Packed with cultural, historic, and culinary attractions, 332-year-old Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, continues to make strides in accessibility for visitors and residents. Consistently ranked one of the country’s most walkable cities, curb cuts and colorful, compact neighborhoods encourage navigation by wheelchair and scooter, while leafy parks provide shaded spots for resting.
Community highlights some of Philadelphia’s top accessible attractions, hotels, and restaurants, as well as those in the charming, historic towns of the bordering Pennsylvania countryside.
Philadelphia is served by Philadelphia International Airport, about seven miles from downtown, and Wilmington-Philadelphia Regional Airport, approximately 30 miles away, in New Castle, Delaware.
Philadelphia International Airport offers brochures for passengers with disabilities and an Airport Autism Access Program. For more information, go to bit.ly/PhiladelphiaBrochure
Wilmington-Philadelphia Regional Airport’s ground-level parking near the terminal entrance is currently free, although fees will charged as parking facilities develop. For more information, go to bit.ly/WilmingtonAir
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, SEPTA, serves Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties. All SEPTA buses and more than 100 SEPTA rail stations are accessible. SEPTA’s accessible Airport Line links Philadelphia’s Center City to Philadelphia International Airport and stops at all major terminals. For more information, go to www.septa.org/access
Reduced SEPTA fares are available for passengers with disabilities. For more information, go to bit.ly/SeptaDiscount
Amtrak serves two Philadelphia stations. 30th Street Station has a wheelchair lift, an accessible platform, and an accessible waiting room. North Philadelphia Station, however, does not have an elevator, a wheelchair lift, or an accessible platform. For more information, go to bit.ly/AmtrakAccessible
With 20 stops in Center City, the PHLASH Visitor Bus is an accessible, inexpensive way to travel Philadelphia’s downtown loop of historic and cultural sites. A single ride pass is $2, and an all-day pass is $5. For more information, go to bit.ly/PhlashBus
Those with handicapped or disabled license plates or placards are allowed to use the city’s metered street parking for an additional 60 minutes beyond the maximum time limit, at no additional charge. Metered parking in downtown Philadelphia is $2 an hour.
Independence Visitor Center (See Attractions below) is the official visitor center for Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties. The Independence Visitor Center underground parking garage, Autopark at Independence Mall, at 41 North 6th Street between Arch and Market Streets, costs $18 for 24 hours. (For accessible vans, note that vehicle height clearance is 6’6”.) For parking lot and garage deals, go to www.visitphilly.com/parkingdeals
Although there are currently only seven wheelchair accessible taxis in the city, the Philadelphia Parking Authority is to add 45 more by the end of 2014, with an additional 105 to be added over the next seven years. Freedom Taxi provides wheelchair-accessible taxicabs in Philadelphia. Call 215-222-9999 or go to www.freedomtaxi.com/about-us
Independence Visitor Center
Independence National Historical Park
1 N. Independence Mall West
(6th and Market Streets)
Independence National Historical Park includes the Independence Visitor Center, the Liberty Bell Center, Independence Hall, Declaration House, Congress Museum, Benjamin Franklin Museum, and Portrait Gallery in the Second Bank. The Independence Visitor Center offers free wheelchair rentals, assisted listening devices, and sign language interpreters upon request. For more information, go to bit.ly/IndependenceCenter.
Benjamin Franklin Museum
317 Chestnut Street
This interactive museum in the historic district, reopened last year, includes Ben Franklin artifacts and inventions, and interactive audio and video exhibitions about Franklin’s life. It also features a “ghost house”—a steel outline of the structure that was Franklin’s home, on the spot where the house once stood.
The delightful Shane Confectionery candy shop and Franklin Fountain soda fountain (see Food and Drink below) are just a few blocks away.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia’s best-known art museum, with more than 200 galleries, has a ramp and elevators at the main, Western entrance. Wheelchairs are available in three sizes, free of charge, as are adjustable-height canes with rubber tips.
All of the museum’s sites are accessible and linked via a free, accessible museum shuttle bus. Podcasts, apps, and audio tours are also available, as are adapted guided tours by prearrangement for individuals or groups with various disabilities.
The arts calendar found on www.art-reach.org lists accessible events (music, dance, opera, theater) that are open to the public, and community affairs hosted by Art-Reach partners.
Independence Beer Garden
100 S. Independence Mall West
This new, 20,000-square-foot beer garden overlooking the Liberty Bell and Independence National Historic Park serves 40 types of craft beers and an all-day menu of casual comfort food, as well as healthier options.
Reading Terminal Market
51 N. 12th Street
This indoor food market, packed with vendors of all stripes, first opened in 1892. Vendors, including bakers and local Amish farmers, sell cheeses, fresh produce, seafood, meats, candies, desserts, cheese steaks, pretzels, and much more. Popular restaurants include an oyster bar and a diner, and purveyors of Greek, Italian, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Cajun fare do a brisk business. For gluten-free and vegan options with Indian-Pakistani flair, check out Nanee’s Kitchen.
Reading Terminal Market can be crowded, especially at lunchtime during the week, but it is wheelchair accessible and well worth a visit. Weekends can be easier to navigate. Parking is $4 for two hours at two garages, with $10 minimum purchase and merchant validation. See the Reading Terminal website above for parking details.
