Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Summer Road Trip 2015: Philadelphia

Summer Road Trip 2015: 1st Stop Philadelphia

We're traveling with a 13-year-old and she had never seen Philadelphia. We were only staying in the area for a day and a half, so we hit some highlights knowing we would save some sights for another trip. 

We arrived late in the afternoon so we did the fun thing first and visited the Rocky statue at the foot of the Philadelphia Art Museum steps (2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway). In that area are some the USA's greatest museums including the biggest collection of Rodin's works outside of Paris and the famous children's Please Touch museum. It's a great bike riding area also. By the way, Rocky is also at the Visitor Center. 

We walked a bit in the historic area so that we could plan the next day. It was extremely hot, even for Philly so the National Constitutional Center (525 Arch St. $8-14.50) was in the back of my mind just in case. Normally, it's a must do, but we decided to save it for the next time for her. I've been there and it is a great experience. The U.S. Mint is across the street, another great tour. 

We walked down Arch Street. Along the way you'll see the Christ Church Burial Ground where you can glimpse Ben Franklin's grave right on the corner (or you can pay a couple of bucks to go in). You'll also pass the Arch Street Meeting House (remember, you're in the land of Quakers). Near there is the oldest Jewish congregation, Congregation Mikveh Israel in a beautiful, modern building. 

At Betsy Ross' house (where you can decide for yourself whether she sewed the first American flag or not), you'll take a self-guided tour, with or without audio, of an extremely tiny house. The items are either authentic of the era or good replicas. 239 Arch St., $4-$7. 

Head down N. 4th Street to Market Street toward Franklin Court, an interesting group of buildings and remains of buildings. The Post Office is real, the Printing Shop will give you a demo of house items were printed back then and you can see where Ben's house was. A surprisingly interesting building is actually gutted out to show the architectural and archeological aspects of the building: a good site for architects and historians. These attractions are free but the must see Benjamin Franklin Museum has a small fee ($2-5). 

Come out the other side to Chestnut Street. Normally, the National Liberty Museum has an admission fee but that day they were promoting local artisans so it was free. The message feels a bit preachy but there are some powerful exhibits. Or go back out the Market Street side to the National Museum of American Jewish History (another one we saved for next time). 

Walk across the street to see Carpenters Hall and then head back to the Independence Mall area. 

The Liberty Bell Center may have a long line.  Go early or toward closing time. You will have to pass through security airport style (keep your shoes on!). There is a series of exhibits before you see the bell itself. It's the real bell, the one in the belfry of Independence Hall is a replica. 

You have to get tickets at the Independence Visitor Center for Independence Hall. You will see the real room of the Continental Congress (Carpenters Hall, location of the First Continental Congress is down the street). If you've seen the movie "1776," you'll note that the set designers did a great job. You'll have to go through security. In the evening, you don't need tickets but the line is L-O-N-G. Plan this if you really want to see it. 

From Independence Hall, walk down to 419 S. 6th to see Mother Bethel AME Church, the oldest African American congregation. 

After lunch at the Reading Terminal Market (where half the booths were closed because it was Sunday), we went to the L-O-V-E sculpture at JFK Plaza, near City Hall. Across from there are the famous sculptures of board game pieces, apparently a very popular place for skateboarders. 

The day before, my niece and husband snacked on Philly's famous cheesesteaks but from Dalessandro's, (600 Wendover St.) a local eatery but not a well kept secret. Grab the menu first, they don't seem to be too patient for first timers. 

There is more to see in this area but we saved some for later. If you're driving, you'll want to pass by Penn's Landing and other areas.