This celebration of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley’s roles in early American maritime trade was originally called the Philadelphia Maritime Museum, built around the extensive personal collection of J. Welles Henderson, a local lawyer and enthusiast of seafaring memorabilia who died in 2007.
Renovated extensively in the mid-1990s and now set in a large, modern space on historic Penn’s Landing, the Independence Seaport Museum houses several exhibition spaces, a wide array of model ships, historical documents, navigation devices and shipbuilding tools, and a comprehensive maritime library. The museum is affiliated with two National Historic Landmark crafts, both docked nearby on the Delaware River: the Olympia, the late 19th-century flagship of U.S. Navy Admiral George Dewey, and a World War II submarine called Becuna.
The museum offers several tours for groups of 10 or more, with experiences that include behind the scenes visits aboard the Olympia and Becuna, and explorations of the surrounding docklands; these tours can be accompanied by lunch or dinner (tours vary from $20-50+ per person). River tours are also offered from May to August in conjunction with the RiverLink Ferry (which provides a 50-minute Interpretive Cruise) and Summer Wind, a 48-foot yacht rigged with Chinese Junk sails. Additional cruises are offered on historic watercraft during the mid-October Old City Seaport Festival. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.