Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pennsylvania Family Trip: Philadelphia

I ended my last post on Tuesday evening once we arrived in Philadelphia and checked into our hotel.  

Wednesday morning Zoe woke up very early.  Sam got up with her and explored the hotel a little while we slept.  Around 7 a.m. we all ate breakfast downstairs before getting ready and walking to Independence Square. 



The architecture in parts of Philly is stunning.

We took a slight detour since this was our first day exploring the city, but eventually made it to Independence National Historic Park.  We visited the visitor center where we picked up our Independence Hall tour tickets and purchased Zoe and Bennett Park Passports.  Our first stop was the Liberty Bell Center.  At this point Bennett was still interested in hearing me read various facts about the Liberty Bell.  He wasn't as excited to see it as he had been in previous weeks, but I really enjoyed it.


Fun Fact #1: The Passport to Your National Parks program "launched in 1986, provides information and encourages visitation to all of America’s national parks. It includes a passport book that lists all national parks in the United States and U.S. territories, and provides space for ‘cancellation’ stamps which can be found in almost every national park in the system."
















 Bennett discovered the bell does have a crack and no longer functions as a bell.


We then walked to Christ Church Burial Ground, where we visited Benjamin Franklin's grave along with several other influential men and women from America's early years.  



Bennett was throwing his penny on Benjamin Franklin's grave.


We made a pit stop at the Betsy Ross house, but decided not to go inside due to the cost and the crowd.  Around the block was Christ Church, where many of our founding fathers worshipped (Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and many others).  It still functions as a church today.



 Just hanging out in George Washington's pew.


By this time it was lunchtime, so we walked to Karma and enjoyed some Indian food.  The Collier's met us for lunch.  It was so great to see them and to meet Jane for the first time.  They were our closest friends in Lexington and the last time I saw them was Christmas 2012.

After lunch, we toured Independence Hall.  It is much smaller than I anticipated, but it was incredible to see the exact place where the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were created and signed.  George Washington's chair still sat at the front of the room.  I used to say I didn't like history.  Several months ago Sam pointed out, from his point of view, I really love history.  I have come to realize he is correct, particularly when I am learning history in a hands-on environment.

 We toured the room you see in this painting.


 George Washington's original chair.

Coutroom
The perfect judge!!

It had been raining on and off.  Jane was tired.  Bennett was tired.  Our feet were tired.  So we headed back toward the hotel for some downtime.  We stopped by Reading Terminal Market (more on this later), because it was a few blocks from where we were staying.  WOW!  Such a neat place.  We didn't not get to see all of it, but we did get Bennett a ice cream cone and Zoe a lollipop.

We decided to spend the evening at the hotel, because the kids were melting down and clearly needed an early bedtime.  We swam for a short time and ate a OVER PRICED dinner, but we survived and went to bed early.

Thursday we had another fun filled day that began with our first public transportation adventure as a family.  Bennett was excited to ride the bus.  He and Zoe waited patiently for it to arrive.  It was about a 30 minute ride to the Please Touch Children's Museum.

Fun Fact #2: The Museum is located in Memorial Hall, which was originally built for the 1876 U.S. Centennial Exhibition.







The facility is beautiful and clean. The interactive toys worked and the pieces were all there (missing pieces is my pet peeve with children's museums).  I can not say enough good things about the Please Touch Museum.  We had fun from the moment we stepped off the bus.  Upon entering we were greeted by a 40 foot replica of Lady Liberty's Arm and Torch made out of toys.  The kids ran to the right where the River Adventures Exhibit was located.  Here the kids could play with sailboats, explore currents, bubbles, rainbows, etc.  It is very similar to the water area at children's museum here in Tampa.  From here we could also see the treehouse which was part of the Wonderland exhibit.  You could descend down the rabbit hole to enter the world of Alice's Wonderland, which included a maze with the Tea Party, the Hall of Doors and Mirrors, the Pool of Tears, the Duchess' Kitchen, and a Fairytale Garden for toddlers.




At this time, Bennett noticed the area to the left of the torch, which was the Roadside Attractions Exhibit.  I have seen a few "transportation" exhibits geared toward children and this one had excellent variety.  B pretended to fill a vehicle up with gas, change the tire, fix the engine and drive.  He powered a backhoe down into a pool full of balls.  He walked up a ramp, entered a city bus, pretended to insert his money, and drive the bus.  There were lots of opportunities for role playing, which included a fenced in "park" with a road side food vendor cart, a magnetic flower/tree wall, and park bench.



