Nuts-and-bolts information to plan your trip, plus a checklist of essentials to include when you pack and a list of links to local media
Entry Requirements: International travelers from 27 countries may enter the U.S. without a visa through the Visa Waiver Program; however, you must have a machine-readable passport. Visitors from other countries must obtain a visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. For more information, visit travel.state.gov
Security: As in any city, be mindful of your surroundings and keep a close eye on valuables. But by and large, visitors are safe even after dark in the historic district. “Philly doesn’t empty out at the end of the work day like most cities.”—Ron Avery, author, Philadelphia: Beyond the Liberty Bell.
Time: Philadelphia is in the U.S. eastern standard time zone.
Money: The currency of Philadelphia is the U.S. dollar. For current conversion rates go to OANDA Currency Converter: www.oanda.com/convert/classic. The sales tax rate is seven percent in Philadelphia—six percent state tax, plus one percent city tax. There is no sales tax on clothes.
Phone Calls: The area codes for Philadelphia are 215 and 267. For phone calls to Philadelphia from within the U.S., dial 1 215 seven-digit phone number or 1 267 seven-digit phone number. For phone calls to Philadelphia from outside the U.S., dial your country’s international code 1 215 (or 267) seven-digit phone number.
When to Go: Philadelphia is hot and muggy in summer, especially around the Fourth of July, the highpoint of both the tourist and mosquito seasons. Winters are usually moderate but can be snowy and harsh. Spring tends to be rainy, warming beautifully by May. Fall is temperate, a time when the city’s many parks are unfailingly lovely. Best visiting months are May and June and September to December.
Getting There: More than 63 million people—about one-fourth of Americans—live within a 5.5-hour drive of Philadelphia. Amtrak trains arrive at 30th Street Station, where there are connections to public transportation and cabs. The Greyhound bus terminal is at 10th and Filbert, with easy connections to other destinations in the city. Seven miles (11 kilometers) south of Center City, Philadelphia International Airport is a hub for both Southwest Airlines and US Airways. Transportation is available into the city via the SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) subway system. For details, visit www.septa.org. Rental cars also are available. Taxis charge a flat rate of $25 for travel between the airport and Center City.
Getting Around: SEPTA buses, trains, and trolleys run throughout the city. Day passes cost $6. Taxis are stationed outside major hotels and also can be flagged down near shopping and other attractions. The historic district is comfortably compact and pedestrian friendly, so if you’re staying there you don’t need a car. Parking at city hotels is pricey but free on-street or on-premise parking is available at some lodgings in the western section. A seasonal alternative is Phlash, a purple tour bus turned trolley that zips visitors around to 20 major attractions in Center City from May through early September, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., for only $2. www.visitphilly.com/tours/philadelphia/phlash
Seasonal Stuff: Sun block and insect repellent in summer; light jacket in fall; a warm coat and snow boots in winter; an umbrella in spring; a ball cap or other hat and sunglasses year-round.
Sensible Shoes: There are still lots of cobblestone streets and brick walkways to navigate and comfortable footwear is a must outside, as well as inside many attractions where floors are paved in marble or terrazzo.
BYOB: Pennsylvania’s arcane laws regarding alcohol are confusing to newcomers. Wine and spirits are sold only in state-operated stores; beer must be purchased separately from a distributor. “If you have a few nice bottles of wine, bring them with you. It’s cheaper, less cumbersome, and there are lots of great BYOB restaurants in town.”—Keith Wallace, founder, Wine School of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia City Pass: You’ll save more than a penny with this pass good for six popular attractions, as well as discounts at shops and restaurants. www.citypass.com/city/philadelphia.html
City Photography Archive
Many of Philadelphia’s more than two million archived photographs dating back to the late 1800s. www.phillyhistory.org
Declaration of Independence
“We hold these truths to be self evident.” After 232 years, still a must read. www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/declaration_transcript.html
Updates on Philadelphia’s ambitious project to bring free wireless Internet service to public places citywide. www.wirelessphiladelphia.org
Nightlife, dining, lodgings, and news for the GLBT community. www.edgephiladelphia.com
Greater Philadelphia Gardens
Guide to 28 arboreta and gardens in the “cradle of horticulture” region, including 1,050-acre (425-hectare) Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Penn. www.greaterphiladelphiagardens.org
Official Visitors Site for Greater Philadelphia
Information on attractions in the city and surrounding counties, with maps, promotional offers, and tips for families with kids. www.gophila.com
Philadelphia Architects and Buildings
Database of historic buildings and the architects who designed them, searchable by street. www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/
Philadelphia City Guide
Insights on restaurants, shopping, and events. philadelphia.citysearch.com
Independent, irreverent youth-oriented weekly with offbeat entertainment and lifestyle coverage and copious listings. www.citypaper.net
Inquirer and Daily News
Philadelphia’s two daily newspapers focus on news events and features but offer reliable reviews and useful entertainment listings. www.philly.com
Indispensable source of up-to-the-minute info on Philly happenings. Also offers entertainment news. www.kyw1060.com
Philadelphia Gay News
Weekly source for GLBT news and entertainment, found in purple boxes throughout the city. www.epgn.com
Published five days a week, the oldest continually operating African American newspaper in America, printing since 1884. Home of the Entertainment Now! guide to events, concerts, and exhibits. www.phillytrib.com
Philadelphia Weekly Free
Alternative newspaper with bountiful coverage of the arts, dining, and shopping. www.philadelphiaweekly.com
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.