Are you a history junky? Do you enjoy outdoor fun such as hiking and bird watching? Did the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show inspire you to learn more about our country's national parks system?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you're in luck. Philadelphia and its surrounding countryside are home to several National Historic Parks that explore the fascinating background of the local area, chronicle the founding of America, and embrace the natural landscape.
Independence National Historical Park
Independence National Historical Park is an essential part of any Philadelphia visitor's itinerary. The popular park includes numerous distinct cultural sites, spans 55 acres and touches 20 city blocks.
Visitors of all ages can take a trip back in time at spots such as Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and signed; Carpenter's Hall, which played host to 1774's First Continental Congress; and the Second Bank of the United States, complete with 150 portraits of important leaders.
Before you head out sightseeing, download the park's free mobile app, a handy tool to help you plan your day and enhance your experience.
Independence Visitor Center, 41 N. 6th St., Philadelphia, PA, 800.537.7676
Benjamin Franklin National Memorial
The Franklin Institute is home to engaging exhibits such as Your Brain and SportsZone, but did you know that this world-class museum also houses a stunning tribute to its namesake? The Benjamin Franklin National Memorial is located on the museum's rotunda and includes a 20-foot-tall statue sculpted in Franklin's likeness by famed artist James Earle Fraser. The rotunda also boasts a self-supporting domed ceiling and walls made from rare marble mined in Portugal, Italy and France.
The Benjamin Franklin National Memorial is free and open to the public during The Franklin Institute's operating hours. When you visit, be sure to take a few minutes to watch "Benjamin Franklin Forever," a multimedia show about Franklin's profound impact as a statesman, author, civic leader and scientist.
222 N. 20th St., Philadelphia, PA, 215.448.1200
Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site
Fun fact: Edgar Allan Poe wrote many of his best works right here in Philadelphia. Today, the Edgar Allan Poe National Historical Site commemorates this prolific author. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, visitors can explore Poe's former home and learn all about the writer's life and his lasting impact on literature.
Interactive exhibits bring Poe and his works to life. Guests can eye rare books and letters, watch an audio-visual presentation, take a self-guided tour or participate in one led by a ranger, and snap selfies in front of the Poe mural. This historic attraction even has some modern star power behind it; visitors can listen to famous Poe stories read by actors like Christopher Walken and Vincent Price or hear the author's words put to music by the likes of Lou Reed and the Alan Parsons Project.
532 N. 7th St., Philadelphia, PA, 215.597.8780
Being at Valley Forge evokes a spirit of national pride. During the American Revolution, General George Washington and his Continental Army used this 3,500-acre area as an encampment site for six months in 1777 and 1778. After a brutal winter, Washington and his forces left Valley Forge and went on to lead the patriots to victory.
Today, Valley Forge is open to the public free of charge year-round and welcomes more than 1 million visitors every year. The 3,500-acre park features monuments, trails and historic structures where costumed Once Upon a Nation storytellers transport visitors to the past. For interactive fun, the on-site "Secrets and Spies! Adventure" game calls upon visitors to help George Washington uncover traitors among his ranks.
1400 North Outer Line Drive, King of Prussia, PA, 610.783.1000
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Hopewell and similar "iron plantations" led the charge to turn the U.S. from an agrarian society into an industrial powerhouse. Today, in addition to its fascinating historic value, Hopewell Furnace offers visitors the opportunity to engage in outdoor activities like hiking, bird watching, deer watching, apple picking (in season) and more.
Start your visit at the visitor center, where you can gain insight into the significance of the area and consult with knowledgable staff to help you plan how to spend your time in the 848-acre park. Hopewell Furnace is located mostly outdoors, so be sure to check the weather and dress accordingly.
2 Mark Bird Lane, Elverson, PA, 610.582.8773
First State National Historical Park
First State National Historical Park celebrates Delaware's crucial role in the formation of the U.S. as the first state to ratify the Constitution.
This sprawling park spans the entire length of Delaware and includes a presence in all three of the state's counties. Seven distinct locations, each of which represents important moments in the state's development, are included under the park's umbrella. New Castle Court House, for example, was the state's first courthouse and first capital; Dover Green, where the state officially ratified the Constitution; and Ryves Holt House in Lewes, the oldest house still standing in the state.
Several sites located throughout Delaware, 302.544.6363