independence hall philadelphia

A Day Visit To Philadelphia

Only an hour away from Atlantic City, Philly beckoned us with its history and hospitality. Since we had a rental car it was an easy drive along the Atlantic City Expressway to get there, the perfect journey for a spare day. Of course, I missed our intended exit, which resulted in a half-hour detour, and the late start we got because of our jet lag meant that we only had a few hours to spend actually exploring the city. But we got enough of a taste of this Pennsylvania gem to make us want to see more someday.

independence visitor center


only in america philly

Philadelphia has four visitor centers and one of these makes an excellent starting point for a visit. We parked underneath the Independence Visitor Center (525 Market St) and began by picking up our free timed tickets to see Independence Hall.  The United States National Park Service operates the Independence National Historical site, which is home to many of the public buildings and houses associated with the birth of the country. We could have spent an entire day just visiting all the different sites here. Our first stop was to take a tour of Independence Hall.

independence hall philadelphia

The years from 1774 were transformational for the colonies in America. As a reaction to the Intolerable Acts, passed by the British Parliament as a reaction to the Boston Tea Party, Boston Harbor was closed and in May of that year the First Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia. The American Revolution began in June 1775 and in 1776 the Declaration of Independence was adopted on the 4th of July. The war escalated from there and continued until 1783. The events leading to the creation of the Constitution included the creation of the Articles of Confederation, which were reformed in 1787 with the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. The Bill of Rights was created in 1789 in New York and Philadelphia was the seat of the nation's capital until the permanent site was finished. From 1800, Washington D.C. became the capital of the United States.

independence hall assembly room

Assembly Room at Independence Hall

Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were created inside Independence Hall, which was formerly known as the Pennsylvania State House. The guided tour takes visitors through some of its rooms. Of particular interest is the Assembly Room, where the Delegates met.

rising sun chair independence hall

Rising Sun chair

Our next stop was to see the Liberty Bell (598 Chestnut St), with its famous crack. While originally used to call lawmakers and citizens to events like legislative sessions and public meetings, the bell became better known as a symbol used by those who wanted slavery abolished. That movement gave the Liberty Bell its name and today it stands for all people, reminding us that every human being has inalienable rights, and is an international symbol for freedom. The Liberty Bell Center was a very informative exhibit, showcasing the history of the bell and its status as a famous icon.

liberty bell philadelphia popular


liberty bell center

By now we were hungry and headed off on a mission to find a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. Being quite cold we didn't want to eat outside standing up, so we bypassed the food trucks and headed up near the City Hall.

girl scout cookie sign philly

I enjoyed these historical signs around Philadelphia. Anyone else a huge fan of Girl Scout Cookies like I am?


There we found Big Bang's Bar & Grill (1433 Arch St), which serves up American soul food. I wanted to try everything on the menu here. Most of the locals at the bar seemed to be eating fried chicken, which would have been my first choice except I really wanted to try an authentic Philly Cheesesteak. We were certainly not disappointed by our sandwiches, with tasty tender shredded beef and that delicious runny cheese that they are known for. We really felt the hospitality here, with one of the cooks stopping us on our way out to ask where we were from and thank us for stopping by.

Philly Cheesesteak Big Bang's

We had so many places on our list that we wanted to see in Philadelphia, but only time for one more before we needed to beat traffic to get back to AC in time to make an evening of it. We tossed up between the Edgar Allan Poe National Historical Site and the imposing Masonic Temple (One North Broad St), which was just across the road. The intrigue was just too great to pass up in the end and we found ourselves on a tour of six of the halls within this architectural wonder. Built at a cost of $1.6 million (back in the early 1870s!) this structure would cost around 100 times that much to create today, if it would even be possible to find craftsmen with the skill to replicate the intricate interior details. Featuring a number of architectural styles, this place literally has to be seen to be believed:

masonic temple hall

renaissance hall masonic temple

Renaissance Hall


masonic temple detail


egyptian hall masonic temple philadelphia

Egyptian Hall


ceiling detail masonic temple philadelphia

masonic temple philadelphia


rising sun chair replica masonic temple philadelphia

There's that chair again. I spotted this replica in the museum at the Masonic Temple. It was created by a Freemason and several of the country's Founding Fathers were Freemasons.

We definitely have to return to Philly someday. I would have loved to experience The Rodin Museum, Penn Museum, Mütter Museum and the Eastern State Penitentiary, not to mention the excellent dining and nightlife scenes there. The city has several different districts and heaps of unique tours, including many specialized food tours. Check out for more information.


  1. Rocky Creed 11 February, 2013 at 13:21 Reply

    What a kool city, not many peeps think about cities like Philly when travelling to the US.

    What about running up the steps like in Rocky I????

  2. TammyOnTheMove 5 February, 2013 at 07:40 Reply

    I really loved Philadelphia went I went a few years ago. I think it is really underrated as a city. Those cheesesteaks are delicious and who doesn’t want to run up the steps of the libraray humming the Rocky theme tune? :-)

  3. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista 29 January, 2013 at 18:45 Reply

    A city that is still high on my list to visit! I can’t imagine the history that is contained in Philadelphia. I really enjoyed the sites you visited and have made note of them. When I do visit Philly, I will definitely be on the search for an authentic Philly Cheesesteak!

  4. Ali 29 January, 2013 at 17:08 Reply

    I was in Philadelphia for a class trip in middle school, so I really don’t remember much. But I’d love to go back now as an adult and see some of the history, definitely a lot there.

    Also, you just made me really miss Thin Mints!

    • inspiringtravellers 27 January, 2013 at 12:34

      Ooooh – those are my absolute fav!! I also love tagalongs…if they still make those…

  5. Jennifer 26 January, 2013 at 12:41 Reply

    I’m from Pennsylvania (the complete opposite side of the state) and haven’t been to Philly in years! Great tour and that cheesesteak looks delicious (now I’m craving one, thanks.) 😉

    • inspiringtravellers 27 January, 2013 at 12:35

      SO good! I know a lot of people don’t like the runny cheese but I really enjoyed mine =)

  6. Krista 26 January, 2013 at 11:09 Reply

    Wow!! You saw so much in such a short amount of time. :-) I visited a dear friend in Philly one time, but I only got to see the city from the car. I’d love to return one day and explore these sites up close and personal. :-)

    • inspiringtravellers 27 January, 2013 at 12:37

      We did a bit of driving around thanks to my missed exit. I think we were in the south part of the city. Seems like there is so much more to see there – the visitors guide mentions so many interesting districts. And so many museums! I definitely want to return…

  7. Cathy Sweeney 25 January, 2013 at 23:43 Reply

    I really like early American history, so it’s a shame I haven’t been to Philly. Nice tour you gave us. The cheesesteak looks pretty tasty. I need to have one of those, too.

    • inspiringtravellers 27 January, 2013 at 12:38

      I find it very interesting as well. There is a LOT to see there relating to that period in US history – absolutely fascinating!

    • inspiringtravellers 27 January, 2013 at 12:38

      I didn’t either! I think Girl Scouts in general may have started there but I’m not sure…

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