Philadelphia is a great destination for travelers on a budget as there are numerous sites that are either free of charge or very easy on the wallet. Check out our travel guide featuring the best inexpensive places to visit in Philadelphia. Bonus: the majority of these are appropriate for all ages!

If you’re looking for a bite to eat between sites, check out our listing of the top budget-friendly Philadelphia restaurants!

1. Blue Cross RiverRink & Spruce Street Harbor Park

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Photo credit: www.delawareriverwaterfront.com

Located at Penn’s Landing along the Delaware River, Blue Cross RiverRink is an all-season family destination. If you’re visiting during the warmer months, it becomes the Summerfest, with Philadelphia’s only outdoor roller skating rink, amusement park rides, mini-golf, a play area, arcade and boardwalk-style games. If you get hungry, there are great options for food and beverages, both for children as well as adults. In the winter months, it transitions to Winterfest and the roller skating rink becomes an ice skating rink, with skate rentals, a ski chalet-style lodge and fire pits to keep warm.

Check the schedule for summer jazz and rock concerts, as well as movies at the Great Plaza and Festival Pier. You can also practice your yoga poses at Race Street Pier. Seasonally offered classes are free of charge.

Just a short walk away along the riverfront, is Spruce Street Harbor Park, an urban beach area, open seasonally. Relax in a hammock or grab a table and chairs and watch the boats flow down the Delaware River. Hung from trees, the thousands of LED colored lights turn the park into a magic scene. When you get hungry or thirsty, there are numerous trucks offering options for food and beverages. On certain evenings you can watch a movie or a classic TV show. If you have time, visit the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ, directly across the river from Penn’s Landing. There is easy access during the summer using the RiverLink ferry.

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Photo credit: www.delawareriverwaterfront.com

 

2. The Barnes Foundation

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Photo credit: www.barnesfoundation.org

Founded by Dr. Albert C. Barnes in 1922, the foundation owns a collection of over 4,000 objects with an estimated value of 25 billion (!), and showcases impressionist and modernist art. Formerly located in nearby Merion, Pa., the collection was moved in 2012 to its award-winning new location on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, near both the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum. While most art collections are grouped by style or genre, the Barnes combines paintings, furniture and artifacts by light, line, color and space. Reservations are strongly suggested as the galleries are small and the museum restricts the number of visitors. Pro tip: while the normal entrance fee is over $20, on the first Sunday of each month visitors can “pay-as-you-wish.”

 

3. City Hall Tours

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Photo credit: www.phlvisitorcenter.com

Ride the elevator to the top of City Hall for a panoramic view of Philadelphia from 548’ above ground. Tower tours are offered Monday-Friday and select Saturdays. The cost is $4-$8. The City Hall Interior Tour is offered at 12:30pm weekdays only, it explores the history, art and architecture of the world’s largest masonry load-bearing structure, and includes the Tower Tour as well. Tickets $8-$15.

 

4. Comcast Center

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Photo credit: www.visitphilly.com/museums-attractions/philadelphia/comcast-center/

Located in the main lobby of the Comcast Center, HQ for the Comcast cable giant, the Comcast Experience video wall is the largest four millimeter LED screen in the world. Combining creativity with technology, the images offer 10 million pixels of clarity. The displays change regularly and include spectacular nature footage, urban landscapes as well as seasonal programming.  Drop in and enjoy the spectacle for free!

 

5. Curtis Institute of Music

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For the opportunity to discover young, talented musicians and singers before they head off to the top symphonies and opera houses in the world, head to a free student recital at the Curtis Institute of Music. Over 100 performances are offered each season on most Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday evenings. No tickets or reservations are required. General admission seating is first-come, first-served. Curtis is one of the nation’s top music academies where students are taught, tuition-free, by one of the finest music faculties in the world. The school, located near beautiful Rittenhouse Square, served as the fictitious Heritage Club in the 1983 movie Trading Places with Dan Aykroyd & Eddie Murphy. Noted alumni including Leonard Bernstein, Lang Lang, and opera singer Anna Moffo.

