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Get inside history at Eastern State Penitentiary

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Walk the same halls that notorious criminals did in the past at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. 

Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pa.

Photo: Eastern State Penitentiary Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pa.

In its day, the penitentiary was the most famous and expensive prison in the world. It was known for its strict discipline as well as its architecture.

“As soon as groups arrive at Eastern State Penitentiary, with its 30-foot stone walls wrapping around an entire city block, the tone is set for a unique museum experience,” said Francine Schiffman, senior specialist of group sales and guest support at Eastern State Penitentiary. “Visitors are fascinated hearing the stories of the inmates and guards who once called Eastern State home.”

The prison can be experienced through a guided tour that is led by staff who will share history and stories and answer questions.

“Groups especially enjoy exploring the site of the doomed 1945 tunnel escape and peering into the lavish cell of famous mobster Al ‘Scarface’ Capone,” Schiffman said. “We even offer a specialty private tour focusing on the Prohibition era, which culminates with a 1920s-style cocktail at Al Capone’s cell.”

Hands-On History is an interactive option that groups can experience. The interactive experiences last about five minutes (a few take longer) and take place throughout the facility. An example of an activity includes how to open a prison cell.  

Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pa.

Photo: Eastern State Penitentiary Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pa.

A group visit consists of a guided tour that lasts about one hour, but groups should plan for an additional 30–60 minutes for exploration time since there is more to see. If planning for extra time during the visit, groups can tour the newly restored hospital wing, view artist installations or see the “Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration” exhibit.

The penitentiary staff does its best to accommodate last-minute requests but would prefer that reservations for a group visit be made at least three weeks in advance.

For more information, call 215-236-3300 or visit easternstate.org.

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About Author

Steph Lulofs, Associate Editor

Steph Lulofs’ career path curved through the daily newspaper world and made a stop in marketing before walking in the front door as Associate Editor at Group Tour Media. Her passion for research and writing is a good fit for her foray into blogging and driving editorial content for the northeast in Group Tour Northeast/Midwest magazine. When not on the road or at her desktop, Steph kicks back with her dogs, at the movies or between the pages of a good book. Meaning? She reads the book and then sees the movie.

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