Independence National Historical Park, which has earned the nickname "America's most historic square mile," has lately seen a different type of visitor – Pokémon Go players.
While many are more interested in the game's goal of catching 'em all, the park has embraced the opportunity to also interest them in historic landmarks that tell the story of the nation's founding.
The game allows players – also know as trainers – to catch virtual Pokémon on the map interface and collect necessary items at PokeStops. Different Pokémon are available depending on location. Catching enough of some Pokémon allows trainers to evolve their creatures and eventually battle other users in Pokémon gyms.
One of these gyms is located at a somewhat unlikely location: the Liberty Bell in Old City.
“We didn’t get a warning – I don’t think the game itself was on anybody’s radar until we started seeing visitors coming in and playing the game,” says Adam Duncan, a park ranger at Independence National Historical Park. “I think it enhances the visitor experience.”
The nature of the game allows trainers to utilize the gym while walking on the public grounds surrounding the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall buildings. The park sees approximately 4 million visitors per year.
Duncan says that their current visitor count at the sites are standard for the summer tourist season, but he sees visitors playing the game while wandering around the historical area as a part of their quest to catch more Pokémon.
“This new form of geo location technology is an opportunity to inspire visitors,” says Duncan. “We’ve embraced it.”
“I have become more interested in Old City because of the game,” says a Philadelphia-based gamer who goes by the user name PKSparkxx. “The atmosphere is different than how it’s portrayed on the news and in movies – they always shows the gritty side of Philly.”.
In addition to popular destinations such as the Liberty Bell, the game also includes Pokéstops at locations that can be overlooked.
“Most of it is artwork around Philly and a lot of old churches,” says Chris Kaser, the founder of Facebook group Pokémon GO Philadelphia. “It’s taken me to areas I don’t normally go to.”