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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Cheap Weekend in Philadelphia Reviews and Tips,Double-Decker Bus and Duck Tours, Ben Franklin Yacht and Eastern State Penitentiary

Three of us spent the weekend in Philadelphia and had a very nice time seeing the sites.  Excluding transportation to the city and food it cost approximately $51 to park, take the Big Bus Tour, take the Ben Franklin yacht for a cruise and tour the Eastern State Penitentiary.  Here's a review of what we did and how we did it:

The Big Bus Tour is one of the double-decker bus tours you can take through the city.  It cost $52 for 1 adult and 2 children and is good for 2 consecutive days.  It is a 90 minute, hop on-hop off, "21 stop" tour of Old City, Chinatown, Center City, the museum district, Washington Square and Society Hill.  The Big Bus was infrequent and inconsistent as were the tour guides though you will learn and see a lot and have fun too. I walked 15 blocks of the route and did not see 1 Big Bus in over an hour.  I was lucky to arrive at one stop as the bus finally appeared, only to have it continue another 1/4 block before realizing we were standing there for a reason. At one point I wanted to get off but that didn't happen when I wanted it to either.

Enough complaining, just beware, you may be sitting, standing or walking more than you would anticipate.  

Next time I will consider the Philadelphia Siteseeing Tours.  Right now you can buy tickets on Goldstar for the half price of $12.15 each plus $4 fee per order.  This price is only for one day, 105 minutes, hop on-hop off at 27 stops. I didn't think the extra stint and time through University City would be worth it but I saw these buses everywhere.  In fact 2 passed us while I was waiting for just 1 Big Bus! Also, I've been told you can ride the train from 30th Street to the Reading Terminal Market free as long as you don't tell the ticket taker you are going to the Market.  Since the bus stops at both these places it could be a neat side trip if you're a county bumpkin like me.

Tip: Apparently Town Car drivers will drive you for the same cost as a taxi so they aren't sitting around not making money.  I would google taxi prices before you go to have something to compare prices with.

You can take an amphibious city tour from Ride the Ducks.  This is supposed to be a lot of fun too.  Save 41% by shopping through Groupon. Save even more by shopping Groupon through Ebates for 6% cashback.

Parking: I knew this would take up a big chunk of change so I searched and came across this nifty site,  They guarantee some of the rates you see, otherwise you just never know what you might be charged.  The cheapest I saw for a Saturday was $6 valet parking.  The Holiday Inn Express was $8.  You have to leave your key with the attendant here.

I purchased tickets for the Ben Franklin Yacht from Living Social for $20 each.  I was offered a credit card deal that knocked $30 off so they were $10 each.  After I purchased the tickets and went back to the deal I was offered $2 off per ticket.  You need to be signed out of Living Social to see this offer.  You can get them free when 3 friends buy the deal. Use code 5FORMOM for $5 off till 5/11.

This 2 hour tour on the Delaware river starts as a tour with a guide mentioning points of interests along the way and ends in a huge dance party.  The "snacks" they served were much more elaborate than I expected.  Lots of fun exploring the 3 decks, eating, drinking and dancing.  We parked at Pier 24 for the ride.  The yacht website stated the cost to park is "usually $5". It was $13. The site now says "average $5-$12".  

The Eastern State Penitentiary was very interesting.  Get a coupon for $2 off admission at the Independence Visitor Center. Definitely take the headsets for the audio tour and stop to talk to the guides.  There is also a schedule of talks and tours of off limit sections. The last entry is 4pm but I would say give yourself at least 2 1/2 hours to see and hear everything.  There is a parking lot across the street that charges $3-$10 but there is also ample unmetered parking.

Tip: Philadelphia Museum of Art admission is free the first weekend of each month with your Bank of America credit or debit card. The first Sunday and every Wednesday after 5pm is pay what you wish.

Revolution House at 200 Market Street has delicious, not sloppy, gyros and the veggie burger was good too.  I've been told "no self respecting Philadelphian eats at Pat's or Geno's, they are tourist attractions".  Sonny's at 228 Market St. was recommended for Philly Cheesesteak's.  

So how did I do all this for $51? A few weeks ago I got the Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card and after $500 in purchases in 90 days, I recieved a $100 statement credit that I used for the Penitentiary and the Big Bus Tour making them free.  The yacht came to $30 after the Living Social vouchers and the credit card bonus. Parking cost $8 and $13.  I stayed with a relative in the city but if I hadn't had that option I could have used a free night voucher or points to pay for a room from a credit card bonus such as the Marriott Rewards credit card.

Wow! That was a lot of info, hope you find some value in it!

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