Philly’s iconic LOVE sculpture returned Tuesday after a year-long renovation. It was welcomed back with a mini-parade through downtown. Since Tobey and I were in town, we decided to join the welcome parade as it moved down the Ben Franklin Parkway:
Being in the right place at the right time… Tobey had her first television interview!
Finished the day with chocolates from Reading Terminal:
While the Museum of the American Revolution isn’t exactly off the beaten path, we wanted to visit before February 19 to view their latest acquisition – a newly discovered watercolor that shows the only eye-witness image of Washington’s war tent. The war tent itself is the highlight of the museum and has its own dedicated theater, but the watercolor is new and may not always be on exhibit. The tent has a fascinating story – having been handed down through Martha Washington’s family to her great granddaughter, Martha Custis Lee (wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee), and eventually sold to a collector. The story of the watercolor is even more amazing: shortly after the museum opened, the chief curator was browsing on-line auctions, when he spotted the watercolor. The location was miss-labeled and no artist was listed, so the museum was able to purchase the painting for only $13,750. After conservation and research, the staff at the museum discovered that not only is it the only surviving eye-witness picture of the tent (shown in the painting with a wooden marque in front built to impress the French), but it was painted by Pierre L’Enfant, designer of Washington D.C.. For more information: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/15/arts/design/washingtons-tent-a-detective-story.html
The museum itself is a great complement to the other Revolutionary War sights around Philadelphia. Filled with artifacts, hands-on exhibits and videos, it does a good job highlighting some of the lesser known stories of the war, including contributions from free blacks and slaves, women and Native Americans.
Just down Chestnut Street is a small cafe with the best European-style French fries in the city: European Republic. Thicker cut and crispier than usual, with a huge variety of sauces, a triple batch (along with a delicious rice pudding from a local bakery) made a great post-museum lunch. Tip: If you aren’t the kind of person who can eat just fries for lunch, they have a great lunch special with: wrap, fries and a drink for $8.
We willingly wait in line for an hour in the summer, but have never visited in the winter. However, when we saw our favorite food truck was open, we decided to brave the snow and wind. Arriving 25 minutes before opening, we were first in line and were rewarded with a cup of spicy soup (actually the sauce he uses over the rice, but works as a soup, too!). I’ve written about the Octopus food truck before (The Advantages of Wandering: A Medieval Herbal And The Best $10 Lunch In Philadelphia), but it deserves another mention. While the basic lunch is always the same (rice, sauce, grilled chicken and falafel), the seasonal fruits and veggies vary. Today, we were rewarded with blueberries, a variety of grapes, a whole mandarin orange, and cauliflower (I’m not a big cauliflower fan, but ate every bite!). Since eating outside picnic-style wasn’t an option in this weather, we ate in the food court of the Comcast Building just around the block (Picnic Spots). The leftovers (you get a giant portion for $10) made a great lunch stuffed in a pita the next day).
We spent the rest of our time exploring the (FREE – just present id at the security booth) contemporary art galleries at Moore College. Moore College was founded in 1848 as the first women’s art college in the United States. Located right in the heart of the museum district, it makes a great stop if you have some extra time and want a free activity. The exhibits rotate, so there is always something new to see (the current exhibit is dedicated to work by the Guerrilla Girls).
Philly is home to great dance, including 2 professional ballet companies. Student fans of contemporary ballet can get $10 student-rush tickets. Just show up with a student ID 1/2 hour before show time, when they start selling unsold tickets.
Tobey and her ballet friends posing with dancers from Ballet X after a performance:
I’ve written about the Free Library before (A Library That Houses The Best (Free) Museum In Philly That No One Knows), but there is a lot more to explore than the very cool rare book department – enough to occupy a few rainy -day hours. Start with the free hour-long building tour that explores the architecture, history and collections of the 19th century building. After the tour (in addition to actual books), visitors can:
*listen to records and cds
*borrow and play an instrument
*examine the world’s largest lending library of orchestral music
*view fine art prints, photographs, etc. (appointment recommended)
*explore the map collection
*view one of the many rotating exhibits (on view today: Leonard Bernstein memorabilia, photographs of the history of the Ben Franklin Parkway, epistolary novels and homemade art books)
*The museum also offers cooking classes, author talks, theater performances and concerts
We used the pouring rain as an excuse to get in the car and drive 15 minutes to the Port Richmond section of the city. Home to a large Polish community and “The Dinner House” – where we feasted on sour rye soup, potato pancake with goulash and potato & cheese pierogi… and finished with a cheese danish from a local bakery.
