A very famous meeting in Philadelphia took place in 1776. In 2016, the Democratic National Committee nominated the first woman to head a major political party’s ticket. No matter the era, Philadelphia maintains its place among the country’s most iconic historical moments.
Meeting and event planners can channel that history in this thriving, modern destination. Philadelphia’s landmark sites allow attendees to walk in the footsteps of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and George Washington. Many of the famed venues are minutes from the Pennsylvania Convention Center and world-class hotels. But Philadelphia is hardly stuck in the past—booking a record 713 events in 2016 as a testament to that fact.
As the nation’s original capital and its first World Heritage City, Philadelphia offers a variety of interesting and compelling destination assets to make any event one for the books.
Living History: Where to Host a Meeting in Philadelphia
Consider these legendary venues for off-site events.
The Liberty View at Independence Visitor Center
One revolutionary spot to kick off a meeting is footsteps away from where America was founded. In the heart of Philadelphia’s historic district, The Liberty View at Independence Visitor Center can accommodate up to 1,000 attendees for a standing reception or 500 for a seated meal. The terrace has the best view of Independence National Historical Park in the city. Re-enactors playing the country’s Founding Fathers, historic storytellers and musicians are available to bring history to life.
National Constitution Center
Fifty-five delegates converged on Philadelphia in 1787 for the Constitutional Convention, but more than 55 attendees can network and dine at the first-ever museum dedicated to the U.S. Constitution. The Grand Hall Overlook accommodates up to 800 attendees while the Grand Hall Lobby fits 650. The Rooftop Terrace is an outdoor venue available for a 400-person reception. Smaller boardrooms are also available for meetings for 30 attendees. When rented out fully, the center can host an event for 3,000 people. Attendees can put their John Hancock on a replica of the Constitution situated alongside 42 bronze statues of the country’s Founding Fathers.
Betsy Ross House
Legend has it George Washington himself was part of a three-person party that asked Betsy Ross to sew the original American flag. Her home, where Ross is said to have brought the Stars and Stripes to life, is available for receptions and dinners for 20 to 200 attendees. Guided tours are available during private events.
One North Broad
The Masonic Temple on Broad Street is one of Philadelphia’s most stunning architectural accomplishments. Completed in 1873, the temple hosts some of the Freemasons’ finest historical artifacts, not to mention stunning stained-glass windows. The on-site meetings and event space matches the level of elegance. Available for corporate board meetings, weeklong symposiums or off-site receptions, One North Broad includes meeting rooms for between 125 and 400 attendees and is only steps away from the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The Grand Ballroom and Grand Foyer hold 450 attendees for events when combined, or can be divided for two dramatic settings for hors d’oeuvres and a formal dinner.
In a city of firsts, it is hardly surprising the Philadelphia Zoo was the only facility of its kind when it opened in the United States. Charted in 1859, the zoo’s debut was delayed by the Civil War until 1874. Now, the 1,300-animal zoo receives more than 1 million visitors per year. It also hosts special events, receptions and fundraising dinners for up to 6,000 attendees. Daytime private tours for up to 500 attendees are also available as a teambuilding/educational experience. The zoo has also been host to other events like 5K runs.
These venues and activities are available for teambuilding and off-site excursions.
The Constitutional Walking Tour visits more than 20 historic sites in 75 minutes. The 1.25-mile trek is available year-round for groups up to 500. It can be incorporated into a teambuilding activity or built into a pre- or post-meeting itinerary.
Christ Church Philadelphia, founded in 1695, was the house of worship for no less than Benjamin Franklin (who is buried there) and George Washington. It is also the birthplace of the American Episcopal Church. Groups of 10 or more can tour the historic venue.
Lights of Liberty is a nighttime sound-and-light show that projects images from historic events onto the buildings where they occurred. Featuring music from the Philadelphia Orchestra and narration by celebrities, this activity runs from April through October.
Elfreth’s Alley was not part of the original plans for Philadelphia, but it’s hard to imagine the city without it. A designated National Historic Landmark, this stretch of 32 Federal and Georgian homes dates back to the early 1700s and is the oldest continually occupied residential street in the U.S. Elfreth’s Alley Museum House and the alley itself are available for private tours year-round.
Valley Forge National Historical Park is an off-site excursion (about 45 minutes outside Philadelphia) in which attendees can see where George Washington based camp in the winter of 1777-1778. His leadership and ability to build a team are lessons attendees can use in any industry. Forty-minute ranger-led walking tours and 90-minute trolley tours are available for groups of 10 or more.