Taking socially-distant guided tours these days is a surprisingly intimate experience. With fewer people, you get a semi-private adventure with an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide. Here are two guided tours that are up-and-running again.
There’s no better way to enjoy the city’s rich architecture than by taking one of the architecture walking tours offered by the Preservation Alliance. Volunteers, many of whom are retired architects, lead the tours, pointing out details you may have never noticed and can’t believe you have missed. Being able to identify Italianate row houses on Spruce Street, seeing the influence of Philadelphia architect Frank Furness; or noticing identical twin townhouses a father created for two daughters getting married the same summer, really enhances strolls through the city. The architectural walking tours are ideal for inquisitive locals who relish the idea of learning more about their community and seeing the buildings along their regular routes with fresh eyes or discovering neighboring areas.
The tours are currently being offered with safety protocol in place. During tours, the guide and all participants must wear masks covering their nose and mouth at all times, All participants must stay 6 feet apart.
To sign up: https://www.preservationalliance.com
Tip: For the guided tours, earbuds are provided. You can use your own, if they’re corded.
Philadelphia is the mural arts capital of the world with more than 4,000 delightful, quirky pieces of public art. Walking around the city you’ll stumble upon trompe l’oeil murals, portraits, abstracts, and paintings of lush gardens. The murals aren’t just amazing and amusing, they also bring together communities. The Mural Arts Program started in 1984 to eradicate graffiti and is committed to the idea that art ignites change. Each mural is like an autobiography of its neighborhood, representing something meaningful to the community.
Mural Arts Philadelphia is once again offering guided tours. For the safety of guests, a proper face covering is required (no exceptions). Groups are limited to 10 people at a time. Tickets must be purchased in advance (no walk ups).
To sign up: https://www.muralarts.org
Tip: You can go to https://map.muralarts.org for a website that helps you find the murals around you in real time.
The Preservation Alliance and Mural Arts Philadelphia both offer self-guided tours too. And here are more self-guided options.
Haddonfield Outdoor Sculpture Trust
Charming downtown Haddonfield has about two dozen outdoor sculptures by local artists and nationally-known artists. Take the self-guided walking tour found on https://haddonfieldsculpture.org and you’ll discover a ballerina, an open heart that’s a popular photo spot for couples, a postman in front of the town’s post office and more. In the small park called the Children’s Sculpture Zoo, there’s a life-size giraffe, as well as several animals created by Eric Berg, who is responsible for the Drexel Dragon sculpture in University City and Philbert, the pig at Reading Terminal Market.
It all started with Haddy, the dinosaur in the middle of town. Haddy was erected 17 years ago to commemorate the dinosaur skeleton found in the area in the mid-1800s.
For a self-guided tour: https://haddonfieldsculpture.org
Tip: The whole tour spans about half a mile and you’ll pass a plethora of chocolate shops, gelato stores, bakeries and coffee shops along the route.
Public Art Tour
According to the Smithsonian Institute, Philadelphia has one of the nation’s largest collections of outdoor art. That’s due, in part, to the Percentage for Art Program requiring developers building on land acquired or assembled by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority to dedicate at last one percent of total building construction costs to the commissioning of original, site-specific works of art. When the program was established in 1959 it was the first of its kind. Check out some of the city's remarkable public art on the self-guided tours on the Association for Public Art's website.
For a self-guided tour: https://www.associationforpublicart.org/tours/
Tip: For more information, you can access “Museum Without Walls,” a free audio tour on your phone, ipad or computer.