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5 Free or Cheap Things to Do in Philadelphia

AAA/Patricia Miller
By AAA Travel Editor Patricia Miller
January 22, 2020
If you’re looking for free or cheap things to do in Philadelphia while on vacation, here’s a list of historically important sights that you shouldn’t miss. You’ll also find a bunch of great places to eat, all in one centrally located building, and you’ll save some Benjamins (or Georges, as the case may be).
Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site house exterior mural
AAA/Patricia Miller

Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site

532 N. 7th St.
(215) 597-8780
If you’re looking for fun and free things to do this weekend, head north of the historic district and check out this former home of Edgar Allan Poe. The author lived in several houses during his seven years in the city; this is the only one that still stands. The rooms are empty, although there are paintings of furniture on the walls, and the paint is peeling, creating a spooky vibe. The empty basement may seem especially creepy to those familiar with some of Poe’s stories. The site is open Fri.-Sun. 9-noon and 1-5. Admission is free.
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Liberty Bell Center
AAA/Patricia Miller

Liberty Bell Center

526 Market St.
(215) 965-2305
Try not to get a lump in your throat when you cast your eyes on this symbol of American independence. Inscribed "Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land, Unto All the Inhabitants Thereof," the iconic bell began life in the tower of the Pennsylvania State House ringing lawmakers to meetings. Today it is the centerpiece of a small, modern museum with exhibits that depict its far-reaching effects around the world. If you’re visiting Philadelphia on a budget, you’ll be happy to know that admission is free.
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Philadelphia Museum of Art building exterior
AAA/Patricia Miller

Philadelphia Museum of Art

2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.
(215) 763-8100
For 20 bucks, you can visit this huge museum, PLUS the Rodin Museum, Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building and the Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove historic houses, and your ticket covers two days. It’s an almost unbeatable deal to see such a comprehensive amount of art and history. You can also go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art on a Wednesday night, or all day on the first Sunday of each month, pay whatever you like, and spend the evening contemplating original works by Charles Eames, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and many more classic and modern artists. Don’t forget to run up the “Rocky” steps.
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Presidents House Site Philadelphia George Washington
AAA/Patricia Miller

President's House Site

600 Market St.
(215) 965-2305
This free outdoor museum was built on the site of the third presidential mansion, home to presidents George Washington and John Adams. Fragments of brick walls hold illustrated panels and videos that depict the life of Washington’s slaves, who worked in the house. Visitors can also see the actual kitchen’s foundations, archeological fragments and the outline of the mansion. This site is across the street from the Independence Visitor Center; browse in the amazing gift shop and get free maps and information about local attractions.
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Reading Terminal Market

51 N. 12th St.
(215) 922-2317
Even if you’re on a tight budget, Philadelphia won’t let you down when it comes to chowing on mouthwatering eats. With about 80 vendors, Reading Terminal Market is so large you might be overwhelmed. Check out all the food places (you’ll find almost any cuisine you desire), then choose one or more that suits your taste buds. Try a cheesesteak from By George, Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagies & Cheesesteaks or Spataro’s, since you can’t leave Philly without noshing on one of these world-famous sandwiches. Not a cheesesteak person? Hit up DiNic’s. Their roast pork sandwich is so killer that it’s been touted as the "Best Sandwich in America." The market is open daily 8 a.m.-6 p.m., so don’t plan to eat dinner here.
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