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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

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Living History at Independence Visitor Center
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Want to 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 experience the Historic District yourself using our guide to ongoing living history happenings. 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 enjoy.

Read on to learn about them all!

01

Learn what it took to create the American flag with Betsy Ross.

Get to know our nation’s famous flag-maker

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

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 hear the story of 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 of Old Glory.

Where: Betsy Ross House, 239 Arch Street

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02

Catch an afternoon reading of the Declaration of Independence behind Independence Hall.

Put your grade school memorization skills to the test

— E. Savaria for Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau

“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 reenactors held nearly every day. Click “Read More” for an up-to-date schedule.

Where: Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut Street

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03

Grab a beer (or three) with a Colonial Philadelphian on a Tippler’s Tour.

Imbibe with history as a Colonial guide leads the way

Tippler's Tour group drinking Tippler's Tour group drinking
— Photo by J. Fusco for Historic Philadelphia

From May through August, 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’s Tour-goers visit local watering holes while learning important information along the way, like Benjamin Franklin’s names for a drunk person (including “nimptopsical” and “tipsicum grave”).

Where: Independence Visitor Center, 1 N. Independence Mall W.

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04

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 in 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.

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

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05

Grab a seat to hear a facinating tale at the Once Upon A Nation Storytelling Benches.

History that speaks to you

— J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

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.

Where: Carpenter's Historic Hall, 320 Chestnut Street

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06

Sit and be served by Colonial Philadelphians at City Tavern

Dine and drink as a Founding Father would

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

City Tavern offers a historic dining experience, complete with Colonial haute cuisine, costumed waitstaff and Colonial-era drinks and desserts. The restaurant is housed in a replica of the 1773 restaurant where Founding Fathers once gathered.

Where: City Tavern, 138 S. 2nd Street

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07

Visit Independence Hall at night to hear a lively debate among Founding Fathers.

Spend the evening on an Independence After Hours tour

The Independence After Hours tour through Historic Philadelphia The Independence After Hours tour through Historic Philadelphia
— Photo courtesy Historic Philadelphia Inc.

The Independence After Hours tour is populated with Colonial characters who bring history to life at 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) by talking 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.

Where: Independence Visitor Center, 1 N. Independence Mall W.

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08

Chat with history-makers at the Museum of the American Revolution.

Costumed historical interpreters on the plaza

A post shared by AmRevMuseum (@amrevmuseum) on

A paradise for any American history buff, the Museum of the American Revolution offers an extra special treat for visitors during the summer. In July and August, all are invited to come out and engage with costumed historical interpreters on the museum’s outdoor plaza from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

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

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09

Listen to stories from historical figures who lived in Philadelphia at the Independence Visitor Center.

Meet an esteemed portrait artist, a Secretary of War and more

— J. Fusco for Independence Visitor Center Corporation

Throughout history, Philadelphia has been filled with bright thinkers and creators, not all of whom are 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 Henry Knox.

Where: Independence Visitor Center, 1 N. Independence Mall W.

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10

Get acquainted with Free Quakers in their historic worship house.

Hear stories from a rare group of "fighting" Quakers

— Photo by J. Smith for Visit Philadelphia

During the late 1700s as many as 30 to 50 men and women, including such well-known figures as Betsy Ross, attended meetings at the Free Quaker Meeting House, the home of an unusual group of “fighting” Quakers who rejected the principle of pacifism 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 reenactors, and learn about their impact on Colonial Philadelphia.

Where: Free Quaker Meetinghouse, 500 Arch Street

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11

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 Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday during the summer for a special meet-and-greet with figures from our nation’s history, including Secretary of War Henry Knox.

Where: Carpenter's Historic Hall, 320 Chestnut Street

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Help find the missing Declaration of Independence at the Colonial Kids' Quest Puppet Show.

A free, animal-filled puppet show

— Historic Philadelphia, Inc.

Take the kids to Carpenters’ Hall, where you can catch a twice-daily free puppet show on Saturdays in June and July. 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 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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Learn what it took to create the American flag with Betsy Ross.
Catch an afternoon reading of the Declaration of Independence behind Independence Hall.
Grab a beer (or three) with a Colonial Philadelphian on a Tippler’s Tour.
Check out 18th-century-inspired activities with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and others at Colonial Stations.
Grab a seat to hear a facinating tale at the Once Upon A Nation Storytelling Benches.
Sit and be served by Colonial Philadelphians at City Tavern
Visit Independence Hall at night to hear a lively debate among Founding Fathers.
Chat with history-makers at the Museum of the American Revolution.
Listen to stories from historical figures who lived in Philadelphia at the Independence Visitor Center.
Get acquainted with Free Quakers in their historic worship house.
Meet Secretary of War Henry Knox and others at Carpenters' Hall.
Help find the missing Declaration of Independence at the Colonial Kids' Quest Puppet Show.
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