Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia
There’s something about climbing through the hatches of a submarine or walking the decks of a World War I battle cruiser. The Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia allows you to do just that. Beyond exploring the two vessels, the museum has several exhibits to help you learn about boats, ships, pirates, water and more.
Here’s a rundown of what you’ll find at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia.
There are two places you can buy your tickets: The museum building and the booth by the gangplank entrance to the ship and submarine. The ships are a short 5-10 minute walk south of the main building.
NOTE: Access to the ships close 30 minutes before museum closing time. And during the offseason, hours are shortened. I had to rush through my visit because I didn’t realize I was visiting on a day when it closed at 3 p.m. instead of 5 p.m.
Explore a World War I Battle Cruiser
Once across the gangplank, continue across the submarine and start your tour on the Olympia Battle Cruiser. When you step on board, follow the blue arrows on the ground to guide you to each part of the ship.
The ship launched in 1892 and is the oldest steel warship still afloat today. When the ship was built, it housed some of the most technological advancements of the day. As you tour the ship, you can see the lights, machine shop (with a working demonstration) and refrigeration.
Don’t miss the chance to look at the engine room as well. Although you can’t descend down the stairs to see the engines up close, it’s neat to see them from above.
During your tour, get off your feet by climbing into a hammock. It’s an opportunity to get a small taste for what life was like for the 396 enlisted men who crewed the ship back in the day. It also makes a great photo opp.
When you get up to the deck, enjoy the views around the ship, and don’t miss out on the opportunity to climb up the stairs for even better views of the deck and surrounding area. As your tour wraps up, make your way to the entrance for the submarine Becuna.
Climb Through the Becuna Submarine
I’ve enjoyed making my way through a few submarines at various museums across the country: The USS Dolphin or the B-39 Cold War Soviet Submarine at the Maritime Museum of San Diego, or the USS Growler at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City. I’m always amazed at how the crew could stand to be in a ship below the waterline. I think I would be claustrophobic.
Descend down the stairs into the forward torpedo room of the Becuna. Stand next to a couple torpedos, lined up to be loaded into the torpedo tubes. From there, make your way through each of the compartments.
You’ll see the captain’s cabin, crew area, kitchen/dining area, engine room, control room and of course… the bathrooms. Before ascending the stairs at the end of your tour, you’ll get to see the rear torpedo room. I’m just glad I don’t have to go to sea or even to battle in a ship underwater.
Learn in the Museum
Inside the actual museum building, you’ll find interactive exhibits. One of the highlights is the Schooner Diligence. It’s a smaller boat (when compared to the other two I just described), which allowed it to be housed inside the museum. It’s a great activity area for both kids and adults – and includes some cannons, too.
Other exhibits teach visitors about waterways. In fact, did you know that 5% of the United States population drinks water from the Delaware River?
You’ll also enjoy visiting the Patriots and Pirates exhibit. You can learn about the founding of the U.S. Navy (which the Schooner Diligence was a part of). There are unique, rarely seen artifacts about America’s conflict and interactions with pirates.
Plan on spending about one hour inside the museum – in addition to the one hour you’ll spend touring the two ships down the river.
Address: 211 S. Columbus Blvd. Philadelphia, PA 19106
Cost: If you decide to only visit the ships, it’s $10 per person. If you decide to only visit the Seaport Museum, it’s also $10 per person. But including the two parts together, you save a little. Combined ticket prices are $18 for adults, $14 for seniors (age 65+), children (ages 3-17) and military. Children two and under are free.
Hours: The hours vary by season. Jan-Feb, the museum is only open from 10-5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday (It’s closed Monday-Friday). In March it’s open Wed-Fri from 10-3 p.m., and Sat-Sun from 10-5 p.m. It’s closed Mon-Tues. But starting March 19, the museum is open 7 days a week, 10-5p.m. until October. From Oct-Dec, it’s open Wed-Fri from 10-3 p.m., and Sat-Sun from 10-5 p.m. It’s closed Mon-Tues.
Phone: (215) 413-8655