Every New Year’s Day, I wonder what the heck a “mummer” is – today we found out at the Mummer’s Museum. This is a small museum (admission was “pay what you wish” on the cold, January day we visited) filled with videos, costumes, memorabilia and best of all… dress-ups with a video to teach the mummer’s strut. We will definitely return for one of their (free) Thursday evening summer concerts.
Only about a mile walk from the tacky shops and restaurants on South Street, we checked out the new (tasty!) Bahn Mi & Bottles restaurant for Vietnamese street food:
And (best of all) homemade pie from Magpies (see Philly Ice Cream Treats – From Traditional To Trendy To Unusual) for info on their yummy pie milkshakes):
Mexican Chocolate & Oatmeal Cookie Pie
In the shadow of City Hall stands one of the most elaborately carved and decorated Masonic Temples in the world. Built in 1837, the interior is a dramatic example of Victorian design. The hour-long tour shows off 7 of the over-the-top rooms. In homage to the Mason’s history as stone masons, each room is decorated in a different, historically accurate style (from Egyptian to Gothic to Renaissance) – supplemented with a variety of Masonic symbols:
Conspiracy theories aside, many of the founding fathers and at least 14 presidents have been Masons, and the museum has some interesting artifacts – including a Masonic apron owned by George Washington and (supposedly) presented to him by the Marquis de Lafayette, Benjamin Franklin’s Masonic sash and a piece of George Washington’s original coffin:
Since Philly’s Chinatown is just a few blocks walk from the temple, we decided to try one of the latest restaurant trends – Mongolian Hot Pot – from Little Sheep. We ordered the $12.95 lunch special, which came with a choice of broth (we chose the traditional and the spicy) and a variety of meats and veggies to cook in the broth:
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is a fun place to spend a few hours celebrating the season (especially if it is cold and snowy outside). They offer daily “The Christmas Story in Art” highlight tours:
Plus, during the week between Christmas and New Years, they offer daily art projects based on works in the collection. During our visit, it was medieval portraiture (although we used our supplies to make fun, shiny New Years cards):
All activities are free after admission (or totally free for members!)
Where else can you take a yoga class next to the fountain of a 13th century French monastery, surrounded by medieval architecture and stained glass? In the winter, yoga at the Philadelphia Museum of Art moves inside – this year to the Medieval galleries. Free with admission (you provide the mat), 2 classes are offered every Wednesday evening. Wednesday nights at the art museum also offer tours, games and art-making – this week was card making:
After the museum, we took a walk down the Parkway to check out the latest outdoor art installation (Winter Fountains – through March 18, 2018). By day, they look like odd white domes, but by night, they are illuminated with 3-D video images:
In the summer, free, Wednesday night yoga is held in the outdoor sculpture garden: Yoga And Juice (And A Popsicle)
Start with the 11:00 Holiday Spectacular at Comcast – 15 minutes of Philly-themed video and music on one of the world’s largest highest-resolution LED displays – ending with an audience sing-a-long and a shower of “snow” over the audience.
The 11:00 show ends with plenty of time to walk to Macy’s for the 12:00 light show (with time to spare to look at the holiday themed window displays). Although they’ve updated with LED lights, the show is definitely low tech fun (with the voice of Julie Andrews as the narrator). The bonus of seeing the 12:00 show is that the finale is played live on the Wanamaker organ.
You can stick around for an additional 1/2 hour of live organ music, or go right up to the 3rd floor for a walk through the Dickens Village, a scene by scene animatronic recreation of “A Christmas Carol” – from Marley’s ghost to the blessing of Tiny Tim.
Finish up with the model trains and lunch at Reading Terminal Market. The perfect ending? A peppermint (or any) donut from Bieler’s.
For more information on the Wanamaker Organ and free concerts: The World’s Largest Organ, A Historic Landmark Building And Free Concerts (while you shop)