Visitors from all over the world are familiar with iconic Historic District attractions like the Liberty Bell Center and Independence Hall, but the area is home to more than two dozen places of historic significance.
Operated by Independence National Historical Park (INHP), these important sites – many of which are free and open to the public year-round – range from monumental banks to the home of a former First Lady to cemeteries that house the remains of some of the country’s most prominent early citizens.
Start plotting an unforgettable journey in Independence National Historical Park with our comprehensive list of INHP’s sites below.
Originally adorning the Pennsylvania State House (now known as Independence Hall), the Liberty Bell is an iconic symbol, not just of Philadelphia but of freedom around the world. While entry to the Liberty Bell Center is free of charge, the photos of the bell in front of its glass-windowed backdrop (featuring Independence Hall) are priceless.
Where: The Liberty Bell Center, 526 Market Street
History was made in 1776 at Independence Hall, where our Founding Fathers debated, drafted and signed the Declaration of Independence and, 11 years later, the U.S. Constitution. Expert park rangers lead the free tours here, which also include nearby sites in the Independence Hall complex, including Congress Hall, the West Wing and Old City Hall.
Where: Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut Street
Presidents George Washington and John Adams each lived at 6th and Market streets during their tenures as president. While the original President’s House has since been demolished, the foundation remains and now serves as part of an outdoor museum where looped videos give a special focus to the lives of the nine slaves who lived and worked here during Washington’s time in office.
Where: The President's House, 524-530 Market Street
The Franklin Court complex honors one of Philadelphia’s most famous citizens with several attractions. The Benjamin Franklin Museum showcases interactive displays celebrating the Founding Father, Franklin Court presents an archaeological display that contains artifacts and historical objects from the site of his home, and the Franklin Court Printing Office allows visitors to view equipment that simulates the early typesetting and printing-production processes.
Where: Various locations including the Benjamin Franklin Museum, 317 Chestnut Street
Dubbed the Museum of “We the People,” the National Constitution Center is dedicated to exploring and communicating the tenets of the U.S. Constitution. The museum includes interactive displays, live multimedia productions and even a rare original public copy of the groundbreaking document.
Where: National Constitution Center, 525 Arch Street
During warm-weather months, 13 locations throughout Philadelphia’s Historic District are home to the Once Upon A Nation storytelling benches. Costumed historians welcome guests of all ages and share free, five-minute tales of America’s Founding Mothers and Fathers.
Where: Various locations including Independence Square behind Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut Street
The Independence Visitor Center offers a one-stop shop for everything tourists need to know about navigating Philadelphia’s Historic District. Sightseers can stop in for tickets to tour Independence Hall and other nearby attractions as well as purchase snacks and souvenirs.
Where: Independence Visitor Center, 599 Market Street
While construction of the magnificent building that houses Christ Church began in 1727, the parish actually dates all the way back to 1695. Its pews once held such visionaries as Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, and the resting places of early prominent citizens — including Franklin and his wife Deborah, composer and poet Francis Hopkinson and medical pioneer Benjamin Rush — can be found at its namesake burial ground located several blocks away.
Where: Christ Church, 20 N. American Street
In 1774, delegates from 12 colonies convened at Carpenters’ Hall for the First Continental Congress, where they voted for a trade embargo as part of one of the first acts of defiance against Great Britain. While the building is now part of Independence National Historic Park, it is still owned and operated by the Carpenters’ Company of the City and County of Philadelphia, the oldest trade guild in the United States.
Where: Carpenters' Historic Hall, 320 Chestnut Street
One of Philadelphia’s original five public squares, this picturesque green space has in the past served as a burial ground for victims of the 1793 yellow fever epidemic, African-Americans and casualties of the American Revolution. The park’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier honors fallen Revolutionary soldiers with a monument and an everlasting flame.
Where: Washington Square, 602 Walnut Street
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Learn about William Penn’s master plans for Philadelphia at Welcome Park, an open-air plaza named for The Welcome, the ship that brought Penn over to the New World. The grounds of the park display a recreation of the original map that Penn used to lay out the city, including representations of Philadelphia’s five original park-like squares.
Where: Welcome Park, 129 Sansom Walk
Thomas Jefferson spent three weeks writing the Declaration of Independence while staying at the home of Jacob Graff, Jr., a well-known bricklayer. Today the building — a reconstruction built in 1975 — honors its heritage with curated displays, a short film and period furnishings.
