Spanning 55 acres and bridging two neighborhoods -- Old City and Society Hill – this national park is often called “America’s most historic square mile” for encompassing many of Philadelphia’s most famous historical landmarks. These include Independence Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the Liberty Bell Center; Franklin Court; the First and Second Banks of the United States; and the National Constitution Center, among many others. Visitors should plan to spend one to two days in the park in order to visit several of these sites and explore the extensive grounds.
By the time City Hall was completed in 1901, Old City – a couple of miles to the east -- began to lose its importance as a cultural center. Between 1915 and the late 1940s, a park was proposed as a means of salvaging and promoting what leaders of both the city and the state saw as vital to Philadelphia’s place in American history. The park’s construction, begun in 1950, required the demolition of about 200 historic buildings; many were, by the middle of the 20th century, in various states of disrepair. The park’s layout and structures were completed by the 1970s, but the National Park Service didn’t actually purchase the land until the 1990s.
The nerve center of the park is now the Independence Visitor Center (at the corner of 6th & Market Streets), where tourists can pick up a map of the area; get free, timed tickets to Independence Hall (required from March-December); find bathrooms and snacks; and have access to Wi-Fi. The Visitor Center has its own underground parking lot, but is also adjacent to subway and bus stops.
From mid-June to early September, free Twilight Tours of the park and its historical landmarks are given by members of a non-profit group called Friends of Independence; these tours meet at the Visitor Center and run from 6-7:15 p.m. The park is bordered by Chestnut, Walnut, 5th & 6th Streets and is open daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; it’s closed Christmas Day.