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With a fine assortment of Colonial architecture, many museums, and some of the country's most significant historical artifacts and edifices, the city is perfect for a tour. In a relatively small area, Philadelphia offers history buffs, artisans, and architecture aficionados a wealth of fascinating material. Certainly, the most common tourist destination remains Independence Mall, encompassing Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the National Constitution Center among other highlights; but there are many other historic and architectural tours to enjoy throughout the city. The mode of transportation largely dictates the type of tour, be it boat, bus, on foot, or horse and buggy, but you can explore everything from the cuisine of the city to the vast number of gorgeous giant art murals on the city's buildings.
Biking in the city can be a bit of a challenge, but bike tours are a great way to see a wide expanse of Philadelphia in a short period of time. Philadelphia Bike Tours offers both guided tours (generally beginning at the Atwater Kent Museum rear garden, at Ranstead Street between 6th and 7th streets) and bike and moped rentals.
Philadelphia Bike Tours (215/514-3124 or 866/211-3808. www.philadelphiabiketour.com.)
Liberty Belle Cruises, aboard a 600-passenger Mississippi paddle-wheel riverboat, offers lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch cruises with a banjo player, sing-alongs, and a buffet. Board at Penn's Landing (Columbus Blvd. at Lombard Circle).
The Spirit of Philadelphia runs lunch and dinner cruises along the Delaware River. This three-deck ship leaves Penn's Landing at Lombard Circle and Columbus Boulevard for lunch, dinner, and starlight cruises. Dinner cruises include a live musical revue and dance music.
Liberty Belle Boat Charters (215/629-1131.)
Spirit of Philadelphia (866/455-3866. www.spiritcruises.com.)
Bus and Trolley Tours
Philadelphia Trolley Works offers narrated tours in buses designed to resemble Victorian-style trolleys. The fare is an all-day pass, allowing unlimited stops. Board at any stop, including the Pennsylvania Convention Center and the Liberty Bell. The tour takes about 90 minutes and costs $27 ($25 if you buy your ticket online). It makes 20 stops on a route covering the Historic Area, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Avenue of the Arts (South Broad Street), Fairmount Park, the Philadelphia Zoo, Eastern State Penitentiary, and Penn's Landing. For a different kind of Philly experience, you can also try the Philadelphia Mural Arts Tour, a trolley ride that visits some of the more than 2,000 public murals the city has to offer; or the Philly By Night Tour, which gives patrons a chance to see the city under the stars in the comfort of a double-decker open top bus.
Philadelphia Trolley Works (215/389-8687. www.phillytour.com.)
Mural Arts Tour (215/389-8687. www.phillytour.com.)
Philly By Night Tour (215/389-8687. www.phillytour.com.)
Numerous horse-drawn carriages wind their way through the narrow streets of the Historic Area. Tours last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and cost from $30 to $80 for up to four people. Carriages line up on Chestnut and 6th streets near Independence Hall between 10 am and 6 pm and at South Street and 2nd Street between 7 pm and midnight. You can reserve a carriage and be picked up anywhere downtown. Carriages operate year-round, except when the temperature is below 20°F or above 92°F.
'76 Carriage Company (215/923-8516. www.phillytour.com.)
Ride the Ducks offers 80-minute surf-and-turf tours of Philadelphia's historic district, Penn's Landing, and the Delaware River using military-designed land-sea vehicles. The "ducks" are circa-1945 Army DUKW trucks with watertight hulls converted into 38-passenger open-air vehicles. Tours run from mid-March through November and start at $25.
Ride the Ducks (877/887-8225. www.phillyducks.com.)
Tours on Segways, high-tech motorized scooters, are available at the Art Museum, allowing patrons to zip along the museum corridor area of the city and along gorgeous Kelly Drive. The 2.5- to 3-hour tour includes a 20 to 30-minute hands-on training session to become acquainted with the machines and costs from $49.00-$69.00 depending on the time of day.
IGlide Segway Tours (877/454-3381. www.iglidetours.com/philadelphia.)
Centipede Tours offers tours of Independence Park led by guides in Colonial dress. Tours of the city's ethnic heritage and of its circles and squares are also available, as are multilingual guides. Walk Philadelphia's 50 different tours of the city and the region focusing on architecture and history. One of the most popular historic tours remains the Constitutional, which hits most of the major highlights along Independence Mall ($17.50 adults, $12.50 children, with a special $55.00 family pack of four). For food buffs, the Taste of Philadelphia: Market Tour of Reading Terminal Market offers a fascinating look behind some of Philly's most well-loved edibles, including soft pretzels and cheesesteaks. The tour is offered at 10 AM every Wednesday and Saturday morning ($14.95 adults. $8.95 children). The more gourmand-minded might appreciate the Center City Food Lovers Adventure, which leads you through various Center City shops to meet with chefs and owners of some of Philly's most esteemed gourmet establishments, tasting farmstead cheeses, hand-made chocolates, and either loose-leaf tea or gelato ($29 adults). For families, one of the more exciting tours is the evening light-and-sound spectacular Lights of Liberty Tour, an interactive experience using the historic landmarks of the city as its backdrop ($19.50 adults, $13.00 children). Finally, mild spookiness can be found during the Spirits of '76 Ghost Tour ($17.50 adult, $12.50 children), which begins at 4th and Chestnut streets and guides its patrons through some of the ancient architecture of Old City, including famous film locations from spooky Philly-based films like The Sixth Sense.
Centipede Tours (215/735-3123. centipedeinc.com.)
City Food Tours Decadent Gourmet (212/546-1234 Ext. 114. www.cityfoodtours.com.)
Constitutional Walking Tour (215/525-1776. www.theconstitutional.com.)
Landmark Tours (215/925-2251. www.philalandmarks.org/landmarks.aspx.)
Lights of Liberty (215/629-4026. historicphiladelphia.org/night/lights-of-liberty.)
Spirits of '76 Ghost Tour (215/525-1776. www.spiritsof76.com.)
Taste of Philadelphia: Walking Tour (215/545-8007. www.readingterminalmarket.org/events/tours.)
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