It’s been a year since we spent a long, wonderful day being tourists in Philadelphia. Let’s see if I can remember all the fun we had!
The first stop (which was quite convenient since we used the parking lot under this building) was the Independence Visitor’s Center, where we picked up our tickets to tour Independence Hall later in the morning.
We didn’t, however, spend much time there for a few reasons. One, most of the displays were under construction. Two, it was extremely crowded. (There are pros and cons for going around the 4th of July.) Three, and really most important, we had done some pre-planning and were using a walking tour guide that had the National Constitution Center as stop #1. Here’s the route we followed.
#1 – We actually didn’t spend much time at this museum either, just walked in, then out. We could have paid the entrance fee (about $15 each) and explored all of the exhibits, but we chose not to. That would have taken our entire day, and the purpose of this trip to Philadelphia was to get an overview of history, and to pack as much in as possible, without reading every single little plaque. I know this was a sacrifice for my dear husband, but he voluntarily let me be the guide for the day. Happy Birthday to Me, and my country!
#2 – The President’s House – We actually did read all of the signs at this free, outdoor exhibit, but it didn’t take too long. Don’t forget to click the links to find even more information and pictures! In the 1790’s both President Washington and President Adams lived in the house that used to stand here.
#3 (which is actually #32 on the map; he really let me have my way!) – The Declaration House – Although there may have been a museum here at one time, it’s not open now. This is where Thomas Jefferson lived while writing the Declaration of Independence.
#4 (#31) – Philadelphia History Museum – This museum was also closed. I guess after some time passes, things need to be renovated.
#5 (#30) – Signer’s Walk – You can find better quality pictures, but they won’t have my toes in them. All along this block, plaques were placed commemorating the men who risked their “lives, reputations and fortunes” to sign the Declaration of Independence. It’s actually pretty impressive and touching. And that took us to Independence Square, where Weston’s family met us.
#6 (#7) – Philosophical Hall – This is the building directly past security. It’s open from Thursday through Sunday; we were there on a Monday, so we looked at it from the outside and called it good.
#7 (#4) – Independence Hall – This museum is actually open, and it doesn’t cost anything to get a required ticket for the tour of the East Wing. However, if you go online and pay a nominal service fee (which we did), you have a better chance of getting tickets for when you want them. We figured July 2nd would be a pretty popular day for visitors, and we were correct.
More Independence Hall – The West Wing – not really made for strollers, but we enjoyed looking at the exhibits here – well, maybe not Clark – and the boys were intrigued by the little red outbuilding.
#8 (#5) – Congress Hall – No tickets were necessary, but there was a wait for the guided tour, so we ate a snack while standing in line. Washington and Adams had their inaugurations in this building, which is where Congress met during the 1790’s. By then we were really hungry and decided to head out to find some cheese steaks, passing a few other historical buildings along the way, including Old City Hall (#6).
#9 (#10) – Second Bank of the United States
#10 (#29) – The Bourse Building – The first commodities exchange market in our country, now a food court.
#11 (#19-21) – The Franklin Court and Museum – Definitely worth coming back to explore some day, but we were ready for lunch!
After consulting both Google and AAA, paying attention to both patron reviews and proximity to our location, I chose Sonny’s as the place to try our Philadelphia cheese steaks. It was small and crowded, but we found a table (outside at first, but then inside), the prices were reasonable, and the food was delicious. After eating, we said good-bye to the kids, who were tuckered out and ready to go home, and we continued to explore.
#12 (#22) – Christ Church – Since there was still a lot we wanted to see, we didn’t go inside to take a tour (just peeked through the door), but we did wander around the grounds for a few minutes, looking for the graves of some of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. It’s a beautiful, peaceful spot.
#13 (#23) – Elfreth’s Alley – Apparently, this is our country’s oldest residential street, and that had intrigued me as soon as I learned it existed. It lived up to its quaint charm. Wouldn’t you agree?
#14 (#24) – Betsy Ross House – Plenty of people paid the small fee to visit this old home, but we just peeked into the yard and continued on our walk.
#15 (#25) – Arch Street Friends Meeting House – Also closed on Mondays, so looking through the fence had to suffice.
#16 – Museum of the American Revolution – Technically this isn’t part of the tour, but it showed up in my research. I was particularly intrigued with the thought of doing some family history here. I don’t know if they still have the exhibits I read about last summer, but some day it would be fun to go spend a day or two in this museum.
It seems that once you’re introduced to something new, it keeps popping up all over the place. Here’s another “living” wall, very similar to the one at Longwood Gardens.
#17 (#16) – First Bank of the United States – Currently closed, but this part of the park was actually very pretty and we enjoyed walking around it.
#18 (#17) – Carpenter’s Hall – Since this required an additional admission fee, we just walked around the outside, but it’s a beautiful building which would tell a lot of stories if it could talk.
#19 (#18) – New Hall Military Museum – We appreciated the opportunity to go inside and enjoy the air conditioning and also the exhibits, which included a model of the USS Constitution and were all quite fascinating.
#20 (#16) – City Tavern – Too bad we had already eaten lunch; it would have been fun to try this venerable institution, the “most genteel tavern in America” according to John Adams.
#21 (#14) – Merchant’s Exchange – Currently this is park headquarters, and we took advantage of getting out of the heat to read about the history of the park.
#22 (#13) – Polish American Cultural Center Museum – Maybe if we had Polish ancestry we’d have crossed the street to tour this free museum, but we don’t, so we didn’t.
#23 (#12) – Bishop White House – We didn’t have timed entry tour tickets, which are required to see the interior of this restored house, so we continued on to the next site.
#24 (#11) – Dolley Todd House – This is where Dolley Madison (the president’s wife) lived, before she became Dolley Madison. This landmark also requires tickets when it’s open, but for now it’s closed. The gardens, however, are still meticulously maintained.
#25 – Robert Morris Statue – Who is Robert Morris? Find out here.
#9 repeat – Throughout the day, we criss-crossed our steps several times, and since the starving little boys weren’t with us when we walked by the Second National Bank again, we went inside and perused some of the exhibits, most notably the Peale Portraits of Philadelphia.
#27 – Signer’s Garden – We didn’t really walk through this small garden, but we did walk around it. And I took a few pictures.
#28 (#9) – Library Hall – Some of the buildings on the walking tour are part of the National Historic Park, others are not. This one is owned by the American Philosophical Society (at least, as far as I can tell), an organization started by Benjamin Franklin.
#29 (#8) – Washington Square Park – Parks in the middle of downtown cities aren’t quite the same as suburban parks, but this was a pleasant oasis to visit, and we took advantage of the opportunity to pay our respects to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
#30 (#3) – Liberty Bell Center – Earlier in the day, the line to see the Liberty Bell was way too long, so we skipped it. However, while retracing our steps back to the car, we realized the line was a reasonable length, so we walked through that building before heading home.
Congratulations on making it to the end! I hope you enjoyed this little tour. Now you’ve seen pretty much what we saw, and you didn’t have to walk for hours and hours to do so. However, I’d still encourage you to visit Philadelphia in person some day. It’s a gorgeous city. Maybe we can go together!