Where: Declaration (Graff) House, 2 S. 7th Street
After long days of debating the future of the colonies, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and other Founding Fathers gathered at City Tavern for the 18th-century version of happy hour. Rebuilt for the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976 and reopened in its current iteration in 1994, City Tavern still sates 21st-century appetites, serving hearty fare and beverages to hungry diners in a colonial setting.
Where: City Tavern, 138 S. 2nd Street
Alexander Hamilton originally proposed and chartered this financial institution as a step toward implementing sound fiscal policy in early America. Acclaimed as an architectural masterpiece when it was completed in 1797, today the First Bank of the United States is a model of classical monument design. The building is not open to the public, but its colossal exterior is an impressive sight.
Where: First Bank of the United States, 116 S. 3rd Street
Modeled after the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, the Second Bank of the United States set the architectural tone for the look of many subsequent American banks. Today the building is home to an extensive collection of portraits of important figures like Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Mifflin and Patrick Henry.
Where: Second Bank of the United States, 420 Chestnut Street
Before she became the First Lady of the United States, Dolley Todd (Madison) and her first husband, lawyer John Todd, lived in this middle-class home. The building is currently closed to visitors, but its exterior is a notable site worth seeing while exploring the neighborhood.
Where: Dolley Todd House, 340 Walnut Street
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The Bishop White House dates back to 1787 and served as the former home of William White, the first bishop of the American Episcopalian Church. Today the house is open for tours and free to the public via tickets available at Independence Visitor Center.
Where: Bishop White House, 309 Walnut Street
It’s all about science, art and history, so it’s no surprise that the American Philosophical Society (APS) was another of Ben Franklin’s ideas. Exhibitions come from APS’s collection of nearly 13 million early American manuscripts, maps, Native American languages, scientific instruments and more.
Where: American Philosophical Society, 104 S. 5th Street
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The Thomas Bond House, the only lodging option located in Independence National Historical Park, dates back to 1769. Today, the restored four-story townhouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, includes 12 guest rooms and suites decorated in 18th-century Federal style.
Where: Thomas Bond House, 129 S. 2nd Street
During the Revolutionary War, a group of Quakers in Philadelphia put aside their religion’s tenet of pacifism so that they could help defend their new country. These bold Americans formed their own group in 1783 and met regularly at the Free Quaker Meeting House, which is open to visitors throughout the spring and summer.
Where: Free Quaker Meeting House, 500 Arch Street
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On Spruce Street between 8th and 9th streets, the modestly sized Mikveh Israel Cemetery of the Mikveh Israel Congregation is the oldest Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, with a history dating back to 1740.
Where: Mikveh Israel Cemetery, 825 Spruce Street
In 1733, Old St. Joseph’s Catholic Church was the site of the first public Catholic mass in Philadelphia, a major milestone in the realization of religious freedom. The institution’s legacy also includes the foundings of the first Catholic orphanage and St. Joseph’s College. Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother Joseph even sat in its pews after he was exiled to the New World.
Where: Old St Joseph's Church, 321 Willings Alley
Designed by architect William Strickland and first opened in 1834, the Merchants’ Exchange is the oldest stock exchange building in the country. While the inside is currently closed to visitors (except for a small lobby with a display highlighting the building’s architecture and history), the Classical Greek-style exterior, with its curved facade and marble columns, is quite impressive to behold.
Where: Merchants' Exchange Building, 143 S. 3rd Street
The New Hall Military Museum welcomes visitors into a recreation of the original home of the Secretary of the Army, complete with exhibits related to both the U.S. Army and Navy. While New Hall was originally constructed by the Carpenters’ Company in 1791, the building was later demolished and rebuilt to its original specifications in the 20th century.
Where: New Hall Military Museum, 320 Chestnut Street
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Inspired by George Washington’s affinity for magnolia trees, the Magnolia Garden includes trees, ivy, wrought-iron fences and a working fountain. Surrounding the garden’s perimeter are 13 spring-blooming hybrid magnolias that represent each of the original colonies.
Where: Magnolia Garden, 420 Locust Street
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Funded by the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Rose Garden commemorates the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. The serene spot showcases more than 250 individual flowers in 96 different varieties.
Where: Rose Garden, 422 Walnut Street
Book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package for stays through November 30, 2018 and get FREE hotel parking as well as free tickets to the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art, a $25 gift card to the must-visit Reading Terminal Market, free Philly-themed mini-golf at Franklin Square and a $10 Lyft credit.