By Tessa Hannigan
Philly has a wealth of sites, attractions, and cultural institutions to enjoy (undoubtedly, we missed some on our map, as there are so many). The map below gives you a general view of some safe routes to get around and see cultural landmarks in the City of Brotherly Love via bike. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, we recommend checking out Philly Bike Tours, which provides fantastic tours of the city led by local guides. For those interested in learning more about the public art you encounter on your ride, we suggest you check out the Association for Public Art and Mural Arts. If walking or transit is more your speed, look at Beyond the Bell‘s walking tours and the Philly Phlash, which is free for SEPTA pass or Key card holders.
Turquoise Route: Art Museum, Schuylkill, and Center City
The Philadelphia Art Museum is located at one end of the Schuylkill River Trail making it a great place to start or end a bike ride with art! The Museum, originally chartered in 1876, has an impressive collection of original art from Europe, America and Asia. Not to mention that the first Sunday of every month and every Wednesday is pay as you wish. The building, placed between MLK and Kelly Drive, is easily accessible from the Schuylkill River Trail. There is also an Indego station right in front of the museum. The museum has a large variety of ongoing exhibitions, there is almost always an exhibit for you.
For a taste of France along the streets of Philadelphia, take a visit to the Rodin Museum. Open since 1929, this is the largest collection of Rodin sculptures outside of Paris. Admission to the Rodin Museum is pay what you wish year round with a suggested donation of $12 for adults, kids visit for free! Stop in to explore the intimate and diverse works of this exceptional artist or simply to take a rest and well-earned snack break in the garden outside. Located just a few blocks from the Philadelphia Art Museum, this is another spot easily accessible from the Schuylkill River Trail.
Only a couple pedals away from the Rodin Museum is the Barnes Foundation, a center for creative excellence and art education in Philadelphia. It was founded in 1922 by Albert Barnes, an art collector, passionate that the public learn to view and love art. There are bike racks at the front of the building and an Indego Station at the rear. The Barnes is a must-see Philadelphia classic that can offer you and any biking buddies an awesome art experience.
The Central Library is a great place to stop whether you’re riding with children or fellow cyclists. The different sections of the library makes for a great place to take a break in any capacity. You can dive into a good read or participate in one of the many programs that they have for children and adults while you take a relaxing break. The Free Library of Philadelphia was founded in 1890 and currently boasts 54 branches across the city’s neighborhoods. With special collections in childrens’ literature, music, rare books and automobile references this is a great place to find that next novel, answer your latest curiosities or simply relax in a beautiful building of books.
The Franklin Institute proves to be an attraction for all ages. With attention grabbing exhibits, children and adults alike will be able to make the most of their time here. Full with interactive science exhibits, puzzles and so much to learn, the Franklin Institute is a great place to go for a solo dive into your favorite science vibes or exploration with friends and family. Bring the kids! The Franklin Institute is a building full of unique and unexpected adventures.
City Hall is one of the most intricate architectural treasures of the city and the largest municipal building in the US with about 4.5 acres of floorspace. As no steel was used in the framing, the first story walls are twenty-two feet thick! There are a total of total rooms, alive with lavish decoration, and many of them are open to the public. At the foot of City Hall is Dilworth Park. It was recently renovated to include greenspace and a large fountain for the kids or a great cool-off after biking. This spot is both a Philly classic and a sweet way to take a break on your ride.
A Quest for Parity: The Octavius V. Catto Memorial (2017)
Octavius V. Catto (1839-1871) was one of the most influential civil rights activists in Philadelphia in the 19th century. He was a black intellectual, educator, writer and also! accomplished baseball player. He successfully worked towards desegregation of Philadelphia’s trolley system as well as the ratification of the 15th amendment support voting rights. Killed in 1871, on the first election day for which blacks were able to vote, his memorial was unveiled over 140 years later at the Southwest corner of City Hall. Please bike by and learn more, the memorial is a way to keep his story alive. Be sure to stop by the fountains when you go.
The Pennsylvania Hospital, founded in 1751, was the first hospital established by Europeans on what is now known as US soil. The medicines and cures that physicians of the time prescribed were primarily plant based so, in 1774, they worked together to ensure that many of the herbs in the soon to be established botanical gardens were medicinal herbs central to their medicinal practice. After falling into disuse for more than 200 years, the garden was revitalized in 1976by the Pennsylvania Hospital and Philly Committee of the Garden Club of America. It’s tended by volunteers (you can sign up!) and again grows the medicinal herbs utilized in the 18th century for medicine, some of which are still valued for their potency today. Each plant is accompanied with a detailed description of its medicinal gifts, historical significance, and current uses.
