Visit Philadelphia: Eight Must See Sites

Philadelphia is like any awesome big city – There is entirely too much to see on one trip! However, as someone who loves to immerse myself in the city life, I was going to give it my very best. It was a whirlwind packed three-ish days and we fit a ton in. First I want to give a shout out to our hotel, the Wyndham Historic District. I would highly recommend staying with them. They are in a great location to Old City, just a couple blocks from a lot of the historic stuff, and then a few more blocks away from downtown and City Hall. The hotel staff was great, the room was amazing and I would stay there again. Alright, time to move on to some of the great sites we saw! As a side note, you MUST have timed tickets for Independence Hall. And while they say that you can obtain tickets on the morning of the day you would like to visit I would STRONGLY recommend that you reserve your tickets ahead of time for $1.

History Lives in Philadelphia {Sites}

National Portrait Gallery Philadelphia {420 Chestnut Street}

I would consider this be a hidden gem here in Philly, only because`several locals that I spoke with had never been. Living in DC we know portrait galleries, and while this one is small, the portraits in it make it worth the trip. The gallery is located in the Second Bank of the United States, which is really cool all by itself. You will find a who’s who of the creation of our country, including signers of the Declaration and Constitution. Many of the portraits are painted by Charles Wilson Peale, one of the most famous portrait painters of the time. Inside you will also find paintings and maps of Philadelphia in its early days, as well as important citizens. The gallery also has several computers in one of the rooms that allow you to look up, and learn in more detail, about the paintings they house.

Old City Hall {corner of 5th and Chestnut St – next to Independence Hall}

Unlike Independence Hall, no tickets are required for Old City Hall. While the building was intended as Philadelphia’s City Hall and seat of local government because Philly was our Nation’s first Capital it often was used for Federal purposes and was the meeting location of the first Supreme Court hearings. It is a really cool building, and if you aren’t able to get tickets into Independence Hall during your visit, this building looks a lot like it. There is a Ranger on site who tells you a little bit about the building and the history of it, as well as answering questions. One of the most interesting things we learned was that there was no special pay or arrangements made for the individuals that participated in the beginning. They came out of the goodness of the hearts from all over to handle cases.

City Hall {1450 JFK Blvd}

Perhaps one of the coolest buildings in Philadelphia is the current City Hall. It is so beautiful and just incredible architecture. I wanted to stare at it all day long. Whether you see it in the daytime or at night (I recommend both though), it is just an incredible example of Empire era architecture. Philly’s City Hall is the largest municipal building in the country. Building began in 1871 and took 30 years to finish. The 548 ft tower is the tallest masonry structure in the world without a steel frame. The first floor is solid granite, with brick structure with marble facade the rest of the way up. There is an absolutely gorgeous courtyard you can walk through during the workweek and Saturdays. There is a guided tour that takes you to an observation deck where you can see the entire city. This is only open however during the work week, so make sure to add that to the list. Attached to the grounds is Dilworth park which has an ice rink in the winter and holds various other community events during the year. Surrounding City Hall are various statutes and memorials marking important events and people to not only our Nation’s history but local history as well.

Christ Church {N. 2nd Street and Market Street} & Christ Church Burial Ground {5th and Arch Street}

Don’t get confused, no these two places aren’t connected to each other physically. Until 1856, Christ Church was actually the tallest building in North America. Its beautiful steeple is quite something. Over 300 years of history have occurred within these walls, and while the church is still an active Episcopal congregation you can tour the church home of many of our Nation’s most famous individuals – Betsey Ross, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and William Penn. One of my favorite parts is the chandelier inside, which is still used even though it was installed in the 1700s! The church also still rings its original bells. Visiting the church is donation only, but there is a small fee to visit the burial grounds down the road. All monies go to help to preserve both landmarks.

Five signers of the Declaration are buried at the Christ Church burial grounds including Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Benjamin Rush. It is also the final resting place of many that died during the yellow fever epidemic.

One Liberty Observation Tower {1650 Market Street, 57th Floor}

Since I wasn’t able to get inside City Hall I knew I had to visit One Liberty Tower so that I could really take in the city. You can be sure that on the 57th Floor of a building is going to get you some amazing views. We were not disappointed! One of the cool things that they had were various games set up. This is not a rush in and out type place. You are encouraged to take your time and really take it all in. Play some games, look through the telescopes and interact with the large smart boards that help you identify the buildings and landscape you are looking at. You can also get a guided tour without paying extra. You can buy your tickets online ahead of time, and there is a family four-pack available for purchase online or in person. You can also purchase a day/night pass where you can take in the views twice in one day to really get a full picture of the city. Get more info and purchase tickets for Independence Hall.

Philadelphia Free Library – Parkway Library {19th Street and Benjamin Franklin Blvd}

Architecture is my thing and libraries with beautiful architecture are like my heaven! I was so excited when my friend took me to see this beautiful library in Houston, so I knew I wanted to check out one of the oldest libraries when I finally made it to Philadelphia. This particular building was opened for the Free Public Library in 1911, due to the fact that the library was becoming so popular they just needed the space! The Free Public Library was chartered in 1871. If you also enjoy architecture I would recommend visiting this on your way to the Philadelphia Art Museum or the Rocky Steps. There are library tours during the week, as well as a tour of the Rare Books Department. Visit the Library website for more information and specific times.


