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Sightseeing Philadelphia: Get More From Your Tour

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For many independent travelers, the word "tour" conjures up visions of sitting for hours on a motorcoach or tagging along behind a guide with a crowd of other camera-toting tourists. These folks would rather explore a new place on their own; after all, they're independent travelers. Who needs a tour?

But if you're planning a trip to Philadelphia, you just might want to reconsider. The city offers a wealth of unique tours, including the new SoundAboutPhilly -- a series of free audio tours from the Philadelphia tourist board. Featuring unscripted commentary from Philly natives, they're the antithesis of typical guidebook-style tours. Our favorite is "My Philly," in which locals share their favorite spots for shopping, dining and listening to live music. We also like the "Flavorhoods" tour, which gives you the scoop on the ethnic cuisine in Philly's diverse neighborhoods from people who live there. There are currently five other tours available, as well as several uploaded by users.

You can listen to the audio files online, or download them free to your computer or iPod. Each tour has dynamic mapping capability (using Google map technology), allowing you to customize and save your own itinerary by adding individual stops from each tour to a new map.

SoundAboutPhilly is a great place to start, but it's by no means the only way to get the most out of your visit to Philly. Below is a selection of our favorite tours for all types of travelers, whether you're looking for film, food, freebies or family fun. Please note that the prices listed below are subject to change at any time.

Active Travelers Film Fanatics History Buffs
Art Lovers Foodies Repeat Visitors
Families Frugal Travelers Romantics

Active Travelers
The Winner: Hate the idea of sitting on a tour bus? Try a three-hour Philadelphia Bike Tour from the Permaburn Society instead. Tours depart from the Atwater Kent Museum and include a picnic snack as well as stops at Independence Square, the Edgar Allan Poe House, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and more. (For those who'd rather go it alone, the company also rents bikes for half- or full-day use.)

Art Lovers
The Winner: Most visitors to Philadelphia's world-famous art museum have little knowledge of the unique local art tucked away in the city's residential neighborhoods. To get a first-hand glimpse, take a trolley tour with the Mural Arts Program. The two-hour tours rotate neighborhoods each week, so one Saturday you can see community art projects in Center City while the next you'll be in North Philadelphia. Along the way, a docent gives background on the history of each mural. Tours depart from the Independence Visitor Center.

The Winner: Grab your quacker and keep all arms and legs inside the vehicle during your Ride the Ducks tour! Friendly, knowledgeable captains drive amphibious vehicles through the streets of Old City, dispensing history and one-liners in equal measure, before plunging into the Delaware River for a view of the city skyline. Be prepared to sing (and quack) along with songs like "Rubber Ducky" and "On the Way to Cape May." Tours depart year-round from the Independence Visitor Center.

Honorable Mention: See the spooks after dark on a candlelit ghost tour through Independence Park and Society Hill. A guide spins stories about famous figures from Philadelphia's past -- who may still be haunting the present! Meet your ghostly guide in the Signer's Garden at Fifth and Chestnut Streets; tours leave nightly from April through October and on weekends in February, March and November.

Get more ideas for family sightseeing in Philly in Taking the Kids: Three Days in Philadelphia.

Film Fanatics
The Winner: Everyone knows about Rocky's famous sprint up the Art Museum steps, but Philadelphia has actually played host to dozens of other movies. Go on location with the "Philadelphia in the Movies" tour. Led by a trained guide from the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, the 2.5-hour tour includes more than 37 locations plus plenty of insider dish, tidbits and film clips on movies like "The Sixth Sense" and "In Her Shoes." Tours depart on select Saturdays from the Independence Visitor Center.

The Winner: Looking for a tour you can really sink your teeth into? Try the Taste of Philadelphia Food Tour at the Reading Terminal Market. A local food writer leads 75-minute tours through the maze of colorful stalls at the city's most famous market, giving visitors the inside scoop on Philly favorites like cheese steaks, pretzels and Hershey's chocolate. Tours depart from the Reading Terminal Market information desk on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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