Night Tours: Winter Holidays at Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary has found ways to celebrate the holidays that also honors its mission of criminal justice reform advocacy.

A view of the exterior of the Eastern State Penitentiary.

Eastern State Penitentiary. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Eastern State Penitentiary’s crowd-pleasing Night Tours program has returned for the holiday season.

Similar to recent Halloween events, Eastern State has found ways to celebrate the holidays that honor its mission of criminal justice reform advocacy.

There will be self-guided audio tours, massive projections, and a pop-up museum featuring artifacts from throughout the prison’s history. The Fair Chance beer garden, a partnership with Triple Bottom Brewing, will feature food and drinks from fair chance businesses that are committed to employing formerly incarcerated people.

For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, visitors will be able to see the Catholic Chaplain’s Office, which prominently features a nativity scene mural painted by a prisoner in the 1950s. There, you can write holiday cards for incarcerated people, acknowledging how difficult the season can be for people in prison and their families.

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Visitors will be presented with first-person accounts of what it is like to experience the holidays behind bars via a multimedia production created by men currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution – Chester.

Eastern State Penitentiary is also continuing its annual tradition of hosting a toy drive benefiting local children whose parents are currently incarcerated. Donations can be delivered during daytime tour hours (Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) as well as during the evening tours. Items can also be purchased online and shipped directly to the penitentiary:

ATTN: Toy Drive
Eastern State Penitentiary
2027 Fairmount Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19130

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Night Tours: Winter Holidays will run Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings through Dec. 23, plus every evening from Dec. 26 through 30. Entry times begin at 6 p.m. Closing times vary nightly. All staff and visitors are required to wear a mask in indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status.

Saturdays just got more interesting.

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