Hello friends! Are you planning a trip to Philadelphia? One of the top attractions you’ll want to visit is Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed.
After exploring revolutionary history in Boston, our next stop on our adventure was Philadelphia. We only had one a few hours allotted here but knew we absolutely had to visit Independence Hall.
Before this trip, I embarrassingly didn’t know much about it except for seeing it in the movie National Treasure. But I was determined to walk the very halls where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were debated and signed.
This historic site is a must-see for any history buff. Here are my tips for making the most of your visit to Independence Hall.
Independence Hall in Philidelphia
Originally called the Pennsylvania State House, Independence Hall once housed all three branches of Pennsylvania’s colonial government.
Today it still stands as a symbol of freedom and democracy. Walking through gives you chills knowing the history that happened within these walls!
How to get Tickets to Independence Hall?
Getting tickets to tour the famous Independence Hall is super easy! From March through December, you’ll need to reserve timed entry tickets online at Recreation.gov or by phone at 1-877-444-6777.
You can reserve up to 10 tickets per account for tours through February 2024. Tickets are just $1 each. Make sure to arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled tour time to get through security screening.
Have your printed or mobile tickets ready to show at the entrance. Tours are limited to 60 people each and fill up fast, so book your tickets well in advance.
No tickets are required for January and February tours except on holidays – it’s first come, first served then. Grab your tickets and get ready to explore where America began at Independence Hall!
Where to go for your tour of Independence Hall?
The security for Independence Hall is located to the right of Independence Hall. You’ll enter near the intersection of 5th Street and Chestnut. Food and drink are both prohibited.
Of all the security I went through in Washington DC, I found this security to be just as secure. The only difference was that the guests were not prepared. Almost everyone needed wanding because they failed to put stuff through the X-ray machine. I recommend adding in a little extra time for the security process because of this.
Taking a Tour
Once you get through security screening, head around the corner next to Independence Hall. You’ll join your tour group outside. A friendly park ranger will gather everyone together and then lead you right up the front steps into this iconic building where America began.
Stepping inside, you’ll first see the stately Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chambers.
Then it’s on to Congress Hall, where the early US Congress met. Your guide will share fascinating stories as you walk through the Assembly Room, where both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were signed by our Founding Fathers.
In 1776 in the Assembly Room, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, breaking away from England. Just over a decade later in 1787, delegates gathered here again to draft and sign the US Constitution, creating a radical new democratic government.
After the tour, you’ll have time to take photos and soak in the significance of this place. Then you’ll exit Independence Hall through the back doors. Can you imagine John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and all the signers walking these very halls?
The West Wing
After your tour, don’t miss visiting the West Wing to see the incredible exhibits. You’ll view rare original printed copies of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and Constitution. It’s amazing to see these important documents up close.
There’s also the Inkstand, the silver vessel used by 56 Founding Fathers to dip their quills and sign the Declaration of Independence. They mutually pledged their lives, fortunes, and honor to the cause of freedom using this very inkstand!
Seeing the original Printed version of the Declaration of Independence is a surreal experience. You can vividly imagine the debates, compromises, and political struggles that happened right here in this hall.
What amazes me most is how close you can get up to the document compared to Washington DC at the national archived.
Is this the official Declaration of Independence?
This is the Dunlap Broadside. After the Declaration of Independence was formally adopted on July 4th 1776, congress voted to authenticate the document and add the signatures.
That evening the Declaration was taken to the print shop where John Dunlap printed 100-200 copies to be sent out to several assemblies, conventions, committees and continental troops.
Visiting Congress Hall
Just across the courtyard from Independence Hall is Congress Hall. From March through December, programs here run every 20 minutes on a first-come, first-served basis.
During your 15-20 minute program, you’ll explore the House of Representatives chamber on the first floor. Upstairs is the beautiful Senate chamber, currently closed for maintenance.
In January and February, you can visit Congress Hall at your own pace without a guided program. This is where the US Congress met from 1790 to 1800 when Philadelphia was the temporary national capital.
Within these walls, President George Washington was inaugurated for his second term. John Adams also took his inaugural oath of office as president in Congress Hall. Walking the same floors where Congress debated and created laws in the earliest days of America is an incredible experience.
Old City Hall
In addition to Independence Hall and Congress Hall, don’t miss seeing Old City Hall.
Old City Hall, completed in 1791, once served as the city hall for Philadelphia. In the 1790s, the courtroom on the first floor was even used by the Supreme Court of the United States. Upstairs, the second floor housed the City Council chambers.
Tips for Your Visit to Independence Hall
To make the most of your time at Independence Hall, keep these tips in mind:
- Arrive early to avoid long lines
- Get your tickets online
- Plan for Security.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This surprised me each time the number of people that don’t.
Would I Visit Independence Hall again?
Visiting Independence Hall is like taking a walk through history. Within these walls, some of America’s most important foundational documents were debated, drafted, and signed.
As the site where unprecedented ideas became reality, Independence Hall is hallowed ground. Walking in the Founders’ footsteps inspires appreciation for the courage and cooperation it took to build the United States.
I couldn’t believe how amazing it was to walk the steps and see where our nation was found. When you consider the epic trip through America’s founding we were taking, it was worth the extra train ticket to do it.