The Independence Tour
If you have only one day in Philadelphia and would like to see the most popular historic sites in town, we suggest the following itinerary:
- Start at the Liberty Bell. Park rangers are there to interpret the Bell for you. [Free — allow 30 minutes]
- Go south a half block and visit Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were born. Adjoining it on the right is Congress Hall where the upper and lower houses of Congress first convened (in the upper and lower floors) , and on its left is Old City Hall, home to the Supreme Court when Philadelphia was the nation's capital. Park rangers are there to answer all your questions. [Free, but requires ticket from Visitor Center — allow 1-1/2 hours]
- Walk east along Chestnut Street about 1-1/2 blocks to Carpenters' Hall, where John Adams, Patrick Henry, George Washington, and other delegates formed the First Continental Congress in 1774 — where it all began! Plus, pick up a souvenir of your visit to Philadelphia here. The Carpenters' Company has docents (tour guides) for you. [Free — allow 1/2 hour]
- Time for lunch! Go north one block to the Bourse where you will find several restaurants surrounding a court with ample tables. [Not free]
- Next stop is the Betsy Ross House. Go north on Fifth one and a half blocks and take a right on Arch Street. Stop briefly at the corner and pay tribute at Benjamin Franklin's grave site then continue two blocks to the shrine to the American flag [Betsy Ross House asks for a voluntary contribution — allow 1/2 hour]
- The last stop depends on you.
- If you have children, then return to Fifth and across from Ben Franklin's grave is the United States Mint where you can watch coins being minted on weekdays [free — allow 1 hour]
- Otherwise, continue east one block, then left on Second Street to visit Elfreth's Alley, the longest continually inhabited street in the original 13 Colonies. [Museum is $1 for adults; 50c for children over 4; free for school groups and children 4 and under — allow 1 hour to see the street and visit the museum]
The Franklin Tour
There are some special places in Philadephia for admirers of Ben Franklin.
- Start at Franklin Court (on Market Street between 3rd and 4th Streets. This homage to Franklin features a print shop, the B. Franklin post office, an underground museum, the excavated remains of his dwelling outlined with an abstract "ghost house" designed by Robert Venturi. [Free — allow 2-3 hours]
- Next is to visit his grave by walking west to Fourth Street, take a right, walk one block north to Arch Street, then a left and one block west to Fifth Street. Look across the street to behold a nine-foot bronze bust of Franklin, installed in 2007. It replaced a mammoth bust of Franklin's head sculpted entirely from pennies donated by school children, taken down in 1996. The new bust is covered with casts of more than a thousand keys donated by local schoolchildren. Through a fundraising drive led by the Philadelphia Fire Departnment, kids also chipped in 1.8 million pennies to help fund the work. Look up and see the Ben Franklin Bridge spanning the river to New Jersey.
- Take the convenient purple tourist Phlash bus (call 215-4-PHLASH for information) to the Franklin Institute. Eat at the cafe there and then enjoy the pulsating heart, the demonstrations of Ben Franklin's workshop, the Omniverse Theater, the planetarium, and myriad wonders of science and technology. [museum: $9.50 adult $8.50 child/senior; museum plus Omni or museum plus planetarium $12.50 adult $10.50 child/senior; museum plus Omni plus planetarium $14.50 adult $12.50 child/senior — allow 3+ hours]
"Sun" Day Tour
On warm sunny days, Philadelphia has great outdoors activities.
- Start at Penn's Landing and check the schedule of events — there are often open-air concerts on the Great Plaza. Visit the historic ships, the Independence Seaport Museum, and just walk along the water and picnic on the grass. There are many food vendors in kiosks along the way. You can even rent a boat for some river fun.
- Walk across the South Street Bridge, for pedestrians only, and take a walk on the hippest street in town — South Street! There are scores of stores and food galore.
The Pray and Play Tour
A juxtapositional journey visiting historic places of worship on your way to the "street where the hippies meet."
- From the south side of Independence Hall, walk two blocks east on Walnut Street and you'll come upon Old St. Joseph's — the first Roman Catholic Church in the Colonies.
- Backtrack west and take a left at the corner onto Fourth Street. One block south you'll find Old St. Mary's, which was Philadelphia's first Catholic Cathedral. While there, you can visit the grave of Jackie O's ancestor, Michael Bouvier.
- Another block south near the corner of Spruce and Fourth is the Society Hill Synagogue, designed by the architect who designed the dome of the U.S. Capitol.
- One block south on Fourth is Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church — the "Church of the Patriots." Eugene Ormandy, the great conductor, is buried here.
- One block east is St. Peter's Church (A row of osage orange trees said to have been planted with seeds brought back by Lewis and Clark grows here).
- Walk one block south and two blocks west to the corner of Fifth and Lombard to find the final church on this Pray and Play tour. It is Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church. Abolitionist-women's rights advocate Lucretia Mott, abolitionist-journalist Frederick Douglass, and William Still, a moving force behind the Underground Railroad, were among those who spoke from the rostrum here.
- Now it's time to play. One block south. South Street.