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24 Awesome Free Things to Do in Philadelphia’s Historic District

Explore the Historic District’s cool inexpensive offerings

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Listening to a Once Upon A Nation storyteller Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia
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FREEdom rings throughout Philadelphia’s Historic District.

The Historic District (which spans from 7th Street to the Delaware River waterfront and from Vine Street to Lombard Street) offers an array of awesome experiences that won’t cost you a penny.

Deepen your education of the foundation of our nation through visits to interactive and memorable sites like The Liberty Bell Center and Elfreth’s Alley.

Many of the free attractions below are hands-on and family-friendly, too, like the Once Upon a Nation storytelling benches and mock military drills at Signers’ Garden.

In between sightseeing activities, take a breather at one of the area’s many amazing outdoor hangout destinations, including Spruce Street Harbor Park and Franklin Square.

Read on to find all of the awesome free things to do in Philadelphia’s Historic District.

01

Learn the history of the world’s most famous bell at The Liberty Bell Center.

Where riveting education opportunities ring

— M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia

Throughout the expansive, light-filled Liberty Bell Center, larger-than-life historic documents and images explore the facts and the myths surrounding our nation’s most famous bell. The 2,080-pound, mostly copper structure creates a dramatic photo opportunity, too, with Independence Hall in the background behind glass-windowed walls.

Where: The Liberty Bell Center, 526 Market Street

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02

Explore the birthplace of democracy at Independence Hall.

Where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed

Independence Hall Independence Hall
— Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

During the summer of 1776, 56 courageous men gathered at the Pennsylvania State House and defied the King of England. Eleven years later, representatives from 12 states gathered to shape the U.S. Constitution. True to its roots, Independence Hall – one of our country’s greatest symbols of democracy – remains free to the public, although tickets are required. Pick up tickets at the Independence Visitor Center on the day of your visit starting at 8:30 a.m.

Where: Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut Street

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03

Stroll along Elfreth’s Alley, the nation's oldest continuously inhabited street.

A charming and picturesque street in Old City

— Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

Elfreth’s Alley was home to 18th-century artisans and tradespeople who were the backbone of colonial Philadelphia. While a modern city has sprung up around it, the alley — the nation’s oldest continuously inhabited street — preserves three centuries of evolution through its old-fashioned flower boxes, shutters, Flemish bond brickwork and other architectural details. Most of the homes are still occupied by Philadelphia citizens, but two adjacent houses, built in 1755, are now a museum open to the public (for a small fee).

Where: 126 Elfreth's Alley

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04

Walk the boardwalk or relax in a hammock at Spruce Street Harbor Park.

A warm-weather, waterfront oasis

Spruce Street Harbor Park Spruce Street Harbor Park
— Photo by M. Stanley for DRWC

Facing the Delaware River, Spruce Street Harbor Park creates the ultimate hangout – and hammock-lounging – spot, at absolutely no cost to you. If you have a few dollars to spare, score a bite to eat from one of the many food vendors set up on the boardwalk or sip on a refreshing draft from the park’s beer garden. Arcade games, an over-sized chess board and other free-to-play activities also fill the space.

Where: Spruce Street Harbor Park, 301 S. Christopher Columbus Boulevard

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05

Engage with history-rich storytelling with Once Upon A Nation.

History that speaks to you

— J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

Throughout Philadelphia’s Historic District, you’ll find 13 Once Upon A Nation Storytelling Benches featuring free, five-minute tales and secret stories told by costumed professional storytellers. Learn fascinating details about some of our nation’s earliest “celebrity” citizens in the places where the history actually happened.

Where: Signer's Garden, 434-498 Chestnut Street

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06

Interact with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and more.

History comes alive

Kid and reinactor at Independence Hall Kid and reinactor at Independence Hall
Independence Hall — Photo by Visit Philadelphia

At multiple locations throughout Philadelphia’s Historic District, guests can spend the afternoon as if they were in 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 raising the flag with Betsy Ross and listening to political debates between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

Where: Betsy Ross House, 239 Arch Street

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07

Relax in beautiful, tree-lined Franklin Square.

A revitalized park named in honor of Benjamin Franklin

Franklin Square Franklin Square
— Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

There are countless reasons to love Philadelphia’s best square for kids. And while most of them require a small fee — including the carousel, mini-golf and SquareBurger burger-and-fries outpost — hanging out in Franklin Square is free. It makes for a nice resting point while walking around America’s most historic neighborhood.

Where: Franklin Square, 200 N. 6th Street

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08

Discover the history of the nation’s first executive mansion at The President's House.

