If you are an American history buff, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a must-see city. Philadelphia is basically the birthplace of our nation, as it is the place where the Founding Fathers signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution back when this country was just starting out. It is also home to some incredible statues, gardens and museums, making it a city that you could easily spend days exploring. Here are five of the best historic landmarks to see in Philadelphia so you can start filling out your itinerary.
The Liberty Bell
The Liberty Bell is synonymous with the biggest idea that makes up America: freedom. Initially referred to as the State House Bell, this bell was originally just meant to call lawmakers to meetings at what would one day become known as Independence Hall. Eventually, though, it came to stand for much more than that. It was used as a symbol of liberty by abolitionists, civil rights leaders and advocates for women's rights, which led to its eventual renaming. In case you were wondering, the Liberty Bell's famous crack is said to have developed in the 1840s from nearly a century of "hard use." When attempts to repair the crack failed, that just became another beloved part of this landmark's history.
In 1776, 56 men came together to draft and sign the Declaration of Independence, freeing America from British rule. In 1787, representatives from 12 of America's early states came together once more to draft the U.S. Constitution, which officially brought the country together and set it on the path to what eventually became the United States of America as we know it now. Visiting Independence Hall is like stepping back into the past as you walk the same floors and see the same sights as the Founding Fathers did. This site is so important to American history that it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution
Located in Philadelphia's Washington Square Park, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution began as a "potter's field," or a place where early local settlers buried the dead that no one really knew or who, for one reason or another, could not be buried in a church cemetery. By 1778, the field was being used to bury casualties of the Revolutionary War between Britain and the Colonists. Eventually, a memorial was built on this site to commemorate the lives and deaths of all of those unknown souls who died in the fight for America's freedom during that war.
Even though he never became President of the United States, Benjamin Franklin was arguably the most influential of all the Founding Fathers. Not only did he come up with many of the ideas that helped to shape the nation, but he was also an inventor, an author, a printer/publisher, a statesman and even a postmaster for the postal service. Franklin Court is the location of Franklin's former house, which was said to be three stories high and included 10 rooms. It was razed in 1812, but there now stands a "Ghost Structure" on this spot to mark the place where the house had once been. Visitors can peer through the empty walls to see the remaining wells, pits and foundation of the old house before visiting the underground museum full of Benjamin Franklin artifacts that are stored beneath it.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Billed as the "cultural heart" of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is home to a wide range of sculptures, paintings, drawings, photographs, suits of armor and other works from America, Europe and Asia. Perhaps equally compelling to visitors, though, is the fact that the steps that lead up to this historical museum are the very same stairs that were climbed by Rocky Balboa in the famous "Rocky" films. Rocky enthusiasts can run up those same stairs themselves, and take a photo standing next to the statue of Rocky that was presented to the city by Sylvester Stallone in 1982.