Dylan in the Details is a travel interested in culture, history, and giving you the best recommendations for your next trip!

Local Lifestyle: Philadelphia, PA (During the Government Shutdown)

Local Lifestyle: Philadelphia, PA (During the Government Shutdown)

As I write this, the United States government has been partially shut down for just over three weeks. In addition to very serious consequences of government employees not being paid, important services not being distributed and other very real issues, a government shutdown also means that the Park Service and National Parks Sites are closed. Some cities rounded up enough funds to keep some sites open during the holiday vacation time, but now that we’re into January, most, if not all, sites are officially closed.

A closed Parks Service means that visitors to Philadelphia will not be able to see two of our biggest claims to fame, The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. However, never fear! Below is a list of things you can still do in Philadelphia, even if the government is closed.

The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall

I know, I know – didn’t I just say they’re closed? They are. Technically. However, they don’t stop existing simply because the doors are locked. As long as you stay beyond the barricades, you can still walk the perimeter of Independence Hall and take pictures. (Bonus points if you give yourself a guided tour and read aloud from the Wikipedia page as you do it.)

The Liberty Bell is an even simpler fix as the visitors  center is mostly glass. Simply walk down to the end (closest to Independence Hall) and take a look on in. When we visited this past weekend during the shutdown, people were calmly and congenially queueing by this window to get a makeshift photo. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing.

Liberty bell peering

Go to a Museum

While the Parks Service does control a lot of the historic houses and some museums, there are still plenty throughout the city that are independent. Here are a few of my personal recommendations. (Note: The new Museum of the American Revolution is supposed to be amazing. Look for an upcoming review after we finally visit it!)

Mummers Museum

The only thing more Philadelphia than the Mummers is a cheesesteak – and even that is a tough call to make. In essence, Mummers are local citizens who dress up on New Year’s Day and parade through the city. Their website says the first parade was in 1901, so you can imagine the changes that have come about since then. The Mummers Museum is small, unique, and unlike anything you’ve ever seen, I’d guarantee it. (Plus admission is $5 – what do you have to lose?)

Mummers Museum

African American Museum in Philadelphia

Although the AAMP is associated with the Smithsonian system, it is still open. Dedicated to telling the story of African Americans in Philadelphia, the museum helps to round out some of the gaps in the traditional story of Philadelphia as the ‘hub of freedom’. With its interactive design, this museum is perfect if you have kids. At the time of writing they had a temporary art exhibit by John Dowell called “Cotton: The Soft, Dangerous Beauty of the Past”, which was incredible. (The staff member at the front desk also mentioned that one Saturday a month is free admission, but I wasn’t able to confirm that on their website.)

African American Museum in Philadelphia

National Museum of American- Jewish History
Also a Smithsonian affiliate, the NHAJH is open during the shutdown. This museum is large and beautifully curated, but is also very involved and requires a lot of reading. If you are interested in the subject matter, I absolutely recommend it. If you only have a passing interest, then I may recommend passing. With four floors of artifacts and history, you could easily spend all day here.

National Museum of American Jewsh History

Mutter Museum

I would remiss not to add this to the list, even though I, personally, never want to go here again. The Mutter Museum is run by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and their tagline is that visitors get ‘disturbingly informed’. Those two facts should tell you everything you need to know. Full of medical oddities, abnormalities, and other exhibits that are, well, gross. Plenty of people love this museum, as evidenced by its constant crowd of visitors. If you’re going to go, be there when it opens for about an hour of less busy viewing.


See a Show

The amount of venues, theaters, and clubs that exist would require more space than I have. For big names and touring companies, the Kimmel Center is the hub. Check out their website for a schedule. And there are plenty of other excellent venues for theater, comedy, poetry,etc. Let yourself fall down a rabbit hole of awesome options.

Merriam Theater - Kimmel Center

Eat and Drink

Here’s a previous post where I listed some of my favorite bars and here’s one addition.

Yards Brewery

In a huge industrial space that’s been newly remade into their taproom, Yards is a nice place to drink or eat. They have an extensive beer list, plus a few other options if for the non-beer person in your group. Their menu is billed as an homage to Philly favorites and is not necessarily your standard bar food, which is a nice change. The only thing I would caution you against getting is the pork belly, unless you really like the fat. (Yes, I know pork belly is supposed to be fatty, but it was too much for my taste.)

Yards brewery

Visit Your Fictional Friends

Rocky Balboa Statue

Can you come to Philly and not visit Rocky? I think not. With a statue located outside the Philadelphia Art Museum’s iconic steps, you have no excuse to leave without seeing him. Visiting Rocky (and humming to yourself as you run up the steps) does not require a ticket to the Art Museum and probably won’t even get you any weird stares from locals – everyone is so used to it


Mac’s Tavern

While I know nothing about this, the Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia fan in my life says Mac’s is important. Aside from some Always Sunny memorabilia on the walls, this really could be any bar. Their drinks are about average for a city place and they have a menu that ranges from snacks to entrees, so I could see it being a hit with everyone from fans to clueless pedestrians alike.


Did you visit Philadelphia during the shutdown? Did you find anything else worth adding to the list? Let me know in the comments!


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