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History Lover's Guide To Philadelphia

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Philadelphia is a popular vacation destination for history lovers looking to get a glimpse into our nation's past. Many of the city's historic buildings have been well preserved, almost as if it has been frozen in time. You will be able to hear stories and tales from historians and see what life in Philadelphia has been like since before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

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Fourth Of July

The Fourth of July weekend is one of the best times of the year for families to visit historic Philadelphia. This is one of the Fourth of July celebrations you must experience. The celebration begins with the Party on the Parkway, an all day festival that takes place on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway between 20th Street and Eakins Oval. Multiple stages are set up and feature live entertainment throughout the day. Then at the end of the day you can enjoy Philly's Fourth of July Jam Concert, which is the largest free concert in America. The Grand Finale Fireworks go off at the end of the concert.

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There are 10 benches scattered throughout the historic district with a "Once Upon a Nation" sign. These benches are home to many gatherings that feature a storyteller program. Stop by one of the benches to witness reenactors tell stories about the birth of our nation and what it was like to live, work and learn in the early days of our country.

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City Tavern

No visit to Philadelphia is complete without grabbing a bite to eat and a pint from the City Tavern. An 18th-century-inspired dining experience, this restaurant was established in 1773 and was a favorite among early American leaders, including Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Genuine recipes, ingredients and techniques used by many of the founding fathers are used today at the restaurant. One popular dish is Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce Ale, which is based on Franklin's recipe. It's a must visit!

Related: Top Family-Style Dining in Philadelphia

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Historic Tours

With so many things to do and see throughout the Philadelphia area, some vacationers do not know where to start. That is just one of the reasons you will want to enjoy a historic tour of the city. Not only will you be taken on a guided tour into Philadelphia's past, you will also hear stories and tales told by entertaining and costumed tour guides.

The Constitutional Walking Tour allows you to see America's birthplace up close, the way it is meant to be experienced. This tour will last approximately 75 minutes and will take you on a 1.25 mile journey through the city. Sites you will see along the way include Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross House, National Constitution Center, Declaration House, Christ Church Burial Ground, The First Bank of the United States and so much more.

Philadelphia Trolley Works, offspring touring company of '76 Carriage Company, offers various sightseeing tours and specialty transportation throughout the Philadelphia area.

Other historic tours of Philadelphia include:
Ride the Ducks
RiverLink Freedom Ferry
Philly By Night
Tippler's Tour: Colonial Pub Crawl
Ghosts of Philadelphia

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Historic Buildings

The Christ Church was founded in 1695 and the building on 2nd Street was built between 1727 and 1744. This building was the spiritual home for many of the Founding Fathers, including Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. When visiting the Christ Church you will see that Pew 56 is still reserved for Washington and his family and Pew 70 was for Franklin and his family.

Independence Hall, located at 5th and Chestnut streets, is where the Declaration of Independence was adopted and where they held debates over the Constitution before it was signed at the same location. Andrew Hamilton was one of the designers of Independence Hall.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence at a small house located at 7th and Market streets. The original Declaration House was razed in 1883, but a faithful recreation was built by the National Park Service in the same location.

The Betsy Ross House is one of the most visited historical buildings in Philadelphia, despite debates over whether or not Betsy Ross actually lived and sewed the American flag in the house. Touring this building will definitely take you back in time, as all of the rooms are decorated with period furniture and family artifacts.

Other historical buildings in Philadelphia include:

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Historical Sites

In addition to the many historical buildings throughout Philadelphia, there are several other sites which have historical value. You will pass by and through many of these sites when touring Philadelphia and heading to local museums and historic buildings.

For example, Society Hill always welcomes visitors to stroll the cobblestone streets and see the area's historic homes, churches and landmarks. This neighborhood is very picturesque and the architecture is breathtaking.

Old City is the location where restaurateurs, business owners and artists originally landed. You will feel the funky energy the moment you walk into this area of town, which was formerly a warehouse district.

Elfreth's Alley is the oldest continuously inhabited streets in the nation. This area was home to 18th-century artisans and trades-people. These residents were the backbone of colonial Philadelphia. Though the city is now filled with many modern homes and buildings, Elfreth's Alley has remained frozen in time, including the preservation of the old-fashioned flower boxes and shutters.

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Historical Festivals

In addition to the massive Fourth of July Celebration, Philadelphia hosts various festivals, many of which celebrate and honor the city's historic past. During these festivals, both locals and visitors gather for reenactments, share stories, tour the area, eat period food and enjoy live musical entertainment.

Popular festivals in Philadelphia include:

Related: Top Ways to Celebrate Women's History Month in Philadelphia

Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, a Kimpton Hotel
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Historical Hotels

When visiting Philadelphia you want to be close to all of the history, which is why you will want to stay in a Philadelphia Historic District Hotel. These hotels are in the heart of all of the city's historic district, putting you close to all of the homes, buildings, tours, sites and museums. Some of these hotels are housed in historic buildings, which adds to the historic value of your vacation.
Historic hotels in Philadelphia include:

A vacation to Philadelphia will take you back in time on an adventure you will never forget. Everything, from the historic buildings to the reenactors walking the streets and colonial pubs to amazing tours of the city, will give you an education and unique view of the city.

Heather Landon is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions - writing and travel - to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at
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