City Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Ticket office hours – Monday to Friday, 9:00 – 4:30 PM
Tickets are first come, first serve. You must buy your tickets for the same day as the tour.
Tower hours – Monday to Friday, Tours every 15 minutes, limit four people at a time.
First tour goes up at 9:30 AM. Last tour at 4:15 PM.
Super secret hint – You MUST get there early to get tickets, no more than 104 people can go up each day! We got to the office about 20 minutes before it opened, and were the first ones there. Five minutes later, the next couple showed up. By the time the door opened, there were already about 20 people in line. Tickets often sell out in the first hour.
Fees – $6 per adult, $4 for seniors, students, youth, and military (2015 prices)
It’s not particularly well known, but you can get up to right under William Penn’s feet, and see the whole darn city from up there! My dad used to tell us about going when he was a kid, where he swears he looked out from William Penn’s hat. While he never took us, he put the idea in my head, and I swore I’d do it someday. But as things go, I just never got around to it. Until two weeks ago.
Early Friday morning, the wife, Tree Rider, The Pres, and I parked over by the cathedral and hoofed it to City Hall.
Early morning bonus – no one in Love Park yet.
There, we waited outside the tourist office (the office is located in one of the passages leading to the center plaza of City Hall). We got there about 25 minutes before it opened, good enough for being first in line. That also gave us the first tour of the day!
After getting our tickets, we walked around to the Visitor’s Entrance, went up the elevator to the 7th floor, and followed the red line around to the escalator up to the 8th floor, where the small City Hall museum is.
Just follow the signs.
Being first, the doors weren’t open yet.
The museum is mostly just one big central display, which talks about the history of the building and examines whether it’s a monumental achievement (if it had been built on schedule, it would have been the tallest building in the world when finished. It took decades over, so was only the 3rd tallest when completed. It’s still one of the largest municipal buildings on Earth) or a monument to corruption (Philadelphia politics has never really changed).
We had about ten minutes in the museum, which was enough to read every sign, then it was our turn to go up the tower. The guard calls your tour time, you pile into the elevator, and he takes you up! On the way up, you’ll get glimpse of the inside of the tower, including the insides of the tower’s four clocks.
Spilling out of the cramped elevator, duck your head to get out onto the platform. It’s enclosed in glass and steel, but still open to the elements.
Looking up, you’ll be able to check Billy Penn’s shoes for gum he may have stepped in.
But I doubt that you’ll look up right away, you’ll be too busy looking out. This might have lost its crown as the city’s tallest building when I was six years old, but you’re still over 500 feet in the air, and the views were crystal clear this day.
Franklin Parkway toward the Art Museum.
Toward the Walt Whitman Bridge.
Long way down… and that’s just to the roof of City Hall.
Ben Franklin Bridge.
He’ll remember this, right?
15 minutes might not seem like a long time, but unlike some other tall places I’ve been (High Point Monument, St Louis Arch, Seattle Space Needle), with only four people up there plus the security person, you won’t be fighting anyone for space or views.
After 15 minutes, back down the elevator, out the door, and you’re on your way. We went back by way of the offices across the street, because art.
If this isn’t art, I don’t know what is.
Doesn’t look as tall from down here, but I assure you, it’s quite tall.