While Tom and I were in Harrisburg, we took a carefully planned trip to Philadelphia to see Independence National Historical Park. The trip was carefully planned because we drive a huge truck. We looked at various ways of getting to the Old Town section of Philadelphia. Train from Harrisburg. Parking at a commuter lot outside Philadelphia and taking public transportation in. In the end we decided to go on a Saturday when there would be (we hoped) less traffic and some public parking lots were open. We are too big to fit into parking decks.
We drove in early on a Saturday morning and parked in the lot we found on Google Maps, about two blocks from Independence National Historical Park Visitors Center. The Visitors Center is where every visit should begin because you can find out about special tours, see the introductory movie, and get free tickets for a tour of Independence Hall. Getting the tickets first thing is very important because you have to have the tickets to get in to Independence Hall and the tickets are gone fast. I also got a variety of stamps in my Passport book at the Visitors Center.
We picked up our tickets for Independence Hall at 9:30 – our tour was at 11. We were told to be in line at Independence Hall at least 30 minutes early. After orienting ourselves in Old Town, we got in line almost an hour early. The line stretched around the block and moved slowly but steadily. While in line we found there were people who didn’t know you had to get tickets. You can get in to the grounds without tickets, but you can’t go in Independence Hall. They had to walk several blocks back to the Visitors Center, get tickets, and then stand in line again.
We were about 15 minutes early for our tour by the time we worked through the security line. During our wait, we checked out the other buildings on the grounds and looked at the statue. We also listened to people being turned away from their tours because they were late – they hadn’t gotten in line early enough. But the rangers were very firm. You had to be in the waiting area on time with your tickets to tour Independence Hall.
Tom and I were punctual and entered Independence Hall with a Volunteer Ranger who gave our tour. We were with a school group from California who had come to the East Coast to do a “Patriot” tour. We saw the Old City Hall which also served as a courtroom for the US Supreme Court. Then we entered Congress Hall where the Declaration of Independence was adopted and the Constitution was debated. Having spent the summer with George Washington, we imagined him presiding over the Constitutional convention.
While still on the ground of Independence Hall, we went into the West Wing where we saw original printed copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. We exited through the Library of the American Philosophical Society which had an interesting display of early North American maps.
Later in the day we again stood in a long line to see the Liberty Bell. We were in line much longer than we looked at the bell. Again, everyone has to pass through security. When I was a child, the Liberty Bell on display was in Independence Hall but now it has its own building in a separate location. The Liberty Bell Center has many interesting displays on the history of the bell.
Independence National Historical Park has 16 areas or buildings that are part of the park. Philadelphia also has three other National Park sites that are separate from Independence National Historical Park. Two of these were only open on weekends, which is part of the reason we went on a Saturday. We did not go in all the buildings, but we spent time in Franklin Court and the Benjamin Franklin Museum.
Really taking the time to see all the buildings and artifacts in Independence National Historical Park would take several days. I’m sure there are residents of Philadelphia who visit the park regularly and still feel like they haven’t seen all of it. It is a great way to get in touch with the beginnings of our nation.