Explore Philadelphia

A Local Guide to the Do's (and Don't) in Philadelphia

Supporting local business and knowing how to order a cheesesteak is paramount Philadelphia knowledge.

Being a tourist in Philadelphia doesn’t have to mean sticking to the standard sightseeing excursions. Try these eight tips for appreciating the city like the locals do.

Shop and Eat Local

In-the-know residents steer clear of big brands in favor of locally owned shops and eateries. Visitors seeking to stray off the beaten retail path can start at Fezziwig’s Sweet Shoppe, a charming, family-owned restaurant in Old City. As diners munch on classic comfort food like burgers, fries and homemade ice cream, the welcoming staff will happily recommend stores with a distinctly Philadelphian vibe.

Ice cream
This tasty treat is only one of many of the treats waiting at Fezziwig's. (Courtesy Fezziwig's Sweet Shoppe)

Bike Along Kelly Drive

Kelly Drive buzzes with cyclists who love breaking a sweat against the backdrop of the Schuylkill River. Follow suit by making use of Philly’s bike share program, Indego, which maintains hundreds of stations throughout the city. Hungry riders can pedal roughly six miles from Center City to the Manayunk Brewing Company, a popular spot with a spacious outdoor patio for alfresco, riverside dining.

Do Downward-Facing Dog on Race Street Pier

From mid-April through mid-November, Race Street Pier hosts daily yoga classes – sometimes twice a day – in a verdant public space suspended over the Delaware River. After an hour of downward-facing dogs and sun salutations, settle in for savasana and appreciate the Benjamin Franklin Bridge from an angle that most visitors don’t get to see. Classes are free, though donations are accepted.

Man jumping in public square
Small, cobblestone squares and alleyways are all over Philly; locals use them instead of the major thoroughfares in many cases. (©Ethan Hoover/Unsplash)

Meander Down Cobblestone Alleys

There’s more than one way to get from Point A to Point B in the City of Brotherly Love. Rather than solely using major thoroughfares, locals  weave their way through the hidden alleys and cobblestone passages that still remain from the Colonial era. Along these streets, take note of the horse-tethering poles and boot scrapers outside many of the rowhouses, which serve as tangible reminders of the city’s centuries-old history.

Stop and Stare at the Murals

Take time to take in the man-made beauty throughout the city. With more than 2,000 murals on edifices all over town, Philadelphia doubles as a massive outdoor art gallery – and it’s all free to enjoy! Awe-inspiring, larger-than-life artwork in virtually every neighborhood reflects Philly’s abundance of culture, history and creativity. Gaze at these masterpieces as you happen upon them, or utilize Mural Finder, an interactive map that uses GPS technology to guide users to nearby works.

Order a Cheesesteak the Right Way

In-the-know locals and visitors are tuned into ordering an authentic Philly cheesesteak. It all starts with the cheese: say “provy” for provolone or “whiz” for Cheez Whiz. Next, “wit” or “witout” denotes whether or not you’d like fried onions. So, ordering a “provy wit” will get you a cheesesteak with provolone and onions. To really impress the person behind the counter, ask for your sandwich “wit a bushel”, which means lots of extra onion.

Philadelphia Museum of Art
The first Sunday of each month is a pay-what-you-wish entry to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (©Mark Skrobola)

Know the Discount Days

Philly locals patronize the city’s top sites on off-peak days and times, when many attractions offer free or discounted admission. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, for example, offers pay-what-you-wish admission on the first Sunday of each month and every Wednesday between 5 pm and 8:45 pm. Tickets to the Academy of Natural Sciences are $2 cheaper on weekdays, and access to the Please Touch Museum is just $2 on the first Wednesday of each month.

Sip on a Citywide Special

Want to drink like a Philadelphian? Ask for a “Citywide Special,” a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot of Jim Beam. South Street’s Bob & Barbara’s lays claim to creating the combo and the dive still serves its signature order for just $3 ($4 after 9 pm). Many bars and restaurants have their own modified versions; Cantina Dos Segundos offers a can of Tecate and a shot of tequila, for example, while the menu at Milkboy features four different Citywides.