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There is no city in the United States richer in history than Philadelphia. From the cobblestone streets of Elfreth's Alley to the brim of William Penn's hat atop City Hall, the spirit of '76 is always alive. The great thing about visiting Philadelphia is that all of the historic sites are within walking distance, as are many hotels.

Independence National Historical Park encompasses most of the significant buildings and monuments from Independence Hall to the Liberty Bell. Entering the historic district is like walking back in time. You'll see colonists walking the cobblestone streets, delegates debating The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and soldiers preparing for battle. You may even run into Ben Franklin or George Washington looking for new recruits. The Visitor's Center is located at Third and Walnut Streets and offers an orientation film on the Park that runs approximately 30 minutes.

Of course, every tour should begin where our history began -Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was debated, drafted, written and signed. Walk-through tours are conducted every 15 minutes. After viewing the momentous artifacts of Independence Hall, stroll across the commons to see the Liberty Bell, perhaps the greatest symbol of freedom in the world. Lectures on the Bell's history are given approximately ever 15 minutes and after the lecture you will have the opportunity to touch the Bell, take photographs, etc. Other historic buildings comprising Independence National Historic Park include: Carpenter's Hall, where the First Continental Congress met in 1774; Old City Hall, the site of the first United States Supreme Court; Congress Hall, where the U.S. Congress met from 1790 to 1800; and Franklin Court, the site on which Benjamin Franklin's home stood. Franklin Court now contains a museum, print shop and a post office. A trip through this park is guaranteed to be a memorable one for the entire family.

Now that you've worked up an appetite but don't want to spoil the colonial atmosphere, then a stop at The City Tavern (Second and Walnut Streets) is a must. This restaurant is a reconstruction of what John Adams referred to as "the most genteel Tavern".

A little-known spot if you are a Normal Rockwell fan is a visit to The Curtis Museum of Norman Rockwell located at Sixth and Walnut Streets. The Curtis Center is the original home of the Saturday Evening Post, and the lower level is dedicated to Norman Rockwell prints, posters, plates, etc., which can be purchased. For Rockwell fans, this can consume a day in itself!

Not considered a section of Independence Park, but certainly within walking distance, are many more historic and interesting sites. Elfreth's Alley, located between Second and Front Streets, above Arch (approximately four blocks from Independence Mall) is the oldest continuously inhabited residential street in the Country. The Museum is located at 124-126 Elfreth's Alley, where you can tour an authentic colonial house. The remainder of the houses on the street are occupied, so please respect the residents' privacy.

A trip to Philadelphia would not be complete without a stop at Betsy Ross' house, located around the corner from Elfreth's Alley at 233 Arch Street. There is, however, a small admission fee to tour this house - $1.00 for adults and .50ยข for children. If you're ready for a break, the Atwater Kent Garden is adjacent to the Betsy Ross House and is an ideal place to relax next to the fountain and enjoy a small stage show reenacting Philadelphia's history, which is performed daily in the summer.

While in this area, consider a visit to the U.S. Mint, located at 5th and Arch Streets. The Philadelphia Mint is the oldest mint in the Country and you can walk through the factory, see how money is made and purchase newly minted coins.

If your feet all still up for some walking, you still have many options. If you walk east, you can visit Penn's Landing. Penn's Landing sits of the shores of the Delaware River and holds many events, especially during the summer season. This is also the home of the Viet Nam Veteran's Memorial, consisting of a replica of the Viet Nam Veteran's Wall located in Washington, D.C.

Going west to City Hall, located at Broad and Market Streets, you can experience one of Philadelphia's little known secrets. A statue of William Penn sits atop City Hall. You can actually take an elevator to the "brim" and enjoy a panoramic view of the City from inside of William Penn's hat.

While you could tour the Center City Historic district in one day, it's better to take your time and enjoy the trip. Perhaps take a day to explore Independence National Historic Park and the surrounding sights, and another day to explore the east city of the City (Delaware River - Penn's Landing). You might also enjoy taking a ferry ride from the Philadelphia side of the River to the New Jersey side. It only takes about 15 minutes, and could provide a respite from your walk.

Another long-standing Philadelphia tradition, The Mummer's Parade, which is held every New Year's day, pays tribute to this century-old custom at the Mummer's Museum (located at Second and Washington Streets in South Philadelphia) with displays of Mummer memorabilia and lavish costumes. While in South Philadelphia, you can also stop at the Italian Market, an outdoor market selling produce, fish and poultry. And no trip to South Philly is complete without a stop at Pat's Steaks, home of the Philly Cheese steak.

If you're interested in a car trip, visit Valley Forge National Park, about a half-hour drive from Philadelphia. Again, the sense of history and the feeling of actually "being there" is incredible. Another car trip would be Washington's Crossing. This history park is said to be the spot where George Washington crossed the Delaware River from New Jersey into Pennsylvania. The park offers not only historic attractions, but also canoe rides along the Delaware.

A trip to Philadelphia is guaranteed to be enjoyable and unforgettable. The people are friendly and helpful and the actors portraying the colonist put their hearts and souls into the roles. You'll leave the City with a definite feel of pride for this Country's founding fathers and the legacy they left behind!