Commemorating the lives of nine enslaved Africans

The President's House The President's House
— Photo by G. Widman for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

Wonder what it was like to live in the first “White House?” The President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation, an open-air free exhibit located next to the Liberty Bell Center, explores the paradox of slavery and freedom at the remains of the nation’s first executive mansion. The display focuses on where Presidents George Washington and John Adams lived as well as nine enslaved people who served the first President.

Where: President's House, 524 Market Street

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09

Cruise the waterfront and check out the views at Blue Cross RiverRink.

Philadelphia’s first outdoor roller rink at Penn’s Landing

Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest is back with al fresco roller skating, mini-golf and more. — M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia

While the roller skating and ice skating at this waterfront hangout come with a small price tag, Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest and Winterfest is an awesome spot to simply hang out and take a breather. A boathouse-style lodge, a play area for kids, food and drink options and special events are all part of its charm.

Where: Blue Cross RiverRink, 101 S. Columbus Boulevard

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10

Immerse yourself in Philly's art scene during First Friday.

Monthly open house for galleries in Philadelphia

Crowds at First Friday in Old City Crowds at First Friday in Old City
Old City — Photo by A. Ricketts for Visit Philadelphia

Want proof of Philadelphia’s happening art scene? On the first Friday evening of every month, the streets of the Historic District fill with art lovers of all kinds who wander among the neighborhood’s many galleries. Bonus: Galleries and boutiques often offer complimentary beverages and bites.

Where: The Center For Art In Wood, 141 N. 3rd Street

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11

Listen to a reading of the Declaration of Independence behind Independence Hall.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..."

— E. Savaria for Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau

From Memorial Day through Labor Day, head to Independence Square (located behind Independence Hall) to hear moving passages from the Declaration of Independence read by reenactors. Click the button below for an up-to-date schedule.

Where: Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut Street

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12

Explore the iconic ghost house, watch a printmaking demo and more at the Benjamin Franklin Museum.

The complex is overflowing with free fun

— J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

Although the actual Benjamin Franklin Museum requires a small entrance fee, there are several other cool buildings on site that you can explore entirely for free. Check out a recreated version of Franklin’s 18th-century print shop, where you can view a live printmaking demo and check out early typesetting operations. And you can’t miss the iconic “ghost house,” an impressive steel structure that traces the outline of Franklin’s vanished house and displays its remaining foundations.

Where: Benjamin Franklin Museum, 317 Chestnut Street

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13

Check out historic artifacts in the lobby of the National Museum of American Jewish History.

Albert Einstein's pipe and more fill the Only in America® Gallery/Hall of Fame

A post shared by Eden Alexis (@edenmart11) on

Rising five stories above Independence Mall, the National Museum of American Jewish History brings to life the 360-year history of Jews in America. Its ground floor exhibition — Only in America® Gallery/Hall of Fame — is free to the public and features numerous interactive displays and historic artifacts including Albert Einstein’s pipe, Irving Berlin’s piano, Steven Spielberg’s first camera and more.

Where: National Museum of American Jewish History, 101 S. Independence Mall E.

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14

Watch the coin-making process and check out rare coins at the U.S. Mint.

Where pocket change and commemorative coins are made

A post shared by JC Polk (@javisdad) on

At least half of the nation’s circulating coins are made right here in Philadelphia. Visit the U.S. Mint and you’ll see the process in action (from high above and behind protective glass). View interactive displays depicting the many presidential and honorary commemoratives designed here, as well as early coining equipment and rare and historic coins.

Where: United States Mint, 151 N. Independence Mall E.

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15

Gaze in wonder at Dream Garden, a 100,000-piece Tiffany mosaic.

Louis Comfort Tiffany meets Maxfield Parrish in a one-of-a-kind creation

Dream Garden painting Dream Garden painting
— Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

In the lobby of the Curtis Center across from Washington Square lies an unexpected treasure: the astounding Dream Garden, a mosaic of more than 100,000 pieces of favrile glass. Color and light, masterfully combined by the studios of Louis Comfort Tiffany, bring to life the luminous vision of Philadelphia native Maxfield Parrish, who created the painting on which the mosaic was based.

Where: Atrium At Curtis Center, 601 Walnut Street

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16

Check out antique fire trucks and other firefighting gear at Fireman's Hall.

The history of firefighting in an old firehouse

A circa 1902 fire station-turned-museum offers lessons in the history of firefighting via old trucks, ladders, helmets, photographs and a tribute to the heroes of September 11, 2001. Kids can try on firefighter coats and boots, play with puzzles and learn how to make emergency calls.

Where: Fireman's Hall Museum, 147 N. 2nd Street

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17

Take a riverfront yoga class at Race Street Pier.

