FAQ

There are lots of tours, exhibits, and programs on your website. What’s the best way to see the penitentiary?

All of our daytime programming (“The Voices of Eastern State” Audio Tour, Hands-On History, artist installations, and history exhibits) is included in one admission price. When you arrive, you'll get an mp3 player and headset that will guide you through the penitentiary complex and explain the prison's history. This audio guide, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi, contains a main audio route (for a general overview), plus additional stops for subjects like escapes, riots, sports, sexuality, and more. You are free to tour at your own pace and to listen to (or skip) stops based on your interests. The audio guide is a great way to learn about and to see Eastern State Penitentiary.

While you're taking the audio tour, you'll see artist installations throughout the property. Most of them are accompanied by audio tour stops that you can listen to for more information about the work.

Throughout the day, all over the penitentiary complex, we offer quick, interactive tours led by our tour staff. This program is what we call Hands-On History. The stops include Open the Front Gate, Unlock a Cell, Learn to Play Bocce Ball, Explore the Underground Punishment Cells, and more. They're a great way to explore otherwise-off-limits areas of the prison and to get a new perspective on prison life. Some visitors join these tours as they come across them on-site, while others plan time for Hands-On History after they're finished with the audio tour.

Note: If you visit December through March, we offer a guided Winter Adventure Tour in lieu of the audio tour. Select artist installations and Hands-On History stops are also available during these winter months. Click here for more information about Winter Adventure Tours.

How do I buy tickets?

Tickets are available online or at the door, subject to availability. We strongly recommend purchasing tickets online for Winter Adventure Tours (December through March).

How much do tickets cost?

Admission is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $10 for students and kids (7-12). Not recommended for children under the age of seven.

Do you offer group rates?

Yes! Discounted tickets are available for groups of 15 or more. Click here for more information.

Do you offer military discounts?

Yes! Military personnel receive $2 off admission. Please show your military-issued ID in Admissions.

Where does the money go?

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc. is a charitable nonprofit organization as described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Proceeds benefit preservation efforts at this National Historic Landmark. Thank you for your support!

How do I get there?

Eastern State Penitentiary is located at 2027 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19130. Click here for customized driving directions.

The penitentiary is accessible to Philadelphia Trolley Works, Big Bus, The Phlash, Philadelphia Bike Tours, and several SEPTA bus routes. Click here for more information.

Where can I park?

While we do not have our own parking lot, there is a parking lot neighboring us that is reasonably priced. Parking costs generally range from $3.00 to $10.00 depending on the length of your stay. For exact pricing, please call Parkway Corporation at (215) 569-8400 x4037.

Additionally, you can find parallel parking bordering the penitentiary. Eastern State is so large that it occupies one full city block. Bordering Eastern State on the west (to the left if you are facing the entrance) is 22nd Street. On the Eastern State side of 22nd Street, parallel parking is free and unlimited. The same is true of Brown Street, which borders our back wall. Again, parking is free and unlimited only on the Eastern State side of the street. If you choose to park anywhere else in the neighborhood, just exercise caution and read all signs.

Eastern State Penitentiary is also accessible to Philadelphia Trolley Works, Big Bus, The Phlash, Philadelphia Bike Tours, and several SEPTA bus routes. Click here for information about alternate transportation options.

Is the neighborhood safe?

Eastern State Penitentiary is located in beautiful, historic Fairmount, a neighborhood of Victorian homes and some of the best restaurants in the region. We are located in the Parkway Museums District, just five blocks away from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

We are fortunate that Fairmount is quite safe. You should, of course, take all the safety precautions that you would normally take. Lock your car, and don’t leave valuables in clear view inside the vehicle.

When should I arrive?

Admission is untimed. Eastern State Penitentiary is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm. The last entry is at 4 pm, but most visitors spend about two hours on site.

Some visitors enjoy taking a tour in the morning, having lunch in the neighborhood, and coming back in the afternoon to see the artist installations and attend the Hands-On History stops.

How long does the tour take?

At Eastern State Penitentiary, your length of stay is up to you! General admission is all-inclusive and includes “The Voices of Eastern State” Audio Tour (or guided Winter Adventure Tour), Hands-On History interactive experiences, and a critically acclaimed series of artist installations. You are free to tour at your own pace and to listen to (or skip) stops based on your interests.

The main audio route, which provides a general overview of the penitentiary’s history, includes ten audio stops and lasts about 35 minutes total. There are several additional “random access” stops, which are each a few minutes long.