110 Market Street
America’s oldest candy store, Shane Candies, was established in 1911. The staff dresses in turn-of-the-last-century garb to sell sweets, including classic homemade and imported candies, in Shane’s original building in the Old City, near many historic sites.
116 Market Street
On the same block as Shane Confectionery, Franklin Fountain offers an updated menu in an old-fashioned soda fountain setting. Customers choose from inventive treats like “The Lightning Rod,” a sundae of dark chocolate brownie pieces, coffee ice cream, whipped cream, espresso, chocolate-covered espresso beans, white chocolate shavings, and a salty pretzel rod. (Sundaes with gluten-free brownies, and vegan and dairy-free milkshakes are available.) Franklin Fountain’s accessible entrance on its Letitia Street side is by a prized Old City parking spot that is sometimes available.
Granite Hill Restaurant
Philadelphia Museum of Art
2601 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Granite Hill restaurant, on the ground floor of the museum’s main building, features a seasonal, French-inspired menu and serves lunch, brunch and dinner.
Radisson Blu Warwick Hotel
220 S. 17th Street
In the center of Philadelphia, near Rittenhouse Square, Radisson Blu Warwick Hotel has an entrance ramp, a large, comfortable lobby and the accessible first-floor Tavern 17 restaurant. Accessible guest rooms include those with roll-in showers, accessible controls, bathroom grab bars, and a tub transfer seat. Tavern 17 features gluten-free options, plus a canine cuisine menu.
The Philadelphia Airport Marriott Hotel
1 Arrivals Road, Terminal B
The Philadelphia Airport Marriott Hotel features 20 ADA-compliant rooms and is connected to the airport by a sky bridge. The hotel’s Aviation Grill restaurant is accessible, as are the main entrance, registration desk, meeting spaces, routes to accessible guest rooms and entrances to fitness and business centers.
The Philadelphia countryside, including Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties, all within 50 miles of Center City, is peppered with charming, historic towns. Attractions include nature trails, B&Bs, restaurants, cafes, wineries, antique shops, museums, galleries, markets, theme parks, and much more.
Forty-two miles from Philadelphia, Bucks County, including the towns of New Hope, Doylestown, Langhorne, Holicong, Bristol, Lahaska, and Perkasie, is best reached by car, with New Hope an ideal base for exploring the area.
New Hope Visitors Center
1 West Mechanic Street
New Hope, Pennsylvania
The accessible visitor center for the historic river town of New Hope in Bucks County is a good starting point for exploration. Built in 1839, the center served as New Hope’s first town hall, school, and jail and has recently been remodeled, with an outdoor garden area.
The majority of Bucks County’s major hotels, including the three full-service properties (Crowne Plaza Philadelphia Bucks County Hotel, Radisson Hotel Philadelphia Northeast, Sheraton Bucks County Hotel) and other select-service properties like the Courtyard by Marriott Langhorne and SpringHill Suites Langhorne (both near Sesame Place), are accessible.
Accessible Bucks County B&Bs include:
Golden Plough Inn
Routes 202 & 263
(Use 2400 Street Road, New Hope, PA 18938 for GPS devices.)
The newly-renovated Golden Plough Inn, in 18th-century-style shopping town Peddler’s Village, has four accessible rooms. Peddler’s Village features 65 specialty shops and restaurants.
Inn at Barley Sheaf
5281 York Road
The Inn at Barley Sheaf is a country inn in an old farmhouse, with first-level entrances to the manor house, cottage and barn, as well as wheelchair accessible rooms. Be sure to request an accessible room when booking, as several of the suites are located upstairs or downstairs. The Inn also offers an adjoining full-service restaurant.
James A. Michener Art Museum
138 S. Pine Street
At the Michener Art Museum, spotlighting regional art and culture, all galleries and public spaces are wheelchair accessible, and service animals are welcome. See the museum’s accessibility brochure at bit.ly/MichenerBrochure for more details.
Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle
84 S. Pine Street (Mercer Museum)
East Court Street & Route 313 (Fonthill Castle)
215-345-0210 & 215-348-9461
The Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle house a collection of nearly 40,000 pre-industrial era handmade items, ranging from a stage coach to folk art. The original Mercer Museum is partially accessible by elevator, and the new wing is fully accessible. Fonthill Castle has limited accessibility, but ground floor tours can be arranged.
Silver Lake Nature Center
1306 Bath Road
Silver Lake Nature Center offers a completely accessible trail specifically designed for wheelchairs, with a ramp to the platform area overlooking the lake.
100 Sesame Road
Children’s theme park Sesame Place’s website has an extensive accessibility guide. Highlights include a ride accessibility program, sign language interpretation, wheelchair rental, allergen-friendly options and more.
Bucks County Children’s Museum
500 Union Square Drive
New Hope, Pennsylvania
The Bucks County Children’s Museum features an “Exploration For All Program Guide” to help children with autism or other disabilities prepare for their visit.
Pearl S. Buck House
520 Dublin Road
The Pearl S. Buck House and Historic Site, once home to the famed writer and humanitarian, offers a guide on its website to its accessible areas, as well as measurements for guests using walking aids. For those who can’t take the full tour of the house, there is an option to watch a video of the tour. For more information, go to bit.ly/PearlBuckAccessibility