Philadelphia might not be the first fall travel destination that springs to mind, but I highly recommend my hometown as an excellent, engaging choice for a fall getaway. Here are five reasons to visit Philadelphia in the fall:
1. You Can Have the Nation’s Most Historic Square Mile
Mostly to Yourself.
The spring and summer are prime times for class trips and families visiting Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Although there is something special about joining the hordes to celebrate the Fourth of July in the nations’s birthplace, standing in line is probably not the way you want to spend your fall getaway time. Come Labor Day, the crowds at Philadelphia’s most visited venues thin, and you can snag a photo of the Liberty Bell that doesn’t include a bunch of strangers.
Use the excellent website of the Independence National Historic Park to help plan the history part of your visit to Philadelphia.
While you’re in the area, take a walk over to funky South Street to have a cheesesteak and to visit Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.
2. Philly is Comfortable in the Fall.
There’s a reason many Philadelphians can be found “down the shore” in New Jersey during the summer. The Founding Fathers who debated the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia during the summer of 1776, complained bitterly about the sweltering hot and humid conditions. That much hasn’t changed. The city’s summer weather can most charitably be described as “muggy”. In contrast, Philly fall days are crisp with low humidity — perfect for sightseeing and for outdoor activities.
The Fourth of July is fun in Philadelphia, but Philly is a lot more comfortable in the fall.
3. Avoid the Leaf Peeping Menaces in New England.
When many people think of an autumn trip in the United States, the colorful New England fall foliage is an obvious choice.
I was fortunate enough to attend Williams College in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains of northwestern Massachusetts. My first September there, upperclassmen warned me to be especially careful crossing the main road because the fall “leaf peepers” were a menace behind the wheel.
Sure enough, as soon as the leaves started changing colors, there was a never ending stream of cars with out of state license plates being driven across campus by distracted drivers.
So, if you’re looking for a fall getaway with lovely fall foliage, but without the leaf peeping hordes, Philadelphia (and the surrounding countryside), is a splendid alternative.
4. In the Fall, the Leaves Change Colors in Philadelphia Too.
If you must leaf peep in New England, you’re in luck because you can follow the changing colors south as the season progresses. The fall foliage colors in Philadelphia and environs usually peak in mid to late October.
Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park System is one of the largest urban park systems in the country. One of my favorite places to commune with fall foliage is in Wissahickon Valley Park in the northwestern section of Philadelphia. This expansive park comes complete with a covered bridge first built in 1737, fifty-seven miles of trails, and a 7 mile gravel road only for bikers, walkers and equestrians.
For a truly urban park experience, check out Philadelphia’s leafy Rittenhouse Square where you can revel in fall foliage (and people and dog watching) while enjoying a snack or meal at a French Bistro.
5. Fall is a Lovely Time to Visit Attractions in the Countryside Southwest of Philadelphia.
Within an hour’s driving distance of Center City Philadelphia, are three visit worthy venues all of which have both inside and outside components:
- The Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art: Set in an adapted old mill building in the bucolic Brandywine River valley, the Brandywine River Museum of Art showcases the work of three members of Wyeth family of artists who called this area home. The conservancy preserves the natural and historic beauty of the Brandywine watershed, so there are plenty of fall leaves to peep at.
- Longwood Gardens: Located close to the Brandywine Museum of Art, is a 1,077 acre botanical garden, home to at least 4,600 species of plants and trees, some of which is natural meadow and woodlands. Longwood Gardens is a beautiful place to visit year round, and the fall is no exception. In case it starts raining, 4.5 acres and 20 gardens are inside heated greenhouses.
Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library: Winterthur is located just over the Pennsylvania border in Delaware, but still within an hour drive of Center City Philadelphia, and close to the Brandywine River Museum of Art and Longwood Gardens. It is the ancestral home and estate of the Dupont family. The estate includes a 60 acre naturalistic garden brimming with fall foliage. Again, if you need to get indoors because of uncooperative weather, the Dupont home is described as the “premier museum of American decorative arts.”
Come visit Philadelphia in the fall because despite Philly’s
perhaps deserved reputation for grittiness, poorly behaved sports fans and an artery clogging signature food (cheesesteaks);in fact, you’ll find a city with a charming, walkable central core; beautiful parks; and friendly, helpful natives (like moi) anxious to welcome you.
Travel Tip: You’ll find VisitPhilly.com to be a very helpful website for planning all aspects of your trip to the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection).
So, should we leave a light on for you in Philadelphia this fall?