This is a true testament to how popular Philly is becoming. US News and World Report has named Philadelphia the second-best destination in the United States, only after New York City. Given the abundance of spectacular places in this country – varying from cities to islands to National Parks – being named the second best is exceptional. A look at the remaining three in the top 5 shows Honolulu, Maui, and San Francisco, all of which are longtime favorites among tourists. Of course, as discussed many times, Philadelphia’s rising popularity is owed to both the existing historic sites, the array of museums, the food scene, the nightlife, and especially the new attractions and restaurants.
The articles’ comparison to New York City is interesting, because it does raise a very good point. Philadelphia and New York (as well as Honolulu, but that’s beside the point) are two vastly different cities, even if they are only a 2-hour drive away. While Philadelphia and New York were both very important cities in colonial America, very little of colonial New York still remains, and does usually not rank high on anyone’s itinerary. To that extent, Philadelphia appeals to a completely different set of interests. The tourist favorites in New York are the iconic, world-famous places – the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Central Park, etc, mostly dating from the 19th and 20th centuries. Philadelphia, on the other hand, has many of its most recognizable places dating from the 1700s. For a tourist, much of Old City and Society Hill is a period piece, as several buildings are seemingly as they were back then.
On a related note, Philly.com did an article on attendance figures at various Philadelphia attractions. The most visited attraction was Reading Terminal Market, which is dubious, because it’s not a strictly touristy place. Philadelphians go to Reading Terminal Market for food, and can be part of people’s daily lives. It’s not like people to go dine at the Liberty Bell. The Liberty Bell, Valley Forge, the Philadelphia Zoo, Peddler’s Village, and Longwood Gardens all received over one million visitors in 2016. Independence Hall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Franklin Institute all received over 750,000. In 2013, the PMA only received 630,000 visitors, making its current 775,000 a huge increase. With renovations finished at Longwood Gardens and well underway at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, these numbers can only go up.
It is very exciting to see Philadelphia recognized on a scale as large as this. To see Philadelphia ranked above Hawaii as a tourist destination is mind bloggling, considering the relatively low number of visitors it received even 15 years ago. With these developments, Philadelphia has proven itself greater than its prior reputation of “the city between New York and Washington.”