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Philadelphia's Historic Attractions

By Sabrina Abate

Welcome to the city of Brotherly Love! Philadelphia is a historical city and it is impossible not to have fun and learn a thing or two on your visit. In the September issue, popular attractions were introduced. Here, you will get a review of the common attractions, along with “off the beaten path” ideas for your stay.

A Sampling of History

Visit the National Constitution Center, the world's only museum about the Constitution with experiential exhibits. Play in the Franklin Institute, which houses touchable attractions that explore science. You will find a planetarium, IMAX Theater, a 20-foottall marble statue of Franklin, and walk through the heart. Explore the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is the third-largest art museum in the country. Take a run up the “Rocky” steps and pose like Rocky! The National Museum of American Jewish History boasts three floors filled with American Jewish history as experienced through the use of artifacts and state-of-theart interactive technologies, while the African American Museum is the first institution devoted to interpreting the life and work of African Americans. The museum traces the contributions of African Americans from the kingdoms of Africa through to the present.

Although not your typical museum, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are just as historical and important. This is the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Take a picture with the famous cracked bell!

Walk through Betsy Ross' House to see where the first flag was sewn. Then take a look at the house where Edgar Allen Poe had the most creative and productive years of his life.

Elfreth's Alley is the nation's oldest residential street. It is a block-long street that opened in 1702 connecting two blacksmiths' shops near Philadelphia's busy waterfront with Second Street, one of the growing colony's busiest thoroughfares.

Fun and Entertainment

Theater and music. Attend a performance at the Academy of Music, where you will sit in the oldest opera house continuously in use in the United States. Abduction From the Seraglio (Mozart) will be playing in February. Visit the breathtaking Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, which rises to a 150-foot glass vaulted rooftop for startling views of the city. Sit in America's oldest theater, the Walnut Street Theatre. Show up at the box office at 6:00 p.m. and you might get lucky: “Tix at Six” offers tickets at half price. During the convention, the main stage is showing Mousetrap by Agatha Christie.

Eastern State Penitentiary. This penitentiary set the standard in its time for penal reform. Tours include the prison's historic cells, Capone's restored 19thcentury cell, stories of inmate escapes, and critically acclaimed art installations.

Off the Beaten Path

LOVE statue. The City of Brotherly Love's best-known landmark is LOVE itself — the Robert Indiana sculpture in John F. Kennedy Plaza installed in 1976. Always a fun picture-taking backdrop!

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens (www.phillymagicgardens.org). Covering an indoor and outdoor space, the Gardens glisten with creativity and urban renaissance. A walk through will reveal international sculptures, wheels from local bike shops, hand-made tiles, and mirrors of every shape and size.

Italian Market. (www.phillyitalianmarket.com). The Market is the oldest and largest working outdoor market in the United States. It has the best of many cultures and cuisines to offer shoppers. In the winter, vendors set up burn barrels in the street near their stands, to stay warm. Rocky ran through the Market during a training montage.

Whispering benches. The Smith Memorial Arch (1912) honors Civil War heroes and features long, curved, stone benches in Fairmount Park. They serve as a resting spot, but also a fun attraction. A person sitting at one end can whisper to the person sitting at the other end and be heard in perfect clarity.

The Blue Cross River Rink (www.riverrink.com). A wintertime tradition in Philadelphia: Skate under the stars at the outdoor ice rink located on the banks of the Delaware River. It offers views of the night sky and the city skyline. Embrace the winter and steal a view of the city!

Liberty 360 (http://historicphiladelphia.org/day/liberty_360). Let history surround you at Philadelphia's first indoor, 360-degree, 3-D attraction. Benjamin Franklin will guide visitors on a historic journey of America's most beloved symbols of freedom. A fun indoor activity!

Chinatown Philadelphia Friendship Gate (www.visitphilly.com/music-art/philadelphia/the-china-gate). The Gate was the first authentic Chinese gate in America (and the largest Chinese gate in the world outside of China) built by Chinese artists in 1984. The materials for the gate were donated by the citizens of Tianjin, China. It is a breathtaking piece of architecture.

Giovanni's Room (www.giovannisroom.com). Giovanni's Room is the oldest LGBT bookstore in the nation (founded in 1973). The staff is well-read and passionate about LGBT literature. The regularly scheduled guest authors are a who's who of LGBT literary greats.

William Penn Statue (www.visitphilly.com/history/philadelphia/city-hall/). A dominating feature in the city's skyline, the City Hall tower is topped with a 27-ton bronze statue of William Penn, the largest statue on any building in the world. You can get a breathtaking panoramic view of Philadelphia 44 stories high.

Free Phone Apps

These smartphone apps will to help you navigate historic Philadelphia

Philadelphia at a Glance City Guide

Philly Way

National Constitution Center

Look for more Philly flare and convention information in upcoming Communiqué issues and online at www.nasponline.org/conventions.


Sabrina Abate is the Local Arrangements cochair.