Most visitors stay about two hours, but there is enough content for you to stay all day! We’ve got lots to see. Same day re-entry is allowed with proof of purchase.

What should I wear?

Eastern State Penitentiary is open rain or shine, and the building does not have climate control. Summers can be quite hot, and winters can be quite chilly. Please dress for the weather, and be sure to wear appropriate footwear. Sandals, flip-flops, open-toed shoes, and high heels are not recommended.

Do you have a cafeteria?

While there are no dining facilities within the penitentiary complex, there are several wonderful restaurants in the surrounding neighborhood. We strongly recommend calling ahead to make reservations for large groups. Click here for a list of suggested establishments.

If you prefer to bring a bagged lunch, there are picnic tables (uncovered) on the penitentiary baseball field that seat about 30 people total. Seating is first come, first served.

Can I take pictures?

Yes! Eastern State Penitentiary may be the most picturesque place you’ve seen in years. We encourage you to bring a camera when visiting the historic site, but we ask that you honor a few policies when photographing here. Click here for more information.

Photographers using a tripod must purchase an equipment pass for an additional fee of $10. Equipment passes are valid for one full tour season.

Any photographer (professional, amateur, or student), ad agency, or other commercial entity wishing to photograph models; photograph in non-public spaces; or conduct shoots that require equipment aside from a single tripod, monopod, easel, or stool must make reservations in advance. Click here for more information.

Is it appropriate for kids?

Eastern State Penitentiary is a wonderful place to bring kids ages seven and up. Our Eastern State Challenge booklet, free with admission for kids, provides an engaging scavenger hunt throughout the prison complex.

Eastern State is not recommended for children under the age of seven. The building is in a state of semi-ruin and can pose safety hazards to unattended children. There are also some audio tour stops that contain adult content, but these stops are appropriately marked.

Click here for more information about visiting Eastern State Penitentiary with kids.

Is it safe?

Thousands of visitors tour Eastern State Penitentiary every week without incident.

That said, Eastern State Penitentiary was abandoned for more than 20 years and remains in a state of semi-ruin. Visitors should exercise caution and stay within the clearly marked public areas. Ground surfaces can be uneven, and stone edges can be sharp. Please watch children carefully, as the building can pose safety hazards to unattended children. For visitors’ safety, the penitentiary complex is monitored by a closed circuit surveillance system.

Is it scary?

Our daytime tour programming is not meant to provide a scary experience. Most visitors find the sun-lit cellblocks to be surprisingly beautiful.

The tour content can be disturbing at times, but our goal is to explain and interpret the penitentiary’s complex history, to place current issues of corrections and justice in an historical framework, and to provide a public forum where these issues are discussed.

If you’re interested in a scary, theatrical experience, Eastern State Penitentiary houses a massive haunted attraction each fall to raise funds for historic preservation. Terror Behind the Walls does not affect operation of the historic site, which remains open from 10 am to 5 pm for daytime historical tours every day, year-round. Click here for more information about Terror Behind the Walls, our annual haunted house fundraiser.

Is it haunted?

Many people believe that Eastern State Penitentiary is haunted. As early as the 1940s, officers and inmates reported mysterious visions and eerie experiences in the ancient prison. With the growing interest in paranormal investigations, Eastern State Penitentiary may now be the most carefully studied building in the United States. Nearly 60 paranormal investigation teams explore the site each year, capturing extensive evidence of ghosts within the penitentiary walls. Click here for information about paranormal investigations at ESP.

Eastern State Penitentiary has been featured on SyFy’s Ghost Hunters; the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, Paranormal Challenge, and Most Haunted Live; Fox Television’s World’s Scariest Places; TLC’s America’s Ghost Hunters; and MTV’s FEAR. Click here for extensive clips that document real investigations inside the nearly 200-year-old prison.

Can I bring an EVP recorder or other piece of paranormal investigation equipment?

In order to prevent disruptions to our daytime visitors, all paranormal investigations must be conducted at night. During nighttime paranormal investigations, you are free to bring any recording equipment you need. Click here for information about booking an investigation at ESP.

Is the penitentiary handicap accessible?

Many visitors with special needs visit Eastern State Penitentiary every year. That said, the penitentiary complex is not fully ADA compliant. The building is nearly 200 years old and is a National Historic Landmark. Sections of it may never be fully accessible.

There is a small exhibit and gift shop that are only accessible by a set of three steps. This section of the penitentiary can easily be bypassed. The rest of the tour route is equipped with ADA compliant ramps and meets most ADA guidelines. Our staff is available to help with mobility issues to the best of their ability. Click here for more information.