They also had this Barbie house on display as a vintage toy!  I had to take a picture and send it to my sister.  This was the exact Barbie house we had growing up and I haven't seen one since I was 10 years old.  

Beyond Roadside Attractions was the Flight Fantasy Exhibit and Program room.  The idea of this exhibit is to use your body to make things go.  Bennett particularly enjoyed building a rocket and trying to blast it through a ring tower, rowing a conveyor belt filled with various flying objects, and turning a wheel which took cars through a mini car wash.  The program room is a place that provides daily arts-related programming.  The kids got to make tissue flowers.  There was also a reading corner, magna tiles, and Duplos.



Beyond River Adventures was the Rainforest Rhythm Exhibit.  This was surprisingly a very relaxing area.  The instruments were made from natural materials and were a part of rainforest animals or their environment.  For example, drums were a part of a log that was held by the trunk of an elephant.  If my memory serves me correctly the area included a giant rain stick, drums, xylophone, large floor piano, bamboo organ, and more.



The last room to the right housed a Carousel.

Fun Fact #3:  "Originally operating at Woodside Park—a favorite West Philadelphia amusement park located less than 10 blocks from Memorial Hall—the Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel was built by the Dentzel Carousel Company of the Germantown section of Philadelphia. While the carousel debuted at Woodside Park in 1924, many of the animals on the carousel are much older, dating back to 1908.
     The carousel was built “Philadelphia-style,” which means the animals are sculpted in vibrant, lifelike detail. The animals in the outer ring are stationary, while those on the inside rings rise and fall in a slow gallop. There are 52 hand-carved wooden animals in the menagerie, including 40 horses, four cats, two pigs, two goats and four rabbits." 
 Jane was not to excited about riding on a horse.
 But she liked the bench.


The Collier's were able to join us again (yay, for Ben taking time off work to hang with us).  Not only did they join us, they packed a lunch for our whole family.  We ate lunch in the cafeteria, before continuing to explore!!  

Zoe and Jane spent a lot of time downstairs in the toddler section of City Capers Exhibit.  They enjoyed picking carrots and potatoes, filling wagons, and rocking on the front porch among other things.  This exhibit is set up as a realistic urban environment and included a grocery store, a hospital exam room, a shoe store, a construction zone (Bennett's favorite), a kitchen with dining room,  and a few other things I can not remember.  As soon as you entered this area you felt like you were walking down the sidewalk of a city.  It was so fun and interactive.  Bennett spent 1.5 hours playing in the construction zone.  If you know my son you know this rarely happens.  It was the sweetest gift!!!  He, along with several other children loaded the wheel barrows with "bricks" and pushed them to a vertical lift belt.  They unloaded the "bricks" and manually cranked the lift belt, so the "bricks" could be unloaded inside the building.  You could build with them or throw them down a shoot where they could be restocked.  There was also a time clock Bennett enjoyed using and referred to his playing as "his work" several times.  











By this time, it was late.  Zoe was exhausted, but she was pushing through and having SO MUCH FUN.  The Collier's left to take Jane home for a nap while we stayed a little longer to allow time for the kids to explore the grocery store and the Centennial Exhibit.  We thoroughly enjoyed interacting with them in the grocery store.  We laughed a lot as we watched Bennett stockpile on sweets and bread.  




Our Centennial Exploration was short, but very informative.  Sam, Bennett, and myself enjoyed learning the history behind Memorial Hall through 20 ft X 30 ft model of the 1876 Exhibition grounds.  

Fun Fact # 4:  "As one of the last remaining pieces of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, Memorial Hall is a historical and architectural wonder!"

This area included a child size steam engine with train cars.  Zoe enjoyed putting "coal" in the engine and being a passenger.  This room was filled with train play, but we did not have the time to fully explore it.  

By this time we knew it was time to leave, but the kids wanted to stay (and so did I).  There was a show getting ready to begin in the theater, but Zoe still had not had a nap and we had to catch the bus, so we decided to leave.  Zoe was asleep in Sam's arms before we got off the Museum's property.  We took the bus to the Collier's.  It was fun to receive a tour of their home and to watch Ben interact with Bennett.  He was able to engage him in a way that really put a smile on my face.  We were blessed to share another meal with them (that they made) followed by a game of Apples to Apples while Zoe and Jane took turns :) playing with Jane's push toy.  We took the trolley (which becomes a subway) back to the hotel.  Bennett thought it was so cool that our trolley went underground.  



