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“Loved that we could tour at our own pace”

Eastern State Penitentiary
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Philadelphia 3-Combo Tour: Hop-on Hop-off, Eastern State Penitentiary, and...
Ranked #3 of 444 things to do in Philadelphia
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Fee: Yes
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of convicts. Tours today include the cellblocks, solitary punishment cells, Al Capone’s Cell, and Death Row.
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Cincinnati, OH
Level Contributor
100 reviews
63 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 89 helpful votes
“Loved that we could tour at our own pace”
Reviewed January 2, 2013

One thing I dislike about many attractions is that you are forced to join a tour during which you feel crowded, rushed and sometimes annoyed because you're stuck with "that guy." Imagine how excited I was when we found out that we could tour at our own pace using an audio tour and map! There are tours, of course, which I hear are very good. But I loved exploring at our own pace.

After paying and being given your headset, you are guided out a door within the walls of the prison. From there, you are free to follow the map as you please, or simply wander around. Navigating the audio tour (narrated by Steve Buscemi--awesome!) is as simple as entering the numbers you see on the signs. Very informative.

I loved how you got everything from the philosophy of prisons over time to the personal stories of prisoners and guards. They don't hide the ugly parts and interestingly, you get to hear some good parts, too. Of course, they also touch on the supernatural as that's what draws many people here.

The prison is kept in a state of what they call "stabilized decay," meaning that they are maintaining the current condition without letting it deteriorate further. There are portions of the prison which are very much intact and others that are falling apart. I enjoyed the art installations throughout the prison--,many were very good at telling stories of prison life.

Since the experience of being IN a prison is (hopefully) unique to most visitors, it comes across as novel and even fun. But when you start learning more about prison life, it's very sobering and incredibly interesting. I feel like I learned a lot in my few hours touring the place.

I felt the cost of admission was very fair considering you can spend unlimited time wandering around and the fact that it is such a unique experience. Parking on the street was simple and easy. The gift shop had some cool stuff too!

Visited October 2012
Thank JRRTraveler
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Level Contributor
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed January 1, 2013

its a prison!!! its an old dirty smelly prison that housed one famous person there are many interesting places to visit in Philadelphia Pennsylvania.

1 Thank Gary71460
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York City, New York
Level Contributor
330 reviews
153 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 98 helpful votes
“Ghosts, History, and Mystery - Hidden Gem”
Reviewed January 1, 2013

I love this place. If you can take a live tour and not just the audio one. Worth going back to in different seasons, as different areas are open. There is something for EVERYONE. This prison served as a model for prison all over the world. You learn how it is evolved over time and how the structure has been changed. Al Capone once served time here and there is even a shul.

Visited December 2012
Thank ssbelltx
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
13 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“Very historical”
Reviewed January 1, 2013

Recommend tour guide. Learn a lot of history about prisons. Very interesting. Parking was very close.

Visited December 2012
Thank Caps112
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
30 reviews
20 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
“Something Different”
Reviewed December 30, 2012

The guided tour was great, the guy really knew what he was talking about, got everybody involved and answered lots of questions. Very impressive building, there's a lot to learn here, fun and interesting. You can go early before you visit the Museum of Art, the tour is 1 hour long. Also, I highly recommend a nearby coffee shop called Mugshots.
Dress warm if you visit in the winter!

Visited December 2012
Thank ValerieSolanas
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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