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12 Awesome Things to Do in Philadelphia’s Historic District

The coolest experiences in the Historic District

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Flag raising at the Betsy Ross House in Historic Philadelphia. Photo courtesy M. Kennedy for Historic Philadelphia, Inc.
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In Philadelphia’s Historic District, a wealth of fun and fascinating experiences await both visitors and residents.

Of course, some of the nation’s most iconic monuments and attractions — including The Liberty Bell Center and Independence Hall — sit in the city’s Historic District (which runs from 7th Street to the Delaware River and from Lombard Street to Vine Street).

But Philadelphia’s Historic District is also home to Philly-themed mini-golf and a delightful carousel (Franklin Square), delicious eats (City Tavern, cheesesteaks), a world-class waterfront park (Spruce Street Harbor Park) and so much more.

Make the most of your Philadelphia experience with our list of the can’t-miss things to do in the Historic District. Have you done them all?

01

Snap a photo in front of the Liberty Bell.

A can't-miss photo op with a Philadelphia treasure

People taking a selfie at the Liberty Bell People taking a selfie at the Liberty Bell
— Photo by D. Cruz for Visit Philadelphia

The Liberty Bell may have been silenced centuries ago, but it’s still a Philadelphia icon. Explore the story behind one of the nation’s most symbolic pieces of history before snagging a photo with the bell (and make sure to get Independence Hall in the background).

Where: Liberty Bell, 526 Market Street

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02

Tour Independence Hall, the birthplace of the United States.

Where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed

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

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Independence Hall was home to the creation of both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. A guided tour gives visitors a chance to view the Assembly Room (arranged as it was during the Constitutional Convention), including George Washington’s “rising sun” chair. Head to the adjacent West Wing to see the original inkstand used to sign the Declaration and an original draft of the Constitution.

Where: Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut Street

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03

Walk the boardwalk and lounge in a hammock at Spruce Street Harbor Park.

A warm-weather waterfront destination

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

Named one of the “World’s Best Urban Beaches” by The Huffington Post, Spruce Street Harbor Park‘s pop-up experience on the Delaware River waterfront is a warm-weather experience not to be missed. With hammocks, twinkling lights, games, floating barges, food, beer gardens and a carnival-like atmosphere, it’s a go-to spot in spring, summer or fall. Bonus: Walk five minutes north along the river to check out Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest and The Midway, a temporary park with an outdoor rolling skating rink, mini-golf, bowling, carnival games and more.

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

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04

Satisfy your hunger with Philly’s favorite sandwich.

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The Philly cheesesteak — savory sandwiches of chopped (or thinly sliced) steak and a choice of cheeses and/or fried onions on a hoagie roll — is inarguably the city’s most famous food. Lucky for visitors and residents, there are a number of local spots in the Historic District, including Sonny’s and Campo’s, that do Philly’s signature dish right.

Where: Various locations including Sonny's Famous Steaks, 228 Market Street

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05

Ask Betsy Ross about the creation of the American flag at the Betsy Ross House.

The birthplace of the American flag

Visitors at Betsy Ross House with the flag Visitors at Betsy Ross House with the flag
— Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

Get the scoop on America’s most famous flag maker as she greets guests in her interactive 18th-century upholstery shop. Plus, don’t miss a free flag-raising event with Betsy and a Colonial friend every summer morning at 10 a.m.

Where: Betsy Ross House, 239 Arch Street

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06

Ride the carousel and play Philly-themed mini-golf at Franklin Square.

Carousel rides, mini-golf, burgers and more

Carousel at Franklin Square Carousel at Franklin Square
— Photo by J. Fusco for Historic Philadelphia, Inc.

Get outside at this fun-filled park named in honor of — who else? — Ben Franklin. Enjoy a mini-tour of Philadelphia as you putt your way through the city’s iconic sites at Philly Mini Golf, or take a nostalgic ride on the Philadelphia Parx Liberty Carousel, a classic tribute to Philadelphia’s great heritage of carousel-making. There’s also a fountain, a SquareBurger food stand and lots of open space to lounge or run around.

Where: Franklin Square, 200 N. 6th Street

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07

Meet the colonial VIPs who helped create America.

Visit with History Makers, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and others

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

You never know who you may run into in Philadelphia’s Historic District — even George Washington! From Memorial Day through Labor Day, colonial characters stationed throughout the district (from Betsy Ross and Ben Franklin to a Continental Army soldier) offer residents and guests an opportunity to learn “firsthand” about life in 18th-century Philadelphia. Other popular (and free!) activities include a Military Muster (perfect for kids) and readings of the Declaration of Independence behind Independence Hall.

