Philadelphia: ($22 for parking – that’s it!)
This was our first time in Philadelphia and we hit several highlights in just one day! We camped at Brendad T. Byrne State Forest Campground in New Jersey and had about a one hour drive in. We parked and went to the Independence Visitor Center to check in for the free tour of Independence Hall. If you get there early enough you can do one of the 1-hour guided tours – we got a later slot and we got the abbreviated 20 minute tour which was a-okay with us. I felt like the tour was a perfect length for the kids. We learned a lot in a short time and there was a lot to see and take in. Our guide was very informative and entertaining. It is INCREDIBLE to stop and and think about the amazing conversations and events that happened in that building! You can see the chair good ol’GW sat in once upon a time. Outside we saw a reenactment of the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. If you are a big nerd like I am, you will get the chills! Huzzah!
We had about a 3 hour wait between when we checked in and when our tour started. We were never bored! We walked around the area and there was a lot to see within a short walk. Between the visitor center and Independence Hall itself there is big grassy area where you can have lunch and people watch. There are also two pretty significant attractions: The Liberty Bell and the foundations of the first presidential house!
The President’s House Site:
Next door to the Visitors center is an outdoor exhibit that presents the idea of how different the ideals were between our new country of freedom and the existence of slavery at the same time. In the center of the exhibit there is a glass display where you can see the foundations of the first President’s house that was lived in by both Washington and Adams. The actual house was demolished in the early 1800’s – silly, unsentimental Philadelphians.
The Liberty Bell. Crack and all! It is housed in a small museum dedicated only to it and its history. You do have to go through security to get in. The bell is bigger than I imagined it would be! 2,000 pounds! The glass wall behind the bell gives you a stunning view of Independence Hall which is right across the street. When we first got to the bell room it was packed with people. We hung out for a few and it cleared out. Well worth it so you can get a good view and take it all in.
Washington Square Park was the next stop. It is one of 5 parks that were designed by William Penn as part of the original plan of the city – you know, a few hundred years ago (1682 to be exact). It is just one block away from Independence Hall. Right at the entrance you will see (if you are looking for it) the Moon Tree. It is a clone of a tree that was originally planted with seeds that were once taken to the actual MOON! The original tree died in 2008, thus the clone. Across the park you will find the American Revolution’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The park was actually once the site where many slaves were buried and later became a mass burial area for thousands of prisoners of war who died during the Revolution. There is a statue of George Washington and an eternal flame burning. We didn’t know it was there but I am really glad we stumbled across it! I always read the youth novel “Woods Runner” by Gary Paulsen to my class (with parent permission) when we learn about the war. Consider this a book recommendation! In the book you get some insight into how the prisoners were kept and treated. The boys read the book in the car on the way east so it was a great way for them to connect what they read to real life.
Benjamin Franklin’s Grave
We went and did our tour and then headed down the street to corner of 5th and Arch to Christ Church Burial Ground to see Ben Franklin’s grave. You can pay a small fee to get inside the cemetery but you don’t need to! Franklin’s grave is right in the corner and you can see it through the fence easily. Bring a penny and you can toss it on the grave. This is an old tradition that honors his famous phrase, “ A penny saved is a penny earned.”
Adrian!!!! You. Can’t. Not. Think. It. LOL! No trip to Philly is complete without a run up the Rocky steps (also known as the entrance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art). The parking we found was questionable and we parked somewhere that may or may not have been permit parking only so, like Rocky, we pretty much ran to the steps, up the steps, paused at the top for a little celebration and ran back to the car 🏃 🏃♀️ 🏃 🏃♀️ 🏃 🏃♀️ Play the Rocky theme song on your way up for a bit more epic-ness! Use earbuds if you are shy 🙂
Camping info: We stayed at Brendan T. Byrne State Forest Campground. It had a nice playground and the showers were clean but a little buggy. We met some folks that stayed at the Campus Park and Ride “campsite” in the city. It is a no frills parking lot with hookups but they said it was close to everything and was very secure. Check there for shuttle information into the tourist spots.