Learn about the American Revolution and step through time at the Independence Hall in historic Philadelphia.
During our Northeast college tour with the kids, we took the opportunity to spend some time touring cities we’d never visited. One of the cities was historic Philadelphia, home to the Independence Hall and Liberty Bell.
Our son, who loves history, happily shared his knowledge about The American Revolutionary War while we toured the city. With limited time, we couldn’t visit all the places but join us for our quick day in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Museum of the American Revolution
To understand the reason for the American Revolution and the subsequent birth of the United States, make your first stop at the Museum of American Revolution. This museum was only opened to the public in 2017 and is of considerable size. You would need at least 2-3 hours to enjoy the exhibits fully.
The building is divided into two floors. On the first floor, there is a theater that plays a 15 min movie called Revolution that goes over the cause of the war and its legacy. Next to the theater is the Patriot Gallery with rotating exhibits. When we were there, an exhibit called Liberty: Don Troiani’s Paintings of the Revolutionary War was featured. Many of Troiani’s original paintings and collectibles were on display depicting scenes from the Revolutionary War.
The second floor has permanent exhibits on one side and Washington’s War Tent on the other. The War Tent is the main attraction of the museum as it was used by General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. It is featured in its own theater and is only shown a few times a day to preserve the condition of the tent.
The permanent exhibition hall is divided into 4 parts of the war in chronological order:
- Becoming Revolutionaries
- The Darkest Hour
- A Revolutionary War
- A New Nation
Each section is well-presented with informative stories and illustrations. They vary from statues replicating the actual scenes, to paintings, and many artifacts. There are large displays such as a privateer ship and tableaux. For students who are studying American history, this is the museum worth your visit!
Our second stop is the Independence Hall, one of the most significant buildings in US History. The Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were both established and adopted there and it is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Today, the Independence Hall is a national park and the park employees provide tours to visitors. We recommend reserving your tickets ahead of your visit (the cost is $1 per ticket). The tour guides take visitors through the building and provide the history of the two main rooms: the assembly room and supreme courtroom. The tour is about 30 min and visitors are welcome to stay and tour the museum afterward.
After visiting the Independence hall, we stopped at the Liberty Bell nearby. The bell was originally hung in the Independence Hall and rang for meetings and public gatherings.
It was rung on July 8, 1776, to announce the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. In 1835, the bell cracked for the first time and as it grew wider in 1846, it hasn’t been rung. You do not need a ticket to visit the Liberty Bell.
First Bank of the United States
In Philadelphia’s Old City area, there are other historic buildings in the vicinity that visitors can stop by and the streets are highly walkable.
Right across from the Museum of the American Revolution is the First Bank of the United States. While not having the same responsibilities as the US Federal Reserve today, it was one of the first national banks in the US. The bank was chartered by the US Congress in 1791 and the building was completed in 1797. The bank’s responsibilities include collecting federal taxes and paying the government’s debt from the Revolutionary War.
Betsy Ross House
Another famous house in the area is 239 Arch Street. It is here that the seamstress Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag. Visitors can tour the house and learn about Betsy’s life and the birthplace of the American flag.
Just a few minutes walk from Betsy Ross House is Elfreth’s Alley, one of the most unique and historic streets in Philadelphia. The alleyway has been continuously used as a residential street from the 1700’s until today.
The 32 houses on the alley were built in the 1700 and early 1800s. Today, there is a museum in the alley and several of the houses are occupied by private residences. They open up several days a year for the public to view the inside. We loved the cute houses and felt like we were transported back in time.
Other Philadelphia Historic Site in Old City
We had limited time so we couldn’t visit all the popular sites in the Old City. Here is a list of them if you are interested. If we miss any on the list, please feel free to let us know in the comments below.
- US Mint
- Free Quaker Meeting House
- National Constitution Center
- President’s House
- Benjamin Franklin Museum
- National Liberty Museum
- Second Bank of the US
- Carpenter’s Hall
- City Tavern
- Declaration House
- Powel House
- Old St. Mary’s Church
- Merchant’s Exchange Building
- Hill-Physick House
- Old St. Joseph’s Church
Sonny’s Famous Steaks
Our family loves cheesesteaks so it was one of the foods we looked forward to the most on the trip. Unfortunately, there aren’t as many renowned “cheesesteak” options in the old city area. One of the more popular ones nearby is Sonny’s Famous Steaks.
We absolutely loved the cheesesteak as they hit the spot. The fries and onion rings were excellent as well. There’s very limited seating inside so it’ll be difficult to get a table during busy times.
Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival at Franklin Square
When we were in Philadelphia, it coincided with the Chinese Lantern Festival at Franklin Square. Our children don’t get many opportunities to see Chinese Lanterns in the San Francisco area so it was a great occasion for them to experience the festival.
The Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival had an elaborate showcase of lanterns in all shapes and sizes, many of them in animal figures but unique nonetheless.
Besides the lanterns, there was festival food, stage performances, and lots of decorated areas for photo-taking.
Wm. Mulherin’s Sons
Before heading to the Chinese Lantern Festival, we had dinner at Wm. Mulherin’s Sons. The food is so good that Nami and I still talk about it a month after the trip was over.
Located inside a 100-year-old whiskey blending and bottling facility, both the exterior and interior of the restaurant are inherently cool. The intricate woodwork and 20s-like decor transported us to a different time, which made our entire dining experience even more special. The food is called modern Italian but all the dishes were so creative.
We chose many dishes that were cooked over a wood fire (nothing tastes quite like it) and loved them all. Crispy octopus with spicy pesto, grilled chicken with green bean salad, and tomatoes with yuzu kosho vinaigrette. It was one of the best meals we had on the trip and our only wish was that it was in San Francisco so we could go back.
Our eventful day in Philadelphia was super fun. We learned a lot of history, saw unique buildings, and fully enjoyed the lantern festival. I can’t say enough about the food and we look forward to visiting again when we have more time. Please let us know any places we should visit next time in Philadelphia.