Today I am rather excited to write my thoughts on a place we have wanted to visit for years, the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA! My son has been a very timid boy ever since he was real little. This changed while in Pigeon Forge after we visited a Prison themed Museum, the Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge, TN. He was completely upset with the idea and had a pretty good meltdown before we even went in. With A LOT of convincing he finally decided to give it a go. It ended up being the BEST attraction we visited on that particular trip! As we were walking around he spotted a picture of the Eastern State Penitentiary. He literally drug me over to the photo of the prison cell and made me promise to visit if we ever had the chance.
Secretly we have wanted to visit for some time so that was an easy “compromise”. The Eastern State Penitentiary is located in downtown Philadelphia. If you are visiting the area enjoy my Helpful Guide To Philly here. We arrived via a bus tour because it was a rather long walk from our hotel.
They will offer you headsets to narrate your walking tour before you enter. These allow you to walk around at your leisure and giving you all sorts of history. If you have little one’s I would suggest picking up a “Scavenger Hunt” pamphlet, pictured above. Since it was EXTREMELY hot the day we visited we ditched lugging around three sets of headsets, took only one and participated in the “Hunt” with our little guy instead.
This particular prison was made to “straighten” even the most villainous inhabitants out. With their concentrations on therapy of pure isolation. Each cell mate was given a bible. Unfortunately, most of them lacked the ability to read and basically went mad from no social contact. In some parts you can almost feel the eerie isolation that haunts these depressed walls.
If you are planning to visit I need to stop and suggest a few things. This is a POPULAR destination. Crowds of people come here. Coming in non-peak hours would be your best bet on beating the LARGE crowds. We selected the very opening of the prison and had the place pretty much to ourselves. If you are not a morning person try picking times when people usually eat. Although if it is a humid day plan to go early. It was 100 degrees the day we went. While they have 2 air conditioning rooms the prison itself is STUFFY, STICKY & HOT!!
Bringing water to stay hydrated isn’t such a bad idea either.
I suppose you could argue it gives you the authentic feeling of what is was like for the inmates but if you are like me and would rather skip the heat waves just plan accordingly!
The cells are pretty small. Some areas allow you to walk in them while others are to deteriorated and would be a safety issue.
We enjoyed the different displays around the different wings of the prison along with all the decay.
You really could spend hours just walking around this place.
Getting lost in all the rubble….
While in the A/C controlled rooms we planned out where we would find our next challenge piece from our pamphlets. It was so much fun because they are not as easy to find as you might think!
What hit home a few times was talk of the young prisoners. Having a son myself, it was very hard to see the places where they were kept. Luckily the employees tried to lighten the mood by allowing him to open different cell door locks with old keys that were once used.
I am extremely glad we went as a family.
We learned a lot about the area, the prison life and consumed so much history!
If you like creepy, prisons full of rich history this is a MUST see!! It will NOT disappoint you in my opinion. Worth a visit if you are in the area.
Have you ever been to the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA??
Let us know about your visit in the comments below!!