Visiting Independence Hall in Philadelphia: What to Know Before You Go

Exterior of a brick building with a clock tower beside an arched walkway

Independence Hall is the crown jewel of Philadelphia. One of the most important sites in the history of the United States, both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were signed there. Delegates to the Second Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention shaped the future of the country while meeting in its rooms. It’s a must-see for visitors, and a place for locals to appreciate the history of the city. We’ve outlined our best advice for visiting Independence Hall and what to expect when you get there.

When to visit

Spring (March or April) or fall (September or October) are typically the best times to visit Independence Hall and Philadelphia as a whole. The weather is generally pleasant, and crowds are fewer.

The summer months of June, July, and August are the most crowded times to visit Philadelphia attractions due to school breaks.

If a winter trip is on your agenda, make a beeline here because there is often no wait, and no tickets are required in January or February.

Tickets

Note: As of April 2021, tickets for Independence Hall are not required, but this is likely to change as tourism rebounds.

It is free to visit Independence Hall and admission is by guided tour only.

There are four ways to visit: visit at a time when tickets are not required, reserve tickets in advance, get same-day tickets, or wait in the standby line.

Not required

Tickets are not required in the low season months of January and February or after 5pm during the summer. Additionally, tickets are not needed for visiting on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, or July 4th.

Advanced purchase

If you’re visiting during a busy time, reserving an advanced ticket for a specific day and time is the easiest way to go. There is a $1 reservation fee.

Reserved tickets must be picked up at the Independence Visitor Center (6th & Market) Will-Call desk on the day of your tour, at least 45 minutes prior to the tour. When you arrive, ensure that you are at the Will-Call desk for reserved tickets rather than accidentally lining up with those hoping for same-day tickets.

Tickets that are not picked up 45 minutes before the reserved time will be released to the walk-up line.

Exterior of a complex of brick buildings, one of which has a large clock tower
The back of Independence Hall

Same-day

Same-day tickets are available at the Independence Visitor Center.

The tickets are available at 8:30 am on a first-come, first-served basis. There is often a line outside before the building opens. The earlier you arrive, the more likely you are to get a choice of tour times. Everyone in your group requires a ticket, including infants.

To check for same-day ticket availability, call 215-965-2305.

Stand by

Even if the Visitor Center is out of tickets, you may still be able to see Independence Hall by filling the spot of someone who doesn’t arrive for their scheduled tour.  

Often, tours will have a couple of people who simply do not make it on time. While there is no official standby line, if someone is a no-show, the park rangers frequently allow people who are waiting to fill those slots.

To find out if there is room, go to Independence Hall and proceed through the security line. On the other side, you will see the Ranger collecting tickets for the tours. Ask if there are any no-shows and cross your fingers that you can be added to the next tour. This option works best if you have a small party and there is flexibility in your schedule, as you may have to wait for several tours to be accommodated.  

What to see inside

Tables and chairs in front of a judicial bench and witness stands
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chamber

Originally the Pennsylvania State House, Independence Hall was completed in 1753. During the years surrounding the American Revolution, the events that took place inside its walls make it one of the most historically important buildings in the country, and it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors have the chance to walk in the footsteps of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and the other Founders.

After an introduction and overview from a park ranger, the tour makes its first stop in the Supreme Court Chamber. In the 18th century, it hosted the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The guide provides information about the legal system of the time and how trials took place before continuing.

The second room—the Assembly Room—is the most important room of the tour. This is the room where the Declaration of Independence was debated and adopted in 1776. Most of the furnishings in this room are reproductions, but it is set up in the same way it was during the debates. The one piece of original furniture is Washington’s “Rising Sun” chair, which he used during the Constitutional Convention.

Room with chairs and tables covered in green tablecloths
The Assembly Room

Depending on staffing, three other spaces in Independence National Historical Park may be available for visiting. The first is the Great Essentials Exhibit, which showcases copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. Visitors can also see the inkstand that was used to sign the Declaration of Independence.

Next door (but still within the secure zone) is Congress Hall. During the time that Philadelphia was the capital of the United States from 1790-1800, this building was the meeting place of both the House of Representative and the US Senate. Significantly, it is also the room where George Washington and—eight years later—John Adams were sworn in as president, completing the nation’s first peaceful transfer of power.

Room with long tables surrounding a central dais
House of Representatives in Congress Hall

Outside the secure zone but in the same building complex is Old City Hall. This building was the meeting location for the nation’s first Supreme Court from 1791 to 1800.

Planning your visit

The National Park Service provides a free app with information about all the National Parks. You will find information about the 28 buildings and sites that are part of the Independence National Historical Park in Old City, including the Liberty Bell, Christ Church Burial Ground, Carpenters’ Hall, and more. It also provides a map and useful information about amenities such as nearby food and restrooms.

Large, cracked bell on display in a museum
Liberty Bell with Independence Hall in the background

If you are traveling with children, they may enjoy the Junior Ranger program. The Junior Ranger iPhone and iPad app includes interactive activities related to the park and allows kids to earn a certificate. A Junior Ranger Activity Booklet available at the Independence Visitor Center also allows participants to earn a certificate and badge.

Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early for your Independence Hall tour to allow enough time to go through security.

On-street parking is possible near the National Park, but duration is usually capped at 2 or 3 hours. The Philadelphia Parking Authority is known for being aggressive with ticketing, so we do not recommend letting your meter expire. If you plan to spend longer exploring the historic sites, convenient parking is available at the Bourse food hall or the Visitor Center.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *