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Visiting Independence Hall

Posted on Wednesday, March 15, 2017
The inside scoop on the best ways to visit the most important historic building in America
 

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The History

Independence Hall’s amazing history far predates the American Revolution and dates all the way back to 1732.  Philadelphia was at this point only 50 years old but was already quickly growing into the largest city in the American Colonies and the capital of the fast growing colony of Pennsylvania.  Pennsylvania’s colonial government was looking to build a brand new State House and choose a plot of land west of 5th Street on Chestnut Street, in an area that was largely unpopulated at the time.  Famous lawyer and Speaker of the Assembly, Andrew Hamilton laid out plans for the grand new State House in the Georgian Style that were then drawn into designs by master builder, Edmund Woolley.  Construction of Independence Hall, then known as “the Pennsylvania State House” would begin in 1732, the same year as the birth of George Washington.
 
The construction of the building was an enormous undertaking.  Designed to house the Pennsylvania Assembly, the Governor’s Office, the Supreme Court of the colony of Pennsylvania, as well as a large hall for banquets and celebrations, the building was among the largest in America at the time of its construction.  The Pennsylvania Assembly began meeting in the building in 1735, but construction was not considered complete until 1748.  Not long after it was finally completed however, the building was once again undergoing construction.  William Strickland was hired around 1750 to build a bell tower as an addition to the State House, a tower which would eventually hold the famous bell known as “The Liberty Bell.”
 
Independence Hall Today
 
For forty years the Pennsylvania State House served as the seat of the British Colonial Government in Pennsylvania.  But then, in April of 1775, the first battles of the American Revolution broke outside of Boston at Lexington and Concord.  Less than a month after those battles, delegates from the thirteen American Colonies would convene in Philadelphia for the Second Continental Congress and they choose the Pennsylvania State House as the location of their important assembly.  While meeting at the Pennsylvania State House, the Second Continental Congress would choose George Washington as the General of the newly formed Continental Army.  Then after over a year of trying to resolve their problems with the British, on July 4th, 1776 the members of the Second Continental Congress would declare their Independence!
 
Eleven years later, the American Revolutionary War had ended and America had achieved its Independence but all was not well.  The fledgling nation of America was deep in debt from its long and costly war for Independence, largely unable to even pay the soldiers who had fought so bravely for independence.  Making matters even worse, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, which was adopted as America’s government during the Revolutionary War was beginning to fail.  Angry citizens were beginning to protest and revolt.  The United States of America was only a few years old, but already it was on the verge of collapse.  
 
In an effort to resolve these problems, many of America’s founding fathers came back to Philadelphia to gather in a familiar place, the Pennsylvania State House.  It was at their meeting, known today as the Constitutional Convention, that America’s founding fathers began to craft a new government.  Under the leadership of George Washington who presided over the convention, America’s founding fathers finally reached a compromise after months of heated debate and signed the United States Constitution on September 17, 1787.  
 
The monumental importance of the Pennsylvania State House was perhaps first recognized by famous Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de Lafayette who spoke at the Pennsylvania State House in 1824.  Lafayette referred to the old Pennsylvania State House as the “Hall of Independence,” giving rise to its current name of Independence Hall.  Today Independence Hall is often referred to as “America’s Birthplace,” as it is not only the location where Americans declared their independence, but also the location where the United States Constitution was created, the governing document of this nation still to this day.
 

What to See

Today Independence Hall is a National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is open to the public for tours.  On your tour of Independence Hall you will receive a guided tour from a National Park Ranger and you will be able to stand in the very room where the United States of America was born.  Visiting Independence Hall is an incredible experience that shouldn’t be missed and we’re going to tell you the best ways to see this amazing building.
 
The easiest way to visit Independence Hall is to book a custom tour with The Constitutional Walking Tour! We can assist with arranging your tickets and picking them up for you. We'll then guide you to Independence Hall within the context of a customized tour experience that lets you see exactly what you want to. With The Constitutional, there is no need to wait in line for tickets or find your way to the correct entrance, we'll take care of all of that for you, and you'll have a knowledgeable guide with you every step of the way. Visits to see the inside of Independence Hall can be incorporated into private tours for all kinds of groups. If you're a family or a small group, you can take The Constitutional's VIP Tour which includes Independence Hall tickets as part of this special tour, subject to availability. Independence Hall tickets can also be added to other group tour experiences such as field trips, corporate groups, etc., subject to availability and a service fee. Even if you can't come with us, we'll be sure to give you all the best tips to visit Independence Hall below.
 
