The Philadelphia City Hall Tower Tour Provides A Stunning View
Philadelphia City Hall Tower Tour - Admission Prices
Adults - $5.00
Youth, Military, Student - $4.00
Seniors - $3.00
Children Under 3 – Free
Finding the Philadelphia City Hall Tower Tour
It's Actually Pretty Difficult to Find, Especially If You've Never Done It Before, And/Or You're Not From Philadelphia
Finding the Philadelphia City Hall Tower Tour From Suburban Station
You will – always, and logically enough - be officially advised, to take SEPTA Regional Rail to Suburban Station, at 16th and John F. Kennedy Boulevard, rather than Market East Station. Although Market East is a slightly further walk (about one extra block), we think – having done it both ways – that it’s far less confusing to find Room 121 from Market East, since it’s located east of City Hall (hence the name, Market East), and you need to reach the East Alcove of the City Hall courtyard. And this is particularly true, if you're unfamiliar with the city.
Accordingly, we'd strongly recommend that you disembark from the SEPTA train at Market East, instead. You’ll more than make up the time with the additional walk, because you’ll find Room 121 more easily. But if you want to go via Suburban Station, here’s how:
When you disembark from the train, follow signs on the underground concourse for a numbered street, preferably “16th Street”. Or just ask someone how to get to 16th Street, up on street level.
Once you’re up on street level, you’ll see the gigantic City Hall building, a block or so away. Walk towards it. Once you’re in the courtyard, you need to find Room 121 in the East Alcove. (You’ve just come from the other direction – most likely, the West Alcove, or possibly the North or South – so just look for the Alcove off the courtyard, other than the one you’ve entered by. There are only four, so you’ll find it eventually.)
Recommended Way To Travel - Finding the Philadelphia City Hall Tower Tour From Market East Station
If you are coming from Market East Station at 11th and Market Streets, or from anywhere on Market Street, east of City Hall – i.e., a numbered street which is “13th" or lower, this is how you do it:
After you disembark from your train, you go up an escalator from the platform. You'll immediately see a silver, semicircle SEPTA Information Desk, if you need directions. Follow signs for the Pennsylvania Convention Center and the Marriott Hotel. You’ll walk down a fairly long corridor, with the picture window overlooking the tracks on your right. Just follow signs for the Convention Center, and you’ll be fine.
You’ll come to an escalator, with a stunning blue and white mural, depicting the Reading Railroad’s glory days, on the left side. Ride up that escalator. Once you’ve done that, there will be a security desk on the left, along with interpretive exhibits about the Reading Terminal's storied history, and a Dunkin’ Donuts on the right.
Going past both the security desk and the Dunkin’ Donuts, will take you out via the Reading Terminal Façade, onto the southwest corner of the intersection of 12th and Market Streets – two blocks east of City Hall. Turn right out the door, and you’ll see the gigantic building. Walk directly toward it.
As you're walking west on Market Street, toward City Hall – which will be easy, because Market Street runs directly into it, as it is located at Broad and Market. You'll be walking on the north side of Market, with Macy’s on your left, on the south side of Market at 13th Street. Cross the street (which will be tricky, because traffic has to veer around City Hall, in both directions) very carefully.
There will be a blue-and-gold Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission sign there, commemorating the role of John Wanamaker in the creation of Mother’s Day. (Take a minute and read it. The Macy's you see today, was occupied for nearly the entire 20th century by Wanamakers Department Store, and will remain known as such, in the hearts and minds of native Philadelphians.)
Once you’ve crossed the street - you will be entering an archway – formally known as the East Alcove of City Hall. You don’t even need to get to the Courtyard – which is just as well, because as of September 2010, there is construction material everywhere in it.
Now that you’re in the East Alcove, just keep going until you see a room with a bright blue banner hanging outside of it, on your right side. That is Room 121. You’re in the right place.
Buying Your Philadelphia City Hall Tower Tour Tickets
As soon as you go in, there’s a sales counter, where you purchase your tickets. Since they sell both the interior tour and the tower tour there, make sure that you buy tickets for just the tower tour. The prices are at the top of this page.
Ask when the earliest available tour is, depending on what’s convenient for your schedule. You must get your names on the list, as soon as possible – since only four visitors can go up at a time! The sales person will take your cash, ring you up a receipt from the Philadelphia City Hall Store, and sell you a “City Hall Tower Tours” ticket.
Your ticket will be orange, with a drawing of the Philadelphia City Hall Tower printed on it, with spaces for the date and time available. The clock is blank, and your tour time will be filled on it. It will have the following instructions, on its face:
Arrive at the Tower 15 minutes before scheduled time. Tours depart promptly. No refunds if late.
On the back, it will read:
City Hall Tours and Visitor Center - Room 121 - Philadelphia, PA 19107 - 215.686.2840
If you cannot be here in time for your tour, please call and cancel.
Take the elevator to the top floor (7), follow the red lines on the floor to the escalator that goes to the 9th floor Waiting Room. Be there at least 10 minutes before your scheduled time.
In practice, this is how you follow these instructions:
The Philadelphia City Hall Tower Tour - Part 2 - Getting From Room 121 To the First Elevator, Which Takes You To the 7th Floor
As soon as you buy your ticket, and step out of Room 121, immediately walk back out the East Alcove, and walk back onto the sidewalk - not through the courtyard - just out of the Alcove - it's just a few steps.
