A blimey rascal seems to be breathing down my neck. As he chuckles
menacingly, hissing threats in my ear in three-dimensional sound, he’s a little spooky!
Realistic? So it seems--so realistic that it can be distracting, a little too engaging. I have
to remember to look up at the light images projected on the sides of historic buildings.
Narration by Walter Cronkite, Charlton Heston, Ossie Davis, and Whoopi Goldberg is
accompanied by sound effects produced at Skywalker Sound. The musical score is
played by the Philadelphia Orchestra. It’s the first ambulatory production of its kind.
We get large, padded headphones, check the gift shop, and meet our group at PECO
Energy Liberty Center (corner of 6th and Chestnut in the Public Ledger
A slew of guides walk with us to make sure we pace ourselves accurately and don’t get
ahead of the narration. We are the first tour of the evening, scheduled at 8:20pm, just at
dusk. Feeling a little top-heavy in our huge headphones, we walk through Franklin
Court, Independence Park, and several squares and streets in the Historic District as we
witness, firsthand, so to speak, events leading up to and including the Revolution.
We begin at Franklin Court. I’m not used to all the commotion yet, and I have to adjust
my headphone volume. With this, I miss some narration, but catch enough to know that
the jeering voices I hear are in an uproar over the Stamp Act. We proceed to Carpenters’
Hall, where we eavesdrop on the First Continental Congress and then a political rally
outside Second Bank, where George Washington is about to depart for command of the
Continental Army. Ben Franklin returns from England and has some Revolutionary
sentiment to impart to a gathering mob--us! I don’t believe any of the images
we see move. Ben just stands there stock still at the top of the stairs.
In a woodsy area, three video screens display images of a battle. Soldiers fire at us from
front and back. Alongside the walk is an overturned wagon with blue smoke billowing
up from it.
We end the tour at Independence Hall, lit up with various hues while patriotic music
celebrates the birth of a nation. It’s pretty moving to an American, and the whole show is
available in other languages, too: Spanish, Japanese, German, and Italian. More here.
We call 1-877-GO-2-1776 almost two weeks ahead to reserve our spots. PECO Energy
offers several sessions at 15-minute intervals beginning at dusk, Tuesdays through
Saturdays until Labor Day and Thursdays through Saturdays through October. Even as
early as we call, only one show is available for the evening we want--Friday, so that we
can leave the next evening open for the Candlelight Walking Tour of Society Hill,
offered only on Saturdays. If, like us, you are hell-bent on cramming your Philly
weekend with maximum distance, then you may want to book these evening walks and
conserve your days for museums.