If you know ahead of time when you plan to visit Independence Hall, the best way to ensure your chance to see Independence Hall is to reserve your ticket ahead of time at the recreation.gov website.  To reserve tickets for Independence Hall ahead of time you do need to pay a convenience fee of $1.50 per ticket.  You can head on over to the recreation.gov Independence Hall ticket reservation page by clicking HERE.  The number of tickets available for advance reservations are limited, so if you go to reserve your tickets and find they’re sold out, or if you’re just not sure when you’ll be visiting, don’t worry, you can also pick up a ticket the day of your visit.
 
Independence Visitors Center
 
Whether you have a reserved tickets or if you’re looking to get tickets the day of your visit, you should head to the Independence Visitor Center.  The Independence Visitor Center is located at the corner of 6th and Market Streets in Philadelphia, just a block away from Independence Hall.  Tickets for Independence Hall are available on a first come first serve basis.  Depending on what time of the year you are visiting, tickets do frequently sell out, so it’s best to arrive early.  In fact many arrive before the Visitor Center opens at 8:30AM to ensure they get a ticket.  If you plan on arriving early, walk along the side of the Independence Visitor Center that faces the green field known as Independence Mall.  About halfway along the building you’ll see a set of doors; this is the entrance you should wait at for Independence Hall tickets.  You’ll see a sign on the door indicating you’re in the right place to wait for tickets and often you’ll find that a line of people has already begun to queue up.
 
The Eastern Entrance of the Independence Visitors Center is where to wait in line for Independence Hall Tickets
 
Once inside the Independence Visitor Center, you should head to the National Park Service Desk located right in the middle of the Center.  This is where you wait to pick up first come, first serve tickets on the day of your tour as well as where you go to pick up your reserved tickets if you reserved ahead of time.  If you’re picking up tickets for your family or a small group, only one person needs to wait in line.  However, if you’re picking up for a group of ten or more and have not reserved your tickets in advance, everyone who needs a ticket should wait in line.
 
Please note that if you plan on visiting during the months of January and February, there are no advance reservations required for Independence Hall.  Just head straight to Independence Hall without a ticket and you’ll be able to get on the next available tour on a first come, first serve basis.
 
The National Park Service Desk in the Independence Visitor Center
 

How to Get There

For guests of The Constitutional Walking Tours it is very easy to visit Independence Hall either before or after your walking tour with us.  The Independence Visitor Center (where you can pick up your tickets) can be found just across the street from the National Constitution Center where all of our tours begin and end.  Once you’ve gotten your tickets at the Independence Visitor Center, it’s very easy to get to Independence Hall, to make it even simpler though, if you ask the Park Ranger who gave you your tickets, they will give you a small map that will easily direct you from the Independence Visitor Center to Independence Hall.  Just head out of the main entrance of the Independence Visitor Center that face Market Street.  Proceed straight ahead across Market Street and then walk across the green field known as Independence Mall.  Head to the left hand side of the block and then continue straight across Chestnut Street.  You’ll then see signs directing you into the entrance of Independence Hall.
 

Entrance to Independence Hall

 
If you are arriving via public transit the closest stop is 5th Street station on the Market Frankford Line.  There are also numerous parking garages in the area to serve those who drive including a garage conveniently located directly underneath the Independence Visitor Center.
 
Also visitors to Independence Hall should keep in mind that in order to visit this grand historic building you will need to go through an airport style security checkpoint.  There are no weapons of any kind allowed in the building and that includes even small pocket knives and utility tools.  So if you normally carry a pocket knife, be sure to leave it in your car, tour bus, or hotel on the day you plan to visit Independence Hall.
 

Hours

First Tour: 9:00AM
Last Tour: 4:30PM
Note: You usually need to arrive about 30-45 minutes before your timed tour to go through the security screening process.

 

Additional Information

520 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, Pa 19106
215.965.2305
 
 
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