Lately I’ve been figuring out where to go for the duration of a weekend without venturing too far from New York. There are some great towns on the East Coast, so making a selection did not pose any difficulties. Such as during this past weekend, when I was able to get out of Manhattan for one day and make a detour to the state of Pennsylvania.
I had only been to Philly once, about 3 ½ years ago, and that was during a pretty cold winter. While back then I had visited my cousin and spent an amazingly celebratory New Year’s Eve in town, I had only seen about half of what the city had to offer. During my visit on Saturday, my main goal was to take with the other half and check out way more touristy sites than I had in 2010/2011.
Philly is about 2 hours by bus (and 1 ½ by car) from Manhattan. I got up super early and was on the bus at 8 AM already (keep in mind – on a Saturday!). Since I live close to Chinatown, I took the Chinatown coach, but I know the Megabus and Bolt Bus leave from Penn Station and Midtown, which are also easy travel points. After getting off in Philly’s Chinatown, I walked straight over to where the historic parts of Phila are accumulated: The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are adjacent to each other and relatively easy to find in Society Hill.
There was a long queue in front of the Liberty Bell and I was contemplating whether or not I should waste my morning by standing in line, when I overheard a couple say it wouldn’t take much longer than 20mins. And sure enough, while passing a group of people who were practicing Chinese relaxation techniques on the lawn and listening to fine tunes of Asian music, I was inside in about half an hour.
The bell is located indoors but you can also take a snapshot of it from the outside if you don’t feel like standing in line. There are a few reading materials available and I got to see the how the Liberty Bell is related not only to the Independence of America, but also slavery (during the civil war) and the women’s liberation movement.
The bell itself is lined up against a glass front. Since only a certain amount of people are let in one at a time, it wasn’t hard to get a got glance at it. You can see the crack clearly – this crack has a lot of history: When the bell was made of old iron material, it had to be re-cast multiple times after it came into existence. Within the 18th century, it cracked twice, and then during 1841 (Civil War Time), it cracked again. This final crack was never mended successfully, so what you see in Philly is indeed the original bell with its original crack. You are prohibited from touching it, of course, but while scouring through the reading cubicles, you are able to stretch your hands out to an original, engraved iron bar, which fell off at some point.
When exiting the building, I checked in with a security guard to see how easy it was to get into Independence Hall, which was literally right across the street. He pointed me towards the visitor’s center and told me that I should get my ticket right now as there were usually only a limited amount of vouchers left for the day. Sure enough, I was able to obtain one for 4:15 PM (keep in mind I showed up at the visitor’s desk at 12 PM). The tickets are free, but in order to go onto a guided tour you have to get it way in advance. Not sure how to spend the next four hours, I walked past a gorgeous library and made my way across town over to South Street.