Wanamaker Organ {Macy’s City Center 1300 Market Street}

I had heard about the Wanamaker Organ from a friend of mine and he had said that it was something that I should definitely try to put on the list. Old building, cool old organ? Nothing more to say in my opinion. Macy’s City Center is home to the Wanamaker Organ and in and of itself is a remarkable building, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Wanamker Organ, built in 1904 for the World’s Fair, is located in the Grand Court and is one of the world’s largest organs. The experience was an incredible one, and even the kids liked it. Growing up, the church I attended had an organ and I’ve always loved them. It is such a beautiful instrument that I don’t really think gets the appreciation it deserves. Make sure to visit the Organ’s website to get details about the playing times. There is a 45min performance usually twice per day, best viewed from the third floor in my opinion. Enjoy the sound from over 28,000 pipes! It is an incredible experience.

The Rocky Steps {Philadelphia Museum of Art 2600 Benjamin Franklin Blvd}

If you’re a fan of the movie this is a must! Join the hundreds of other people running up the 72 steps and do your best Rocky impression. Make sure to catch the Rocky statue down below and wait in line to snap your picture!


BONUS: Eastern State Penitentiary {2124 Fairmount Ave}

For more on this recommendation visit my post all about Eastern State here. This is an excellent experience for kids and adults!

what would add to your Must-See Philadelphia list?

Continue Reading

Visit Philadelphia ~ Eastern State Penitentiary

Thank you Eastern State for providing with the tickets to experience the museum!

You can see more pictures from our Eastern State visit on the Cammo Style Love facebook page

On our recent trip to Philadelphia, I was able to mark off a huge East-Coast bucket list item for me. Since we’ve moved to this side of the US seven years ago I’ve wanted to make it up to Philly and Eastern State Penitentiary. I know it probably sounds ridiculous to have a Prison on your bucket list, but as a Criminal Psychology major, this is a big deal. Eastern State is studied for many reasons – simply because it is America’s first REAL prison and because it was the beginning of prison reform, or downfall, depending on who you ask or the perspective you have. If you’ve never read about or visited Eastern State I strongly recommend it. Even our kids enjoyed it, and the two older ones stated that this was their favorite thing to do the whole trip. As a mom, that’s a major win!

the history of eastern state penitentiary

Eastern State is the world’s first true penitentiary and was designed with achieving penitence. When people look at the prison through today’s eyes they often see something quite different. Cells designed to cut off prisoners from all human contact and solitary confinement tantamount to torture.  When you take the tour or do any real reading about the subject you may learn something entirely different. If you look at the time before Eastern State Penitentiary you will see disease and filth-ridden non-system where men, women, and children were thrown together in large rooms. The building of ES brought about the end to many disease outbreaks and was designed to create an environment where prisoners could spend time in solitude to really reconcile and be penitent. They were not meant to be locked away forever! The creators of this system really did want to see individuals inside the prison release. Prisoners within ES even right up until it was shut down commented on how ES was different than any other prison they had been in before, remarking that the guards here were kind and friendly towards prisoners, bringing in radio, tv, games and Christmas decorations. I encourage you to read more about the history of Eastern State.

the tour

Expect to spend 2-3 hours at Eastern State. While the initial audio tour isn’t that long (35min) there are many areas of the prison that you can explore. Each off-the-beaten-path portion of the prison (50 additional stops) has an audio companion that you can listen to you if you choose, that are 1-2 minutes each. The audio portion is probably the best audio tour that I have ever taken. It is suitable for children and adults. They give you plenty of time to truly explore without making you feel rushed and give you great detail. There are docents and workers stationed in various locations of the prison that are also able to answer questions if you need. We ended up having an additional question and the docent was able to give a little extra insight which was nice. Grab the map and tour guide to help you locate other locations, as well as Hands on History portions where an expert tour guide is on hand to give more details that you won’t hear on the audio portion. Each experience is only about 5-10 min and is available all throughout the day. There is also one hour-long guided tour and discussion which would be perfect for a group (no additional charge for this! Just show up at the correct time). There are three portions of the tour that have adult content but are not part of the numbered tour, so the kiddos can’t accidentally bump into it.

Chaplain’s Office Murals
Synagogue – built by and for Jewish prisoners
one of the prisoners was an avid bug collector and studier – these were collected by him on prison grounds


special events

September – November come back for America’s #1 Haunted House

First Tuesday of every month hosts The Searchlight Series, discussing crime, justice and the American prison system

Hidden Lives Illuminated – August 15-September 12th Nightly – animated films are projected in the yard made by currently incarcerated artists. Nightly speakers and community involvement.

visit the Eastern State website for more special events throughout the year.

military discount and tour prices

One of the reasons I was excited to highlight this particular Philadelphia adventure is to share the military discount with my readers. For military Eastern State offers a $2.00 off discount for up to 4 people. Military discounts cannot be purchased online, but don’t worry they don’t sell out. The last entrance time 4pm. Just show up present your id at admissions. Youth prices are extended up to age 12 which is awesome! Many places list 12 as the first year for the ‘adult’ pricing. There is a student price which gives you a $4.00 discount with id.

Prisons Today Exhibit 

Continue Reading