Now that you're out of the Alcove, make an immediate left turn, so that you’re now walking just outside the City Hall walls. After a few steps, you’ll see another entry way, before you reach the street corner. (If you walk around the corner, you’ve gone too far, walk back the other way. ) That entrance is where you walk inside, to get the first elevator. This is a conventional elevator, that goes from the ground floor to the seventh floor.
There will be another checkpoint, where a security guard will check you in and see your tickets. He’ll show you to the first elevator, just beyond the checkpoint. Take it up to the 7th floor. Here’s where it gets a little bit complicated…
Philadelphia City Hall Tower Tour - Step 3 - Getting From the First Elevator, To the 9th Floor Waiting Area, and the Second Elevator
When you reach the 7th floor, you will exit the elevator, and will see red lines on the floor. You will have to get from the 7th floor to the 9th floor, and the way to do that, is simply to follow the red lines to a short escalator. (Remember, this building was constructed in the 19th century! That's why it's so complicated...)
When you get off at the top of the escalator, you will see a gray sign with red letters - reading “Tower”, with a directional arrow. Follow the arrow, and you’ll end up in the 9th floor waiting room.
In terms of the logistics, of all of this-
You have to allow a generous amount of time.
You have to get from Room 121 to the elevator, which takes about five minutes, and then be checked in.
You have to wait for the first elevator to descend, permit you to enter, and then ascend back up to the 7th floor.
You then have to allow time, to get from the 7th floor elevator to the 9th floor waiting room and elevator. While you probably won’t get lost doing this (especially if you're following these directions carefully) there's a chance that you could, and so leave some extra time, to be sure. Why?
Your chance to experience the Philadelphia City Hall Tower Tour is so narrow - they book tours every half hour, on an extremely tight schedule - so don't miss your window by being late, at all.
The Philadelphia City Hall Tower Tour, Step 4 - From the 9th Floor Waiting Room to William Penn's Hat, Via the Second Elevator, From the 9th Floor to the 22nd Floor
Once you’re up in the 9th floor waiting room, it begins to feel more like a tourist attraction, again. The mantra that the staff is told in the Philadelphia City Hall Store, is that “the second elevator leaves every 15 minutes.”
So, you're asking - "What does this mean for me? And what is this 'second elevator', anyway?"
Well, the second elevator is the one that takes you from the 9th floor waiting room to the observation deck in William Penn’s hat – on the 22nd floor! We should note that there isn’t anything public between floors 9 and 22 - it’s all tower!
In fact, the elevator ride is actually fairly long – 2 ½ - 3 minutes, to cover the 13 floors - with no local stops, of course. This is entertaining, in and of itself. You can look through the archways, and see outside buildings, and fully appreciate how far you’re rising, above Philadelphia.
Anticipate being cramped, in the elevator - it can only accommodate four visitors, plus the staffer.
Once you’re up there, you have to make the most of your time – the general rule of thumb is that once you’re up in William Penn’s hat, you get seven minutes. They will be among the most spectacular seven minutes, you’ll ever spend in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia City Hall Tower Tour - Step 5 - Now That You're Finally in Billy Penn's Hat, How to Make the Most of Your Seven Minutes!
What to look for – there will be compass directions painted in blue letters on the windows. Highlights include:
NORTH – You can see North Broad Street, all the way to Temple University.
SOUTH – You can look out over the Avenue of the Arts and its performing arts venues – but most intriguingly, you can see all the way to the Sports Complex in South Philadelphia; you can see Citizens Bank Park, as well as the giant, black Flyers logo on the Wells Fargo Center (previously the Wachovia Center).
WEST – If you look west, you’ll be confronting a couple of skyscrapers; those are the Liberty Place buildings – which, in 1987, were the first buildings to surpass the height of William Penn’s Hat. You can also see the new Cira Center in the distance.
"NORTHWEST" – There is no direction painted NORTHWEST on the window. But if you look through the window, between NORTH and WEST, you'll see perhaps the most spectacular view available - namely, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which you can see all the way to the Rocky steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
EAST – You can see the magnificent, light blue suspension bridge – the Ben Franklin Bridge – to the Camden waterfront of New Jersey, across the Delaware River.
Make sure you bring your camera – this is one of the best places in Philadelphia to take photos.
At that point, the guard politely asks your party to return to the elevator, to make the 2 ½ to 3 minute descent back to the 9th floor waiting room. At that point, you don’t have to leave. In fact, we would recommend that you linger in the 9th floor waiting room, and read the fascinating history of City Hall in general, and the City Hall Tower in particular. You can see photographs of William Penn bedecked in Philadelphia team colors to promote victories, learn tons of interesting facts about the sheer size of City Hall, and read some of the most eloquent praise – and virulent condemnations! – of City Hall, from Victorian times to the 21st century. You can also see and touch a piece of the tower which dates from the 19th century, removed during renovation.
It won’t take you long to read everything in the waiting room. And since the one major flaw in City Hall Tower as an attraction is the fact that it’s only open during business hours, you really should read all of this stuff now, while you’re there, since odds are, you probably won’t have the chance to get back to read them again.
So hopefully, if you follow these directions carefully, you'll have a great time on your Philadelphia City Hall Tower Tour!
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