Where: Various locations including Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut Street

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08

Check out George Washington's headquarters tent at the Museum of the American Revolution.

Admire an iconic piece of history in a modern museum

George Washington's headquarters tent George Washington's headquarters tent
The Museum of the American Revolution — Photo courtesy Museum of the American Revolution

The Museum of the American Revolution, which opened in spring 2017, is home to George Washington’s headquarters tent, an iconic piece of history where the general slept and made world-changing decisions during the Revolutionary War. The tent is just one of hundreds of objects gathered from and pertaining to the Revolutionary War at the new museum, which tells the whole story of the world-changing American War of Independence.

Where: Museum of the American Revolution, 101 S. 3rd Street

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09

Explore The President’s House, the nation’s first executive mansion.

Commemorating the lives of nine enslaved Africans at the nation’s first executive mansion

The President's House attraction in Philly The President's House attraction in Philly
— Photo by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia

President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation explores the paradox of slavery and freedom at the site of the nation’s first executive mansion, where Presidents George Washington and John Adams lived during their terms and where nine enslaved people served the first president. The 24-hour open-air site provides visitors with different perspectives of this complex and powerful story.

Where: The President's House, 524 Market Street

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10

Visit the Founding Fathers in Signers’ Hall at the National Constitution Center.

The world’s only museum dedicated to the U.S. Constitution

National Constitution Center exhibit National Constitution Center exhibit
National Constitution Center — Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

Snag a photo with your favorite Founding Father — including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton — in the National Constitution Center’s Signers’ Hall. Recreating the final day of 1787’s Constitutional Convention in the Assembly Room of the Pennsylvania State House (now known as Independence Hall), Signers’ Hall includes 42 life-size bronze figures of the Constitution’s signers and dissenters.

Where: National Constitution Center, 525 Arch Street

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11

Let Once Upon A Nation regale you with true stories from the Historic District.

History that speaks to you

Once Upon A Nation Storytelling Benches outside Carpenters' Hall Once Upon A Nation Storytelling Benches outside Carpenters' Hall
Carpenters' Hall — Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

With Once Upon A Nation, discover the true stories scattered throughout the Historic District in the places they actually happened. Find one of 13 wooden benches throughout the district, then grab a seat to be regaled with a free, five-minute tale told by a professional storyteller.

Where: Once Upon A Nation, 600 Chestnut Street

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12

Get a taste — literally — of colonial Philadelphia at City Tavern.

A recreation of an authentic colonial Philly tavern

City Tavern City Tavern
— Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

Drink and dine as Founding Fathers did at City Tavern, which recreates the food, drink and ambiance that comforted the framers of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Look forward to colonial haute cuisine, costumed waitstaff and Revolutionary-era desserts and drinks, including Yards Brewing Company’s Ales of the Revolution, based on recipes conceived by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton.

Where: City Tavern, 138 S. 2nd Street

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13

Throw a penny on Ben Franklin's grave at Christ Church Burial Ground.

Participate in an famous Philly tradition

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Head to Christ Church Burial Ground (located just off Independence Mall) and throw a penny on Benjamin Franklin’s grave, a nod to Franklin’s aphorism that “a penny saved is a penny earned” (though the actual phrase was “A penny saved is a penny got.”) When you’re done, explore the historic cemetery, which includes the resting places of several signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Where: Christ Church Burial Ground, 340 N. 5th Street

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Snap a photo in front of the Liberty Bell.
Tour Independence Hall, the birthplace of the United States.
Walk the boardwalk and lounge in a hammock at Spruce Street Harbor Park.
Satisfy your hunger with Philly’s favorite sandwich.
Ask Betsy Ross about the creation of the American flag at the Betsy Ross House.
Ride the carousel and play Philly-themed mini-golf at Franklin Square.
Meet the colonial VIPs who helped create America.
Check out George Washington's headquarters tent at the Museum of the American Revolution.
Explore The President’s House, the nation’s first executive mansion.
Visit the Founding Fathers in Signers’ Hall at the National Constitution Center.
Let Once Upon A Nation regale you with true stories from the Historic District.
Get a taste — literally — of colonial Philadelphia at City Tavern.
Throw a penny on Ben Franklin's grave at Christ Church Burial Ground.
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