People may be gearing up to go back to school, but we are continuing to have a fantastic summer on a budget. One of my favorite cities to travel to on the east coast is Philadelphia, and not only because my best friend lives here (hi Brenda). Philly is surprisingly affordable, and a trip here doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, you can easily enjoy the best of Philly on a budget.
To help you out, we’ve compiled our recommendations for how you can spend a day avoiding the common tourist traps, but fully enjoying the best of Philly for under $50.
Best of Philly Brunch Spot: JJ Bootleggers
Start your day off right in Philadelphia with delicious and affordable brunch at JJ Bootleggers in Old Town, Philadelphia. The restaurant/bar is moonshined themed and guaranteed to start you trip to Philly on a good note. Every Sunday from 11am-3pm, they have a $20 bottomless brunch. Who doesn’t love to start their morning with eggs benedict and build-your-own omelets; and of course, unlimited mimosas, blood Mary’s, and peach Bellini’s?
Best Transportation: SEPTA
Don’t sleep on the SEPTA, Philadelphia’s public transportation system. In my opinion, when I’m not being bougie and ordering an Uber, there are two truly affordable ways to get around the city. You can get anywhere in Philly by bus or underground train system, with prices ranging from $2-$5 depending on method of transportation and distance traveled.
Best Outdoor Sight Seeing: Bartram’s Garden
Bartram’s Garden is America’s first botanical garden and is 45 acres alongside the Shuylkill River. Take a nice stroll through so many trails and historical sites, including an African Diaspora exhibit. Tons of people also visit the boat launch for fishing and water activities on the river. The garden is FREE every day for visitors to find peace and tranquility in a busy city.
Best Restaurant: Jamaican D’s
We love a down-to-earth lunch spot that does not skimp on the portion sizes. Jamaican D’s Caribbean & American Restaurant on Chelton Ave is that. They boast huuuge platters of jerk and/or curry chicken, plus don’t forget to order the plantains and collard greens as sides. If you’re traveling with another thrifty traveler, one order is enough to last two meals, under $20.
Best Cheesesteak: Dalessandro’s Steaks
We would be remiss if we didn’t include a classic Philly Cheesesteak on this list. There is an age-old debate on which shop makes the best cheesesteak, but we’re here to give you the best budget option. And trust me, Dalessandro’s Steaks is the best. They serve massive, juicy cheesesteak sandwiches with onions, mushrooms, and of course cheese whiz for just $15. As a true New Yorker at heart, I would prefer aged cheddar or swiss…when in Rome. Either way, Dalessandro’s is worth every dollar.
Best Culture: First Friday in Old City
Since the early 1990s, the Old City part of Philadelphia has been a gathering place for artists and is home to over 40 art galleries and home décor showrooms. On the first Friday of every month, the artists who call Old City home celebrate new gallery openings and exhibits and invite the public for FREE. If you’re in town on the first Friday of the month, wander into any of the art galleries found between Front and Third, and Market and Vine Streets. This makes it the perfect activity for people looking to experience the abundant art of Philly and start your weekend off with a bit of culture.
Best Local Activity: Reading Terminal Market
Reading Terminal Market is a 200-year-old indoor farmer’s market with 100+ vendors in stalls boasting local food, artisan crafts, desserts, etc. The market was founded in 1893 and built on the bottom floor of what used to be the Reading Railroad Company in Philadelphia, so it definitely checks the box for ‘historical Philly attraction’ as well. Spend the afternoon wandering through Reading Terminal Market – we recommend you stop here for hand-made baked goods and souvenirs at reasonable prices.
Best of Philly Museum: Brandywine River Museum of Art
We could recommend the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but I told you we were going to take you off the beaten path to avoid the common tourist destinations. The lesser known (but still beautiful) Brandywine River Museum of Art is local museum that showcases the regional American art of Andrew Wyeth, a major American realist painter. The Brandywine River Museum features Wyeth’s painting studio, largely undisturbed, and museum goers can experience the 20th century artists work completely FREE on the first Sunday of the Month from February to November.
Best Happy Hour: Attico
My personal go-to when I’m in Philly is a rooftop bar on top of the Cambria Hotel called Attico. I know what you’re thinking…but in this case, ‘rooftop’ does not automatically mean expensive. In fact, Attico has happy hour every weekday from 5-7pm where you can enjoy the views of center city while enjoying discounted drinks and appetizers as low as $4. If you come for happy hour, you can also skip the cover charge at the door and spend that $10 on a charcuterie board instead. The music is always good, and the décor makes you feel like you’re in a bougie garden party. Start your night at Attico and you won’t be disappointed.