Thanksgiving in Historic Philadelphia

Philadelphia is a perfect Thanksgiving getaway due to its history, art, food and Thanksgiving Day parade 

By Joseph Frye

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a city of firsts. The first Continental Congress was held there, the first modern computer was developed there and the city is the site of the country’s first hospital, university, art museum and zoo. Despite often being overlooked by the bigger and more famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Parade is actually the oldest in the country, predating New York’s by four years. The city’s history, food, culture and parade make Philadelphia the perfect spot for a Thanksgiving getaway.  

Every Thanksgiving Day, both visitors and locals alike gather along a nearly 1.5-mile stretch through the city to watch the 6abc Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade. Although much of the nation’s attention falls on the Macy’s parade in Manhattan, the Philadelphia Parade has plenty to offer itself. After last year’s parade was cancelled due to the pandemic, organizers are planning a big comeback for the parade this year, including over a dozen balloons and floats, marching bands from across the nation and over 35 musical performances. 

Visit Philadelphia, the city’s tourism office, is eager to welcome back visitors for the holiday weekend after the pandemic kept visitors away last year.  

“Philadelphia has always celebrated festivals and events that bring people together,” says Rachel Ferguson, chief innovation and global diversity officer of Visit Philadelphia. “This is a magical time to partake in the traditions that make our region extra special. We have so many events coming up that are perfect opportunities to connect and reconnect with family and friends.” 

Although the parade may draw most of the city’s attention over the holiday, no trip there would be complete without seeing the year-round attractions. Independence Hall, a symbol of both the city and the United States independence movement will be open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Here, visitors can see where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written and signed. Located less than a five-minute walk from Independence Hall is the Liberty Bell Center, which is also open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. It is there that visitors can learn about this infamous bell, from its creation to its use by Civil Rights advocates, Abolitionists and the Suffragettes.  

Located across town, The Philadelphia Museum of Art allows visitors to not only see great art, but also the famous “Rocky Steps” that Sylvester Stallone ran up in the Rocky films. At the top, visitors are greeted with views of the Philadelphia skyline. Inside the museum, thousands of pieces of American, European and Asian art are on display. With your ticket to the museum, you also received access to the Anne d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden, which includes large scale contemporary sculptures, and the Rodin Museum, housing one of the world’s largest collections of works by the father of modern sculpture, Auguste Rodin. 

Philadelphia’s art scene isn’t only restricted to the museums. The city boasts the nation’s largest public art program, Mural Arts Philadelphia. Producing nearly 100 public art projects a year, the organization has built up an impressive collection of murals scattered across the city. Although tourists are bound to see these murals as they walk through the city, the organization offers both walking and trolley tours for those who want to see more of the city’s extensive collection.  

Of course, the centerpiece of the holiday is the Thanksgiving Dinner. Tourists willing to ditch the turkey and the mashed potatoes are promised a meal like no other in Philadelphia, which has gained attention for its impressive food scene in recent years. No trip to Philadelphia is complete without indulging in a Philadelphia cheesesteak. Locals and visitors have their favorite shops for the famous sandwich, but those looking to grab a cheesesteak from the place they were invented should head over to Pat’s King of States in South Philly. Founders and brothers Pat and Harry Olivieri are credited with inventing the sandwich in 1933, three years after the restaurant opened.  

Although the Philly cheesesteak may be the most famous sandwich to come out of the city, the Philadelphia roast pork sandwich is actually the preferred sandwich of many of the city’s residents. This sandwich, which features slow-roasted pork, broccoli rabe and provolone, was brought to the city by Italian immigrants and has since become a staple of the city’s food scene. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, some of the best place to grab a roast pork sandwich is Tony Luke’s, with two locations at Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field, and Porco’s Porchetteria, located on Washington Avenue.  

With history, art, food and the county’s oldest Thanksgiving Day parade, Philadelphia is sure to provide a holiday getaway unlike any other. More information can be found on Visit Philadelphia’s website