Philadelphia is a city that is just steeped in American history, known as being the home to the country’s First and Second Continental Congresses and the ground on which the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed and introduced. So its no doubt that the city is chock full of sites rich with historical significance but there are also exciting adventures to be had that have no ties to American history whatsoever.
Independence National Historic Park sits in the heart of Philadelphia and almost whisks visitors back to the city’s political heyday. With Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell on grounds this is one of the historical highlights of any visit to Philadelphia. It was in Independence Hall that both the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were penned and signed by some of this country’s founders. The reliance on Philadelphia as a political hotbed was so strong that during 1790 and 1800 it served as the country’s capitol. Many of the original buildings in Independence National Historic Park have been preserved and are open to the public in much the same state as which they originally appeared. One iconic relic from this great era was not kept in great condition, but it is its flaw that perhaps makes it the best known relic across the country. The Liberty Bell is noted for its crack although there are actually several cracks in the great bell and many were repaired prior to the largest one which made it inoperable in 1846.
Lights of Liberty
Nothing caps off a day of historical highlights like the Lights of Liberty. And it’s the perfect location for an evening show if you’ve just seen Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell as its located right in Independence National Historic Park. Lights of Liberty is noted as the first ambulatory sound and light show of its kind in the entire world. Through this stunning display you’ll be transported back to the American Revolution as the battle is projected on the buildings around you. Take note that more than 200 years ago, the ground on which you’re standing to watch the battle recreation was the actual ground on which the real battle occurred. And to boost the emotional power of the show a little more, the entire event is accompanied by the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Within walking distance from Independence National Historic Park is the home of the most famous seamstress in the United States, Betsy Ross. Her 1740’s row home has been completely restored to the condition it was when she lived there in 1777. The self-guided audio tour lets you learn more about the woman and the era and depicts what the living conditions were like back in this tumultuous time in America. Beyond the house, if you’re lucky enough to visit in the spring or summer, is more activity as colonial crafters set up displays of period craftsmanship. And the Once Upon a Nation storytelling bench features narrators who are willing to share old tales of the area with guests. And if you’re lucky you can catch a presentation by local actors on the courtyard stage.
Named for the inventor and scientist, Benjamin Frankly, The Franklin Institute Science Museum houses incredible permanent and traveling exhibits. Of their most popular permanent treats is The Giant Heart, Space Command, Amazing Machine, Sports Challenge, The Franklin Airshow, The Train Factory, Sir Isaac’s Loft, Kid Science and the Joel N. Bloom Observatory. Traveling exhibits change with some frequency so it’s best to see what’s listed as their current guest on their website. One thing that doesn’t change at the Franklin Institute of Science Museum is the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial located in the rotunda. It’s a great tribute to a man that brought so much science and innovation to this country and the world.
Dismiss all ideas of a tank of water with some fish when thinking of the Adventure Aquarium in Philadelphia. This newly renovated facility is stocked with all sorts of animals of the wild including hippos, penguins, seals and of course fish. Although the aquarium is fantastic it’s the behind the scenes offerings that will really leave a lasting impression. These excursions cost a little bit more but how often do you get the chance to swim with sharks (safely), feed sea turtles, train seals, or get a in depth look at the life of a penguin?
Remarkably, the Philadelphia Zoo first opened its doors in 1859, making it the oldest zoo in the country and is today considered a leader in the nation with approximately 1,800 animals and 42 acres. Having just celebrated the 150th anniversary of the zoo there are new on the horizon. In 2009 the $17.5 million McNeil Avian Center will open to the public and invite guests to stroll through the lush natural-like habitats of more than 100 birds from around the world, many of these birds are rare or endangered so this may be your only chance to catch a glimpse of them. In addition to this new exhibit there are several habitats that have been delighting visitors for more than a century.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the largest museums of its kind in the United States. The collections housed within this magnificent building extend across two millennia and six continents. It seems as though the collections are ever changing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and they do have some regular rotation, but it’s the shear quantity of art that makes this museum feel continuously fresh. No matter how often you visit you’re sure to discover a little something you never noticed before. The museum is currently undergoing a renovation to the Perelman Building which is claimed to be bringing great advances in modernization to the museum. It’s quite possible that you can breeze through the entire museum in one day but a true art lover could also spend a whole day examining just one piece of artwork. No matter what your style, if you love art you’ll love it here.
Be forewarned that Philadelphia is so full of exciting things to do and see that you could easily go broke trying to cram everything in. So, to save a little money along the way, consider purchasing a Philadelphia Pass. The prices of passes vary but they all offer incredible deals including free entry to more than 30 attractions, line skipping privileges, you’ll save over $350 worth of entrance fees and there are additional benefits throughout the year.
Photo credit: micholitzii