Monday, April 27, 2015

Spring Break Field Trip Part 1 - Philadelphia

The City of Brotherly Love - Philadelphia
I respectfully ask that you not pin pictures of my children to Pinterest. Thank you!

Our homeschool history studies this year are focusing on the years from the explorers (Christopher Columbus, et al) up to 1850. We've spent time learning about colonial history, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and everything up to the Westward Expansion. We've already had some cool field trips, like going to Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown, the Daniel Boone Homestead, and the PA Railroad Museum, but, we were definitely looking forward to our spring trip. We've been talking about it for over a year!

One whirlwind week in two states... multiple museums and historical sites, way too many fast food restaurants, and countless public restrooms!

The first three days of our trip focused on Philadelphia.
Day 1:
Longwood Gardens (for our study of botany)
Then we hopped in the car to eat lunch and head to the Franklin Institute

At the end of day 1, we drove about 1 1/2 hours back to my folks' house. We stayed overnight with them and then they joined us for the rest of the trip.

Day 2:
We drove back to Philly and started our day at the Philadelphia Zoo (for our study of zoology).

We ate a packed lunch in the zoo and left around 1:30pm to drive into the city. We parked in the garage at the Independence Visitor's Center and walked up a block to catch our Philly Ducks tour.
The tour was a great overview of the whole city (and really funny too.)
After the tour ended, we quickly scooted over to the Liberty Bell. We checked out the President's House site while waiting in line and made it in to see the Bell about 10 minutes before it closed.
When the Bell closed, we had just enough time to walk back across the street to the Visitor's Center to watch one of the films that they show.
After that, it was all about the cheesesteak. Most people go to Pat's or Geno's... we're fans of Jim's on 9th Street. If you go, you want to order it like this, "Wiz, Wit" or "Wiz, Witout", which means with Cheez Whiz and onions or with Cheez Whiz and without onions. (They have other kinds of cheese too. No worries.)
Then to our hotel for the night.

Day 3:
First up, driving back to the Visitor's Center (and parking there for the day) to get our Independence Hall tickets and watch the other film.
Then to the National Constitution Center
Betsy Ross's House
the Christ Church Burial Grounds (Benjamin Franklin's gravesite among others)
Lunch at The Bourse
George Washington apparently likes the Chinese buffet
Independence Hall (the East Wing, Independence Hall, and the West Wing)
Carpenter's Hall, Franklin Court,  the Lights of Liberty360 3D Show

Dinner (at NY Pizza-ha!)

and then back to the hotel to collapse (Holiday Inn on Walnut - with outrageous parking costs! But they had nice rooms and a free deluxe breakfast).

Tips for Philly:
If you're doing more than one attraction, get the Philadelphia Pass (PP). This was the best deal for us but we definitely needed 3 days to see everything that we wanted and to make the cost worthwhile. The historic section of Philadelphia is very walkable. Everything is within a few blocks and wasn't too hard, even for my mom (who has foot problems).

Longwood Gardens is amazing... but better later in the growing season or over Christmas. There were a lot of bare spots. The Children's Garden is more for the pre-K/lower elementary set. It's lots of walking. Wear good shoes and sunscreen. The timed entry was not an issue with the PP.

Franklin Institute: the PP allowed us to see one planetarium show for free. Not all the exhibits are included on the PP. We definitely want to go back. It needs a full day to really see and do everything. Great for kids. Parking is next door ($15).

Philadelphia Zoo: you can take your own food inside. They have a free app that tells you when talks are being held and what the daily schedule is. Included in the PP. Parking is extra though.

Philly Ducks tour: Included in the PP. Definitely worth the money. You get to see the whole city and the Delaware River with a hilarious guide. Lots of duck puns and free quacker noise makers at the end.

President's House site: Free. This is outside, and you actually walk through/by it as you wait in line for the Liberty Bell. Give yourself 30-45min if you want to read everything. 10 min if you just want a quick overview.

Liberty Bell: Free. They have a security screening to get in but it's not a big deal. The site recommends 30 minutes. If you want to read every exhibit, you might need closer to 45min-1 hour to stand in line, get through screening, and see everything.

Independence Visitor Center: Free. They have restrooms, a little cafe, two free films, a gift shop, and tour vendors. The movies were okay but if you're really pressed on time, just skip them. Although the Voices movie stars Kristin Bell (aka Princess Anna of Frozen fame). They also have a Rocky statue replica. This is also where you get your Independence Hall tickets. If you don't want to pay to reserve a time, you'll want to be in line before they open at 8:30am. The line was out the door at 8:35am. The "pre-paid" line was empty. I felt a little guilty walking past 50 people who were waiting. :)

National Constitution Center: Included in the PP. We needed way more time here. I only scheduled 1 1/2 hours. We could easily have spent 3 hours here. There are lots of hands-on activities for mid-elementary and up. Signers' Hall has bronze, life-size statues of all the signers positioned in the room as they related to George Washington. Super, super cool. They also had an original copy of the Bill of Rights on display. General admission also includes Freedom Rising, a multi-media (with live actor) presentation that's very well-done.

Betsy Ross' House: Included in the PP. We also got the self-guided audio tour free with the PP. We only planned 1/2 hour but with the tour, we needed closer to 1- 1 1/2 hours. There's a food stand outside and a gift shop also. Be sure to go when you can see and talk with Betsy.

Christ Church Burial Grounds: Included in the PP. We didn't have time for the guided tour which would have been an additional cost. The souvenir map was helpful but a tour probably would have been more informative. This one depends on how much you like graveyards.

The Bourse: bathrooms, food court, and gift shops. We walked in and thought the Chinese Buffet was the only restaurant. It's not. Go in the main, middle door or just walk through the buffet to get to everything else. My folks bought lunch here; we just ate the lunch we packed.

Independence Hall: Free. Or if you're really pinched for time, you can pre-order tickets for a specific slot and just pick them up. We ordered tickets ahead. Once in line though, a bunch of people hadn't showed up so we ended up getting in 15 minutes earlier than planned. They do a "last-call" for specific time ticket holders but if they're not there they start taking the next slot. Give yourself 1 1/2 hours. They also have a bag screening tent. It doesn't take too long. If you're doing historic Philly, this is a must-see!

Carpenter's Hall: Free. This is skippable if you're pressed on time. It was neat but there's very little to see.

Franklin Court (Franklin Museum, the Printing Shop, the Post Office): This is not included in the PP but the cost is nominal. The museum is very child friendly. Lots of hands-on activities. Self-guided. Restrooms, gift shop. The Printing Shop demonstrates an old printing press. Give yourself about 2 hours.

Lights of Liberty 360 3D Show: Included in the PP. It was okay. If you have issues with 3D and/or motion sickness, skip it. We went because it was included but it was kind of a let down. We might have just been tired after another long day. There's a gift shop. Oh, be warned...when you walk into the theater, have a pleasant expression on your face. They take your picture. Your face might end up in the presentation at the end.

Things we wanted to do but didn't:
The Mint: Free. We just didn't have time.
The Portrait Gallery
Elfreth's Alley. Included in the PP but it was closed. :(
Declaration House. Also closed.
Other free options that you might like.

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