Get the Most Out of Your One Day – Tour the Historic Attractions in Old City
Independence Hall Clock Tower, running out of daylight at 8:35 PM in the summer - and likewise, if you don't have a lot of time here, read this page to make the most of it! To read the clock face, just enlarge the image by clicking directly on the photo.
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If you have only one day in Philadelphia – regrettably – here’s how you can best use your time...
We have created a customized, one-day tour for you in mind. All of these locations are within
Old City Philadelphia,
only separated by a few blocks, and so you can probably hit all of them, in your limited time...
The Whirlwind One-Day Tour of Old City Philadelphia
Independence Visitor Center
The Liberty Bell
Christ Church Burial Ground / Franklin’s Grave
These attractions are the most important in the city, historically. Also, there are elements that make them an idea for a time-short visitor. Unlike the
Philadelphia Museum of Art,
the Franklin Institute,
National Constitution Center
(each of which you need a full day to enjoy), these attractions are short in duration.
The absolute first thing you must do, under this plan, is to go to the Independence Visitors Center, at 6th and Market Streets. There you can obtain free, timed tickets for Independence Hall. This is particularly true during the summer on any day, and on weekends year-round.
Those tickets get snapped up quickly. If you don’t go early, you might not make it into Independence Hall- at all. And even if you get a ticket, it might be for the end of the day, and you’ll lose precious time backtracking.
At the Liberty Bell, you get in line at the beginning of its Pavilion, but there’s plenty of stuff to read on the walls while you’re waiting- a good use of your limited time. At Independence Hall, particularly if you’ve gotten your ticket early, the ranger’s talk and tour generally takes only half an hour.
Then proceed to Franklin Court, which is located just down Market Street. Franklin Court is also free, and does not require tickets. Perhaps the most underrated tourist attraction in Philadelphia, it is a fascinating underground maze museum of Benjamin Franklin’s life and times. In our view, the most memorable aspect of it is the diorama showing Franklin at center stage in Philadelphia, London, and Paris, at various points during his extraordinary life.
Franklin Court has a great deal to see, and you can easily spend a couple of hours there, particularly if history is your interest (as it is for us). But if you’re pressed for time, it’s another stop you can make relatively quickly.
You can wrap up your afternoon with a trip to Franklin’s Grave, which is in the Christ Church Burial Ground, at Fifth and Arch Streets. At age 23, Franklin wrote a witty statement as a potential epitaph for a tombstone. Well, it made it there with him. It didn’t get put on his official tombstone, naturally, but it was put up as a plaque next to it.
Franklin died in 1790 – at the age of 84. He was exceptionally long-lived, for the 18th century. He died, just three years after helping to shepherd the new U.S. Constitution, through its turbulent birth at now-Independence Hall during the “Federal Convention”.
Due to Franklin’s extraordinary accomplishments, in an astonishing variety of fields, 20,000 people viewed his body, as it was taken to his grave at Christ Church Burial Ground.
That’s a large crowd today. But consider that Philadelphia, at the time probably had only about 25,000 residents. At the time of the Revolutionary War, 15 years earlier, it was the second-largest city in the British Empire, with only London larger – although it was many times larger.
Tradition says that you should toss a penny onto Franklin’s grave for good luck. So many people do so, in fact, that the pennies accumulated help to maintain the Christ Church Burial Ground for visitors. And having just come from seeing his home, it’s a great way to finish your daytime sightseeing in Philadelphia.
We save this for last, for a couple of reasons. One is that your visit is very quick – just going over to the graveyard and reading the plaques there for as long as you’d like.
Another is that although the graveyard closes for tours, you can see Franklin’s grave at any time of day or night – you can see it through the wrought-iron fence – so you don’t have to rush through anything, in order to get there before it closes. (And like all the other stops on this tour, it’s free.)
Finally, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Franklin Court, and Christ Church Burial Ground are all in close proximity to each other – within the nation’s most historic square mile, separated by only a few blocks. That will save you a lot of time.
Of course, Philadelphia has plenty of nightlife and attractions - this was essentially designed for you to maximize your experience, while attractions are open for visitors.
And hopefully, you'll love Philadelphia enough, that you'll come back and visit the city once more - perhaps with some more time to spend travelling through its many more attractions...
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