Author Topic: The City of Brotherly Love - dpk4588 Takes on Philadelphia  (Read 3657 times)

Online dpk4588

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I had planned on going to Philly for a few days last year but it fell through so when my sister who lives outside of Philly told me to come for Shabbos, it presented a chance to follow through on that planned trip. It was also good timing because I had an Chase IHG night to burn which was expiring soon.

Since Kimpton Hotels are now bookable with the Chase IHG free night I figured Iíd try the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia. I donít remember what the cash rate was but it costs 55k IHG for one night, so Iíd say the $49 I spend on the annual fee for the card was well worth it. When I checked in, I found out that as an IHG elite member I get a free $30 spa credit (which I didnít use), and a free $10 raid the bar credit which can be used either at the hotel bar or for the mini bar.

The planning for the trip had basically already been done, since it was supposed to happen a year earlier, but I did make a few small tweaks to the plan which didnít work out as well as planned. The funny thing was that the one real change I made to my plan was to add a museum which I didnít end getting to go to.

The only detail I had yet to work out (and wouldnít end up doing until the last minute) was whether Iíd drive into the city and pay the $50 at the hotel for parking, or leave my car by my sister and use uber/public transportation to get around. I ended up driving downtown and regretting it. My rationale was that Ubers to and from the few attractions I was planning on that werenít in the center of town (near the hotel), would cost close to the $50 parking fee and having the card downtown gave me the option to go out for dinner. What I didnít factor in was the cost of tolls & parking. While the Ubers themselves would have cost ~$45-50 I crossed the Ben Franklin Bridge twice ($5 each time) and had to pay for parking at 2 of the attractions I went to, which cost another ~$15. So my actual cost of driving downtown was ~$75.

As per a suggestion I saw in the Philadelphia Master Thread, I looked at the Philadelphia Pass, and saw that everything I was planning on doing (that wasnít free) was on there. I could have bought the 2-day pass for $84 but once I totaled all the things I planned on doing and took into account the 20% discount you get for adding 2 or more attractions to your pass, I was saving $1.24 by going with the build your own.

I left my sisterís place around 10a getting downtown around 1030a. My first stop was the hotel for two reasons. One I always like to check-in early, to drop off my stuff, and to be able to go back and relax during the day if I feel like I need it, secondly, to be able to park my car. Everything I planned on doing Sunday was within a 10 minute walk of the hotel, so there was no need for my car. Thankfully I was able to check in and drop off my stuff. I didnít remember if you needed to pay for Independence Hall and on the website, I saw that you need a specifically timed ticket which can either be reserved online for $1.50, or picked up at the visitors center a few blocks away. I didnít think it would be a problem going to the visitors center to get a ticket, but my the time I got there at 10:45, the next available tour wasnít until 12:40p. That was in theory going to cause some problems for my schedule but it ended up working out well.

Hotel Monaco-Bed

Hotel Monaco-TV & Desk

Hotel Monaco-Bathroom

I went from the visitors center to the Liberty Bell. They have a few exhibits and a short video about the history of the Liberty Bell. Then you see the bell. No I did not lick it. I didnít watch the video, and spent a total of about 15 minutes there after getting past security which took about 15 minutes itself.

Liberty Bell-Glass Plate

Liberty Bell-Chrome Plated Brass Bread Tray

Liberty Bell-Bell with Freedom In Several Languages

Liberty Bell-The Bell

I had some time to kill since I didnít need to be at Independence Hall until 12:20p for the security check. In reality I didnít need to to get there until 12:35 because I flew through security (even without the help of TSA-Pre-Check). In addition to the Independence Hall tour, on Independence square, you can also see the Great Essentials Exhibit in the West Wing and the Museum of the American Philosophical Society. The tour of Independence Hall itself was interesting and started with a brief history, then you enter the two main rooms. The first room you see is the Courtroom of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and the second room is the Assembly Room, where The Declaration of Independence was written and signed and the Continental Congress met, wrote, and signed the Constitution. Pretty important historical stuff.

