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Eastern State Penitentiary
Ranked #4 of 427 things to do in Philadelphia
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
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
Reviewed July 14, 2013

I went on a stormy afternoon, which added to the ambience. Definitely, use the audio and explore on your own. It is chilling to hear the stories of the inmates, in their own words, describe what was happening there. I learned more about the background of this, the first penitentiary, and it is rather astonishing how the developers of it thought it would change the lives of criminals. I mean- a judge put a dog there who killed his wife's cat.

Walking through the damp, musty corridors really gives you a feeling of the despair and lonliness that many may have felt - except perhaps their most famous inmate, Mr. Al Capone. They have decorated his room in much the same way it would have looked while he resided there!

Go - be sure to wear walking shoes and be prepared for some odd artworks within the walls as well. Upon seeing the architecture of the building itself, you may recognize the design from other buildings. It definitley is worth the time - maybe 2 hours to see everything. 3 if you participate in the various demonstrations that the docents provide!

Thank drjpepper64
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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"audio tour"
in 1,061 reviews
"al capone"
in 310 reviews
"haunted house"
in 179 reviews
"steve buscemi"
in 156 reviews
"cell blocks"
in 132 reviews
"own pace"
in 290 reviews
"solitary confinement"
in 96 reviews
"prison life"
in 90 reviews
"halloween season"
in 55 reviews
"operating room"
in 62 reviews
"art installations"
in 65 reviews
"interesting place to visit"
in 51 reviews
"self guided"
in 129 reviews
"interesting history"
in 69 reviews
"across the street"
in 79 reviews
in 428 reviews
in 518 reviews

4,305 - 4,309 of 5,674 reviews

Reviewed July 14, 2013

I've been top Eastern State for their Halloween event and just went during a typical day. The Halloween tour was probably the scariest experience I have had, and kudos to them for delivering on the fright. I enjoyed my visit during a hot Saturday a few weeks ago. Just a note that there is no AC or running water (thus the port-o-potties) and on a hot day both these things can be pretty uncomfortable. The best part of ESP is probably the audio tour (narrated by Steve Buschemi!) which is included in your admission. It was a great way to learn about the different stops along the way, and I enjoyed the stories told by actual prisoners that were included on the audio. This place is definitely a must see in Philly, next time I may just wait for a cooler day.

Thank BethyB22
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 14, 2013

We had a great tour guide ( used to be a High school teacher) and he was very informative. Is it not ironic that the inmates had toilets before the President in the White house, but now all they have are portapotties for the visitors ? If you like prison tours, this one is worth doing

Thank Temptationgirl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 12, 2013

Love the Halloween tours of the Eastern State Penitentiary. The tour is great Halloween fun! The make-up is masterful and the actors make the whole activity an evening to remember. Make sure you watch some of the paranormal investigations of the penitentiary before you go and do some research on its haunted history to further enhance your visit!

Thank Anitra B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed July 12, 2013

We were looking for some places in Philly beyond the typical Independence Hall and Liberty Bell stuff, and came across Eastern State Penitentiary. Myself being a photography enthusiast, this place became a must-see.

We ordered tickets online (make sure you click on the Coupon link before ordering), and entree was a breeze. Included in the $6/adult admission is an MP3 player and headphones for a 30-minutes audio tour. After the main tour ended, you are allowed to explore the open-to-public areas on your own, and hit up the MP3 player for additional informaton. It's a great setup that allows people to browse and soak in the atmosphere on their own pace. For us it's a very educational and historical experience. The way the lights are let into the building plays havoc on lighting, but makes interesting and wonderful photo ops.

ESP also has a guided tour at 2pm. You can "reserve" a spot for this guided tour online, or obtain free tickets at the entrace. They also have hands-on demonstrations at various location through out the site. Unfortunate for us, we missed all of them!! Well, that makes a perfect excuse to go back again.

Tip 1: The site is open to the elements, and some places you will be outside to get between building's wings. Dress appropriately. Also recommened sun block & lots of water if you visit in the summer.

Tip 2: Do not bring pre-teen kids. The materials presented, and the building itself, might be too scary and too complicated for children. Mid-teens will understand, but find me one that's interested in historical places.

Tip 3: Go early for photo ops. We entered right after 10am when they opened. There were plenty of open hallways for you to take in the sights and snap awy people-free. As time went on, more and more people show up naturally. It's not crowded, but you can't get a shot down a long hallway without people in it. Well, there are plenty other stuffs to shoot in ESP.

1  Thank Selion
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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