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Eastern State Penitentiary tickets

Gate Prices Adult $16.00
Child (3-12) $12.00

Brief summary:

Explore the American criminal justice system, from some of its darker days to present, at the Eastern State Penitentiary – an official National Historic Landmark and one of the most historic and most visited buildings in Pennsylvania.

Designed to inspire penitence and regret in the hearts of criminals through “confinement in solitude with labor,” Eastern State Penitentiary is one of the most important historic institutions in Pennsylvania. It’s often credited with helping to pave the way for reform of the judicial system in the US using methods of isolation and reflection rather than capital punishment and physical abuse.

The building is regarded as an architectural marvel. The original seven cellblocks, spread like spokes of a wheel, had running water and central heat before even the White House. Its beautifully designed vaulted ceilings, sky-lit cells, and castle-like walls stand in stark contrast to the purpose of many of its elements, including cellblocks, solitary punishment cells, and Death Row.

Now, no longer an active penitentiary, the prison stands in haunting ruin with crumbling cellblocks, empty guard towers, and various states of neglect.

You’ll learn all about the function the Eastern State Penitentiary played in the history of the American criminal justice system and learn all about some of America’s most notorious criminals once held there, including bank robber ‘Slick Willie’ Sutton and ‘Scarface’ All Capone, among others.

What to expect:

The Philadelphia Pass grants you free General Admission tickets to the Eastern State Penitentiary.

Your Eastern State Penitentiary tickets include “The Voices of Eastern State” audio tour, Hands-On History interactive tours, and all regular exhibits and artist installations. If space is available, you can also reserve a spot at the Admissions Desk for the daily Guide-led Tour and Discussion upon arrival at no additional cost.

As you follow along the audio tour, you’ll see artist installations throughout the Eastern State Penitentiary that you can learn more about with supplemental audio. It’s easy to explore at your own pace with the “The Voices of Eastern State” audio tour. The tour recording includes 10 audio stops and lasts 35 in total from start to finish and then there is additional “random access” stops along the way with supplemental information.

The Hands-On History program includes stops with quick, interactive tours led by staff – it’s a great way to explore areas that are otherwise off limits to the public. Stops include Open the Front Gate, Unlock a Cell, Learn to Play Bocce Ball, Explore the Underground Punishment Cells, and more.

Exhibition highlights:

  • Al Capone’s Cell: you’ll get to see the very cell where the infamous Chicago-area gangster served 8 months of his 1-year sentence at Eastern State Penitentiary. His cell includes many comforts not typically allowed to inmates, including furniture, rugs, artwork, and more.
  • Hands-On History: staff-led interactive exhibits and demonstrations throughout the ESP that explore areas of the prison typically off-limits to the public.
  • Artist Installations: art installations, chosen for their ability to address the primary themes of Eastern State, approach topics such as the American criminal justice system and the penitentiary’s past through thought-provoking displays.
  • And more.

Tips for visiting:

  • There is a guide-led Tour and Discussion every day at 2:00 pm (subject to availability, be sure to get to ESP early if you would like to attend).
  • Decide before you go whether you want to do the full audio tour and then go back and take time to do each Hands-On History exhibit, or, do them as you encounter them along the tour.
  • Most visitors spend around 2 hours at the Eastern State Penitentiary and last admission is one hour before close.
  • Dress for the weather – ESP does not have climate control.

Fun facts:

  • April 23, 1829: legislation passed specifying “separate or solitary confinement at labor.” This is used as correctional theory, and will become known as the Pennsylvania System.
  • The first female prisoner was received in 1831.
  • The first prison escape was in 1832. The escapee was captured but will manage to do it again in 1837.
  • The controversial practice of solitary confinement is officially abandoned at Eastern State Penitentiary in 1913.
  • Leo Callahan, an escapee in 1923, remains the only Eastern State prisoner to never be recaptured.
  • Inmate number C-2559 was Pep, “The Cat-Murdering Dog,” who served a life sentence.
  • Chicago gangster Al Capone serves 8 months at Eastern State Penitentiary in 1929.
  • In 1961 cellblocks are desegregated.
  • January, 1970: Eastern State Penitentiary closes.
  • First limited group tours of the building began in 1988.
  • In 1994 visitors were required to wear hardhats and sign liability waivers. In 2003 and 2008, visitors were no longer required to wear hardhats and sign liability waivers, respectively.
  • There are several ongoing Paranormal Investigations that take place within the penitentiary walls.
The Philadelphia Pass is the best choice for maximum savings and flexibility. Choose to use your pass for Eastern State Penitentiary tickets, then look to the list of other top attractions for your other Explorer Pass admission choices!

Hours

Open Every Day: 10:00am - 5:00pm
Last Entry: 4:00pm

Closings

Thanksgiving

Address

2027 Fairmount Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19130
 

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The Philadelphia Pass

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