The city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania boasts robust historic significance, as well as a breathtaking position along the Delaware River. Apart from the plentiful famous attractions such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, the city offers tons of marvelous lesser-known sites worth visiting. When you stay at one of many Philadelphia vacation rentals, you can easily experience fascinating museums, unique artwork, unusual sights, and lovely parks and gardens. That said, here are the best hidden gems in the city of Philadelphia.
1. Shofuso Japanese House and Garden
The elegant and lovely Shofuso Japanese House and Garden lies on the west side of Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. Gifted in 1953 to the people of the United States from Japan as a gesture of postwar peace, the garden was meticulously put together by Japanese artisans. Construction materials for the house were imported from Japan. The building resembles a temple guest house from the 17th century and includes a special bark roof, kitchen, bath, and tea room. The garden has a waterfall, koi pond, island, and walled courtyard.
2. Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site
Located in a house Poe once rented near vacation rentals in the Spring Garden neighborhood of Philadelphia, the Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site commemorates the life and works of the famous mystery and fantasy writer. The museum includes exhibits with memorabilia, a screening room that shows a film on Poe’s life, and a gift shop. A reading room contains a comprehensive collection of Poe’s writings. Don’t miss a trip down to the eerie basement, which may have inspired Poe’s description of a similar basement in his short story “The Black Cat.”
3. Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is an elaborate collection of mosaic artwork that covers half a city block on South Street in the Washington Square West neighborhood. The site consists of an outdoor labyrinth and interior tunnels, grottos, and galleries. Materials for the mosaics include tiles, mirrors, glass bottles, bicycle wheels, and many other objects. Besides displaying the elaborate mosaic artwork of original creator Isaiah Zagar, the galleries exhibit the works of unique artists from around the world. Wander around and enjoy this amazing wonder on your own, or join a docent-guided tour.
4. Wagner Free Institute of Science
The fascinating Wagner Free Institute of Science is housed in an elegant Victorian building in north Philadelphia. This unique natural history museum houses the collections of William Wagner just as they appeared in the 19th century. The exhibits include fossils, rocks and minerals, mounted mammals and birds, insects, and many other marvels. The institute’s reference library contains scientific works from the 17th to the 20th century such as manuscripts, maps, drawings, photographs, and antique glass lantern slides. To enter this anachronistic museum is to feel as if you have stepped back in time.
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5. Cira Green Park
Cira Green is an elevated park that sits on top of the Cira Center South parking garage in University City in Philadelphia. To reach it, you take an elevator to the 11th floor roof of the garage. The park features a stupendous panoramic view of the Center City skyline. Features of the park include emerald-green lawns, pleasant walkways, and benches for reading, picnicking, and enjoying the view.
6. The Dream Garden
The amazing piece of artwork known as The Dream Garden is housed in an office building called the Curtis Center in the Washington Square neighborhood of Philadelphia. Created in 1916 by Louis C. Tiffany from a design by Maxfield Parrish, this intricate mosaic is composed of 100,000 pieces of glass in over 260 colors. The 24 panels took six months to assemble. Measuring 15 feet by 49 feet, it is one of the largest glass mosaics in the United States. Have a seat on the bench facing the mosaic, and dream your way into this elegant masterpiece.
7. Wanamaker Organ
The Wanamaker Grand Court Organ, which sits in Macy’s Center City in Philadelphia, is the world’s largest fully functioning pipe organ. At least twice a day this imposing instrument fills Macy’s seven-story court with elegant music. The instrument has almost 29,000 pipes, and its sound resembles that of an entire orchestra. Originally the edifice that now houses Macy’s was Wanamaker’s Department Store, one of the first department stores in America. Head up to the Visitor’s Center on the third floor of Macy’s for a guided tour of this historic building.
8. Please Touch Museum
The Please Touch Museum is an interactive experience for young children located on the west side of the Schuylkill River in West Fairmount Park. Located in historic Memorial Hall, the museum offers exhibits from a collection of over 25,000 toys. Walk-through displays include Alice’s Wonderland, a miniature river scene, a mini city with supermarkets and other buildings, and a life-size bus and trolley to play in. Scheduled story times take place in the Story Castle, and kids can practice art in the Program Room. On sunny days, you can stroll amidst the growing herbs and vegetables in the Please Touch Garden.
9. Bartram’s Garden
Bartram’s Garden in southwestern Philadelphia on the Schuylkill River is the oldest botanic garden in the United States. Naturalist John Bartram founded the garden in 1828, and his house and some of the outbuildings still stand. Stroll through the lovely grounds on your own, or connect with a guided tour at the Visitor’s Center.
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