Philly Aids Thrift @ Giovanni’s Room
First founded in 1973, this is the oldest gay and feminsit bookstore in the country and known as a refuge for the LGBTQ community. When it nearly went out of business in 2014 in its original location on South St. Philly AIDS Thrift signed to become the proprietor and it was able to remain open in a new location, the Gayborhood. Take a ride through and enjoy the rainbows and rich history of this prized Philadelphia neighborhood.
The Academy of Natural Sciences
Across from the Free Library amid the wonderful green spaces of the round stands the The Academy of Natural Sciences. Host-site of a butterfly garden and a discovery center for kids, this is a wonderful destination for a family bike ride. Their exhibits combine experiential and visual knowledge with rich documentation of animals, their ecosystems and the changes that both are experiencing. With scientists at work and rigorous eco-education for kids, there’s always something new at the museum!
Dark Purple Route: Schuylkill River-Rittenhouse-South Philly
Lemon Hill Mansion is one of multiple historic houses of Fairmount Park, it overlooks the Schuylkill River and Boathouse Row. It was built in Federal style circa 1790 by a Philadelphian Merchant, William Pratt, and named after the fruit he grew on the lawn! In 1844, Lemon Hill was one of multiple properties bought by the City to protect the water of the Schuylkill River. After stages as a home, restaurant and even art museum, the Fairmount Park Conservancy now manages Lemon Hill Mansion as a house museum. Stop in for a lounge on the lawn and a view into the past.
Ride by Boathouse Row at dusk to see the colorful lights reflected in the Schuylkill River amid a Philly sunset. This site has been called the birthplace of Philadelphia’s rowing culture which was the sport of the city in the 1800s. This stop can include exploring the boathouses, learning about the history and the sport or simply enjoying the lights and the cool water.
This former rail bridge was opened in 1918. By 1986, it was no longer in use as a rail bridge and was left unattended until 2015 when it was renovated as a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists. Offering terrific views of the Schuylkill River Valley, the bridge connects the Cynwyd Heritage Trail and the Schuylkill Valley Trail; two wonderfully popular trail circuits in Philly.
West Laurel Hill Cemetery is a renowned cemetery as well as 265 acre arboretum and statue garden. This is a beautiful area to ride through gardens and rare trees with social and cultural history. If you’re interested in trees, be sure to take a look at their tree identification list before going. A new entrance was recently built to provide pedestrian access to the Arboretum from the Schuylkill River Trail. If you want a woodsy ride or sweeping views of the river, this trail is here for you.
30th Street Station is Philadelphia’s bustling hub for public transportation. 30th Street Station is designed to provide all the practical functions of a large train station while offering an expansive interior of looming pillars, cathedral-like windows, and art deco chandeliers. Built between 1929 and 1933, 30th Street Station is a building ahead of its time. It originally incorporated space for a chapel, mortuary and small hospital! Today, a multitude of shops, cafes and great views of the Schuylkill can be found at this bustling but majestic landmark.
The Mutter Museum, immediately accessible from the Schuylkill River Trail, is rich with unique and unsettling artifacts that tell the medical histories of disease, illness and cure. If you are ready to be, as the Mutter phrases is, “Disturbingly Informed,” stop in. Whichever direction you are riding on the Schuylkill River Trail, ride two blocks east on 22nd St. and you’ll be there! This museum is unique and a sworn gem of Philadelphia’s attractions offering a vast array of both permanent and new exhibits.
Barbara Gittings Residence Historic Marker
This plaque marks the house where Barbara Gittings (1932-2007) lived. Gittings was editor for the first lesbian magazine and fierce, life-long leader for LGBTQ love and rights.
The Rosenbach Museum and Library is also accessible from the Schuylkill River Trail. The Rosenbach offers insightful and unique exhibits on historical figures, current issues and rare texts among many other things. Before you plan your ride, take a look at their website to peruse their vast offerings and pick favorites. They offer guided tours by the hour that include exploration of the historic house museum and rare book collection.
A sweet spot for a snack or refreshing break, this park offers gorgeous, well-enjoyed green space, handsome trees, statues and a collection of benches. Rittenhouse Square is one of the 5 central squares in Philadelphia planned by William Penn in the 1700s. It is now the most popular square in the city for it’s refreshing ambience it’s location next to one of Philadelphia’s most popular shopping and dining. Local Philadelphians and visitors value this square as a space to gather, picnic, chat with a friend, or relax with a solo dive into drawing, writing or a good read. This is a great stop on any bike ride, bring a frisbee if you or the kids like to play catch.
The Curtis Institute for Music is a tuition-free school for young musicians. They support creativity and musicianship by emphasizing “learning-by-doing.” This means that the Institute often offers unique and often free concerts by young, emerging musicians solo as well as ensemble. They also offer special family programs often involving participatory music-making with children. The music center is on the corner of Rittenhouse Square and an easy stop by bike.
