Ben Franklin and Philadelphia go together like soft pretzels and mustard, cheesesteaks & whiz, jawn and….more jawn. Whether you’re a tourist visiting Philly for the first time or a lifelong native who hasn’t studied local history since your 5th grade social studies trip, you owe it to yourself to experience at least a little taste of Ben Franklin.
Philadelphia has so much BEN, you could easily spend an entire day or three, trying to squeeze in all the sights, but then you’d miss all the other great spots the city has to offer. If, like me, you’re short on time, this itinerary is FOR YOU. At the end of the tour, you’ll feel like B.F.’s B.F.F and only be down about 90 minutes. Oh, and did I mention, it’s all FREE? After paying to park in that all day garage or taking a chance with on street parking and feeling the wrath of a PPA ticket, trust me, you’ll like that price. Let’s get started!
1) B. Free Franklin Post Office: 316 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106-2704
Start your trip on Market between 3rd & 4th streets, where you can leave the bustle of the modern city and step back in time and into a colonial themed and fully operational post office. If you’re sending a Philadelphia postcard back home, make sure you send it from the B. Free Franklin post office, where your stamp will be hand canceled with Ben Franklin’s signature. Even if you’re not planning on mailing anything, it’s still worthwhile to take a quick peek inside.
Why it’s important: This post office was started by Ben Franklin in 1737 and quickly became a city landmark. In 1775, Ben Franklin was appointed the first Postmaster General and helped to shape the modern US Postal service.
2) Franklin Court Courtyard – enter between 316 & 318 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
To the right of the post office, you can walk through the same tunnel Ben Franklin walked through and explore Franklin Court Courtyard. The courtyard is filled with many interesting historical markers, gardens and pathways, making it a nice place to visit for everyone in your group, including younger children and those not that interested in history.
Why it’s important: The courtyard “ghost house” shows the size and location of the home Ben Franklin lived in until his death in 1790, and markers around the house help you imagine what the house was like.
3) Franklin Court Printing Office: enter between 316 & 318 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106
From the courtyard, you can enter into the back of Franklin’s print office, where there are two working printing presses and a bookbindery. You can stay for a demo and learn about typesetting and printing during Ben Franklin’s time.
Why it’s important: Ben Franklin started his professional life (and made his fortune) as a printmaker, publishing influential papers including the Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper and Poor Richard’s Almanac.
4) Ben Franklin’s Grave – Christ Church Burial ground corner of 5th & Arch streets
Just a quick 5-10 minute (2.5 block) walk from the Franklin court printing office is the final destination of both your tour and Ben; Ben Franklin’s grave at Christ Church burial ground. The burial ground is open for paid admission & tours from March – November, but for those visiting in the off season or needing to get back to work (ahem, as your 90 minutes is almost up), entrance isn’t necessary, as the Franklin family plot is visible and accessible from the sidewalk along Arch street. It’s customary to toss a penny on Franklin’s grave, “a penny saved is a penny earned”, but feel free to skip that part in the spirit of keeping this tour completely free.
Why it’s important: Ben Franklin died in 1790, and more than 200 years you're reading this blog post....... I'd say that's worth a visit!
*** If this itinerary has made you a Ben Franklin fan ( or you just love Philly history!) please check out my hand illustrated Ben Franklin Philadelphia postcard , which celebrates his achievements as a scientist, statesman, author and inventor.