All American City
Philadelphia Just Oozes History
If the Fourth of July gets you feeling patriotic, you should cash in on that feeling and head to the cradle of liberty. In Philadelphia, our nation’s first World Heritage City, history just oozes from every edifice. If you’ve been to Philly before, but not lately, it’s time for a return visit. If you’ve never been, it’s a must-see city for every American.
You can run up those steps made famous by movie hero Rocky Balboa. You can eat the world’s best Philly cheesesteak sandwiches. Visit the famous LOVE sculpture in LOVE Park. And you can experience the friendly folks who hold dear the tenets of their founders – the Quakers. It’s not called the City of Brotherly Love for nothing.
The Liberty Bell
This national symbol of freedom was ordered by the State House Assembly in 1751 to commemorate William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges, which guaranteed “freemen” religious freedom. The bell cracked upon use and a replacement bell was made. That cracked in 1835 when it was being rung to honor George Washington’s birthday. In 1839, a poem about slavery first referred to it as the Liberty Bell, and the name stuck. It’s popularly believed the bell was rung to call citizens to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence, though some historians doubt it. Since 2003, the 2,080-pound bell stands in its own $19 million museum in downtown Philadelphia.
It’s easy to visit this historic building and imagine the likes of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams arguing about the wording of the Declaration of Independence. But you don’t have to imagine it any more. A local company, Historic Philadelphia Inc., presents theatrical re-enactments of that historic debate. It’s especially moving at night, when the carefully lighted scene brings the characters to life.
National Constitution Center
Wow! That’s the only word for this amazing array of interactive exhibits that let you vote, serve on a jury, and do so much more. Kids will clamor to learn more about history here. Adults might learn a thing or two, too. Touch-screens and videos ensure that this multi-media spectacle fascinates while it educates. The $185 million facility opened in 2003.
Ben Franklin’s home? Gone. William Penn’s house? Gone. Betsy Ross’ place? Possibly gone (they may have torn down the wrong house, but that’s another story.) Despite all this, the city’s lovingly maintained architecture reveals and honors nearly 400 years of history. Old taverns rub shoulders with high-rise apartments, and an 18th century church spire is reflected in a glass-faced office building. Where else do you see a statue of the state’s founder soaring 550 feet above downtown?
Love trees and flowers? Well, so did Pierre du Pont, who originally purchased this site to preserve a stand of 100-year-old trees. He used some of his untold wealth to turn a thousand acres into one of the premier gardens in the world. If nothing else, go for the lighted fountain show. Las Vegas doesn’t hold a candle to the choreographed jets that perform a ballet of light and color to some of the world’s most rousing music – from lively classical pieces to patriotic marches to the national anthem.
Philadelphia is painted with murals, thousands of them. And they’re gorgeous. Begun as a project to discourage graffiti, they have blossomed into one of the city’s signatures. From a trompe l’oeil winter woods scene to a Brazilian jungle, they’re worth stopping for. And, of course, there’s the 37-foot-tall statue of William Penn atop city hall. Not all the art is outdoors. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is a masterpiece in itself, and there’s a treasury of fine art inside as well. Then there’s the Franklin Institute, with its hands-on science stuff, and … well, read the visitors guide! In 2012, the Barnes Foundation, home to arguably the world’s best art collection, moved to the same neighborhood as The Franklin Institute and the art museum. If you have time, arrange to see a performance of some kind – any kind – at the stunning Kimmel Center. If the orchestra or play doesn’t blow you away, the interior and exterior architecture will.
The Museum of the American Revolution
This newest addition to the long list of local attractions is one year old. The 118,000-square-foot museum takes guests on a chronological journey from the time of the first colonies to the victory of a war that resulted in the creation of a new nation. It uses art, artifacts and interactive exhibits that show how America gave birth to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.For a guide to visiting Philadelphia, with hours, maps and more, go online to www.visitphilly.com