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A Guide to Philly’s 4 National Parks

Some big, some small, all significant

Inside the Liberty Bell Center looking out toward Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
The National Park Service runs four parks and sites in Philly.
Flickr/thatlostdog

The state of Pennsylvania has 19 parks and sites that are managed by the National Parks Service, and four of them are within Philly’s city limits. Most of folks know about the big one: Independence National Historical Park, which is home to Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and a host of other historic sites. But did you know Edgar Allen Poe’s home is also part of the National Park Service? Or that Philly is home to the smallest national park in the country?

Here’s a helpful guide to all four parks that, for even the least ambitious, could all be easily visited in one day. Best of all? They’re all free.

Thaddeus Kosciuszko

Kosciuszko was a Polish military engineer who fought in the American Revolution and was considered a military hero in Poland. He moved to Philadelphia in 1797 to this corner brick home at 301 Pine Street, where he entertained guests like his BFF Thomas Jefferson. The memorial became part of the national parks system in 1972. Note: The NPS site says, “This site is typically closed November through March, but will be open February 4, 2017 in observation of Thaddeus Kosciuszko's birthday.”

Fun fact: Clocking in at 0.2 acres, the Thaddeus Kosciuszko Memorial is the smallest national park in the U.S.

How to get there: Your best bet is to simply walk from Independence Hall. It’s a short seven city blocks, and will lead you through Society Hill’s own charming historic homes.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

↑ Edgar Allen Poe National Historical Site

Edgar Allan Poe spent six productive years living in Philly at N. 7th Street. Here, he wrote and published "The Gold-Bug" and "The Spectacles,” and once called his time in Philly some of the happiest years of his life. Just note: The house is only open Friday-Sunday.

Fun fact: Bob Dylan, who has performed multiple readings of Poe’s “The Raven,” visited the writer’s home in 2008.

How to get there: There is street parking around 532 N. 7th Street, so driving is an option here. Or, take the SEPTA bus 47 from Independence Hall to Green Street, or the SEPTA Market-Frankford subway line to Spring Garden and walk five blocks.

The exterior of Gloria Dei Church Historic Site in Philadelphia. The facade is grey and white. There is a red brick path and a graveyard in front of the church. via Wikimedia Commons

↑ Gloria Dei Church

This colonial church in Philly’s Southwark neighborhood is steeped in history. That’s not surprising, given that it dates back to 1698, making it the oldest church in Pennsylvania and the second oldest Swedish church in the country. You can tour it on Tuesdays through Sundays, though it is a functioning Episcopalian church so do take note of scheduled services.

Fun fact: Multiple Revolutionary War and Civil War soldiers are buried in the church’s cemetery.

How to get there: It’s located right off Columbus Avenue at 916 S. Swanson Street, so most people drive.

↑ Independence National Historical Park

By far the most popular of Philly’s national parks, Independence National Historical Park welcomed a whopping 5,067,511 visitors in 2016. That’s a 17.5 percent increase from the year before.

There are a total of 18 sites within this historical park. There is, of course, Independence Hall, where our founding fathers signed both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. But down the street there’s also Alexander Hamilton’s First Bank of the United States and the home of Dolley Todd on 3rd Street, where she lived before becoming the First Lady to President James Madison.

Fun fact: The winter months may be the best time to visit Independence Hall—no tickets are required during January and February.

How to get there: Your easiest non-driving route is to take the SEPTA subway to the newly named 5th/Independence Hall Station on the Market/El Frankford Line. There are also multiple Indego Bikeshare Stations on and around the park.