bible inscribed on it. This quote declares, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.”
The Liberty Bell has served as an inspiration to everyone from abolitionists to suffragettes to the Free Tibet movement. It’s amazing how something so small and malfunctioning can represent such a big idea.
24 hour treasure: the president’s house
This monument marks the spot where the president’s house stood during the Washington and Adams administrations. It also serves as a memorial for the enslaved people that were kept by Washington while he was president here. (Adams never owned slaves.)
The laws in Philadelphia said that if an enslaved person was kept there for more than six months, they would be granted freedom. But it had to be six consecutive months. So Washington would move his slaves back and forth to avoid their receiving their freedom.
Two of Washington’s enslaved servants, his chef Hercules and a women named Oney Judge, managed to escape. Some people think Hercules made it to New York or Philadelphia but no one knows for sure. Oney Judge made it to New Hampshire and you’ll learn much more about her when we get to that state.
One Day in Philadelphia Itinerary
Evening: Dinner at Fork
When I first heard about Fork, I thought it was a strange name for a restaurant. Does it have sister restaurants named Spoon and Knife? But when I learned more about the restaurant’s mission, it made sense. Fork serves high-quality ingredients with simple preparations that let the flavors shine through. So a simple name like Fork is perfectly appropriate. And it’s conveniently located in Old Town, pretty close to where we started the One Day in Philadelphia Itinerary at Independence Hall
Normally at Fork you order a four course pre fixe. You can choose from several options for each course. As I always say, the more courses, the merrier!
There was a theme for this evening, and it was vegetables. My Amuse bouche was cucumber with beets and caviar on top and a radish with butter. I don’t know sometimes why restaurants bother cooking foods. I could be happy with radish and butter all the time. Plus you get to feel French and chic.
24 Hour Treat: Heirloom Tomato Soup
This was served with fresh corn, which only added to the seasonality of the heirloom tomatoes. I know heirloom tomatoes sound pretentious, but they’re really just wild and wacky. Nothing like the pale tomatoes at my neighborhood Morton Williams that taste like water. (Yes, I’m hating on my local Morton Williams. Their produce sucks and it needs to know about it.)
Maybe we could come up with an unpretentious name for tomatoes. Rodeo tomatoes? NASCAR tomatoes? I feel like I’m starting to get condescending here. Tom Hanks tomatoes? Everybody likes Tom Hanks.
The second course got a little heavier with house-made bucatini. It was served with only lemon, black pepper, and shad roe bottarga. This reminded me of simple pasta dishes I’ve had in Italy like cacio e pepe. There are really only four ingredients in this dish so the handmade pasta can shine through. And the hole in the middle of the bucatini lets the pasta really soak up the flavors. The shad roe bottarga is also a more complex way of adding saltiness than old Morton’s table salt. (Not hating on Morton’s though.)
24 Hour treat: green circle chicken
I only ordered the green circle chicken because I didn’t know exactly what it was. I was hoping it would be green and circular, like if the Wicked Witch of the West were a chicken. But no. Green Circle chickens are special chickens fed on a diet of table scraps from four star restaurants on an cozy Amish farm. But then those same restaurants get to serve these magically-fed, humanely raised chickens to their customers. It is win-win for everyone. Even for the chicken (temporarily).
I have to admit, this chicken was not overhyped. It was the most tender and flavorful chicken I can recall having. I actually looked forward to eating every bite. If this is what a chicken who dines on gourmet food tastes like, sign me up! And it’s better than throwing those leftovers in the trash.
My dessert was an August day in an ice cream sandwich. (I was eating it in September, but close enough.) It was a sweet corn ice cream sandwich filled with blackberry corn custard and sprinkled with pecan popcorn crunch. It’s corn three different ways! I love it! You always see meat prepared different ways in the same dish, but not necessarily corn. And I also like that there was corn in both my appetizer and my dessert. Vegetables are so versatile.
That’s a Perfect One Day in Philadelphia Itinerary!
What would you do on a one day itinerary in Philadelphia? What is more patriotic, an inkwell or a squirrel? And if the Wicked Witch of the West were a chicken, do you think she’d be delicious? Please leave your thoughts below.
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have a One Day in Philadelphia Itinerary. If you have another One Day in Philadelphia Itinerary, add this itinerary!