Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site offers a wide range of services for our patrons.
Drop Off/ Pick Up Zone
A drop off / pick up zone is located directly in front of the penitentiary entrance on the northside of Fairmount Avenue at 21st Street.
While we do not have our own parking lot, there is a parking lot neighboring us at 22nd St & Fairmount Ave. Parking costs vary. For exact pricing, please call Parkway Corporation at (267) 765-3665.
Additionally, you can find parallel parking bordering the penitentiary, including two accessible parking spots located on Fairmount Avenue directly in front of the penitentiary’s entrance.
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 by public transit. Visit our Directions and Parking page for information about alternate transportation options.
The admissions area, which includes a small exhibit and the museum store, is only accessible by a set of three steps. This section of the penitentiary can easily be bypassed. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, our museum store is closed. Instead, convenience items and a selection of our best-selling merchandise are available for purchase at a fully-accessible pop-up store in our Dialogue Space, adjacent to the Prisons Today exhibit. In addition, a large selection of merchandise is available on our online store.
Personal Care Assistants
Personal Care Assistants are always provided complimentary admission when accompanying a paying visitor to the museum.
Guide dogs, service animals, or service animals in training are welcome. All other animals are prohibited.
Discounted admission is available by request for Museums for All, ACCESS Card, and SEPTA Key Reduced Fare card holders. Due to COVID-19, we have temporarily waived all costs! Card holders will be granted free admission (usually $2) for up to four guests for daytime historic tours. Visiting guests must present their valid ID upon arrival.
We have also temporarily waived fees for people with disabilities. Upon request, visitors with a disability will receive free admission (usually $2) for daytime historic tours. Personal Care Assistants are always provided complimentary admission when accompanying a disabled visitor to the museum.
Because these offers must be redeemed on site, timed reservations are not required. These discounts are not valid for special events like Night Tours or our annual haunted house fundraiser, Terror Behind the Walls.
Know Before You Go
Use our virtual map to help find your way through the site.
Since most of the historic site is not climate controlled and has limited running water, we recommend checking the forecast on the day of your visit to prepare appropriately for the weather. This includes dressing for comfort and bringing or purchasing bottled water. Sandals, flip-flops, open-toed shoes and high heels are strongly discouraged.
Our Prisons Today exhibit and our pop-up museum store are currently the only climate-controlled space open to visitors on site.
Eastern State Penitentiary has both indoor and outdoor spaces for guests to explore. The outdoor spaces are mostly poured concrete, with occasional gravel areas. Additionally, there is a baseball field with outdoor terrain, mostly grass. There is an accessible boardwalk on top of the outdoor terrain which allows access to our exhibit Prisons Today and our pop-up museum store. Inside the cellblocks the floors are stone. Both inside and outside, terrain can occasionally be uneven.
A three-stall portable restroom trailer with running water is available at the beginning of the tour route (near audio stop 1). One stall is ADA accessible.
Quiet and Rest Area
Benches throughout the site, including special mask relief areas, provide space to rest. If you need a quiet space or a place to rest, please talk to a staff member.
Guests With Limited Mobility
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. The tour route is equipped with ADA compliant ramps and meets most ADA guidelines.
The following areas are not currently ADA accessible:
- Museum Store. This area is only accessible by a set of three steps. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, our museum store is closed. Instead, convenience items and a selection of our best-selling merchandise are available for purchase at a fully-accessible pop-up store in our Dialogue Space, adjacent to the Prisons Today exhibit. In addition, a large selection of merchandise is available on our online store.
- Prisoner Visitation Area. This area is only accessible by a set of three steps. Here, visitors today can view a brief video about Eastern State’s history. Similar content is also available on “The Voices of Eastern State” Audio Tour.
- Admissions Desk. This area is only accessible by a set of three steps. This section of the penitentiary can easily be bypassed; simply consult a member of our team.
- Synagogue and Jewish Life Exhibit. There is a small step to access the synagogue and adjoining exhibit. This space had fallen into near total ruin during the penitentiary’s abandonment period. Today, it marks the first truly restored space in the historic site. You can learn more about the synagogue and Jewish life at Eastern State here.
- Catwalk in Cellblock 7. There are 18 stairs to access the catwalk of Cellblock 7, offering visitors an elevated view of one of Eastern State’s original cellblocks. This section of the tour route can easily be bypassed.
- Restored cells. There are a few stabilized cells located throughout the historic site (Cellblocks 1, 2, and 7) that visitors are invited to enter. These cells are only accessible by stepping over an eight-inch threshold.
- Underground Punishment Cells. This space is only accessible by a steep concrete stairwell comprised of 9 steps. The height clearance of this stairwell is roughly 5'5". The underground punishment cells were used for solitary confinement of prisoners who violated the rules. Today, this space is included in our Hands-On History program.
- Artist Installations. Some artist installations are located inside cells, which are only accessible by stepping over an eight-inch threshold. You can view current artist installations here.
The main audio route requires about 2,300 feet (0.44 miles) of walking.
Wheelchairs and Tri-Foot Cane Chairs
Wheelchairs and cane chairs are available to use free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Mobility aids are available upon arrival at the penitentiary entrance and at select locations along the tour route. The wheelchairs have footrests, can accommodate up to 500 pounds, and the seat dimensions are 22” by 18”.
Our Accessibility Committee is working to add open captions and to provide transcriptions so that all videos and films onsite are accessible. All films in our Prisons Today exhibit have open captions.
The digital equipment used for "The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour includes special features for those with sight, hearing and mobility impairments. These 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.
Sign Language Interpretation
Sign language interpreters are available by request. Please email Guest Support at [email protected] at least two weeks prior to your visit to request an interpreter.
Large Print Materials
Large print scripts of "The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour are available free of charge in Admissions.
Verbal Description Tours
Verbal descriptive interpreters are available by request. Please email Guest Support at [email protected] at least two weeks prior to your visit to request an interpreter.
We strive to make the penitentiary and our programs and exhibits accessible to visitors of all ages and abilities. We value your feedback and ideas. Please share your thoughts with our Accessibility Committee Chairperson:
Vice President, Director of Operations
(215) 236-5111 x212