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)
Yes – the world’s largest fully functioning pipe organ is not in a church – it’s in the Macy’s Department Store in Philadelphia and FREE concerts are played daily at 12:00 (evening concert times vary) by master organists. You can listen and shop, or tuck yourself into one of the niches on the second floor girl’s clothing section – where you can watch the organist play.
Opened in 1911, and dedicated by President Taft, Wanamaker’s was the first department store in Philadelphia – and one of the first in the country. On the National Register of Historic Places, the interior of building is an architectural gem.
Today’s adventure included an old-school falafel joint, monster books, and a 19th century row house on one of Philly’s prettiest streets.
Trendy falafel restaurants are all over the city, but today we went old school – to the Israeli-owned (closed Friday evenings and Saturdays) – Mama’s Vegetarian. Great (cheap) falafel with a small, but delicious, pickle bar.
Just a few blocks away, on one of the prettiest streets in the city (Delancey Place), is the Rosenbach Museum & Library. Owned by one of the most famous rare book dealers of the 20th century, the museum houses an incredible collection of manuscripts, first editions, letters, a royal proclamation, and even the entire Greenwich Village living room of modernist poet Marianne Moore – all visible on the house tour offered hourly.
The current exhibition (through February 11, 2018), “Frankenstein & Dracula: Gothic Monsters, Modern Science,” explores the influence and evolution of literary monsters. In addition to handwritten pages of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s personal notes for Dracula, the exhibit also has interactives and scientific & medical works from the 19th century to the present.
P.S. Philly is a great town for book lovers:
The Best Museum In Philly That No One Knows
The Advantages of Wandering: A Medieval Herbal And The Best $10 Lunch In Philadelphia
Like many cities, Philadelphia is working to improve access to its waterfront, and the Schuylkill Trail is now extends far enough for a nice, traffic free walk (although it can get crowded with joggers and bikers). These photos are from our latest explorations – from the skate park by the Art Museum down to South Street, where the path goes out into the river.
As a reminder of its industrial past, the railroad tracks run next to the trail, which is fun for those of us who enjoy watching trains.