Philadelphia City Pass


If I don’t go out Friday nights I’m normally up by 8:00  or 9:00 Saturday mornings.  It’s partially because work has rid me of the ability to sleep in, partially because I feel like I”m missing out on the day, and partially because over the years I’ve been conditioned to function with very little shut eye.   Waking up at 8am after a hard night out and a 20 piece hot wing binge circa 2:30 the night before is less than ideal, but two important events had my up this past Saturday: A) Bruce tickets went on sale at 9 B) My brother, sister, and I were using our Philadelphia City Passes this Saturday.

The good news is we (or rather my friend who was also trying at the same time as I was) scored tickets to see The Boss live on March 29th, the first of my new years resolutions checked off.  Once that was accomplished, we pulled ourselves together and started walking.

The citypass is a booklet which allows you to experience several of Philly’s “major” tourist attractions for one price.  It includes vouchers for the zoo, aquarium, Eastern State Penitentiary, Franklin Institute, Please Touch Me Museum, Constitution Center, and Big Bus Tour. Philly isn’t the only city with a CityPass: Boston, Seattle, even Toronto all have them.

Off course I left mine back in Lancaster, sitting on my nightstand.  They sell the city pass for $60.00 at any participating location.  We headed to the Franklin Institute first to pick one up.   We decided our itinerary would be to then hop on the big bus tour for a ride to the zoo, and finish our day at the aquarium.   We’d already visited the Eastern State Penn in December, and the Please Touch Me Museum is geared towards kids.

Franklin Institute

My sister lives in University City.  The Franklin Institute is just a short walk over 76, and past the Art Museum. If you’re ever in Philly and want something cultural to do for free: walk around the Art Museum and down Boathouse row.

Franklin Drive Philadelphia

The Franklin Institute is also geared more towards kids then adults.  We  were  the only party in attendance without children.   .

While at the Franklin Institute, we did catch a Planetarium show on black holes.   I have a soft spot for planetarium: my tiny northeastern PA high school inexplicably had one and we all had to take planetary science in the 8th grade.  Our teacher would instruct us on various constellations and play “Dark Side of the Moon.”  It was confusing and awesome.  I left this show scared of black holes and nauseous.

Big Bus Tour

The Big Bus tour is a double decker bus (Imported from London!) that runs a loop through Philly as a guide tells you all sorts of useful and useless information.    I probably wouldn’t have paid for the bus tour itself, but it proved to be an effective way to get from place to place without spending a million dollars on cab fare.   The bus tour also had a phone number you could call to track exactly where a bus could pick you up, which we found very convenient.  We hopped on the bus to get too and from the zoo and had one tour guide who excelled at making me feel very uncomfortable with how hard she tried to be funny and one tour guide who was “obsessed with brewing in the manner of the American Colonials.”   She was the best.

Philadelphia Zoo

I’m a big fan of the Philly zoo.  I’ve been there before and suggest it to anyone.  Several of the exhibits were closed, being January and all, but my favorites, the big cats, were out roaming.

Philadelphia Zoo
The lions chilling. Marvel at my photography skills.


After the zoo we rode the bus downtown, getting off and creating our own stop at McGillan’s.  I’ve written about McGillan’s in my Philly Irish Bar Crawl Post.  It’s Philly’s oldest bar, located in a back alley in Center City.   We figured pregaming for the aquarium would almost certainly end well and had a good lunch accompanied by a pitcher that claimed to be Miller Lite, but wasn’t.

McGillans Philadelphia
Drury Lane: home to dumpsters, the smell of piss, and McGillan’s. I think it’s backalley location only adds to the charm. I’m not being sarcastic.

Adventure Acquarium

The Adventure Acquarium is located in Camden.  In the summer months, we’d be able to go down to Penn’s Landing and take the ferry across the river.   The ferry doesn’t run in winter so we took the Patco train over the Camden.   My brother had done a little research and was informed that once we exit the train , a city train would take us the few blocks down to the museum.  We couldn’t find anything after our exit from Patco which meant a few block hike through Camden.  Had it been dark out I would’ve gotten back on the train to Philly.

Call me racist, tell me I’m going off of preconceived notions, or that I’m making a bigger deal of it than I have to, but walking through Camden put me on edge.  It was cleaner then I imagined, but alarmingly quiet for a city.  Nobody is outside unless they have to be.

Camdem NJ
Camden City Hall: I was expecting more broken windows.

The aquarium, much like my bobsledding adventure two weeks ago, was underwhelming.  It wasn’t bad, but it was very small and we easily saw the entire thing in a half hour.   I wouldn’t recommend a trip solely to the aquarium, but if you do want to go: use the City Pass and do it in the summer.  An afternoon at a Penn’s Landing bar combined with the ferry ride over would be fun.


I like my CIty Pass Experience.  Namely because I go to Philly quite frequently and besides the zoo, have never been to any of these locations.  They fall into the I-always-say-I’m-going-to-visit-that-but-never-do category.  I’d been suggesting a zoo to aquarium bar crawl for years, but it was just that: a suggestion.  Once you use your City Pass, you have nine days before it expires, so it forces you to make sure these things don’t just get put off for another day, or indefinitely.

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