There’s free events, live sessions, Broadway Philadelphia, Kinder Jazz and children’s shows. There’s nationally acclaimed theatre, dance and music. The Kimmel Center is Philadelphia’s center for performing arts and a community hub for music and art education. True to their vision of transforming human lives through art, they engage the regions diverse populations with integrity in art, music and dance. Be sure to check their calendar of performances or workshops, the Kimmel Center has something for everyone.
The Wilma Theatre is committed to presenting current, provocative and complex live theatre that sparks questions and reflection in audiences from all walks of life. They have a 300 seat theatre standing on Broad St. close to the Kimmel Center.
Theatre of the Living Arts – South St.
This is a prime Philadelphia venue for concerts by up-and-coming artists. It’s located in South Street, a wonderful space to shop, eat and relax into classic Philadelphia vibes.
National Historical Marian Anderson Residence Museum
This must see spot stands Marian Anderson, born in Philadelphia, became the first African American to sing at the Metropolitan Opera of New York. Fearlessly facing the barriers of United States racism, she rose to great acclaim for her voice and musicality singing spirituals, classical and opera. She also used her position to uplift Black American’s often by being refusing to sing for segregated audiences. The Marian Anderson house is the building she bought in 1924, and the basement she renovated for small, in home performances. The museum now tells the story of her life, career and her influence. Be sure to ride by the Marian Anderson Park that sits a block east of this must-see museum.
A visit to Penn Museum will prove compelling to all ages. It is a center of learning, kid’s activities and as well as ongoing research. They have exhibits and artifacts tellings stories of life and culture all across the planet. With activities for kids and always a new exhibit for adults this is a good stop on a family ride. If you go, take the opportunity to ride across the Schuylkill River on South St., breathe in fresh air and a great view of the city at the same time.
Light Purple Detour: Fairmount Park
This mansion became part of Fairmount Park in 1869 and is now dedicated to telling the story of the underground railroad. Easily accessible from the Schuylkill River Trail, this is a great place to bike.
Shofuso Japanese House and Garden
A tranquil oasis in Fairmount Park, Shofuso was built in Japan in 1953. It was shipped to New York and exhibited in the courtyard of the Museum of Modern Art in New York before it was moved to West Fairmount Park in 1958. This historic site and museum includes a hill and pond garden with a tiered waterfall, island, koi fish, a tea garden featuring a traditional tea house, 20 contemporary murals by artist Hiroshi Senju, and a courtyard garden leading to a bathhouse.
Green Route: Society Hill and Delaware Waterfront
This house is a classic Federal style house built in 1786. Four stories, brick and lavishly decorated on the inside it’s a blast from the past to visit! They offer general tours and as well as themed tours and workshops.
Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial
Open April through October (brilliant biking months!), this house is where Polish freedom fighter and military engineer Thaddeus Kosciuszko recovered from his wounds and helped to guide the American Revolutionaries to victory.
This spot is buzzing and colorful, it is one of the most popular spaces in Philadelphia for lounging, good views, and fun dining. There is a beautiful boardwalk, over 50 colorful hammocks to relax in and floating gardens that are not only lovely to look at but are made of post-consumer plastic and serve to clean the water in the harbour. Bike in for an afternoon of chatter and joy by the waters’ edge.
Ocean shipping and seaport transactions have shaped commerce since the early days of the US. This museum shares the histories of local seaport culture and decision making through the ages. Not only a museum they also have an open makerspace, metal work lessons, science education and boatbuilding! Come and learn, come and kayak, come and build; it is easy to spend a great day at this unique seaport.
Blue Cross RiverRink offers both winter and summer festivals with food, drinks, a large urban patio for lounging and roller skating rink (transformed into an ice skating rink in the winter). This is a hotspot for visits with a wonderful view of the water.
Cherry Street Pier was built built in 1919 and functioned as a normal shipping pier. It is now a gathering space of Philadelphia in a “for the people by the people” style. It was carefully repurposed to preserve and represent the diverse and complex populations and histories of Philadelphia. Cherry St. Pier offers artist residencies. As a visitor you can watch artists at work, visit with and support folks selling crafts, local food, and books. Be sure to stop by the gardens as well!
Race Street Pier is another spot on the Delaware waterfront promising wonderful outdoor enjoyment. It’s close to the water, fitted with LED solar lights for night time visits and open each day 7am-11pm.
Fringe Arts is committed to presenting contemporary performance art that defies genre and broadens the understanding of what’s possible. They have multiple festivals year round, be sure to check the website before your visit!
