If you are a lover of American history, a stop in Philadelphia is a must for you. In a small space, you will see most of where our nationhood was solidified.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was the second colonial capital from 1790-1800. It was moved from New York. Later the US capital was moved to Washington DC, which is a district, not in a state. This was done to keep any state from feeling stronger than the others. See, this has already been a lesson in our founding father’s ideals for our nation…
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Independence National Historic Park
This complex is behind secure walls. You will go through a metal detector to enter, but entrance is free. Expect to spend an hour or two here.
This was originally Philadelphia State Hall, but was later renamed. Some pretty incredible things happened here:
- George Washington was appointed Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in 1775.
- The Declaration of Independence was signed after ten years of the colonists being upset about taxes levied by the British and a lack of control over their own lives. The Boston Tea Party and Quartering Acts were two big instigating events for this to be written. The patriots who assembled made this declaration not knowing if it would result in them being imprisoned or hanged. But without it, the world’s ideal of people ruling themselves perhaps wouldn’t be as strong.
- The US Constitution was argued and written.
Although entrance is free, a timed ticket for entry is required during most of the year. For a small fee, you can pre-book your ticket here.
- Congress Hall is the oldest building used to house the US House of Representatives and Senate.
- John Adams was sworn in as the 2nd President of these United States. This was one of the first times in history that leadership was transferred without a death, bloodshed or family ties. “This first peaceful transfer of power demonstrated the potential of the American experiment in democratic government.” This practice is also now widespread throughout the world.
Old City Hall
The sight of the US’ first Supreme Court from 1791-1800.
The Liberty Bell Center
Although the United States took many years to realize that liberty is for more than just white males, it is one of our fundamental values. There is no greater symbol than the Liberty Bell, which is free to see in this complex. On your way to the bell, there is a museum about the concept of liberty in the United States.
This visit will take you about an hour and is free.
Free Quaker Meeting House
Exploring the religion of the Quakers is a thought-provoking way to explore the relationship between the US’ ideals of religion and freedom of thought. William Penn, a Quaker, was the first “sole proprietor” of Pennsylvania and drew settlers to the area by the promise of religious tolerance. For this reason the majority of this area’s first settlers were Quakers. Quakers did not believe in taking oaths or military service. You can visit their meeting house and explore how those beliefs interacted with the political climate of the Colonial period.
Philadelphia Art Museum
Although the building is full of lovely art, you must visit to run up the famous stairs of this museum, cranking “Gonna Fly Now (Rocky Theme Song)” on your iPhone. A little frivolous fun after your day immersing yourself in serious history.
Philadelphia Tip: Most historical buildings in Philadelphia will require going through a metal detector and a bag check, so simplify what you carry.
Everywhere on this list, except the Philadelphia Art Museum is close enough to explore on foot.
What is your favorite historical sight to visit in Philadelphia? Please let me know in the comments.