• Irene Levy Baker

Socially Distant Tours of Philadelphia: Guided & Self-Guided


Brownstones on Spruce Street at sunset. Photo by Irene Levy Baker.

Guided Tours

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.


Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia


There’s no better way to enjoy the city’s rich architecture than by taking one of the 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.

Tip: If you prefer to go it alone, you’ll find self-guided tours on the Preservation Alliance’s website too.


Mural Arts Philadelphia

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).

Tip: You can go to https://map.muralarts.org for a website that helps you find the murals around you in real time.


Self-Guided Tours

Both of the organizations above offer self-guided tours too. And here are more self-guided options.


Association for Public Art


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.


Society Hill Civic Association


This neighborhood association strives to protect the historic character of the area from the Delaware River to 8th Street and Walnut to Lombard streets. Explore the neighborhood that is the birthplace of the nation and see how it continues to be part of the city's living history on this self-guided tour. (To find tour, open the May/June 2020 newsletter).

by Irene Levy Baker, author, 100 Things To Do In Philadelphia and Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia. Both books are full of tips. For even more tips, visit www.100ThingsToDoInPhiladelphia.com. Planning a staycation? Go to the website for signed copies of books. For free shipping, use promo code TheCityPulse.


Click here for more blog postings by Irene Levy Baker including two posts with tips for how to help restaurants survive and a look at Philly-style masks.

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