Washington Avenue Pier, formerly named Pier 53, is one of the newest green spaces that the DRWC has created on the Central Delaware. The design of the Washington Green park honors its evolving role on the waterfront from shipbuilding center to port-of-entry to naturalized finger pier and includes a 16-foot tower which that is accessible by a spiral staircase.
Red Route: Independence Mail and Camden Waterfront
Independence Hall is the birthplace of the US. It is where the Declaration of Independence was signed and where, 11 years later, the US Constitution was written and signed. It is also the site of many protests throughout history including the Annual Reminder protests, some of the first protests in the country for LGBTQ rights.
The President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation
This structure explores the blunt paradox and contradiction of slavery in a nation whose founding documents espouse the rights of liberty. Located near the home of the first and second presidents of the US, this site tells the story of the enslaved people they owned. If you bike by, be sure to visit the Liberty Bell, enjoy the open plaza and the Bell’s rich histories.
National Museum of American Jewish History
This museum offers permanent and mobile exhibitions that preserve, celebrate and examine Jewish life in America. Free admission all of winter 2020! THey also offer education programs and camps for students and be sure to check their online calendar for family friendly events.
This the leading platform of constitutional debate. A non-profit, they hold exhibits (often interactive!) and performances that examine moments in U.S. history in which the Constitution played a major role in policy changes and day-to-day life. Beyond being open to the public, they also offer extensive programming and opportunities to students and teachers in local schools. Walk in for a visit!
African American Museum in Philadelphia
The African American Museum was founded in 1976 and is the first institution build a major US city to commemorate, present and celebrate African American heritage and culture. Visit this museum to learn, enjoy and grow through viewing this rich array of stories, artifacts, text and art. So many histories are erased, this museum preserves and celebrates the movements, stories and art of Black America.
Franklin Square is one of the five squares that were part of William Penn’s original vision for the city. It is now an oasis for play! Hostsite to a big fountain, mini golf, a carousel, a monument to Philadelphia heroes and a classic burger hotspot, this place has something for everyone.
Yes! Thanks to our advocacy, the bridge is accessible by bike (and Indego bikes, too). There’s a midway rest point to stop and enjoy the view of the expansive river that draws the winding line between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
This park stands on soil that used to be occupied by a prison. In 2010, that prison was torn down and replaced with a waterfront playground and grassy fields space to play outside. Also winding through is a multi-use trail that connects to the Circuit Trails system. The park is immediately accessible from the Ben Franklin Bridge, a day’s visit is a wonderful way to bike two states!
This park is one of several newly revitalized plots of land in Camden, New Jersey. It’s a site for fresh air and fresh breeze from the river, both a hot spot for locals and a great place to visit.
This is a wonderfully kid-friendly place to visit on a bike. With more than 15,000 aquatic species including hippos and a large collection of sharks. Visit for an event or on an ordinary day, either way the day will not stay ordinary for long.
RiverLink Ferry (seasonal)
This ferry runs seasonally making stops at Delaware river piers along its way. This is a fun opportunity to create a joint adventure day of city biking and river boating. Enjoy the views and fresh breeze!
Battleship New Jersey is dedicated to preserving the history of the USS New Jersey, a decorated battleship as well as providing enjoyable experiences of family learning and family fun. They offer participatory and experiential education for kids, inviting them to experience the details of life on the crew of a battleship.
Maroon Route: North Philadelphia
Taller Puertorriqueño: The Cultural Heart of Latino Philadelphia
Taller Puertorriqueño is a center for Latino art and culture in Philadelphia. Their program Visiteños at el Corazón offers hands on art workshops focused on Latino and and Puerto Rican art in schools and community groups. They also bring visual and performance art classes to seniors and have a gallery that is open for visits! A gem of Philadelphia, this is a wonderful place to bike!
Wagner Free Institute of Science
The Wagner Free Institute of Science is a natural history museum at 1700 West Montgomery Avenue in northern Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Founded in 1855, it is a rare surviving example of a Victorian era scientific society, with a museum, research center, library, and educational facilities. Its buildings, developed between 1859 and 1901, present the collections of founder William Wagner in the style of the period, and have been designated a National Historic Landmark for their architecture and state of preservation.
The Liacouras Center is a 10,000-seat multi-purpose venue which opened in 1997 and was originally named “The Apollo of Temple”. The arena was renamed in 2000 for Temple University President, Peter J. Liacouras. It is part of a $107 million, four-building complex along North Broad Street on the Temple University campus in North Philadelphia.
The Rail Park is 1/4 mile long linear park on an old elevated rail structure. This park is part of a vision that when complete,will stretch across 50 city blocks, connecting 10 neighborhoods to Fairmount Park, Center City, and some of Philadelphia’s most important cultural institutions. Today you can enjoy a pleasant stroll or relax on a swinging bench and take in a unique view of Center City Philadelphia.