This is the city's official visitor center as well as the gateway to Independence National Historical Park. Here, you'll find a fully staffed concierge-and-trip-planning desk, which provides information on the Park, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Zoo, and other attractions, as well as a reservation and ticketing service. Before you set off on a walking tour, acquaint yourself with Colonial American history by watching the Founding Fathers come to life in the 30-minute movie Independence, one of the films shown in the center's two theaters. There's also a coffee bar with sandwiches, salads, and desserts, and an excellent bookstore, where you can stock up on books, videos, brochures, prints, wall hangings, and souvenirs of historic figures and events. An atrium connects the visitor center to a renovated underground parking area. The outdoor café, Independence Mall Cafe, on the east side of the visitor center, is open May through October.
To see two of the city's famous historic homes—the Bishop White and Todd houses—you'll need to stop at the information desk to get a free, timed ticket, and reserve a spot on one of the tours, each of which takes about an hour.