Historic Philadelphia Tour

It’s an odd thing, living in a historic area such as Philadelphia. You tend to forget that people travel across the country to see places in your own backyard. When we travel, we take tours and see the sites, but we tend to neglect our hometown.

I’ve seen the historic sites in Philly several times with visiting friends and family, and my husband grew up here so he’s been at various times throughout his life, but we had never taken our kids until last week. We decided that it was high time, so my husband took a day off from work to take our family downtown. I wish we’d stayed overnight because there was too much to do to fit it into a day trip. We hope to go back later this summer for Part Two!

The first thing we learned is, if you want to tour Independence Hall (which I highly recommend if you’re going to do a Historic Philadelphia Tour), it’s best to purchase tickets in advance. Otherwise you’ll need to arrive when the ticket booth opens at 8:30 AM and hope to get lucky. I don’t know when this attraction became so busy; I’ve taken friends and family to Independence Hall before and had no trouble getting tickets, but they were sold out when we arrived at 10 AM, and the park ranger advised us that it’s necessary to plan ahead. The good news is, tickets to Independence Hall are free!

The Liberty Bell, however, does not require a ticket although lines can be lengthy. We waited about 30 minutes. It is free as well.

There’s a lot to see in the new Liberty Bell Center. Take your time because once you get to the bell itself, your tour is over.

The Liberty Bell Center offers a video presentation and exhibits about the Liberty Bell, focusing on its origins and its modern day role as an international icon of freedom. Taped presentations about the history of the Liberty Bell are offered in a dozen languages for the convenience of foreign visitors. The Liberty Bell itself is displayed in a magnificent glass chamber with Independence Hall in the background.

After the kids waited for a half-hour in the hot sun to get their photo taken beside an ancient 2000-lb bell, they were getting cranky and our day had just begun. Then my 5-year-old spotted a horse and carriage. I’ve been asking my husband to take me on a carriage tour through Philadelphia since I first visited the city 17 years ago, but it took my daughter batting her baby blues at Daddy to get my long awaited ride.

We chose the “Long Tour” through the historic area and Society Hill — a charming district of Federal style row homes with cobblestone streets that date back to the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Society Hill

Nowadays this is one of the most affluent areas of the city, and houses go for upwards of a million buckaroos.

This tour follows the Short Tour and then proceeds into Society Hill, containing the largest amount of residential colonial homes in America. The beautiful tree-lined streets are home to mansions, churches, and cemeteries dating back to the 17th and 18th century, away from the traffic of the city and into a soft warm colonial dream.

Everyone was in much better spirits after this reprieve, and we decided to grab an early lunch before heading over to the Constitution Center.

The Constitution Center is a newer addition to our fair city. We had heard amazing things about it, and we weren’t disappointed.

The National Constitution Center in historic Philadelphia is America’s most interactive history museum. Located just two blocks from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, it is the only museum devoted to the U.S. Constitution and the story of we, the people.

After an inspirational multi-media and live action presentation called “Freedom Rising” that combines film, a live actor and video projection on a 360-degree screen, you are left on your own to explore this interactive museum.

The kids had a blast. I found it a bit overwhelming, to be honest; there was so much going on at once. But I suppose in our culture of technology, this is the museum of the future. The kids loved it, and I guess that’s what counts.

Our favorite part turned out to be the last exhibit — Signers Hall, a room full of life-size bronze statues representing the 42 delegates to the Constitutional Convention. We had a ton of fun in that room. You’ll have to watch the video at the end to see what I mean!

When we go back, we hope to hit Independence Hall, Congress Hall, Franklin Court with the Post Office and Printing Office and Bindery, and the Betsy Ross House.

I put together this little slideshow/video with our photos because I took way too many to post here. I hope you enjoy it!