 

 

6. Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site

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Photo credit: https://www.nps.gov/edal/index.htm

Poe often said that the years he lived in Philadelphia were his happiest and most productive. You can visit his Philadelphia home, located less than a mile from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, free of charge. This historic site is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm. They are closed for lunch 12pm-1pm.

 

7. Franklin Square

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Photo credit: www.historicphiladelphia.org

Ride a carousel a block from the Liberty Bell. One of William Penn’s original five squares, Franklin Square is a perfect spot for families to relax and play after touring the nearby historic sites. Take a spin on the carousel or try out your putting skills at the Philly-themed mini golf course. Ticket prices are reasonable. Then treat everyone to a burger, hot dog or fries at Square Burger. End your meal with their signature cake shake, made with TastyKake butterscotch krimpets, a Philadelphia favorite.  During the holidays there is an Electric Spectacle Holiday Show. Franklin Square is closed January 1 through mid-March.

 

8. Helium Comedy Club

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Located a short walk from popular Rittenhouse Square, Helium showcases performances by some of the top comics in the country. Tuesday is Open Mic Night when tickets are free or significantly discounted. Food and beverages are available for purchase.

 

9. Indego Bikes

indego bikes

Photo credit: https://www.rideindego.com/

Indego, Philly’s bike sharing program, offers hundreds of bikes available 24/7 365 days a year. Each station has a touchscreen kiosk, a map and a docking system that release the bikes when accessed using a credit card. Costs start at $4.00 per half hour with payment at the docking station. Or you can sign up for a one day pass for $10. If you are a frequent visitor, monthly and yearly passes are available for purchase at a discounted rate. You are able to pick up your bike at one location and return it to any Indego station.

 

10. Institute of Contemporary Art

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Photo credit: http://icaphila.org/

Associated with the University of Pennsylvania, and located on their campus, the Institute of Contemporary Art is one of the nation’s top museums for innovative art. Founded in 1963, and moved to its current location in 1990, ICA has exhibited the first museum shows of Andy Warhol, Laurie Anderson and Robert Indiana. There is no permanent collection. ICA also offers artist talks, lectures, films and tours. Entrance is free of charge!

11. Magic Gardens

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Photo credit: www.phillymagicgardens.org

To date, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is the largest work created by mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar. This urban space, located on Philadelphia’s popular and eclectic South Street, includes indoor galleries and a large outdoor labyrinth. Tours are available and entrance fees are reasonably priced.

Pro tip: for one of the best Philly cheesesteaks, Jim’s Steak’s is located nearby.   

 

12. Mural Arts

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Photo credit: www.muralarts.org

Established over 30 years ago as part of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, Mural Arts Philadelphia is the nation’s largest public art program, dedicated to the belief that art ignites change. Walking tours, trolley tours, and train tours are available and reservations are required. There is a cost for these guided tours, however, self-guided walking tours are a great option for the budget traveler.

 

13. Old City/Independence National Historic Park

liberty bell

Photo credit: https://www.nps.gov/inde/index.htm

Old City is our nation’s birthplace and the historic heart of Philadelphia. Walk the cobblestone streets where the Independence Visitor Center, Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Betsy Ross House, Benjamin Franklin Museum, Christ Church and numerous other cultural and historic institutions are located. The newest site, The Museum of the American Revolution, opened in 2017, displays the original tent used by George Washington at Valley Forge. Walk down the single block of Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest residential street in the country. One of the houses serves as a museum. Seasonally, in locations throughout the historic district, storytellers recount lively tales at the Once Upon a Nation story benches.

You can visit many of these historic sites free of charge, or for a small entrance fee.

 

14. Philadelphia Museum of Art 

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Located at the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Philadelphia Museum of Art was built in the early 20th Century, and its prodigious collection makes it the 3rd largest museum in the country. If you plan your visit for a Wednesday evening or the first Sunday of each month you can “pay-what-you wish.”

And don’t forget to channel your inner Rocky and strike a pose at the top of the steps and take a selfie with Rocky – his statue is located at the bottom of the steps.

15. Rodin Museum 

rodin museum

Photo credit: www.rodinmuseum.org

Renovated in 2017, the Rodin Museum contains the largest number of the famous sculptor’s works outside of Paris. When visiting, please include a stop in the garden where several sculptures are located. There is no charge for entrance. However, there is a “suggested” $8.00 contribution.   

 

16. Rosenbach Museum & Library

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Photo credit: www.rosenbach.org

Located on leafy, upscale Delancey Place (one of the prettiest blocks in the entire city) in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, the Rosenbach Museum & Library houses the collections of Philip Rosenbach and his younger brother Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach, dealers of rare books and manuscripts. The collection includes a manuscript of James Joyce’s Ulysses and works by Bram Stroker, Lewis Carroll, Cervantes, Dickens, Dylan Thomas, Maurice Sendak and many more. Entrance is $5.00-$10.00.

 

17. Schuylkill Banks

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Photo credit: www.schuylkillbanks.org

Spanning eight miles of riverfront, winding through the heart of Philadelphia, Schuylkill Banks is open year-round for walking, jogging, cycling, picnics, and dog-walking. The park stretches along the Schuylkill River and links the western edge of Center City to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Fairmount Park and Kelly Drive via the Schuylkill River Park and Trail. Schuylkill Banks offers outdoor movie screenings in the summer, while scenic cruises and kayak tours on the river take in various historic sites. Schuylkill Banks is part of the Schuylkill River Trail, a 23-mile link from Philadelphia to Valley Forge National Historical Park, and part of the nationally designated Schuylkill River National Heritage Area.

Philadelphia’s fantastic outdoor spaces continue to grow with the opening of the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk in fall 2014. Extending the popular Schuylkill River Trail, the Boardwalk is a 2,000-foot-long concrete pathway along the shoreline from Locust Street, and another four blocks south to connect to the South Street Bridge. The pathway connects to the South Street Bridge via a 460-foot-long ramp that provides pedestrian, bicycle and ADA-compliant access to the Schuylkill River Trail. The riverside path is 15-feet wide and includes four scenic overlooks for those who want to relax and take in spectacular waterfront views of the Philadelphia Skyline.

 

18. Sister Cities Park

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Photo credit: https://centercityphila.org/parks/sister-cities-park

Located on the scenic Benjamin Franklin Parkway, midway between City Hall and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Sister Cities Park is a green oasis in the heart of the cultural district. Enjoy the panoramic views of the city skyscrapers, historic cathedrals and museums. Children enjoy running through the Sister Cities fountain, a unique representation of the world with Philadelphia as its center. The fountain’s 10 spouts mark the 10 sister cities of Philadelphia. When hunger strikes, there is an on-site café offering food and beverages.

19. United States Mint

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Photo credit: www.usmint.gov

Located one block from the Liberty Bell, this is one of four US mints that produce coins (tens of millions are made in Philadelphia each day!) Free, self-guided tours are offered Monday-Friday. Weekend tours may be available in late spring and summer as well as certain holidays.   

If you are planning a visit to Philadelphia and would like additional information, let us plan your trip for you! Our local experts will create a fully customized travel itinerary based on your family’s unique interests. Visit When in ROAM for more information!

This article was written by Fran Nachman, a Philadelphia ROAM concierge and hotel concierge. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Area Concierge Association as President, Treasurer and Philanthropic Director, and is currently the Director of Business & Social Events. In 2012 Fran was awarded Where Magazine’s Key to the City. Having traveled the world, she loves coming back to her hometown where there are always new restaurants, bars and venues to discover and share with visitors.

2 thoughts on “Frugal Philly: Top Philadelphia Sites for Visitors on a Budget

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