Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia (Self Guided), Philadelphia

Benjamin Franklin was arguably the most fascinating personality in Revolutionary America. He left his Puritan family in Boston as a teenager and came to Philadelphia for a new life. What a fascinating life it turned out to be. He was a writer, printer, philosopher, postmaster, scientist, inventor, statesman, and diplomat. His life was the absolute purist version of the American Dream. He influenced people from all walks of life, from the bottom to the top. He was the mentor of all the Founding Fathers. He could have been the first U.S. President if he wasn't in his 80s and at the end of his life. Take this self-guided tour to walk in Benjamin Franklin's footsteps in the City of Brotherly Love.
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Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia Map

Guide Name: Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia
Guide Location: USA » Philadelphia (See other walking tours in Philadelphia)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Independence Hall
  • Carpenters' Hall
  • Benjamin Franklin Museum and Court
  • City Tavern
  • Fireman's Hall
  • Christ Church Burial Ground
Independence Hall

1) Independence Hall (must see)

World-famous for being the place where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were discussed and adopted, this American landmark and World Heritage Site is now the centerpiece of Philadelphia's Independence National Historical Park. Completed in 1753, the simple colonial hall, designed in Georgian style, is a nice reminder of the nation's humble beginnings as rebellious colonialists wanting to make a change for the better ("We have it in our power to begin the World over again", as Thomas Paine fervently told his fellow citizens-to-be in his revolutionary pamphlet). Inside, you will get to see an original copy of the Constitution, and the inkwell used to sign the Declaration of Independence – both brilliantly constructed documents of declared and ratified Freedoms.

The complex which houses Independence Hall is a must to check out the historical sites; nearby are the museum of the Benjamin Franklin-founded American Philosophical Society, as well as the Second Bank of the U.S. You do have to go through security to get into the Independence Hall, and you must get your free tickets at the Visitor Center about a block north, at the corner of 6th and Market Streets (opens at 8:30am, but tickets are usually all gone by 10am in peak season, so plan ahead or reserve online!). The first ticketed tour begins at 9am and tours start every 30mins until 4:40pm, with rangers serving as guides. During extended hours (summertime only), no ticket is required from 5 to 7pm. Tickets also aren't required in the months of January and February and on July 4th, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Eve. 

Why You Should Visit:
To stand in the room where the nation was born almost 250 years ago – the same room where Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and later George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and so many others stood, making incredibly courageous decisions.
Among the highlights is George Washington's original Rising Sun Armchair, known so because of Benjamin Franklin's hopeful observation about the symbol carved on the headrest: "I have often looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now I... know that it is a rising...sun."

Sitting in the back of the Hall, don't miss the statue of Commodore John Barry – one of the most underappreciated figures in colonial history. Barry was the first captain to be placed in command of a U.S. warship under the Continental flag and after the war he was the first commissioned U.S. naval officer at the rank of Commodore in 1797 by President Washington. Barry is often credited as "The Father of the American Navy", sharing that moniker with John Paul Jones and John Adams.
Carpenters' Hall

2) Carpenters' Hall

Everyone knows about the Second Continental Congress that signed the Declaration at Independence Hall, but hardly anyone ever talks about the First Continental Congress which, of course, was super important, as it marked the first time that the 13 Colonies got together (well, as many as possible) in one spot in defiance of British rule. This is where Ben Franklin and others secretly met – keeping all shutters closed in the summer heat – with the first French contacts to discuss French support for the American Revolution. So, for that fact alone, this location is very important to the nation's founding history. It was also host to such venerable institutions as Franklin's Library Company, The American Philosophical Society, as well as the First and Second Banks of the U.S., that later established themselves at other locations.

However, it was also (and still is) the actual structure built by and for the Carpenters' Guild, and the exhibits inside reflect primarily the "carpenter" aspect, although there is also some information about the First Congress. Both aspects of the building are very interesting indeed, and the Hall itself is quite splendid to see. There is a replica Speaker's chair (from the First Congress) you can sit in, and there are explanatory signs around the perimeter – though staff inside is excellent and can answer any question you would have concerning the property. No charge here but visitors can purchase interesting gifts in the well-stocked shop. The grounds are quite lovely, too.

