by Sara Ahern
Massachusetts Native, Philly Raised, Pats Fan
We love road trips! While exploring New England tops our list, it is always fun to explore someplace new.
What is funny about this trip is that Philadelphia is a familiar place to me, having been raised in the Philly suburbs from second grade through high school, but I had an opportunity to visit it with Jay and a new lens as a tourist.
Philadelphia often gets bad-mouthed among the Northeast cities and, I think, there is something of an inferiority complex. It’s the “City of Brotherly Love”, but plays little brother to the big behemoth to the North, New York City. It’s super historic but its civics lessons and American culture are often overshadowed by Boston and Washington, D.C. In recent years, Philadelphia has been investing a lot into revamping its cultural sites and they have done a fantastic job within the city’s historic district.
We stayed in the “Old City” section of town in the historic Penn’s View hotel. The room was comfortable and charming, with lovely hardwood floors, an exposed brick wall, and an inviting Jacuzzi tub. The hotel is well known for its restaurant, Panorama, which has over 120 wines on tap and over 150 wines offered, making it the Guinness Book of World Records holder for being the world’s largest “wine preservation and dispensing system". It is located right near Penn’s landing, a cool outdoor attraction that is ideal to visit in the summer. Renowned restaurants of all types of cuisine are just a few short blocks up Market Street and nearby side streets. The tourist attractions lie just beyond the fun and festive area, about five blocks away.
We sauntered up Market Street Saturday morning to meet my family at the Constitution Center. Along the way, we passed by the historic buildings and porticos where Philadelphia’s most famous citizen, Benjamin Franklin, lived and conducted business.
Brother Dave reserved tickets for the Constitution Center’s program, which cost $29 for adults and provided joint admission to the center and the Museum of the American Revolution. The program at the Constitution Center is an excellent foundation for understanding and celebrating the founding of our country. What I appreciated most is that they do a superb job at recognizing and reminding us that the United States is a work in progress: that the original founding still left many groups disenfranchised, but that Civil Rights causes and legislation over the years has broadened and expanded those foundational rights. The program is just the right length (a three and four year old sat through it just fine). When you exit the program, there is an exhibit hall to peruse and to learn more.
A little later, we walked across Independence Mall, stopping in at the Visitor’s Center, bumping into the esteemed Mr. Franklin along the way. We walked towards Independence Hall, which is a free 30 minute exhibit running at :15 and :45 past the hour, and you normally need a ticket (available at the Visitor’s Center). January and February are the exception, being slow and you do not need one. The lines at both Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell were long and we were traveling with 5 kids under the age of 10, so we skipped them, and continued toward the Museum of the American Revolution.
The Museum of the American Revolution begins with a short 15 minute video that provides essential and helpful background and context about the American Revolution, if you, like me, have forgotten a bit of your high school history class. After the video, we toured a winding exhibit that walked you through the major events of the Revolution. Helpfully, the museum’s literature offers a “Cliff Notes” guide, pointing out the most important aspects that you should not miss if you are short on time (or are traveling with 5 children under the age of 10). Currently, the museum also has a special exhibit by a Revolutionary-era watercolor artist, which they paired with a hands-on encampment exhibit for the kids, who could dress up like soldiers and play for a little while while their parents took in the more cerebral paintings.
We had a blast in Philadelphia and only scratched the surface of what the city has to offer. We will be back to explore additional attractions and have our sights set on the Benjamin Franklin Museum and the National Museum of Jewish American History, among others.
It is particularly noteworthy that we recently traveled beyond our New England comfort zone right when the Patriots are preparing to take on the Eagles in Super Bowl LII. Although I brought my Pats fan shirt, I wore it proudly, but only within the safety of my parents’ New Jersey home.
Although I have a new found appreciation for the town in which I grew up, I still remain a loyal Pats fan. Go Pats!
Sonny's Cheesesteaks: www.sonnyscheesesteaks.com
Philadelphia Cheesesteak Guide: visitphilly.com/articles/philadelphia/top-10-spots-for-authentic-philly-cheesesteaks/
Philadelphia Magazine: www.phillymag.com/
Old City: www.oldcitydistrict.org/
Penn's Landing: www.visitphilly.com.outdoor-activities/philadelphia/penns-landing/
Penn's View Hotel and Panorama: pennsviewhotel.com/
Independence Visitor Center: www.phlvisitorcenter.com/