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“Exceptionally Absorbing”

National Constitution Center
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Philadelphia CityPASS
Ranked #17 of 437 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: The National Constitution Center is the first and only nonprofit, nonpartisan institution devoted to the U.S. Constitution and its legacy of freedom. Located two blocks from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell in Historic Philadelphia, the Center illuminates constitutional ideals and inspires active citizenship as a state-of-the-art museum, a civic education hub and America's Town Hall.
Useful Information: Activities for older children
New York City, New York
Level Contributor
96 reviews
37 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 64 helpful votes
“Exceptionally Absorbing”
Reviewed February 18, 2013

We. too, were drawn by great reviews of the Prohibition exhibit, but decided to peek at the rest of the museum and save the Prohibition show for last. We never expected to spend three hours at the Constitution Center. The main display is large, very well-organized, and incredibly informative. I was never especially interested in constitutional law, but some of the insights were riveting -- like discovering that battles over immigration and whether a corporation is a person have been going on for 100 or 200 years. After going through every panel, we finally did get to Prohitibion, and even after two entire hours at the museum, we still had a great time there. The curators tied the information to so many fascinating trends in America in the 20s -- even women's make-up and fashion. It's a very creative exhibit. My husband's favorite part was at the end, where you can take a photo of yourself with your favorite Prohibition era gangster, and it's emailed to you. He couldn't wait to start sending all his friends a mug shot with Al Capone.
After all our time there, we agreed we could have skipped "Freedom Rising," the very well-done muilti-media presentation. It covers things that are also in the extensive exhibit, so if you plan to spend some time in the museum itself, that's a half-hour you probably don't need to invest.
The cafeteria was another nice surprise. Much bigger than the usual museum space, with lots of windows looking out on a quad with other museums around. The food was actually pretty good -- my turkey sandwich was restaurant-caliber.
We'd put our car in the in-building parking lot, convenient because it was a cold, rainy day. Rates were very high. If the weather's pleasant and you don't mind a walk, shop for a less expensive parking spot.
I don't think we'd go back to see the permanent exhibit again, but next time the Constitution Center puts on a special exhibit, it's a strong possibility for us.

Visited January 2013
1 Thank carly5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Level Contributor
10 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
“American Spirits at the Constituion Center”
Reviewed February 17, 2013

If you read the (excellent) book, or have enjoyed the Ken Burns special on Prohibition, you could probably save the $17 entry fee, the $16 parking fee and the $5 each audio guide fee. Although it must have been fun for the exhibit designers to construct, the show is mostly flat things like letters and photos, posters and graphs. Perhaps I was grumpier because I wear reading glasses and the texts were either too small, or too far, to easily see. There were plenty of visitors on the day we went - Sunday - when the exhibit itself is free, which made it a value for a Sunday afternoon in the city. Honestly I felt it was a pretty shallow exhibit that didn't demand too much from the visitor, unlike the book that went into rich and meaningful detail trying to make sense of this strange and awful time. Philadelphia has a number of world class things to see, so if you are visiting this city, make sure you see them first.

Visited February 2013
1 Thank Betsy N
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Level Contributor
85 reviews
20 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
“Powerful Show and Incredible Exhibits”
Reviewed February 17, 2013

My husband and I traveled here mainly to see the exhibit on Prohibition, our interest in this period piqued by the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. The special exhibit ticket also included admittance to the main exhibit, so we figured we might as well take a look at that while we were there. In order to access the main exhibit hall, you first enter an amphitheater to view a 17-minute live actor/multimedia presentation about the constitution. We probably would've skipped this if we could, but it was the only way to enter the main exhibit and it started in 7 minutes from when we arrived, so we went.

At the conclusion of this presentation, called Freedom Rising, we both were stunned at home powerful the show had been. I spent the last 3-4 minutes of it teary eyed, emotional over both the victories and the atrocities that make up the history of the United States. My husband put it like this: "That was something that every American should see. Every school should bring its students here to see this."

Once we exited Freedom Rising, we decided to go against the flow and work our way backwards through history. This second-floor exhibit is set up in a circle, so we started in 2013 and an hour later ended up in 1776. Each time period is accompanied by interesting artifacts and mini-history lessons. The museum does a good job of acknowledging the contributions of traditionally underrepresented groups. For instance, the Freedom Rising show pointed out that European settlers did not "discover" America; it had been home to various native tribes for centuries prior to the first white settlers. Contributions from Latin-American organizations and gay rights groups were also highlighted in the 20th century segment of the exhibit.

Eventually, we ventured downstairs to the Prohibition Exhibit which took us another hour to complete. I was astounded at the depth and breadth of this exhibit, which also provided a great deal of general information about life in the 1920s. Examples of dress, music, dance steps, and other various aspects of life were on display. By the time I left the exhibit, I felt like I understood the political and social reasons for Prohibition (and its failure). The exhibit also gave a great deal of information about the role of the women's movement as well as the relationship between Prohibition and organized crime.

Overall, this museum far exceeded our expectations and we will certainly return for future special exhibits.

Visited February 2013
1 Thank JJ484
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
85 reviews
54 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 48 helpful votes
Reviewed February 16, 2013

I'm told the only other constitutional museum in the world is in Adelaide, Australia. True? Anyway, this one is a magnificent and impressively designed interactive experience which ended up making me feel quite emotional about the intellectual feats of the founding fathers, and about the ideals that are supposed to fuel US democracy. Whether people are true to them these days or not is another matter ....

Visited December 2012
Thank kaluvesu
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Voorhees, NJ
Level Contributor
38 reviews
20 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
“Makes you truly appreciate history”
Reviewed February 14, 2013

I thought I was going to be bored when I learned we were going here. I was absolutely wrong. They present historical information in an interactive way that grabs and keeps your attention. You walk away with a sense of appreciation for our founding fathers.

Visited September 2012
Thank Kelly4sure
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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