Philadelphia, PA – September, 2016 During a whirlwind tour of the northeast in 2004 we drove right by Philadelphia and didn’t take the time to stop. I’ve always regretted that we didn’t squeeze in a visit to the Liberty Bell at least. So when we planned this trip I hoped that we might scoot over to Philly and check it out.
We had kept the schedule for this jaunt through the north and east rather fluid up to this point but we did have an event we wanted to attend and a reservation made at our final stop of this tour. Luck would have it that we ended up with an entire week to kill before those dates so I gladly planned a full seven days in and around Philly. We stayed outside the city in Hatfield at the Village Scene Mobile Home Park. We were given a lovely sight in the back of the park with full hookups for a weekly rate of $264.
Valley Forge was nearby so we made a visit there our first day out and about. I was surprised to learn that there were no civil war battles fought at Valley Forge. It was simply where George Washington and his troops spent a very rough winter. The soldiers built their own quarters so the construction varied.
There were several large monuments but the National Memorial Arch was the most impressive.
Washington’s Headquarters were the most interesting part of the park. The home that he rented and lived in with Mrs. Washington has been restored and furnished to look much as it would have during his stay. There was a ranger and a costumed volunteer there to answer questions.
Valley Forge had a great visitor center, an informative film, and made for a lovely drive. And it was all free. By the way, if you are a cyclist it was extremely bike friendly.
Jim requested a visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary, a once famous prison built in the 1820’s that is now a ruin and a museum. The prison was designed with a hub in the middle which the hallways radiate from so that all the cells could be monitored from the center.
The hallways are filled with tiny doors to small cells. A second story of cells were added to some of the hallways later to relieve overcrowding.
One of the most famous occupants of the prison, Al Capone, lived a bit differently than the average prisoner.
This museum was informative and entertaining. It was a pretty good value, $14 admission each and $10 for parking. We arrived an hour before the museum opened, parked, and walked a half mile to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We walked around the building until we found what we were looking for, the Rocky statue.
Of course, I had to run up the steps that were featured in the movie.
We had left home at 7:30 to hopefully beat the rush hour traffic. We didn’t! We avoided the interstates on the way in as Google traffic showed they were at a standstill. Jim drove through heavy 6 lane traffic down Broad Street. When we left the prison I easily jumped on the interstate and made it home in no time. If we had it to do over we would have left even earlier, like 6 am, or waited until after 9.
For our second foray downtown we chose public transportation. There is a train stop a few miles from the campground where it costs less than $1 to park on weekdays or it’s free on weekends. We planned to catch the 7:30 train and were a little concerned when the ticket office wasn’t open until 8 a.m. and there were no automated ticketing options. But a fellow passenger assured us that we could buy our tickets on the train.
We hopped aboard and a conductor came through the car about 10 minutes later. We bought a day pass for $12 each that allowed us to ride all the trains and city busses we wanted. Then we relaxed and watched the city go by while we road in stress free comfort.
We love to use public transportation when it is reasonably priced. My research said that parking in downtown garages would have cost around $20, assuming our 7 foot tall truck would even fit. The train was definitely a better value.
We arrived at the Jefferson station within an hour. We walked outside and it took a few minutes to get our bearings but we soon figured out which way to head. We walked a half mile to the Independence National Historical Park enjoying the old buildings along the way.
We started at the visitor center. I knew we had to pick up a ticket but that it was free. I hoped our ticket time wouldn’t require us to wait too long. Instead they said if we hurried we could make the next tour time. We wanted to enjoy the visitor center for a bit so I requested a ticket time a half hour later. We checked out the exhibits there and decided to pass on the free films.
We then ambled across the street to see the Liberty Bell which is what I thought the ticket was for. But we walked right in, went through security, and no one asked for a ticket. The light wasn’t in my favor and we had to wait a bit for a 5 second window when no one was standing in the shot but I finally got a pic.
We then moseyed across the street to Independence Hall and learned that our ticket was for a tour of it.
Despite my confusion and lack of planning we happened to arrive just in time for our tour. It was definitely the highlight of our visit. Our tour guide had this booming voice that made you wonder if he would have a voice left at all by the end of the day. The tour was entertaining and very educational. It ended in the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 and where our Constitution was drafted a decade later.
We walked a different street back toward the train station. We wanted to roam the Reading Terminal Market. It was filled with booths hawking food and assorted wares. We had philly cheese steaks for lunch and bought some sweet treats from a bakery for later.
The market was practically on top of the Jefferson station so after lunch we made our way down into it. This train station is huge so it was a little more complicated to find which train would take us home and where to catch it. But more helpful passengers pointed us in the right direction and we only waited 30 minutes for the train that ran approximately every hour.
We thoroughly enjoyed the area and I’m glad the oversight of our last trip through was righted.