Philly’s most underrated tourist attraction is open for the season

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The road to Fort Mifflin leads past industrial fuel facilities, long-term airport parking lots and unidentified buildings surrounded by barbed-wire fencing. You’ll edge so close to the runways of Philadelphia International Airport that you might wonder if you took a wrong turn somewhere along the way.

But keep going: the roar of airplanes means you’re almost there. Soon you’ll pull into a small parking lot and walk across pristine grounds to a fortress with a thousand stories to tell.

One of the greatest bombardments of the Revolutionary War took place here in 1777. About 400 American troops garrisoned at Fort Mifflin frustrated British naval attempts to re-supply their occupying forces in Philadelphia. Hundreds of men died and the fort was decimated, but the standoff allowed Gen. George Washington and his troops time to arrive safely at Valley Forge and settle in for the winter. Also known as Mud Island, this multipurpose fort served as a federal prison during the Civil War and an ammunition depot during World War I and II.

Owned by the city of Philadelphia, Fort Mifflin tends to get squeezed out by more well-known historical landmarks like Valley Forge and Washington Crossing. But it’s an important stop on any Pennsylvania history tour, and in recent years, it has hosted renaissance faires, 5K runs and after-hours galas, and played up its reputation as a haunted destination with candlelight ghost tours and paranormal workshops.

Most days, costumed guides and interpretive signs are available to help navigate the grounds, and there are often cannon and musket firing demonstrations on weekends and holidays.

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