Hubs and I took his parents on a quick weekend trip to Philadelphia. As they stayed with us for 6 weeks, they had explored DC and the immediate area. However, we wanted to share a brief overview of Philadelphia with them. While in town, we drove them around to see different neighborhoods and the amazing public art scene. Of course, we are not able to go on a trip without hitting at least one National Park Service unit. Thankfully, they love history just as much as we do and selected Independence National Historical Park in downtown Philadelphia.

This was our second visit to the park (the last time was actually with my parents and youngest sister). While we explored more of the park on our first visit, we did pick up new details on this trip that we hadn’t learned during our first visit. As we only had a half-day to spend in the park, we decided to spend our time in Independence Hall and Congress Hall. If you are short on time, I recommend focusing on these two buildings.

Independence National Historical Park Visitor Center

Knowing weekend tours fill quickly, we reserved our tickets for the Independence Hall tour in advance using the online reservation system (see tips below). We arrived at the visitor center about an hour before our scheduled ticket pick-up time. After picking up our tickets from the rangers, we took the time to watch one of the orientation videos.

Usually, I am all about the orientation videos in the visitor centers, but this video was a bit of a letdown. The video quality was rough, it didn’t have closed captioning (a must for folks like my FIL), and worst of all, it didn’t capture my attention until about halfway through. Even then, my mind was wandering. Knowing this, I only recommend this video if you are not familiar with the historical significance of Independence Hall. Don’t stress, however, if you miss the video as the rangers on the tour will hit the high-level events and people.

Independence National Historical Park Visitor Center

Independence Hall Tour

Tickets (free, but first come-first serve) are required to tour the building and all visitors must be accompanied by a park ranger. One of my favorite aspects of Independence Hall is its Georgian architecture. I love symmetry and this building has many classic Georgian details. I could spend hours just looking at the details both inside and out.  See the picture directly below, as well as others in the post, for examples of the Georgian details.

George Washington Statue at Independence Hall

ADVENTURE

VISITING INDEPENDENCE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK

indhall

Hubs and I took his parents on a quick weekend trip to Philadelphia. As they stayed with us for 6 weeks, they had explored DC and the immediate area. However, we wanted to share a brief overview of Philadelphia with them. While in town, we drove them around to see different neighborhoods and the amazing public art scene. Of course, we are not able to go on a trip without hitting at least one National Park Service unit. Thankfully, they love history just as much as we do and selected Independence National Historical Park in downtown Philadelphia.

This was our second visit to the park (the last time was actually with my parents and youngest sister). While we explored more of the park on our first visit, we did pick up new details on this trip that we hadn’t learned during our first visit. As we only had a half-day to spend in the park, we decided to spend our time in Independence Hall and Congress Hall. If you are short on time, I recommend focusing on these two buildings.

Independence National Historical Park Visitor Center

Knowing weekend tours fill quickly, we reserved our tickets for the Independence Hall tour in advance using the online reservation system (see tips below). We arrived at the visitor center about an hour before our scheduled ticket pick-up time. After picking up our tickets from the rangers, we took the time to watch one of the orientation videos.

Usually, I am all about the orientation videos in the visitor centers, but this video was a bit of a letdown. The video quality was rough, it didn’t have closed captioning (a must for folks like my FIL), and worst of all, it didn’t capture my attention until about halfway through. Even then, my mind was wandering. Knowing this, I only recommend this video if you are not familiar with the historical significance of Independence Hall. Don’t stress, however, if you miss the video as the rangers on the tour will hit the high-level events and people.

Independence National Historical Park Visitor Center

Entering Independence Hall

Be sure to leave plenty of time (15-30 minutes, more during peak visitor periods) before your Independence Hall tour to get through security. The security line forms in front of the Old City Hall building at the corner of S. Independence Mall E. and Chestnut Street. Our queue looked long, but it moved fairly quickly. Once through the security checkpoint, you will be told to line up in the courtyard between Old City Hall and Independence Hall. A park ranger will be around to help guide the groups. While some members of our group stood in line, I wandered around the courtyard to take pictures of the back of the Independence Hall.

backofih courtyard

Park Ranger Tour

Depending on your arrival time, you may need to head directly to the ticket-holder line. The line forms near the breezeway closest to the security area. There is a sign posted and a park ranger will be around to help guide visitors. When it is time for your tour to begin, a ranger will escort you into the East Wing, which is basically a holding room for tours. A different park ranger will give you a history of the hall and will then lead you on the remainder of your tour.

ihnhplineholdingroom

After the orientation, the ranger will lead you to the front door of Independence Hall. The walk to the hall will give you a great glimpse of the Liberty Bell building across the street. Your first stop in Independence Hall will be in the Supreme Court Room.

Liberty Bellcourt

After learning about the Supreme Court and use of that room, you will move to the Assembly Room. The Assembly Room has a lot of furnishings, but the vast majority are replicas or not original to the building. However, the Sun Chair is original and was used by George Washington. In this room, the ranger will discuss the signing of the US Constitution and Declaration of Independence that took place there.

assembly chair

After the Assembly Room, we were encouraged to tour the upstairs meeting rooms. While sparsely decorated, the pieces included set the scene for what life would have been like when the founding fathers visited.windowhall room

Congress Hall Tour

Visitors are allowed to roam the secured courtyard after the conclusion of the timed-entry Independence Hall tour. This gives visitors the opportunity to visit several buildings, including Congress Hall, before exiting. Within a few minutes of our Independence Hall tour ending, the next Congress Hall Tour began (tours run approximately every 20 minutes). Due to the chilly temperatures, the line was short and we were able to make that tour.

Originally built as the Philadelphia County Court House, Congress Hall was completed in 1789. The US Congress used it as their meeting location from 1790-1800. During that time, the US Senate met upstairs, while the US House of Representatives met downstairs. The building is also the location for two presidential inaugurations: George Washington (his second term) and John Adams. While most of the furnishings in Congress Hall are replicas, there are a few original items. The most notable of which is a mural of an eagle on the second floor.

congresshalleagle

Tips for Visiting Independence National Historical Park

  • There is a parking garage directly under the visitor center. The convenience of it is worth the daily parking fee.
  • Tickets are available each day and they are distributed on a first-come, first serve basis starting at 8:30 a.m.
  • You can, and SHOULD, RESERVE TICKETS ahead of schedule. Doing so will guarantee an entrance time that fits your travel schedule. You can reserve tickets online for $1.50 per ticket. Reserved tickets must be picked up in person at least 45 minutes before the tour time or they will be released back to the public.
  • All visitors and their belongings are required to go through a security check. On our visit, we had to put our jackets and purses through a scanner (similar to the airport) and walk through an x-ray machine.
  • You can take pictures and video recordings throughout the tour.
  • There is no food or drink inside Independence Hall.
  • Not all sections of the tour are handicap accessible.