Tag Archives: historical park

Independence National Historical Park

I took a trip this past Memorial Day weekend, so I’m loaded with more material, so I may switch back to posting twice a month in the coming months. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s finish with my last stop during my Philadelphia day trip from last August…

Independence National Historical Park, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Independence National Historical Park encompasses several street blocks, thus various buildings and facilities are considered as part of the park. The historical park is open daily from 9am to 5pm, but hours may vary for some of the buildings and facilities, thus it’s best to check the park’s website for hours of operation. Independence National Historical Park is easily accessible via car and public transportation. If you choose to drive, there are various parking lots nearby, but note that fees do apply. If you choose to take public transportation, take the SEPTA Market-Frankford Subway, the blue line, to 5th Street/Independence Hall Station, and walk about one block west to reach the Visitor Center or one block south to reach Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The historical park can be a short half day visit if you want to visit the must see sites only, but if you want to see everything, it can take several days, so there’s plenty to do. Should you wish to switch things up a bit, stop by the Museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation to take a break from history and learn some chemistry.

As mentioned above, Independence National Historical Park includes a lot of sites, but I only managed the must sees during my visit, thus this post will cover only the following: Independence Square, Liberty Bell Center and Independence Visitor Center. Independence Square is comprised of Independence Hall, Congress Hall, Philosophical Hall and Old City Hall. To get into Independence Square, visitors are required to go through a security screening, but the line moves relatively quick. Independence Hall is open daily from 9am to 5pm, and to 7pm in the summer. Admission to Independence Hall is by tour only. Timed-entry tickets are required between March to November. Tickets are free and can be obtained at the Visitor Center on the day of the visit, or for a small fee tickets can be reserved in advance either online or by telephone. ( I didn’t want to pay a fee, so I just headed to the Visitor Center first thing and obtained tickets. Don’t get there too late, since they do have a limited amount of tickets per day.)  The tour starts in the East Wing of Independence Hall, where the ranger guide gives a 10 minute overview on the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence, followed by a 20 minute tour of the first floor of the Independence Hall, bringing the total tour time to 30 minutes.

The West Wing of Independence Hall contains the Great Essentials exhibit. Visitors can view original printed copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution. There is also an inkstand on display. (Please excuse the poor photos, my hands aren’t still enough for longer exposure times needed to take pictures in low light.)

Congress Hall is open from 9am to 5pm daily. Congress Hall is accessible only by tour, but there is no need to obtain tickets, as it’s on a first come first served basis, so just show up around the scheduled tour times. Tours last about 15 minutes and are scheduled for every 30 minutes. Congress Hall was home to the U.S. Congress from 1790 to 1800, when Philadelphia served as the temporary capital of the U.S. The building is two floors, the open space ground floor was where the House of Representatives met, and the U.S. Senate congregated on the second floor, which is comprised of several rooms.

Philosophical Hall houses the American Philosophical Society (APS) and its museum. The APS was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743 to promote useful knowledge.  The APS museum is open between April to December, from Thursday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm. (Check their website for current hours and exhibits.)  The museum contains one exhibit that rotates on an annual basis that features the society’s collection of historical items and materials. The museum is on one floor of the building, spanning several rooms. When I visited, the exhibit on display was “Gathering Voices: Thomas Jefferson and Native America”, which lasted from April 15, 2016 to December 30, 2016. The exhibit highlighted Jefferson’s collection of Native American languages. I didn’t get a chance to visit the Old City Hall as I was running low on time and also I couldn’t find the entrance, so I decided to skip it and move onto the next destination.

The Liberty Bell is one of the most famous sites in Philadelphia. The bell can be seen in the Liberty Bell Center, which is very close to Independence Hall. The center is open from 9am to 5pm year round, to 7pm during the summer months. Admission is free.  Asides from viewing the Liberty Bell (which is a lot smaller than I expected), there are various exhibits highlighting the history of the Liberty Bell.

Last, but not least, is the Independence Visitor Center. I started here to get tickets for Independence Hall, but didn’t see the exhibits inside until the end. The visitor’s center contains a theater where visitors can enjoy films about the founding of the United States and the Revolutionary War. In addition, there’s an exhibit inside showcasing some prominent historical events and figures related to Philadelphia, such as the Underground Railroad and Benjamin Franklin.

Seeing all of the above took me about 2.5 hours total, including travel time to each place, and waiting for tours to begin and in lines . The majority of the time was spent with the guided tours as the time was predetermined; in the self-guided areas, I spent significantly less time, not more than 20 minutes in each area, and looking back now I don’t feel it was an adequate amount of time for some of the sites. Thus other visitors will most likely need more time to see all of the above, but the minimum time to spend is 2.5 hours (however, you may spend less time too, if you read and move faster). Everything at Independence National Historical Park is free, thus it’s a good place to bring your friends and family as there’s enough to do that everyone will find something interesting. People who enjoy history will definitely have a field day as every where they turn, a piece of history is staring back. So put on your good walking shoes and learn about the founding of the United States at Independence National Historical Park.