American Philosophical Society-Franklinís Library Chair with Folding Steps

Independence Hall-Courtroom of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Independence Hall-Assembly Room

From Independence Hall I went on to the National Constitution Center. It was about a 5 minute walk but just my luck, thatís when the rain picked up. I made it through the rain alive and it was time for the museum.

I remember the museum being much bigger (then again most museums I went to as a kid seemed bigger than they actually are). It starts off with a ~20 show with images/videos and live narration, called ďFreedom RisingĒ about the history of the Constitution. Which was a kinda interesting, but I honestly didnít feel like having the live narration of a woman who was walking around the theater added anything.

After the main exhibit on the second floor, I checked out the Signers' Hall which has statues of the signers of the Constitution. There was also a small exhibit on Alexander Hamilton on the first floor. Iíve heard people say great things about the museum, and I remember my family liking it when we went years ago, but I honestly found the museum to be a bit disappointing.

National Constitution Center-Hamilton-Burr Dueling Pistols

National Constitution Center-Dueling Steps

Once I was done with the National Constitution Center I walked over to National Museum of American Jewish History. Originally I had planned on doing this before the Constitution Center, but I realized that the Jewish History Museum was open until 530p, which would give me an extra half hour (which Iíd need). They recommend you start on the top (5th) floor and work your way down, so thatís what I did. The top floor has the special exhibits, which at the time was one on Leonard Bernstein who was born and raised in Philly. It was an interesting exhibit about his life in Philly, his career, and his connection to Israel.

Floors 4-2 go chronologically. The floors went as follows: 4th floor-Foundations of Freedom: 1654-1880, 3rd floor-Dreams of Freedom: 1880-1945, 2nd floor-Choices and Challenges of Freedom: 1945-Today. The first floor has a separate exhibit called the Only in America Gallery, which focuses on the stories of 18 American Jews and their impacts on Jewish American life overall.  I thought the museum was well done and had a wealth of information and artifacts. So much so, that I didnít have time to see everything in my 2 hours there.

National Museum of American Jewish History - Leonard Bernstein Exhibit-Score for Gustav Mahlerís Symphony No. 2 in C Minor

National Museum of American Jewish History - Leonard Bernstein Exhibit-Ticket for Israel 20th Anniversary Concert with Itzhak Perlman

National Museum of American Jewish History - Leonard Bernstein Exhibit-Program for Memorial Concert for Leonard Bernstein 11.14.1990

National Museum of American Jewish History-Ahron Lintel - Lancaster, PA

National Museum of American Jewish History-South Carolina Currency with Hebrew Letters

National Museum of American Jewish History-Acrostic Commemorating Abraham Lincoln

National Museum of American Jewish History-Yiddish Baseball Diagram

Once I was done (and by done, I mean I had to leave because the museum was closing), I went back to my hotel to relax a little before heading out for dinner.

After consulting with a few people, I decided on Cherry Grill for dinner. One would think with ďGrillĒ in the name, that it would be a grill with burgers and that type of food, but no, itís really a Chinese place that also serves grill food. Anyway, the I got pepper steak and it was a pretty good and a nice size portion. My only complaint was the service, while I was seated quickly, it took a while before someone came back to take my order and then a while for me to get a waiter to get me my check. I went back to my hotel and watched hockey.

Cherry Grill-Pepper Steak

I started off with a short walk to the US Mint. Unfortunately they donít allow pictures (understandably), but it is interesting to see the history of coin production and the process itself. Between the exhibits on the history and walking through (above) the production facility, I was there about 45 minutes.

Here is where I made a mistake. I then planned on going to the Independence Seaport Museum which would require me to pick up my car from the hotel. The problem with this, which I realized later, was that I was planning on going to the Museum of the American Revolution which was down the block from my hotel. It kinda worked out because at the end of the day I didnít have time for the Museum of the American Revolution anyway. So I picked up my car and was off to the Independence Seaport Museum. The museum doesnít have its own parking but there are two public lots right there, both of which were super expensive ($25-$30, I think) so I parked on the street a few blocks down and paid a meter ~$3 for the two hours. I think I got the better deal.

