The National Park Service is in charge of many different types of land and sites, not least of which are those that pertain to the founding of the very country of which the National Park Service is a part. One of these sites, perhaps one of the most famous historical sites in the United States, is the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Independence Hall was once the state house of Pennsylvania but became famous as the meeting place of the Second Continental Congress. Independence Hall saw the signing of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and many other founding fathers once sat in the state house, debating about what the United States would look like. As such an important part of United States history, it’s a place that anyone who is able should visit.
Independence National Historic Park is a sprawling complex which can be bit confusing. Start your visit at the visitor center (there’s parking underneath), where there’s plenty of information about visiting Philadelphia and the site itself. There are also plenty of exhibits about Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The visitor center is also where you pick up tickets to tour Independence Hall-please note that tour tickets fill up quickly, so if you want to tour Independence Hall, make sure you get there early or make a reservation online. After picking up your tickets, make your way to Independence Hall, where you’ll have to pass through security and wait for your tour time (make sure to get there early-it takes a bit of time to get through security, and you must be there when your tour time starts).
The tour itself is bit hectic since there are quite a few people on the tour, but it is well worth it. A ranger gives a brief introduction, and then leads visitors into Independence Hall. Since it was a state house, visitors get to see the courtroom where trials used to take place. Across from the courtroom is the assembly room, where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed. It was quite moving to see the room; one could almost imagine a hazy, crowded room where people were debating about the direction of the country. One could see the chair which prompted Benjamin Franklin to claim that the sun on its back was rising, rather than setting. We were able to spend a few minutes looking around the room before leaving, so we weren’t rushed at all. As we left, we skipped a few of the adjacent buildings also available to tour since we were low on time; instead, we hopped in the line to view the Liberty Bell. The line was long, but moved quickly. We eventually made our way in. There were exhibits lining the hall leading down to the Liberty Bell. There were quite a few people around, so it was difficult to get a good picture (though we did eventually get one!). However, we enjoyed getting to stare at the iconic bell; it isn’t an exaggeration to go so far as to say it was awe-inspiring. We were very happy that we got to see the bell before we had to depart.
We had high expectations for Independence National Historic Park, and we were not disappointed. There were quite a few people there, but it didn’t really detract from our visit. We enjoyed seeing a site we had heard so much about for so long and, as historians, we both took great joy in touring a site where so much history had taken place. If you are at all able, we highly recommend visiting Independence National Historic Park.