Philadelphia has its share of recognizable attractions. After all, it was the birthplace of the United States so most of the buildings surrounding Independence Hall are familiar to many Americans but Philadelphia, or Philly as its known to many locals, is a city full of surprises too. Its curiosity, willingness to try something new, and tolerance for individuality led to some of the most unusual Philadelphia attractions worth visiting.
4 Unusual Philadelphia Attractions Worth Visiting
Eastern State Penitentiary
When you first look at the edifice, particularly from the outside, there’s something romantic about it. Castle like walls and towers make you think of fairy tales, that is until you cross the iron gates that puts you within the compound of the world’s first penitentiary. The haunting hallways of the buildings are filled with dilapidated walls and dusty cells. Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) became the model for many prisons built in Europe, Asia, and Latin America and was considered a revolutionary design when it was built back in the early 19th century. Prisons back then were notoriously ran as enterprises, filled with the miscreants and often without proper supervision. ESP changed all that when it introduced the idea of penitence as punishment, where wrongdoers each had individual cells forcing them to think about their crimes and seek remorse. Some of ESP’s famous inmates include Chicago gangster Al Capone and bank robber William “Slick Willie” Francis Sutton.
Address: 2027 Fairmount Avenue
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m to 5 p.m.
Rate: $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, $10 for children
Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
If you’re a literary lover visiting Philadelphia, make sure to stop by Rosenbach of the Free Library to view some of the rarest collection of books and manuscripts in a very intimate setting. This impressive literary compilation was courtesy of the Rosenbach brothers who were successful dealers of rare books, manuscripts, and decorative arts. The stunning library can be easy to miss since it’s hidden in plain sight and tucked between two town homes on Delancey Place. Some of the notable works on display include a handwritten copy of Ulysses by James Joyce, a manuscript of the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer and hundred of signed letters written by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War period. The museum usually has a rotating exhibition, which usually focuses on a particular collection. Visitors will also get a chance to see and feel some of the objects from the library through the museum’s hands on tour.
Address: 2008 Delancey Place
Hours: Tuesday & Friday, 12-5 p.m., Wednesday & Thursday, 12-8 p.m., Saturday & Sunday, 12-6 p.m., closed on Monday
Rate: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $5 for children
This medical history museum is a must visit for anyone wanting to see jaw dropping artifacts related to medical history and likely tops this list of unusual Philadelphia attractions worth visiting. The Mütter Museum came about after a physician named Thomas Mütter donated thousands worth of his personal collection of bones, plasters, and medical illustrations to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1863. The museum sits inside the college and has since accumulated thousands of medical artifacts that focus on the anomalies and rare forms of diseases. Some of the displays include skulls with different types of traumas, preserved cysts removed from different parts of the body, and imaging slides showing Albert Einstein’s brains.
Address: 19 S 22nd Street
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Rate: $16 for adults, $14 for Military with ID, $13 for seniors, $11 for children
Philadelphia Magic Garden
The Philadelphia Magic Gardens (PMG) is a folk art environment, gallery space, and nonprofit organization all in one that showcases the work of mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar. His largest piece by far sits on the corner of Alder and South Streets and is one of the fastest growing attractions in the city. As you queue outside the entrance door, you can’t help but think that the installations look somewhat Gaudi-esque with its use of curved lines and items with bright colors as components of the mosaic. However, much of the artists influence lie further south of the American border, mostly from Peru. The installations took over 10 years to complete and was deemed an elaborate love letter to Zagar’s wife Julia. One of the most striking features of this project is the use of a myriad of objects as mosaics instead of solely ceramic pieces. Zagar, in an effort to help revitalized the neighborhood, literally took pieces of junk and made them into art. PMG is open to visitors year round and also offers mosaic workshops, sometimes led by Zagar himself.
Address: 1020 South Street
Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday – Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Rate: $7 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, $3 for children
Are you planning to visit Philadelphia over the next months? Here are some additional tips to help you enjoy your stay in the City of Brotherly Love.