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Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park- Seattle Unit

Since I visited the more touristy areas the first time I visited Seattle, I decided to visit the less expensive places the second time around. Turns out, Seattle is a super walk-able city, and the public transportation is pretty convenient and not that hard to figure out. Second stop (the first stop was the previous post) on this frugal, walking trip in Seattle is…

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park- Seattle Unit, located in Seattle, Washington

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The Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park has hours that vary by season, from the fall to the spring, the hours are 10am to 5pm, and during the summer, the hours are 9am to 5pm. (Check the website for the hours or go after 10am to be sure it’s open.) The park is open daily except for Thanksgiving, Christmas day and New Year’s Day, and admission is free. The historic park is easily accessible by public transportation (check the King County Metro website for more information), and for those who want to save a few bucks and are already in downtown Seattle, by walking. Seattle is easy to navigate, I  walked all the way from Pike Place Market to the historic park in a half hours time (got my exercise in for the day, too). As for driving, I wouldn’t advise it, only street parking available. Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park is different from a traditional park in that the park is in an enclosed building, and not an open-air space, so it’s actually more a museum to me than a park. (Hence the museum tag.)

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The top floor of the building provides an overview of the Klondike Gold Rush that occurred in the Yukon territory in the 1890s, and Seattle’s part during the gold rush. The gold rush was significant  in general because who doesn’t want to find gold and become rich. On a national level, the gold rush was significant because of the economy at the time. Money was backed by gold then, and various events caused the U.S. gold reserves to plummet, leading to a stock market crash, and finally, an economic depression. Thus, the announcement of the discovery of gold in the Yukon territory was a beacon of hope for the U.S. economy, thereby propelling the gold rush to national spotlight. As for Seattle’s part in the gold rush, Seattle was a young city at the time with a great transportation network that included both the railroad and steamships, and had ample surrounding woodlands and local industries to accommodate large amounts of people. Thus, the U.S. government heavily advertised Seattle as the place to outfit (as in stock up supplies) for the goldfields, thereby attracting thousands of gold seekers to Seattle. With this new frenzy of activity, the economy was revived, and established Seattle as a regional trade center. (Sorry for the history lesson, but it’s crucial to the enjoyment of the historical park. Any factual errors in the above are mine, I’m sure the historical park got the history correct.)

Since the park is history-based, there aren’t many hands on activities to engage visitors, thus the park introduces five real stampeders (gold seekers) that journeyed in search of gold. The building contained various interactive points where visitors can check up on their selected stampeder(s) and see how they fared in the journey and if they made it or not. (I followed Ethel Anderson.)

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Part of the lower half of the building brings us through the journey that the stampeders took to seek their fortunes. There were various routes to reach the Yukon territory, and the conditions that gold seekers had to endure were treacherous in some occasions. Various artifacts, images, and replicas are presented throughout to allow visitors to take a glimpse of what life was like for the stampeders as they traveled to Klondike. Thousands of people went in search of gold, but striking gold is probably similar to the chances of winning the lottery. The park has a “Strike it Rich” wheel, which allows visitors to see the probability of them striking gold (I didn’t find gold, even though I spun more than once).

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The other part of the lower floor shows the aftermath of the gold rush. Although the gold rush helped revive the U.S. economy, it impacted other areas negatively. The gold rush brought about a large movement of people to Alaska and Canada that disrupted the lives and cultures of the native people in those regions. In addition, the large scale mining for gold brought about significant devastation to the local environment. The causes and effects of the gold rush are known as the Klondike gold rush was a well documented event, as shown by the many images located throughout the building.

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Also on the main floor of the building, visitors can get information on the historical Cadillac Hotel, which is the building that houses the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park. The hotel has been in existence since the time of the gold rush, so the use of the hotel to situate the historic park is really fitting to connect the past and the present.

It took me approximately one hour to view the two floors of the historical park, but as always one can take more or less time depending on their interests. I think I should have spent more time as there is a lot to read (I’m pretty sure I skimmed through a lot of the information). The historical park is information heavy, which involves a lot of reading, so it would appeal more to the history crowd and adult visitors, then a family with children visiting on a rainy day. History has never been my strong point, so I learned plenty and definitely enjoyed my visit, since it’s always good to learn new things. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park- Seattle Unit may not be a must see destination for everyone, but if you happen to be in the area, take a peek inside, and learn something about history and Seattle.