Eastern State Penitentiary

#10 in Best Things To Do in Philadelphia
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Eastern State Penitentiary
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Key Info

2027 Fairmount Ave.

Details

Sightseeing, Tours Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.0scorecard
  • 4.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

The castle-like Eastern State Penitentiary is one of Philadelphia's most important historic sites. Having opened in 1829, this Quaker-inspired prison sought to reform prisoners using isolation and reflection rather than capital punishment and physical abuse. Although it was shut down in the 1970s, the Eastern State Penitentiary led the way to reform in the judicial system. Today, you are welcome to tour the facility; the highlight for many is Al Capone's cell. 

Bear in mind that this attraction may not be appropriate for younger children due to its rather frightening nature. Recent visitors said the site is intriguing, yet disturbing, if not downright creepy. To  embrace the terror, visit around Halloween when the prison turns into a haunted house with six different attractions. If you do decide to bring the kids, the Eastern State Penitentiary offers family-friendly tour options with a more PG retelling of the events that took place behind its thick stone walls.

The Eastern State Penitentiary is located several blocks east of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The penitentiary is accessible via Philadelphia Trolley Works, Big Bus, The Phlash, Philadelphia Bike Tours, and several SEPTA bus routes. It is open to the public every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with last entry at 4 p.m. Admission (which includes an audio tour) costs $14 for adults and $10 for children ages 7 to 12 if you purchase tickets online. In person, there's an additional $2 fee per ticket. There is also a daily guided tour at 2 p.m., but you must reserve a ticket in advance (no additional charge). For more information, visit the former prison's website.

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More Best Things To Do in Philadelphia

Liberty Bell Center
Independence Hall
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#1 Liberty Bell Center

Opposite Independence Hall, you'll find the Liberty Bell Center in Independence National Historical Park. Now residing in a huge glass gazebo, this 2,080-pound piece of history was once mounted in the belfry of Independence Hall. It was used to mark important historic events, most notably at the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Historians believe the first crack developed in the early 1840s. Metal workers were tasked with repairing the bell in anticipation of George Washington's birthday in 1846. The repair was unsuccessful and the bell ceased to chime ever again.

Despite the long lines, recent visitors called this attraction a must-see for all Americans. They also suggested planning your visit first thing in the morning during the week.

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