Formerly the largest prison facility in America, the Eastern State Penitentiary is now Philadelphia’s major tourist attraction. What was once the most expensive prison in the country now stands in ruins, but that does not stop curious tourists from visiting the attraction. A first-of-its-kind, the penitentiary implemented previously unheard ideas of incarceration, which prioritized reformation over punishment. Today, the vaulted cell blocks and central rotunda invite many a tourists keen on knowing the eventful history of this fascinating establishment. What adds to the curiosity of the masses is the fact that the prison was home to notorious inmates such as ‘Slick Willie’ Sutton and Al Capone.
Due to its spellbinding architecture and sheer grandeur, Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul is a must-visit place on the list of every tourist in Philadelphia. This beautiful cathedral is the centerpiece of one of the largest Catholic populations in North America. It was designed by celebrated architect Napoleon LeBrun and constructed between 1846 and 1864 by blending Palladian and Italian Renaissance architectural styles. A beautiful “baldachin” or “canopy” over the altar is evidence of the Italian influence while the church façade is in the Palladian style. In fact, you may be forgiven for thinking you are in Europe while viewing this glorious cathedral. Embark on an audio tour and learn more about its eight chapels, 2000-seat sanctuary, vaulted copper dome, and a spectacular apse featuring red marble carvings and stained glass work. During the tour, you will also be familiarized with the fascinating history of the basilica. As Pennsylvania's largest Catholic church, this monument is recorded in the National Register of Historic Places.
A jewel of the Independence National Historic Park, the Liberty Bell spans layers and layers of long-standing history. In 1751, William Penn asked that the new bell being cast for the Pennsylvania Statehouse be engraved with the words, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” When the bell first rang to call citizens to the first reading of the Declaration of Independence, little did it know that it was going to change the course of the country forever. It was later dubbed the 'Liberty Bell' by abolitionists, who adopted the bell as a symbol of their fight for freedom for all Americans. A copper-clad, 2,080-pound (940-kilogram) icon of American independence, The Liberty Bell yet serves as a symbol of pride, inspiration and freedom.
Philadelphia Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the nation. Founded in 1874, this 42-acre (17-hectare) sanctuary on the Schuylkill River bank is home to over 100 species of rare and exotic fauna. Explore the Carnivore Kingdom, Reptile Exercise Yard, Monkey Junction, Small Mammal House, the Big Cat Crossing and other exhibits, and acquaint yourself with wildlife and their conservation. They shelter the Brazilian Agouti, Carribean Flamingo, and endangered species like the Micronesian Kingfisher, Western Lowland Gorrila and Panamanian Golden Frog. Visitors can also follow their interesting trails like Treetop or Great Ape. Children can enjoy river boat rides, safaris and the Amazon Rainforest Carousel. A viist is a great activity for school groups, campers, families and friends.
The red-bricked Georgian building in the midst of the 45-acre (18.2-hectare) Independence National Historical Park is one of the most recognizable historical landmarks in the nation, emblematic of the culmination of a series of epoch-making events that led to the birth of an independent America. The place where both the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Constitution of the United States (1787) were signed, the Independence Hall has come to be synonymous with the the ideas of freedom and democracy that the declaration is hinged on, and stands tall on Philadelphia's historic Chestnut Street, flanked by side wings and a steeple. Constructed between 1732 and 1753, the famed Independence Hall was the brainchild of Andrew Hamilton and Edmund Woolley, and also served as the meeting place for the Second Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention. The iconic Liberty Bell is located right around the corner, although its original home was Independence Hall's bell tower.
Gothic and neoclassical influences dominate the features of City Hall. The statue of William Penn that resides atop City Hall's clock tower remains a Philadelphia skyline marker—until the 1980s there was a "gentleman's agreement" that no Philadelphia building would be built higher than the rim of Penn's hat. City Hall provides a majestic backdrop for shoppers and businesspersons alike as it is situated on the intersection of the city's two main arteries, Broad and Market Streets. The tour of the City Hall lasts for 1.5 to 2 hours.
Wanamaker, established in 1902, is amongst the pioneer departmental stores in the country. Understandably a part of the National Register for Historic Places, it still continues to be one of the most important landmarks in Philadelphia. Located in the busy neighborhood of Chinatown, the building features some of the most unique artworks which include the humongous bronze eagle by August Gaul and the Wanamaker Organ, the largest known Court Organ in the world.
As the largest fully-functioning pipe organ in the world, the Wanamaker Organ has serenaded visitors to the Wanamaker Building with special concerts since 1911. Although ownership of the building has since changed over to Macy's, the organ can still be viewed and heard in all its splendor. The Wanamaker Organ is played at least twice daily Monday through Saturday, so be sure to stop by and hear it in person.
Philadelphia's history is deeply entwined with America's revolutionary period, the home to luminary Benjamin Franklin and the site of significant civic development for the then-fledgeling nation. The land changed hands repeatedly, first inhabited by the Lenape tribe before being seized by Dutch, Swedish and Finnish settlers. After several periods of conflict between these north European states, the territory was conquered by England. Philadelphia was instrumental to the early days of America's independence, an epoch-making past manifested in historic landmarks like the Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Notable resident Benjamin Franklin also made his mark on the civic landscape of America, founding the town's fire department and the colonies' first hospital. While Philadelphia's historic beginnings are undeniably significant, the city, which lies at the confluence of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, is also celebrated for its innate charm. One may find it in the urbane magic of Rittenhouse Square, in the gastronomical high that comes from biting into an authentic Philly Cheese Steak, or on the quiet cobbled streets of its leafy Old City. A historic city with a modern heart, Philadelphia is for those who want to connect with the landscape of America's revolution.
The Union League of Philadelphia originated back in 1862 in order to promote Abraham Lincoln's policies. Today, the exquisitely architecrured historical building stands tall in the heart of Philadelphia's busiest commercial district. The league has been involved with a number of philanthropic activities through the Youth Work Foundation and other such organizations. In the one-quarter million square feet of space that the building has, it encompasses 14 banquet and event rooms with excellent audio visual facilities and catering services. The space is used for everything from award ceremonies and fashion shows to corporate meetings and trade fairs.
The Masonic Temple is the home of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania. The current building, dedicated in 1873, now houses the Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania. The library contains the most extensive collection of Masonic literature in America. The museum houses a diversified collection of Masonic treasures that is unequaled and international in scope. The Masons sponsor a number of youth, educational and recreational opportunities. They have been strong supporters of Little League baseball and direct a number of scholarship and grant programs.