Eastern State Penitentiary
Philadelphia PA 19130
- Mon: 10am-5pm
- Tue: 10am-5pm
- Wed: 10am-5pm
- Thu: 10am-5pm
- Fri: 10am-5pm
- Sat: 10am-5pm
- Sun: 10am-5pm
Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary is a 19th-century behemoth within the city's Fairmount neighborhood. Taking up about four city block, the now-defunct prison looks more like a European castle than a state penitentiary, but it housed notorious criminals like Al Capone from 1829 until it ceased operations in 1971. Now a U.S. Historical Landmark, ESP offers tours daily, and holds the extremely popular Terror Behind the Walls haunted house experience every fall.
How to get to Eastern State Penitentiary
From Center City Philadelphia, you can catch the Broad Street (orange) subway line north; get off at the Fairmount stop and walk west about six blocks. You can also take SEPTA bus routes 48, 43, 33, 32, and 8. Given that the penitentiary is located far enough away from Center City, paid street parking is often available, though there are several paid parking lots nearby as well.
Admission to Eastern State Penitentiary
Admission to ESP is $14 for adults, $10 for students and children (ages 7-12) and $12 for seniors. Given the nature of the site, ESP is not recommended for young children. Group and military discounts are also available.
Must See/Do at Eastern State Penitentiary
The audio tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi, provides a thorough background of the penitentiary, its novel layout and history of fabled criminals. The audio tour and other exhibits, including Al Capone's poshly furnished cell, are included in the price of admission. If nothing else, ESP is an ideal attraction to wander--during daylight, of course--as its atmosphere is enveloping, eerie and moving.
If you saw the Eastern State Penitentiary episode of "Ghost Hunters" or you want to add a few more chills down your spine, check out ESP's seasonal and very popular "Terror Behind the Walls" experience. While not historically accurate (we hope), there's nothing like a massive and well-executed (so to speak) haunted house inside of an old prison. Admission is separate but goes to support the preservation of the prison.
Other Places to Visit Near Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary is just a few blocks northeast of Philadelphia's major art and science museums, like the Franklin Institute, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Barnes Foundation. On the south side of prison, on Fairmount Avenue, you'll also find several local restaurants, shops, and the occasional street fair or farmers' market.
Insider tip for visitors to Eastern State Penitentiary
Try to visit in the mornings or during weekdays, as the prison tends to get busy starting in the early afternoon. Given that Eastern State Penitentiary is open nearly every day of the year, 10AM to 5PM, its an easy attraction to plan into any visit to Philadelphia.
Author's bio: Jeff Birou is an education administrator by day, travel and freelance writer by night. You can find him at his blog, Lance+Jeff, or on Twitter at @lanceandjeff.