Best of Philly Spotlight: 7 Random Free Things to Do in Philly

From a hidden zoo on East Passyunk to a museum of shoes, here are some of the kookiest ways to enjoy the city without spending a cent.

Giant Three-Way Plug (Cube Tap) by Claes Oldenburg, located in the Art Museum’s sculpture garden / Photograph by M. Edlow for GPTMC

From museum days to kids’ programming to outdoor concerts, we’re lucky to have an abundance of free stuff to do around town. But you know most of those already. Here are the kookiest ways to enjoy the city without spending a cent.

Elevator to the Clouds

Sitting atop the Comcast Technology Center, with a fancy bar and an even fancier restaurant, Four Seasons Philadelphia is pretty much the opposite of free. You know what’s not? A 60-floor elevator ride up to the Sky Lobby. The glass elevator shaft gives you an unparalleled view of the city.
1 North 19th Street, Center City.

Immersive Experience

Since you’re already hanging around the CTC, make a reservation for the Universal Sphere in the upper lobby. It looks like a mini EPCOT globe from the outside, and you step in for a dome theater experience that kind of feels like a ride. It’s hard to explain, but it’s only seven minutes long, so you’ve got time.
1800 Arch Street, Center City.

The Universal Sphere in the Comcast Technology Center / Photograph by Laura Swartz

Niche History

Yes, there are many, many famous museums in Philadelphia. And there’s also the Shoe Museum at Temple’s podiatry school. Mummer shoes. Baby shoes. A locker room with athletes’ shoes. You get the picture. Looking for other always-free museums? Try Fireman’s Hall Museum, the Science History Institute, and the Institute of Contemporary Art.
148 North 8th Street, Chinatown.

Sculpture Ogling

The Anne d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden behind the Art Museum is totally free (and where else can you see a gigantic electric plug?), as is the Rodin Museum garden.
2600 Ben Franklin Parkway, Logan Circle.

A reptilian resident of ILLExotics / Photograph by Laura Swartz

Impromptu Zoo

You wouldn’t know it from looking at the outside, but East Passyunk’s ILLExotics is basically a free reptile and amphibian house. Gawk at tank after tank of chameleons, frogs, tortoises, and all kinds of exotic lizards. Chat up the store’s experts if you want to learn more about them, or just sit on the floor and get close enough to peer into their cold, creepy eyes.
1704-06 East Passyunk Avenue, East Passyunk.

Walking Buddies

If scaly, slimy critters aren’t your thing, sign up to walk one of Doggie Style Pets’ resident pups. The dogs are adoptable, but even if you can’t take one home, you can have a canine companion for a half-hour. Just pick your time and store location online, show up, present your ID, and get instant happiness in the form of a fluffy friend (while helping the shelter give the dogs some exercise).
Multiple locations.

Behind the scenes at Termini’s / Photograph by Laura Swartz

Sugary Safari

Take a bakery tour at Termini’s South Philly flagship to see mixers as big as hot tubs and cannoli being filled. This is great for kids, who get little paper hats and are highly likely to walk out with a free treat.
1523 South 8th Street, East Passyunk.

>> Click here to return to Best of Philly 2022

Published as “Random Free Things” in the August 2022 issue of Philadelphia magazine.