I found the museum itself more child friendly than I would have liked, but what I did enjoy were the ships, that are part of the museum. With admission to the museum, you also get to see the USS Olympia & USS Becuna. The Olympia is the oldest steel warship afloat in the world, which is pretty cool. The USS Becuna is a Balao-Class Sub which saw action in WWII, and served several missions during the Cold War.

Independence Seaport Museum-Boat Shop

Independence Seaport Museum-Christening Bottle - USS Philadelphia

Independence Seaport Museum - USS Becuna-Forward Torpedo Room

Independence Seaport Museum - USS Olympia-Junior Officersí Wardroom

Independence Seaport Museum - USS Olympia-5Ē40 Breech-Loading Rifle

I got back to my car and headed for the Battleship New Jersey, which is in Camden, NJ just over the Franklin Bridge. Launched exactly a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Battleship New Jersey saw action in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. The New Jersey is US Navyís most decorated battleship and surviving warship having received 19 Battle and Campaign starts. The coolest part about the ship, is that you can go inside the rear turret which is something Iíve never seen on another ship.

Battleship New Jersey

Battleship New Jersey-M-2 Browning Gun

Battleship New Jersey-Captainsí In-Port Cabin

Battleship New Jersey-Glass Recreation of Christening Bottle

Battleship New Jersey-View of Franklin Bridge from Ship & Flag Conning Station

Battleship New Jersey-Close-In Weapons System (CIWS)

Battleship New Jersey-Tomahawk Cruise Missile

Battleship New Jersey-Inside Turret #3

Battleship New Jersey-Inside Turret #3

After leaving the New Jersey I headed for Eastern State Penitentiary, the countryís oldest penitentiary. I actually went to Eastern State in the late 90s with my family, and at the time, the building was unsafe and visitors had to wear hard hats and sign liability waivers. Things have changed, and now the building is secure. While there are guided tours daily at 2p, I missed that and had to settle with the audio tour. Online it says the audio tour takes about 35 minutes so I figured Iíd leave myself an hour for extra exploring of the site, what they donít tell you, is that the 35 minutes is for the basic audio tour, but there are a number of other ďoptionalĒ stops and recordings you can listen to for a more in depth tour. I spent a little over 2 hours there (until they closed at 5p) an still didnít get to listen to all the recordings and see all the ďextraĒ parts.

Two special sections that I saw that I found especially interesting were the Shul, and Al Caponeís cell. The shul, which is assumed to be the first in an American prison, was created in 1924 and was used continuously until the prison closed in 1971. It was actually the first space in the prison fully restored to its 1959 appearance which was seen from photograph from the time. In addition to the shul itself, they have a space behind it which was turned into an exhibit on Jewish life overall in the prison. While Al Capone only spent 8 months at Eastern State, he certainly made his space his own, filling his cell with fancy furniture, rugs, paintings, and a radio. They actually have an update to the recording on his cell, that explains that further research has led historians to believe that some of these ďadded comfortsĒ may not have been special to Capone, and that other inmates may have also had radios and other comforts.

Eastern State Penitentiary-Cell Block 1

Eastern State Penitentiary-Cell Doors

Eastern State Penitentiary-Inside Cell

Eastern State Penitentiary-Recreated Cell

Eastern State Penitentiary-Upper Level of Cell Block 7

Eastern State Penitentiary-Solitary Exercise Yard

Eastern State Penitentiary - Synagogue-Aron

Eastern State Penitentiary-Al Caponeís Cell

Eastern State Penitentiary-Main Entrance Gate

While I realized I wouldnít get to see the Museum of the American Revolution, I enjoyed what I did and donít feel regret for having missed it, only that I paid for it. After Eastern State, I went back to pick up my sister and we went to Espresso Cafe & Sushi Bar for dinner.  I donít know if it was the fact that it was 530p or that it was a Monday night in an out of town restaurant, but we were the only ones there. The food was good, but the service was a little slow, but not unbearable.

Espresso Cafe & Sushi Bar-Penne Alla Vodka

Overall I really enjoy my little trip. It was nice to have a little getaway and to experience as an adult all these places I had experienced as a child.
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
-Albert Einstein