Independence National Historical Park
Every American should plan a visit to Philadelphia to see where the foundation of our country was formed. Something about walking into the same space where the debates and arguments about what this new country of the United States of America could be is so inspiring. You can still sense the aura of hope that imbued the room, filled with the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams.
The Independence Hall area of Philadelphia is made up of several sites and museums. There are also some sites outside of the Independence Hall area that I will cover in an upcoming blog post. For today’s blog, I am focusing on Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.
Independence Hall is the site where two of the most important documents in United States history, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, were signed. You actually go in the exact room where these documents were debated, voted on, and signed. This is also the site of George Washington’s appointment as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army and where the Articles of Confederation were signed. There is a lot of history in this building!
Begin your tour at the Visitor Center, located at 6th and Market Streets. The Visitor Center has a small but interesting display of the history of the Independence Hall area, along with videos and information on tours of this site and the area. It has a wonderful and large gift shop, along with a snack bar, so it is a great first stop to orient yourself with the historical area. And it has bathrooms – all important for traveling with kids!
Tours of Independence Hall are through ticketed guided tours only and can be reserved online in advance. If you are visiting during spring break, the summer, or any other peak travel season, be sure to reserve your tickets well in advance here. The reservation fees are only $1.00 a ticket and well-worth it! When we visited back in the fall of 2018, the site to reserve tickets was down so I had to be there right at opening to ensure that we got tickets. It was very stressful – knowing that I had to get one of the first tours since we were leaving that day! If you do not get tickets ahead of time, same day tickets are given out on a first-come, first-served basis at the Visitor Center.
The National Park Service requests that you be at the site, near the corner of 5th and Chestnut, 30 minutes before your ticketed time to go through security. This extra time is especially needed during busy times so plan accordingly. After going through security, be prepared to wait outside for 15-20 minutes until the tour time arrives. It can be chilly in Philly so make sure to have coats for you and your little ones!
At your ticketed time, you will congregate in the outside courtyard behind Independence Hall. There is space for little ones to run around if they need to get their wiggles out before going inside.
At your tour time, a very knowledgeable National Park ranger will guide you through the site. You will enter the building and begin your tour at the Courtroom of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Your ranger will give a 5-10 minute talk here about the history of the building and how it came to play such an important role in American history.
Then you will get to enter the most important space – the Assembly Room. This room is set up in the same way as it was during the Second Continental Congress. It is amazing to see the site you have seen so many times in history books! The park ranger does a great job of explaining the room, its architecture, and its historical significance in a 15-20 minute talk. You can just imagine the oratory from Adams, Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin filling the room.
Then your tour will proceed upstairs to the Long Galley, where your tour will end. The park ranger will answer questions after the tour so make sure your little ones ask!
Don’t miss the last two rooms on the tour, the Governor’s Council Chambers and the Committee of the Assembly Chamber. In the latter chamber, fugitive slaves were held for trial, right above the room that gave Americans, except for slaves, their freedom.
- Cost: Free (advance tickets $1)
- Recommended for: for kids to truly understand the site, ages 8 and up. However it is appropriate for all ages to visit. Since it is a guided tour, little ones may have trouble being quiet or staying still for 30-45 minutes.
- Tour will take 30-45 minutes, not including the time at the Visitor Center.
- Great gift shop and cafe at the Visitor Center.
- Public transportation: SEPTA 5th Street stop
- Parking is readily available in the attached parking garage.
- Dining options nearby: Cafe at the Visitors Center and Cosi two blocks away on Chestnut Street.
- Nearby attractions: Liberty Bell (see below), President’s House site, Dolley Todd House, Benjamin Franklin Museum, Museum of the American Revolution, National Constitution Center, and Betsy Ross House.
Books to read (continually updated):
- 14 and up:
- 10 and up:
- 6 and up:
A visit to Philadelphia has to include a visit to the most famous bell in America! The Liberty Bell is housed in a museum that is part of the Independence National Park area. The museum is on the block in between the Visitor Center and Independence Hall, with the entrance being at 6th and Market. Don’t miss the open air President’s House ruins at the entrance.
The Liberty Bell museum houses the Liberty Bell along with displays about its significance in American history. As you go to enter the museum, you do have to go through security but the line does move quickly. Linger as long as you (or your children!) desire in the museum portion. Kids especially like to learn how the Liberty Bell got the crack!
The last room in the museum houses the actual Liberty Bell. There is plenty of room around the bell to take pictures and get an up close look at the crack in the bell!
- Cost: Free
- Recommended for: any age
- Plan for 30 minutes for security and to go through the museum.
- There is no on site gift shop or cafe. The Independence Park Visitor Center is across the street.
- Dining options: See above
- Nearby attractions: See above
Books to Read:
- 10 and up:
- Saving the Liberty Bell (On My Own History)
- 6 and up:
Have you been to Philadelphia to see Independence Hall? Did your kids like seeing the Liberty Bell? Comment about your experience below!