Where to Experience Living History in Philadelphia’s Historic District
Spots to meet, mingle and grab a selfie with our nation’s celebrated history-makers
Want to march with the Continental Army? Mingle with Thomas Jefferson? Snap a selfie with Benjamin Franklin?
Philadelphia's Historic District is filled with fun opportunities to meet some of our nation's most prominent history-makers and hear their stories firsthand – or at least as close to firsthand as can be.
Discover how to explore the Historic District by experiencing a bit of history yourself using our guide of ongoing living history happenings outlined below. From beer-filled Colonial Tippler's Tours for the 21-plus crowd to witty puppet shows for the kiddos at Carpenters' Hall, there are plenty of hands-on experiences for all ages to partake.
Read on to learn about them all!
Learn what it took to create the American flag with Betsy Ross.
Get to know our nation’s famous flag-maker
Visit the iconic home of Betsy Ross and America’s most famous flag-maker will be there, outfitted in her dress and bonnet ensemble, to chat about her role in making the first American flag. During your tour, you can talk to Betsy herself and discover why she took on the potentially treasonous task when George Washington came knocking and the time-saving trick she shared with the great general. And, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, you can even help Betsy in a little flag-raising fun during a daily hoisting event of Old Glory.
March with the Continental Army and learn musket etiquette.
Engage in the art of marching, basic army drills and more at Signers' Garden
If you're sightseeing with a crew of energy-brimming kiddos, let the Continental Army take them on. Here, they'll get the chance to run around outside while learning basic army drills, including marching techniques and musket etiquette in Signers' Garden (located across 5th Street from Independence Hall).
Catch an afternoon reading of the Declaration of Independence behind Independence Hall.
Put your grade school memorization skills to the test
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." From Memorial Day through Labor Day, head to Independence Square (located behind Independence Hall) to hear moving readings of the Declaration of Independence by re-enactors held nearly every day of the season. Click the button below for an up-to-date schedule.
Grab a beer (or three) with a Colonial Philadelphian on a Tippler’s Tour.
Imbibe with history as a Colonial guide leads the way
From May through December, the over-21 set can sing along to 18th-century drinking songs, enjoy stories of the drinking traditions of Colonial times and sample spirits and snacks as they ramble through the Historic District with a Colonial guide. Tippler Tour-goers will be taken to local watering holes while learning important information along the way, like Benjamin Franklin’s names for a drunk person (“nimptopsical” and “tipsicum grave”).
Check out 18th-century-inspired activities with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and others at Colonial Stations.
Spend a hands-on afternoon in the 18th century throughout the Historic District
At multiple locations in the Historic District including Christ Church and Independence Square, visitors can spend the afternoon captivated by characters and activities from the 18th century. Participate in crafting, listen to Colonial-style music and meet Founding Fathers and Mothers such as Benjamin Franklin, Deborah Franklin and George Washington. Other popular free activities include listening to political debates between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
Grab a seat to hear a facinating tale at the Once Upon A Nation Storytelling Benches
History that speaks to you
Throughout the Historic District, you’ll find 13 Once Upon A Nation Storytelling Benches featuring free, five-minute tales and secret stories told by uniformed, professional storytellers. Learn fascinating details about some of our nation's earliest "celebrity" citizens in the places where the history actually happened.
Sit and be served by Colonial Philadelphians at City Tavern where you can eat and drink as if it were the 1700s.
Dine and drink as a Founding Father would
City Tavern offers a historic dining experience, complete with Colonial haute cuisine, costumed wait staff and Colonial-era drinks and desserts. The restaurant is housed in a replica of the 1773 restaurant where Founding Fathers once gathered.
Visit Independence Hall at night to hear a lively debate between Founding Fathers.
Spend the evening on an Independence After Hours tour
The Independence After Hours tour is populated with Colonial characters who bring history to life right in the place where it happened at several top landmarks in the Historic District. The evening begins with a delicious three-course meal at the historic City Tavern where Colonial townspeople entertain guests. The Colonial host then “sneaks” everyone into the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall), once he talks his way past the vigilant night watchman. Once inside, visitors witness several Founding Fathers deep in discussion over the creation of the Declaration of Independence.
Listen to stories from historical figures who lived in Philadelphia at the Independence Visitor Center.
Meet an esteemed portrait artist, a Secretary of War General and more
Throughout history, Philadelphia has been filled with bright thinkers and creators, not all of whom hold household names. Visit the Independence Visitor Center for a chance to meet a "Once Upon A Nation History Maker," the lesser-known historic figures who lived right here in Philadelphia, like acclaimed portrait artist James Peale and Secretary of War General Henry Knox.
Get acquainted with Free Quakers in their historic worship house.
Hear stories from a rare group of "fighting" Quakers
As many as 30 to 50 men and women, including well-known figures like Betsy Ross, regularly attended meetings during the late 1700s at the Free Quaker Meeting House, the home of an unusual group of "fighting" Quakers who felt drawn to partake in the Revolutionary War. Visit this historic house of worship on Saturdays and Sundays to meet members of the congregation, as portrayed by costumed re-enactors, and learn about their impact on Colonial Philadelphia.
Meet Secretary of War Henry Knox and others at Carpenters' Hall.
The meeting place of the First Continental Congress invites you to join celebrated figures from history indoors
Before the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, there was the First Continental Congress. In 1774, delegates from 12 colonies gathered at Carpenters’ Hall and voted to support a trade embargo against England, one of the first unified acts of defiance against the King. The building still stands tall and welcomes you inside every Saturday for a special meet and greet with figures from our nation’s history, including Secretary of War Henry Knox.
Help find the missing Declaration of Independence at the Colonial Kids' Quest Puppet Show.
A free, animal-filled puppet show
Take the kids to Carpenters' Hall where you can catch a free puppet show at two different times on Saturdays through July. The light-hearted, interactive adventure encourages children of all ages to help animal puppets search for a missing copy of the Declaration of Independence. Along the way, the quest will introduce and involve several two-legged and four-legged friends, including Francois the Frog, Graciela the Goose, Nibbles the Mouse and Broadside the Cat.