Spend some time outside at the Storytelling Bench, listening to the wonderful storyteller. The benches are really a wonderful idea and it's fun to look for them!

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am–4pm
Benjamin Franklin Museum and Court

3) Benjamin Franklin Museum and Court

The Benjamin Franklin Museum lies in the the fully-enclosed courtyard where the Founding Father's house and print shop once stood. Although these were torn down long ago, some archaeological remains were excavated, which are visible beneath glass windows in the ground (along with explanatory signs); moreover, "ghost houses" were built in the exact spots where the house and print shop once stood, so one gets a real sense of how the site would have looked when those structures were standing. There is also a working 18th-century print shop adjacent, which is a neat experience.

It doesn't cost anything to walk through Franklin Court, view the ghost houses, or visit the working print shop. The museum costs a very reasonable fee, and one hour is exactly the right amount of time needed to view the exhibits. While the space is not huge, it provides a very thorough, interesting, and thought-provoking overview of Franklin's life and contributions. There are lots of interactive things for kids and there are lots of fascinating things to see, read, and ponder for adults.

Why You Should Visit:
To get both an overview of Franklin's life, as well as little interesting tidbits of trivia about him. They even have cute entertaining videos that illustrate some humorous (and informative) episodes in his life, which seem to be everyone's favorite part. All in all, there is something for everyone, regardless of age.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am–5pm
City Tavern

4) City Tavern

The City Tavern is a combination of great food, fantastic service in period dress, and outstanding atmosphere. Though not the original built in 1773, but a historically accurate replication from 1976, you would be hard pressed to know. The original suffered fire damage in 1834 and was razed in 1854, but Congress petitioned the Independence National Historical Park to preserve and protect this property – literally one where the Founding Fathers dined, drank ale, and argued political philosophy. Curiously, it was Ben Franklin who introduced tofu to the Americas, and the tofu pasta inspired by his recipe can be enjoyed in his (reconstructed) private dining room.

One just needs to see the menu, including such delicacies as Thomas Jefferson's favorite sweet potato biscuits, chocolate bread pudding, or other signature big hits like turkey pot pie (based on Martha Washington's recipe), West Indies pepperpot soup, and ales brewed according to Washington's and Jefferson's original recipes. You can stay inside for the colonial ambience or choose to dine outdoors in the back garden area.

The restaurant also features an acclaimed kids' menu, so a visit here with young ones isn't just about the historical and educational experience.

Opening Hours:
Sun: 11:30am–8pm; Mon-Thu: 11:30am–9pm; Fri, Sat: 11:30am–10pm
Fireman's Hall

5) Fireman's Hall

Housed in an old firehouse that was operational between 1902-52, this unique museum was designed for the Bicentennial to showcase Philadelphia's rich firefighting history and the first organized volunteer fire company in Colonial America – the Union Fire Company – established by Benjamin Franklin in 1736. Another reminder that the Founding Father had a hand in everything!

The building still contains the original brass sliding pole used for quick access to fire trucks. Several other pieces of old equipment are on display, including an 1896 hook-and-ladder, a 1903 high-pressure Cannon Wagon, and a 1907 steam-powered pumper. Of special note are two well preserved hand-pumpers – one from 1815, and the other from 1730. Also on display are axes, saws, nozzles, old fire plaques indicating insured buildings, and leather fire hats from the early 19th century. A large stained-glass window memorializes fallen firefighters.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sat: 10am–4:30pm
Christ Church Burial Ground

6) Christ Church Burial Ground

The Christ Church Burial Ground is actually three blocks west of Christ Church and was acquired in 1719 when the church's property was full and the new land was on what was considered "the outskirts of town." Many historic national figures and prominent Philadelphians are buried here, including Ben Franklin, whose grave can be viewed through a wall opening without going into the cemetery – it seems to be something of a wishing-well with people tossing coins onto the ground marker (at one point, the granite had to actually be repaired due to that tradition's success). Further away from Franklin, however, you will see a small but neatly kept space with lesser-known graves, some of which are even more interesting.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am–4pm; Sun: 12–4pm (Mar-Nov)
Guided Tours: Mon-Sat: 11am–3:30pm; Sun: 12:30–3:30pm

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