Independence Hall is the birthplace of America. The Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were both debated and signed inside this building. The legacy of the nation's founding documents - universal principles of freedom and democracy - has influenced lawmakers around the world and distinguished Independence Hall as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Construction on the building started in 1732. Built to the Pennsylvania State House, the building originally housed all three branches of Pennsylvania's colonial government. The Pennsylvania legislature loaned their Assembly Room out for the meetings of the Second Continental Congress and later, the Constitutional Convention. Here, George Washington was appointed Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in 1775, the Articles of Confederation were adopted in 1781, and Benjamin Franklin gazed upon the "Rising Sun" chair in 1787.
Tips and recommendations from others who have been there:
Independence Hall is part of the Independence National Historical Park. When visiting, "there are lots of other significant historical sites close to Independence Hall." The building is close to other historic sites like the Liberty Bell, Congress Hall, Old City Hall, Constitution Hall, President's House site, Franklin Court buildings and many more. It is recommended to "plan accordingly" and "take your time and spread it out over multiple days or multiple trips. There's way too much to see and to rush through it all is just as much an injustice as not seeing these treasures at all."
When to visit
- Most crowded: June, July and August.
- Best months to visit: September and early October when the weather is still warm, but there are fewer crowds.
- Entrance to Independence Hall is by timed entry ticket only from March through December.
- No tickets are necessary in January and February and after 5pm during summer.
Planning your visit
- Visit the National Park Services website. They provide plenty of information on all the elements of the Independence National Park including operating hours and ticket information.
- Download the park's free app, NPS Independence, for the best park map, visiting information and audio tours.
- It is also possible to reserve your free tickets to the Independence Hall online, a service fee of $1.50 per ticket will be charged to you.
Selecting the tour or tours to take
- Start your tour at the Independence Visitors Center to get tickets for the tour, view a list of scheduled park events for that day and to watch the short films, Independence and Choosing Sides.
- If the Visitor Center says they are out of tickets this does not mean you cannot get in. Just go over to the Square and talk to the Park Rangers. Almost every tour people do not show up and the Rangers fill the tours on the spot. Word of advice though: They do not care how far you traveled or how long you have waited to come there, if there is room they will put you on, if there isn't, they will tell you exactly what to do to get on the next tour. (Wayne Rogers)
- After getting your Independence Hall tickets, head over the Liberty Bell first so there are fewer people and a shorter security waiting time.
- There are plenty of nearby historic buildings and sites to visit aside from the Independence Hall and Liberty Bell. See the list below.
When you visit:
- Get there early if you're going to get tickets and if you want to find a parking garage. You may also try to get them online, although you’ll need to pay for a service fee. (Andrew James)
- Arrive at least 15 minutes earlier than your designated timed entry ticket. This will give you time to go through security.
- Maximize your visit to the park and minimize your security screening time by bringing only small bags, if necessary. No food or drink is allowed in this pavilion. You will need to empty any metal or coin objects from your pockets.
- Do not let the look of a long line scare you, they move fast. Just follow any directions given by security or the Rangers and you will get through with ease. (Wayne Rogers)
- If you are interested in taking in the details of the rooms or getting a picture, try to be one of the first in your group going in. If in the rear of the line, you will end up in the back of the rooms and not be able to see much through the crowd. The guides do ask that everyone let children come to the front so that they may be able to see what he is discussing. (Kristen Warr)
- Note the chair in Independence Hall with a "rising sun" design on the backrest. Franklin said he couldn't be sure if it was rising or setting. (Jeanette Clinkunbroomer)
- If you want to see the Liberty Bell but don't have the time to wait in the line, you can see the back of the Liberty Bell facing a glass wall which can be viewed from outside.
- If you are planning a trip in the summer, I highly recommend visiting over the week of Independence Day. Philadelphia holds the Wawa Welcome celebration for a week up through Independence Day. There are concerts, parades, block parties, food events, fireworks, and each day different museums are free. If your interest is in unique fun, the events can make your trip one of a kind! If your interest is museums, the free museum days can save you a load of cash!
For the kids:
- Encourage your kids to ask questions to the Park Rangers or answer historical questions in exchange for collectible trading cards featuring famous American landmarks and people. These cards are great educational materials and are free souvenirs from your trip.
- Kids will enjoy the Junior Ranger program which gives them a chance to earn a badge when completed. The park offers two Junior Ranger programs.The Junior Ranger for iPhone and iPad gives kids a way to interact with the park's stories on their mobile device. The Junior Ranger Activity Booklet requires kids to learn facts about park sites.
Nearby historic sites to visit:
- The National Constitution Center is, essentially, across the street. There is also the new Museum of the American Revolution and the Jewish History Museum. (Lisa Burris)
- Don't forget Betsy Ross's house! Also, on the way to her house from the park you can pay your respects to Ben Franklin at his final resting place! (Carla Knudsen)
- The Federal Reserve and The U.S. Mint are just two-three blocks away. Both are self-guided tours and no tickets necessary.
- Right down on 4th and 3rd Streets are the Powel House and the Hill-Keith-Physick House where prominent Philadelphians lived and many of our founding fathers visited, danced, dined and discussed politics when the continental congress was in the city. On 7th Street is the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent which tells the story of the city, including objects from Franklin, Washington, William Penn etc! (Christopher Malone)
- Visit the NPS's Second National Bank art gallery and Carpenter's Hall. (Andrew James)
- Have a meal at City Tavern, just a few blocks away. Various founders stayed there and held meetings there during the 1s and 2nd Continental Congress. Chef Staib and his staff cook historically accurate, and delicious, food. In fact, the chef has a PBS TV show called A Taste of History, in which he travels to places significant to the Revolution and uses the kitchens and resources there to prepare meals just as they were prepared in the 18th century. (Lisa Burris and Andrea O'Neill)
- Go to the Mutter Museum - a medical museum containing a collection of medical oddities, anatomical and pathological specimens, wax models, and antique medical equipment. (Mike Bounds)
- The Arch Street Friends Meeting House is free and a wonderful guide tells the history of it. Well worth the visit. Open M-F 11-2, but you can arrange a different time if you plan ahead. (Jane Renfors Padrutt)
Do you have tips and recommendations to add? What else should a history lover visit when they are in the area? Please add them in the comments below.