The city known as “America’s birthplace” is a playground for history buffs.
Start at the Independence Visitor Center for information, free amenities, Philadelphia-themed souvenirs and ticket sales for more than 100 attractions and tours in the Historic District and throughout the region. Check out the new 42-foot, interactive touchscreen digital wall to find out what to do in Philadelphia and enjoy an 8-minute film in an open-walled theater.
Exit the visitor center onto Market Street and cross the street to stroll the President’s House Commemorative Site. Enter the Liberty Bell Center to gaze upon and snap a photo of the iconic symbol of freedom. Admission is free and entrance is on a first-come, first-served basis. Then, take a photo in front of Independence Hall – the iconic location where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and adopted and one of Frommer’s top places to visit in 2021 – and cross the street to walk behind the building to enter for a tour.
NOTE: To obtain free timed tickets to tour Independence Hall, guests must reserve their tickets in advance online at Recreation.gov or by phone at 1-877-444-6777. Tickets are free, but there is a non-refundable processing fee of $1 per ticket.
TIP: Download the new mobile app from the National Park Service for interactive maps, self-guided tours, and the latest information on hours, amenities, accessibility and more throughout Independence National Historical Park.
Head down Chestnut Street to Carpenters’ Hall, the site of the First Continental Congress in 1774. Then, on to the Museum of the American Revolution, for a primer on America’s beginnings and an overview of the historical sites located throughout the Philadelphia region.
For lunch, try an authentic Philly cheesesteak at family-owned Campo’s on Market Street in Old City. Visit the historic Bourse, once home to the nation’s first commodities exchange market. The 123-year old building has been restored to its original glory and lives on as the home to an artisanal food hall with nearly 30 food and drink vendors.
See where George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross worshipped at Christ Church. Visit the nation’s first post office and print shop and the remains of Ben Franklin’s Market Street home outside of the Benjamin Franklin Museum, which houses artifacts, computer animations, and interactive displays that tell the fascinating story of the Founding Father. Wander through Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously-inhabited street in America.
Visit the Betsy Ross House where the Philadelphia patriot believed to have made the first American flag – and see how working-class people lived in 18th Century Philadelphia.
Head up Arch Street and pass Christ Church Burial Ground to see Ben Franklin’s grave. Experience making money at the source with a free, self-guided tour of the U.S. Mint, which includes a view of coining operations from 40 feet above the factory floor. Reservations are not required for this 45-minute tour, available to the public Monday through Friday. Explore the dramatic story of the U.S. Constitution from Revolutionary times to the present at the National Constitution Center.
MORE AMERICAN HISTORY HIGHLIGHTS:
- The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History: The only major national museum dedicated to telling the story of the Jewish people in America from 1654 to present.
- The Faith and Liberty Discovery Center: The newest attraction to open along Independence Mall, this high-tech museum explores the relationship between faith and liberty from America’s founding to today through immersive galleries and interactive exhibits.
- The American Philosophical Society Museum: The oldest learned society in the United States, founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin for the purpose of “promoting useful knowledge.” See exhibitions drawn from the Society’s renowned collections that trace American history and science from the Founding Fathers to the digital age.
- National Liberty Museum: See an exact replica of the Liberty Bell that you can touch at this museum that celebrates American heroes and the ideals of freedom, honoring more than 1,000 outstanding individuals of all ethnic backgrounds.
- Fireman’s Hall Museum: Located in a restored firehouse, the Fireman’s Hall Museum features all the history and heroic moments of firefighting in Philadelphia. Visitors can peruse the museum’s various exhibits and attend its public programs.
- Independence Seaport Museum: Explore the region’s maritime heritage with interactive exhibits, magnificent ship models and more than 14,000 artifacts. Visit Admiral Dewey’s 1892 cruiser Olympia and the World War II submarine, Becuna.
- Historic Philadelphia’s Once Upon A Nation: The sights and sounds of Colonial Philadelphia come alive through a cast of storytellers who take to the streets sharing Philadelphia’s rich past through interesting tales.
- African American Museum in Philadelphia: Explore the history and stories of African-American people and those of the African Diaspora.
- Battleship New Jersey Memorial and Museum: Tour the U.S. Navy’s most decorated warship and visit simulated operations areas spanning five deck levels, across the Delaware River from the Historic District of Philadelphia.