The U.S. history and culture that abound in and around the Philadelphia area can be found in many of the nearby national parks. If you live in the nearby or are planning a visit and want to check out some of our nation’s top national parks, these top our list. It is important to note, however, that while each of these parks is an easy day trip for residents and visitors to the City of Brotherly Love, many of their key attractions are quite popular. For that reason, it’s a good idea to check each park’s website for information about tickets and reservations.
Gettysburg National Military Park
1195 Baltimore Pike
Gettysburg, PA 17325
The Civil War battle of Gettysburg, which ended the advancement of General Robert E. Lee’s army into the North, is considered to be the turning point in the war between the states. Remembered as one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles, Gettysburg inspired President Abraham Lincoln to write his famous “Gettysburg Address.” An easy 90-minute drive from Philadelphia, visitors to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania can participate in a number of historic activities in and around the park, or they can simply tour the park, its battlefields, monuments and other attractions on their own. The park’s visitor center is an excellent place to kick off your visit, as you’ll find all the information needed to explore the park and the surrounding area. There is also the Gettysburg Museum of the Civil War, with 22,000 square feet of exhibits, relics and interactive displays.
Independence National Historic Park
143 South Third Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
This national park tops the list for many a visitor to the City of Brotherly Love. Steeped in the history of our nation’s birth, Independence National Historic Park’s star attractions are the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where our founding fathers forged a nation. You can visit the actual room where the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were signed, and while admission is free, you will need a ticket to this popular attraction from March through December, as tours are timed during those months to accommodate the number of visitors who want to visit. Tickets are not necessary to visit the Liberty Bell, which also provides free admission, and while the lines can be long at times, most deem the experience of exploring the museum and seeing the famous bell in person as well worth the wait.
Statue of Liberty National Monument
Liberty Island New York, NY 10004
Visiting the Statue of Liberty National Monument, which consists of both Ellis and Liberty islands, tops many a bucket list. Home to both the iconic Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, through which more than 12 million immigrants entered the United States, this national park is visited by millions each year. Popular among those who want to research their ancestors, visitors can explore the American Family Immigration History Center on Ellis Island, where they can walk through the very processing rooms and medical centers through which their forefathers passed. The Statue of Liberty, her torch a welcoming beacon to those arriving via steamship, was a gift from France. Dedicated in 1886, her popularity has endured, and while you don’t need reservations to visit the statue, they are strongly recommended.
Valley Forge National Historical Park
1400 N. Outer Line Drive
King of Prussia, PA 19406
This must-see park is open daily, year-round, and attracts visitors from far and wide, including many repeat guests from in and around the Philadelphia area. The park’s over 3,500 acres are popular for hiking, biking and riding, and provide habitats for hundreds of animals and more than 200 species of birds. As the historic site of the 1777-78 encampment of George Washington’s Continental Army, the park commemorates the experiences and sacrifices of the Revolutionary War with a museum, reenactments, numerous monuments and replicas of the soldiers’ quarters from that fateful winter. Guided tours are available, although the museum and other attractions are easily navigated on one’s own, too.
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Washington D.C. National Mall & Memorial Parks
Washington, D.C. 20024
A visit to Washington D.C. National Mall & Memorial Parks is an easy day trip for Philly-area residents. Millions visit the National Mall every year, which for the past two centuries has been a symbol of our nation’s founding values of freedom and democracy. Depending upon the day you visit, you’ll be able to witness any number of special events, parades and activities taking place in this park, which is located in the heart of our nation’s capital within easy walking distance of any number of popular attractions, museums and historic sites and monuments. Stroll the National Mall and soak up the history among the memorials including the National World War II Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the iconic Lincoln Memorial.
Christy Ayala covers sports, recreation, the outdoors, and leisure activities in the Philadelphia area. She earned a masters degree in recreation administration from George Williams College and managed programs in the Midwest, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.