The Best History Museums in Philadelphia
National Constitution Center
Critics have been tough on its wildly vacillating, too-pop-culture-focused special exhibits (Princess Diana’s dresses, Bruce Springsteen?), but worth it for the stirring live Freedom Rising show alone.
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Visit the National Constitution Center: 525 Arch Street, 215-409-6600.
Philadelphia History Museum
A $6 million facelift has transformed the old dusty Atwater Kent, which retains its Grandma’s-attic charm—and the curiously fascinating scale map of the city you can walk on.
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Visit the Philadelphia History Museum: 15 South 7th Street, 215-685-4830.
Cool scale models show how the building as it looked to the Founders. Bonus: You can rent it out.
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Visit Carpenters' Hall: 320 Chestnut Street, 215-925-0167.
The site where both George Washington and John Adams were both inaugurated.
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Visit Congress Hall: 6th and Chestnut Streets, 215-965-2305.
National Liberty Museum
You wouldn’t know it from the title, but the star attraction here is the glass art.
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Visit National Liberty Museum: 321 Chestnut Street, 215-925-2800.
Battleship New Jersey
All of the tour guides are military vets (so they know their stuff), and the ship itself is a cool look inside life on an actual war ship that saw action the year after Pearl Harbor.
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Visit Battleship New Jersey: 62 Battleship Place, Camden, NJ, 866-877-6262.
Site of the 1777 Revolutionary War battle (we lost), the site’s museum is so-so, but the battlefield itself is majestic.
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Visit Brandywine Battlefield: 1491 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, PA, 610-459-3342.
African American Museum
Really knowledgeable staff + cool mix of permanent and traveling exhibits (such as the current one on the history of the singing group The Supremes) = worth-it afternoon plan.
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Visit the African American Museum: 701 Arch Street, 215-574-0380.
National Museum of American Jewish History
Perhaps the best flow of any of the city’s museums, with well-curated historical artifacts, videos and interactive exhibits.
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Visit the National Museum of American Jewish History: 101 South Independence Mall East, 215-932-3811.
Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania
A place with a National Treasure vibe: grand architecture, sober portraits and an 80,000-volume library. The only thing missing is a growling Nic Cage.
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Visit The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania: 1 North Broad Street, 215-988-1917.
Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
U of P’s homage to the cradle of civilization delivers, stuffed with Egyptian and Mayan ruins. Don’t miss the Dome Room.
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Visit University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology: 3260 South Street, 215-898-4000.
Rosenbach Museum and Library
Oz for the local literati, with homages to Maurice Sendak, Jane Austen and most notably James Joyce, among others.
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Visit Rosenbach Museum and Library: 2008-2010 Delancey Place, 215-732-1600.
Located just blocks from one another, both bestowed upon Doylestown by collector Henry Mercer. Both worth a look, but Fonthill is the jewel, an actual castle tucked away in Bucks County.
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Visit Fonthill Castle: East Court Street & Route 313, Doylestown, PA, 215-348-9461.