Friday we rode the bus to another portion of Fairmont Park to play at Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse.  This place is AMAZING and FREE!!!!!  It is home to a mansion (seriously), a 40 foot wood slide, and a 6 acre playground.  


Fun Fact #5:  "Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse was built with a bequest from Richard and Sarah Smith, and was dedicated to the memory of their adult son, Stanfield.  Smith’s beautiful, 16,000 square foot Playhouse was designed solely as a play space for children by one of Philadelphia’s most prominent late 19th century architects, James H. Windrim.  The Playground is situated on its original historic landscape – 6 1/2 acres of open fields, wooded terrain, and sloped hills – and is home to the century old Ann Newman Giant Wooden Slide, a treasured play experience for generations of Philadelphia’s children, as well as other unique pieces of play equipment."

We arrived soon after it opened.  The playhouse was basically empty, so we spent time playing on the second floor, which is included a reading room and another huge room filled with a 2 story doll house, kitchen, tunnel, imaginative play blocks, puzzles, and much more.






We spent very little time on the first floor, because the outdoor playground was calling our name.  Both Zoe and Bennett enjoyed the variety the playground offered.  There were several levels which included climbing structures, toddler play area, pirate ship, train, swings, merry go round, and the list goes on and on.





We decided it was time to take a break on the front lawn to enjoy a snack while waiting for the Collier's to arrive.  The weather was perfect and the environment relaxing.  The Collier's arrived and joined us for snack time.  Bennett was ready to go down the wooden slide.  The line was nonexistent, as the majority of children were eating lunch, so we were able to go down it 20+ times.  Everyone went down at least once, but Bennett (and Sam) went down it over and over and over again.  It was a lot of fun!!!!!!






Brittany and I took the girls inside to play while the boys continued to slide.  Zoe pushed a shopping cart (most of the time) filling it up with anything she could find.  Jane pushed the shopping cart some and another push toy.  We played for quite some time, which gave me and Brit time to chat, but we spent a lot of time chasing little ones :)


Once the boys came back into the house, I took Bennett to the basement to play.  The basement was set up as a city blocked including a stoplight, parking meters/spots, train, moveable road signs, garage, and multiple ride on toys.  It took him a few minutes to get into it, but once he did I bet he rode around 50 times.









We left after noon and headed to Reading Terminal Market to enjoy a late lunch.  Zoe fell asleep for a short time, so I parked at a table while the gang went to pick up lunch.  I don't know how to best describe Reading Terminal Market.  It is an indoor market with various restaurants/shops that sale everything from pre-packaged candy to Creole to Cheesesteaks to fresh, uncooked fish.  Brittany ate German food.  Bennett and Zoe ate Pizza.  Ben ate a Cheesesteak.  Sam and I ate sandwiches from Dinick's (Sam saw it on Man vs. Food).  We all ate ice cream.

An unexpected highlight was sharing Friday night dinner with the Neiderer's.  Justin and Angela were dear friends of ours in Tampa.  They have been living in NJ for a few years now.  Angela saw my FB posts and texted me.  I had no idea how close they lived to Philly, so we were able to meet them for dinner at Tony Luke's.  It was so great to see them and chat for a bit.  Plus, I tried my first Cheesesteak.  I forgot to take a photo of us together :(

It began raining while we were waiting for our bus.  What began as light rain turned into a downpour.  It was a short walk from the bus to the subway, but the subway to the hotel was several blocks.  We were soaked.  However, it was the perfect way to end our vacation.  I had been following the forecast for weeks.  Rain was forecasted almost every day 40-60% chance.  Thanks be to God we experienced minimal rain and lovely temperatures.  By this time I didn't care if it rained.

Saturday Ben was able to pick us up from the hotel and take us back to their neighborhood where we enjoyed time at the park and lunch.  Honestly, the tacos we ate from a food truck was probably the best food I had the whole week we were in Pennsylvania.  They were the best tacos I have ever eaten.   I was grateful to have a few more hours with the Collier's before saying goodbye.



Ben took us to the airport and we were back in Tampa by 6.

This trip is one I will not forget.  We made memories will be talking about with our children around the dinner table when they are adults.  It makes me look forward to many more memories to come from family vacations.