Whether you’re the ultimate history buff or a fan of rich storytelling, Philadelphia’s Historic District has you covered, with tons of attractions full of stories and sights.
From scoring an up-close view of America’s most famous bell at The Liberty Bell Center to taking a stroll through the oldest continuously inhabited – and possibly most charming – street in America (Elfreth’s Alley) to tossing good-luck pennies on the grave of Benjamin Franklin at the Christ Church Burial Ground, these are the essential stops for those with a hankering for some historical knowledge.
Explore the wealth of gems inside the Historic District (which runs from 7th Street to the Delaware River and from Lombard Street to Vine Street) below.
One of the most iconic symbols in U.S. history, the 2,080-pound Liberty Bell stands proudly on Independence Mall. See it up close at The Liberty Bell Center and discover its powerful history, from ringing to announce the Declaration of Independence to serving as an international emblem of freedom and justice.
Where: The Liberty Bell Center, 526 Market Street
Visionary moments in the creation of our nation unfolded in this monumental stopping point on Independence Mall. On a guided tour, visit the Assembly Room, arranged as it was during the Constitutional Convention, then head next door to Congress Hall, home of the U.S. Congress from 1790-1800.
Where: Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut Street
Did Betsy Ross make the first American flag or not? Ask her yourself when you visit the iconic home of America’s most famous seamstress. As you explore the tiny rooms and tight staircases of her 1740s home, talk to Betsy and hear about her interaction with George Washington.
Where: The Betsy Ross Hoss, 239 Arch Street
Literally step your way into history on Elfreth’s Alley, America’s oldest continuously inhabited street. Cobblestones quilt the ground of this charming narrow pathway. The 32 houses once owned by some of the nation’s earliest craftsmen, merchants and artisans are now private residences, but two of the homes have been turned into a informative public museum.
Where: Elfreth's Alley, 124-126 Elfreth's Alley
Before the White House, there was the President’s House, home to both George Washington and John Adams, when Philadelphia was the capital of the U.S. from 1790 to 1800. The open-air exhibit President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation commemorates the nation’s first executive mansion and reveals a long-obscured glimpse into the lives of the enslaved Africans who toiled at the house during Washington’s presidency.
Where: President's House, 600 Market Street
Just steps from Independence Hall, the Museum of the American Revolution traces the evolution of the American colonies from the earliest days of unrest through a legendary war and the improbable victory that led to a new nation. Immersive exhibitions and priceless artifacts include General Washington’s original headquarters tent, Revolutionary War weapons, centuries-old military documents and hundreds of other authentic objects.
Where: Museum of the American Revolution, 101 S. 3rd Street
It’s only four pages long, but the U.S. Constitution is among the most influential and important documents in the history of the world. The 160,000-square-foot National Constitution Center dives into all aspects of this amazing document — drafted just a few blocks away — through high-tech exhibits, artifacts and interactive displays.
Where: National Constitution Center, 525 Arch Street
Walk on hallowed ground when you visit Mother Bethel AME Church, the mother church of the nation’s first black denomination. Founded in 1787, the church rests upon the oldest parcel of land continuously owned by African-Americans. In its basement, formerly used as an Underground Railroad station, the church memorializes Rev. Richard Allen, its founding pastor and first bishop. Visitors can view Allen’s crypt and explore other artifacts from his time as pastor.
Where: Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, 419 S. 6th Street
Take a journey through 360 years of Jewish history in the U.S. at the National Museum of American Jewish History, which is filled with more than 1,200 artifacts and documents, 2,500 images, 30 original films and 13 state-of-the-art interactive media displays. The experience delivers a rich tale that traces the path of our nation’s Jewish population from struggling immigrants to integral citizens.
Where: National Museum of American Jewish History, 101 S. Independence Mall E.
As a scientist, diplomat, innovator and inventor, Benjamin Franklin certainly warrants commemoration. The Benjamin Franklin Museum does just that through an array of interactive displays that explore all aspects of his extraordinary life.
Where: Benjamin Franklin Museum, 317 Chestnut Street
Constructed between 1727 and 1744, Christ Church hosted some prominent worshipers in its pews back in the day, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross. The church’s burial ground, located several blocks away, also holds a host of famous historymakers. Throw a penny onto Benjamin Franklin’s grave while you’re there. It’s said to bring good luck.
Where: Christ Church, 20 N. American Street
The African American Museum in Philadelphia uses a wide range of artifacts, ranging from costumes to photographs to folk art, to provide a unique and detailed look at the lives of African-Americans, both past and present.
Where: The African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch Street
It’s not the flawless, brick-lined Georgian architecture that makes Carpenters’ Hall a must-see attraction. In 1774, delegates from 12 colonies gathered here to vote on and pass a trade embargo against England, one of the first unified acts of defiance against King George III. This Continental Congress was the first step towards the Declaration of Independence two years later at nearby Independence Hall.
Where: Carpenter's Historic Hall, 320 Chestnut Street
Ever wonder where a President takes his wife to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary? For George Washington, that was the Powel House, home to 18th-century power couple Elizabeth and Samuel Powel, who bedecked the rooms inside their mansion with museum-quality clocks, portraits and other treasures. For mansion-viewing with a bit more scandal, head to the Hill-Physick House, where rich marital drama between the original homeowners leaves a story that’ll make you want to stay and listen.
Where: Powel House, 244 S. 3rd Street
Thomas Jefferson’s wise words that form the Declaration of Independence were composed in a house just around the corner from Independence Hall. Jacob Graff, Jr., a well-known bricklayer, rented out the top two floors of his home to Jefferson. Today the building, a reconstruction erected for the U.S. Bicentennial, remains as a museum open for visitors to explore the Founding Father’s time there and the living quarters where he resided.
Where: Declaration (Graff) House, 599 S. 7th Street
Snuggled behind the east wing of Independence Hall is Philosophical Hall, a brick building erected in the late 1780s that was our nation’s first museum, national library and academy of science. Lewis & Clark’s expedition notes, Jefferson’s handwritten Declaration of Independence and hundreds of other treasures call the space home alongside rotating exhibitions.
Where: American Philosophical Society Museum, 104 S. 5th Street
Stroll on the world’s largest walkable Philadelphia map at the Philadelphia History Museum, and see all of the city in just minutes. Then use the rest of your time to check out the exhibits that show how Philly got to be, well, Philly.
Where: Philadelphia History Museum, S. 7th Street
Book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package for stays through June 15, 2018 and get FREE hotel parking as well as a $25 We ♥ 13th Street restaurants gift card, a $25 CHeU Noodle restaurants gift card, a $25 gift card to R2L, a free cheesesteak from Campo's and a $10 Lyft credit.