Frequently Asked Questions


When are group tours available?

Guide-led group tours are available from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. A minimum of one week's notice is required to book guide-led tours; however, capacity is limited and tours are subject to availability. Morning tours sell out quickly. Please book early for best availability.

Can we come in the evening?

We’re flexible! Guided group tours may be scheduled after 5:00 pm; however, there is a $50 surcharge for these tours. These tours must begin at least 90 minutes prior to sunset.

You can obtain the time of sunset for a particular date on the U.S. Naval Observatory website.

How long should we plan for our visit?

For our standard hour-long tours, we recommend that groups plan on being at Eastern State for an hour and a half. If the site is open to the public, the group is welcome to stay longer to explore the site on their own, visit our Artist Installations and Prison History Exhibits or have lunch on the Penitentiary’s baseball field. If a group has limited time, we can also provide shorter tours.

Do we need to schedule our tour in advance?

Yes! Private group tours must be scheduled at least one week in advance. Our morning time slots fill up very quickly, especially during the school year, so we recommend scheduling your tour as soon as you chose the date and time you would like to visit.

Do you require a deposit? How can we pay?

We do not require deposits (except for paranormal investigations). Full payment is due at the start of the tour. We accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, Checks (made out to “Eastern State Penitentiary”) and cash. If you need to make special payment arrangements please call our Administrative Offices at
(215) 236-5111 x240.

What Academic Standards do your tours meet?

Our tours meet many state and national academic standards. Please download our Academic Standards Brochure to see the specific standards our tours meet.

How can I obtain your taxpayer identification number?

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc.’s taxpayer identification number is 31-1627155. A copy of our Form W-9 is also available for download.

Do you have a chaperone requirement?

No. You know your group best. Please plan on bringing an appropriate number of responsible chaperones. We provide one complimentary admission per fifteen paying visitors.

Do you comp teachers, bus drivers, tour leaders etc.?

Eastern State Penitentiary provides one complimentary admission per fifteen paying visitors (every 16th visitor is free). You may use this free admission pass for any member of your party.

How many people can I bring at once?

The maximum number of people we can accommodate at one time is 125 (the larger group will be broken up into several smaller groups). For groups with more than 125 people, we recommend that half of the group tour ESP while the other half of the group visit a nearby attraction. (Please see our Neighborhood Page for a list of nearby attractions). The two groups can then switch locations.

How do we get there?

Detailed written directions, information about nearby public transportation and a map are available on our Visit Page.

Where do we go when we arrive?

There is only one entrance to the Eastern State Penitentiary. The entrance is located on Fairmount Avenue between 21st and 22nd Street. Your tour guide will meet the group here. If a member of our tour staff is not waiting at the entrance when you arrive, please send one person to the ticket office (located in the entrance to your right) to announce your group’s arrival.

Is there car and van parking?

There is ample free on-street parking and a parking lot right next door. 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.

Is there bus parking?

Eastern State Penitentiary has no designated bus parking on site and the parking lot at 22nd Street & Fairmount Avenue does not permit bus parking. Bus parking is not permitted on the streets surrounding the Penitentiary.

Callowhill Bus Center

As part of the City of Philadelphia's continuing efforts to improve Center City traffic and parking, all buses, motor coaches and tour buses are prohibited from parking on city streets, including the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

The Philadelphia Parking Authority has identified the Callowhill Bus Center (CBC) at 2nd & Callowhill Streets as the designated bus parking location for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway attractions.

The CBC has accommodations for bus drivers including a lounge, television, vending and other amenities. The facility is also secured and monitored 24 hours a day. There is a fee of $20.00 per bus that covers parking all day with unlimited re-entry. For more information call (215) 829-3330 or visit The Philadelphia Visitors and Convention Bureau’s website at: http://www.philadelphiausa.travel/group-tour-planners/planning-tools/transportation/motorcoach-info/bus-parking/.

Sedgely Avenue DOWNLOAD THE PDF.

Bus drivers in need of short term parking may consider Sedgely Avenue as an alternative to the CBC. Although this is not an official bus parking location, as long as the driver remains with the vehicle, buses parking along Sedgely Avenue for a short amount of time usually have no problems. Sedgely Avenue is located about 5 blocks from Eastern State Penitentiary just off of Kelly Drive behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Sedgely Avenue DOWNLOAD THE PDF.

Can we buy lunch?

Several wonderful Fairmount Restaurants, only steps from Eastern State Penitentiary, can accommodate groups. Please see our Dining page for a list of local restaurants.

Can we bring a bag lunch?

Outdoor seating is available at the Penitentiary for groups bringing a bag lunch. Four picnic tables, located on the Penitentiary's baseball diamond, can comfortably accommodate up to 40 people. Only water, soda and juice are available for purchase on site.

Do you have a gift shop?

Yes. The Penitentiary shop carries a unique array of items, including a wide variety of books, clothing, mugs, magnets, posters and postcards. You are sure to find the perfect gift or a keepsake to remind you of your trip to Eastern State. The shop at Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, checks, and cash. Visit the shop in person, or check out the items highlighted for your convenience in the Penitentiary's Online Store!

Can we take pictures?

Absolutely! Bring a camera and extra film. Eastern State may be the most photogenic place you see in years! Disposable cameras are available for purchase in our gift shop.

Do we need to fill out a waiver?

No, waivers are no longer required for daytime tours. However, keep in mind that Eastern State Penitentiary remains in a state of semi-ruin. Visitors should exercise caution, and stay within the clearly marked public areas.

Are there any special security requirements?

No. Obviously alcohol and weapons of any kind are not permitted in the Penitentiary complex; however, there are no special security requirements at this time. ID is not required for entry. Backpacks are permitted, but you must keep them with you at all times.

Can you accommodate groups with special needs?

Yes. Many visitors in wheelchairs visit Eastern State Penitentiary every year. That said, the Penitentiary complex is not fully ADA compliant. The building is over 180 years old, and is a National Historic Landmark. Sections of it may never be fully accessible.

There is a small museum and gift shop which is only accessible by a set of 3 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.

Guide dogs, service animals, or service animals in training are welcome. All other animals are prohibited.

The digital equipment used for the "Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour includes special features for those with sight, hearing and mobility impairments. Special features include raised dots that indicate the number five on the keypad, color-coded and shaped control buttons, compatibility with hearing aid T-switch, lightweight design with comfortable carrying strap and telephone-style keypads with backlit buttons.

Large print scripts of the "Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour are also available free of charge in the Penitentiary Gift Shop.