As one of the most historically significant cities in the United States, Philadelphia naturally attracts many visitors. In addition to its many iconic American landmarks, the City of Brotherly Love boasts a delicious restaurant scene and several impressive art museums.
But with many tourists come many travel mistakes. We asked Philly locals to share some of the common faux pas they’ve observed, and they eagerly obliged.
From going to the wrong place for cheesesteaks to opting to take a car in famously walkable areas, here are 12 mistakes tourists often make while visiting Philadelphia ― and some advice for avoiding these errors during your travels.
Not taking advantage of the walkability
“Philadelphia is an extremely walkable city. If you’re willing to walk a bit, so many of the major sites can be found within walking distance. Most of the time, you might not have to rely on ride-shares or public transit.” ― Camille M. Mola, blogger at Positive Publicity
“As a self-proclaimed shoe junkie, they matter. Philly is extremely walkable and the right shoes matter. People have stated to me previously that they didn’t realize how much walking they would do and weren’t prepared.” ― TomikaTalks, creator of Life in Pumps
Going to the wrong place for cheesesteaks
“The No. 1 common mistake made is where to buy a cheesesteak. I always say ask a local or read a blog that covers local things. If you see the line is filled with tourists, run. Pat’s King of Steaks, Geno’s Steaks and Jim’s Steaks (recently burned down) are great for nostalgic pics, but the best steaks are found at Ishkabibble’s (I prefer the chicken with spinach), Dalessandro’s (cash only), Leo’s Steak Shop or Delco Steaks (both in the county). Truthfully, you can grab one in various neighborhoods ― just ask a local.” ― TomikaTalks
Waiting too long to book your hotel
“Book your hotel early! The best hotels in the best locations book up super quickly. Here are the top ones I’d recommend: Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia in Old City, Lokal Hotel (an invisible service hotel with stunning decor) in Old City, W Philadelphia in Center City, The Logan Philadelphia Hotel on the Parkway, The Notary Hotel at City Hall and of course, the Four Seasons Hotel.” ― Jenny Meassick, creator of Old City Love
“Choose a hotel over an Airbnb to stop screwing with the local housing market crisis and avoid having to be your own maid on vacation.” ― Jessa Jordan, model and artist
Underestimating how much there is to do
“I think one of the biggest mistakes tourists make when visiting Philadelphia is to underestimate how much there is to do and see in the city. Yes, Philly thrives off of the ‘underdog’ mentality, but we got it in part to constantly being underrated by visitors. Tourists come to Philadelphia and think we’re just about cheesesteaks, Rocky, and the Liberty Bell. We are those things and so much more.
There’s culture, nightlife, an expansive restaurant scene, and tons of hidden gems. Make sure you give yourself enough time to see it all, from Old City to Rittenhouse, Broad Street, South Street, NoLibs, Fishtown, Passyunk Square, UCity, and everything in between. Don’t limit yourself to just running up the Rocky steps or Pat’s/Geno’s steaks ... besides Dalessandro’s in Roxborough is way better!” ― Mimi Wong, blogger at What’s On Mimi’s Mind
Being unprepared for your transportation
“If you’re driving, avoid street parking ― the PPA (Philadelphia Parking Authority) is ruthless and will get you.” ― Mola
“The bus and horse-drawn carriage tours are cute, but just get a SEPTA Key card and do it yourself. You can get to all of the same stops around the city and find out more about it if you walk around seeing places on your own terms.” ― Jordan
Prioritizing the Liberty Bell
“I think a mistake is standing in line for the Liberty Bell. While a glimpse of the Liberty Bell is always on the Philly bucket list, I’d recommend visiting these other places if you’re looking for some history: The Betsy Ross House, Benjamin Franklin’s gravesite or any of the four national parks in Philadelphia.” ― Meassick
Thinking you need to go to New York for the theater
“Don’t think you need to travel to NYC for a piece of Broadway. I love that I can pretty much see any show here in the city. The Kimmel Cultural Campus offers amazing shows, many of which I’ve said were better than Broadway. I also love the smaller playhouses like Peoples’ Light or the Arden Theater. There is definitely something for everyone.” ― TomikaTalks
Not patronizing local businesses
“Tourists often make the mistake of not buying from local businesses or eating at local restaurants. Instead, I see tourists walking around Rittenhouse Square and shopping at larger chain stores such as Anthropologie instead of heading into Kindred Collective. And instead of eating at amazing restaurants such as The Love, they are heading over to the Hard Rock Cafe.” ― Iesha Vincent, blogger at Living Lesh
Sticking to the most popular areas
“When tourists visit Philadelphia, one of the biggest mistakes that I often see them make is that they only plan their itinerary around the historic sites in Philadelphia such as the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, or the Constitution Center, but there is so much more to Philadelphia and its culture. I typically advise people to venture to some places such as Reading Terminal Market, Dilworth Park, Chinatown and Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.” ― Vincent
“One mistake I see tourists often make is going to the more popular areas. I know that there is a big allure to seeing things like the Rocky Steps and the Liberty Bell, but there are so many hidden niche neighborhoods with so much to offer. Some of my favorite things to do would be shopping around in Passyunk Square, and heading to Fishtown for dinner at Suraya (amazing Lebanese food).” ― Katerina Seigel, blogger and TikTok influencer
“Don’t make the Rocky statue the cultural cornerstone of your visit here. There are so many other equally iconic beautiful destinations to check out. My favorites include the Magic Gardens, all of the Mural Arts Murals throughout the city (and also the Lil Nas X mural), and The Shofuso Japanese House and Tea Garden.” ― Jordan
Missing the food scene
“A mistake is only eating cheesesteaks from Philadelphia’s insane food scene. I’ve lost count of how many James Beard award-winning (and down-to-earth!) chefs we have in Philadelphia. I’ve lived in several major cities, and Philly’s food scene certainly is a rival with so much food culture represented.” ― Meassick
“Philadelphia is famous for cheesesteaks, but there is so much more to the Philly food scene! Head to Reading Terminal Market for an array of diverse foods (but be sure to get a roast pork sandwich from DiNic’s for sure).” ― Mola
Not staying alert
“The crime rate, unfortunately, has risen in the city but you can definitely still enjoy it but you must pay attention. Keep your eyes off the phone and be aware of your surroundings.” ― TomikaTalks
Overdoing the “Always Sunny” references
“Please stop dropping ‘It’s Always Sunny’ references in everything you do or say while here — that’s also really annoying and most locals do not care about that show like folks outside the city do! It’s almost like putting a target on yourself saying, ‘I don’t actually live here!’” ― Jordan
Quotes have been lightly edited and condensed.