What better way to experience the Victorian’s fascination with death than to tour Laurel Hill Cemetery at night?
Built in 1836 (and still active), Laurel Hill was the second landscape garden cemetery built in the United States. Filled with interesting funerary architecture and fascinating stories, the cemetery offers themed tours, theater, hearse shows, photography walks, ghost tours AND evening explorations. Although there are fees to attend events, visiting the cemetery is free.
Challenging ourselves with new foods is part of the deal. We’ve seen the ducks hanging in windows throughout Chinatown and this was our week to try. Along with a bowl of beef chow fun and BBQ pork/soy sauce chicken over noodles, we ordered a side of duck – which arrived chopped on a plate – skin, meat, bones and all. Although everything was tasty, we decided that Hong Kong-style/Cantonese was too bland and sweet for our taste – and, now we can cross duck off the list.
Ting Wong (138 N. 10t Street)
For the past 2 years, Tobey and I have been on a quest to explore the cuisines of Chinatown. Although Philadelphia’s Chinatown is just a few blocks long, this has proved never ending (but very enjoyable). In addition to the diverse cuisines and foods of China (dim sum, hand-drawn noodles, duck, Cantonese, Szechuan, Hong Kong, Fujian), many other Asian cuisines are represented – Burmese, Vietnamese (including banh-mi), Korean, Japanese – plus many trendy and traditional desserts (QQ waffles, Japanese crepes, taro buns, green tea mousse cake). Just when we start to put a dent in our list, restaurants close and new trends take over. A few years ago it was soup dumplings, bubble tea, and hand-drawn noodles. Last year was ramen and rolled ice-cream. This year, it’s hot pots, Taiwanese fried food and nitrogen-frozen desserts.
Beautiful firework pastry from A La Mousse, in celebration of the Chinese New Year!
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Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
It’s called “The Fabric Workshop,” but houses a (free) museum that supports and exhibits artists in a variety of media. Until November 5th, they have an extensive exhibit on Philly-based architect Louis Kahn. Videos, sketches, models, etc. – all showcasing Kahn’s work both in Philadelphia (Richards Medical Research Laboratories @ University of Pennsylvania) and elsewhere – including FDR 4 Freedoms Park in NYC – where Tobey and I visited last summer:
They also offer student workshops. Tobey and Erick attended a great program set up by a fellow home-schooler several years ago – during which their group designed and printed a large piece of silk-screen:
Since it’s right up the street from Chinatown, the museum is a great stop for a little culture before or after lunch – in this case Burmese food at Rangoon. Delicious lentil fritters, thousand-layer bread with potato curry, and tea leaf salad:
For dessert: coconut sticky rice with mango and jello-crunch ice (who would think the combination of jello, tapioca, pineapple, peanuts, ice, and condensed milk could taste so good??):
Built in 1815, the waterworks provided water to Center City Philadelphia until 1909. The steam-powered technology, the gorgeous neoclassical architecture, and the landscaped gardens (one of the largest urban parks in America at the time) made the waterworks a famous 19th century tourist destination – Charles Dickens and Mark Twain were both impressed during (separate) visits to Philadelphia in the mid-1800s. Originally steam powered, the engines were replaced by much cheaper (and much more primitive) water wheels (later turbines) after an explosion that killed 3 workers. By the 1890’s the water in the Schuylkill had become so polluted that outbreaks of cholera and typhoid led to closing of the waterworks in 1909.
Today, the original pump house contains a FREE museum with a movie highlighting the history of the waterworks and hands-on exhibits focusing on the water cycle and watersheds. My favorite is a display of video highlights of animals using the fish ladder, including a turtle, snake and an otter.
WAY off the beaten path (down a small staircase to the left of the Waterworks), hidden down at river-level, is a sculpture garden focusing on the history of the Schuylkill River – from a source of food for the natives Lenape, and resource utilized by colonists, through its emergence as a manufacturing hub during the Industrial Revolution – and its return to health as a fishery and public resource.
After visiting the giant pop-up book last week, we went to check out other pop-up works by the artist, Tao Hua Yuan Ji, at The Center for Emerging Visual Artists. Little did we know that it’s located in a fancy residential building on Rittenhouse Square – and that we would have to be escorted up to the gallery. Although the introduction was a bit intimidating, the staff were very friendly and we were able to see some of the artist’s smaller pop-up works and a selection of the photographs she took and used in assembling them (with no pressure to buy – this large one cost $12,000).
Our afternoon was spent at the Academy of Music watching the dress rehearsal for Pennsylvania Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty. A beautifully ornate theater, The Academy was completed in 1857, and is the oldest opera house in the United States still used for its original purpose. The Pennsylvania Ballet often performs here (or in the smaller Meriam Theater) and offers tickets to the dress rehearsals to school groups (and homeschoolers). Over the past 5 years, we have been lucky enough to attend several performances. We both agreed that this was the company’s best performance.
Another off-the-beaten path adventure – this time to the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center to see construction of the world’s largest pop-up book by Philadelphia artist, Tao Hua Yuan Ji:
Since 80 degrees in October doesn’t happen too often, we decided to hit up Whole Foods for a picnic: Bellavitano Rum Runner Cheese with Apricot Chardonnay preserves, raspberries and a most delicious chocolate caramel cupcake:
We finished with a walk to the top of the “stairs to nowhere” at the corner of Kelly Drive & Sedgley Drive:
At the top, hidden behind the trees is the gorgeous, neoclassical Lemon Hill Mansion.
Built in 1800 (except for the porches – those are a later, Victorian addition), it was the first property purchased by the City to protect the watershed of the Schuylkill River (today Fairmount Park). It’s open Thursdays-Sundays from April – mid-December. 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. $8/adult and $5/student. The tour includes interior views of the beautiful Palladian window and unique oval rooms – 3 levels with curved doors and windows.
Hidden in the suburbs of Philadelphia (Elkins Park) is a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece – one of his most impressive houses of worship. Completed in 1959, a few months after his death, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007. Tours are given daily, except Saturdays and Jewish holidays.
Our explorations of Chinatown seem to be never ending – so many different regional cuisines, many of which are represented in Philly. Plus, new restaurants open faster than we can try them. We were both fighting colds this week, so what better cure than spicy noodle soup? Spice C is one of the best places in Philly for hand-drawn noodles – plus, the noodles are made fresh for each order and you can watch the chef toss the noodles while you wait. Spicy Sichuan soup with wontons, roast pork & shaved noodles and spicy soy sauce, hand-drawn noodles were the perfect medicine:
In the land of $8 ice cream, we decided to try a more economical dessert. Two Chinatown bakeries fit the bill: The Mayflower Bakery (1008 Race St.) – $4 for a whole Swiss Roll (you can buy them by the slice for $1, but we were feeling greedy):
and KC’s Pastries (109 N. 10th St.) – $1.00 for a bun (we loved the butter cream – the taro bun was…. interesting).
During the walk to Chinatown, we came across this new street art by a storm drain on Race Street (you never know what you are going to see in the City – love the octopus and crabbie):
Since we homeschool, Tobey occasionally needs to finish up some schoolwork before we start our Philly adventures. We often go to the Free Library, but the weather was so beautiful, we sat in the gardens of the Barnes Foundation (better than a classroom any day!).