The perfect setting to strike your Warrior I's and II's

— J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

Ready to hop into downward dog? Stretch and de-stress in the serene setting of Race Street Pier overlooking the Delaware River. During the warm-weather months, you can find a free, hour-long yoga session on any day of the week! Depending on the day and season, yoga session times vary — and donations are welcome.

Where: Race Street Pier, Columbus Boulevard and Race Street

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18

Step foot into the meeting place of the First Continental Congress at Carpenters' Hall.

A flawless example of Georgian architecture rich in history

Carpenters' Hall exterior Carpenters' Hall exterior
— Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

Before the U.S. Constitution, before 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, showcasing its gorgeous Georgian architecture, and exhibits inside educate visitors on the events of 1774 and the building’s history.

Where: Carpenter's Historic Hall, 320 Chestnut Street

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19

Explore the history of science and technology at the Science History Institute.

Learn from science-centric art and artifacts

Chemical Heritage Foundation Chemical Heritage Foundation
The Chemical Heritage Foundation in Old City. — Chemical Heritage Foundation

The free museum at the Science History Institute invites visitors to journey through the weird and wonderful world of matter and materials that changed science. Its collections include rare books, fine art, artifacts and instruments related to science and technology.

Where: Science History Institute, 315 Chestnut Street

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20

Take in a family-friendly event at Penn’s Landing.

A hub of activity throughout the year

Penn's Landing Philadelphia Waterfront Penn's Landing Philadelphia Waterfront
— Photo by J. Smith for Visit Philadelphia

The Delaware River waterfront, just a short walk from Old City and the Historic District, hosts free family-friendly attractions and events all year long, including a variety of food, music and cultural experiences.

Where: Penn's Landing, 101 N. Christopher Columbus Boulevard

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21

View remarkable Revolutionary-era portraiture at the Second Bank of the United States.

A who’s who of Colonial America

— M. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

The Second Bank of the United States now serves as a repository for an extraordinary collection of portraits of men and women vital to 18th-century America’s development. That includes Declaration of Independence signers Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Mifflin and Robert Morris as well as the Marquis de Lafayette, Patrick Henry and Casimir Pulaski.

Where: Second Bank of the United States, 420 Chestnut Street

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22

Watch the light-hearted Colonial Kids’ Quest Puppet Show.

An adventure to find the missing Declaration of Independence

— Photo courtesy Historic Philadelphia Inc.

Take the kids to Carpenters’ Hall where you can catch a free puppet show on select summer dates. The lighthearted, 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.

Where: Carpenter's Historic Hall, 320 Chestnut Street

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23

See Lewis and Clark's handwritten journals at the American Philosophical Society Museum.

Views of science and humanistic thought at Benjamin Franklin’s intellectual club

Exterior of American Philosophical Society Exterior of American Philosophical Society
— Photo by M. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

Behind the east wing of Independence Hall is the American Philosophical Society Museum, where you’ll find Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence, Lewis and Clark’s journals and more. Though the museum and its remarkable collection are free, a $2 donation is appreciated.

Where: American Philosophical Society, 104 S. 5th Street

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Learn the history of the world’s most famous bell at The Liberty Bell Center.
Explore the birthplace of democracy at Independence Hall.
Stroll along Elfreth’s Alley, the nation's oldest continuously inhabited street.
Walk the boardwalk or relax in a hammock at Spruce Street Harbor Park.
Engage with history-rich storytelling with Once Upon A Nation.
Interact with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and more.
Relax in beautiful, tree-lined Franklin Square.
Discover the history of the nation’s first executive mansion at The President's House.
Cruise the waterfront and check out the views at Blue Cross RiverRink.
Immerse yourself in Philly's art scene during First Friday.
Listen to a reading of the Declaration of Independence behind Independence Hall.
Explore the iconic ghost house, watch a printmaking demo and more at the Benjamin Franklin Museum.
Check out historic artifacts in the lobby of the National Museum of American Jewish History.
Watch the coin-making process and check out rare coins at the U.S. Mint.
Gaze in wonder at Dream Garden, a 100,000-piece Tiffany mosaic.
Check out antique fire trucks and other firefighting gear at Fireman's Hall.
Take a riverfront yoga class at Race Street Pier.
Step foot into the meeting place of the First Continental Congress at Carpenters' Hall.
Explore the history of science and technology at the Science History Institute.
Take in a family-friendly event at Penn’s Landing.
View remarkable Revolutionary-era portraiture at the Second Bank of the United States.
Watch the light-hearted Colonial Kids’ Quest Puppet Show.
See Lewis and Clark's handwritten journals at the American Philosophical Society Museum.
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