While it’s not the British Museum, The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology houses an outstanding collection. In fact, one-fifth of the objects listed in The Smithsonian’s book “History of the World in 1000 Objects” come from the collection. Our favorites include the mummy room and the Greek pottery, but they also have great collections of African, Asian, Roman, Etruscan and Native American artifacts.
Temporary exhibits highlight current field work and past projects undertaken by the University. They also have great special events for adults and families and a beautiful courtyard for picnics (since the museum is on the Penn campus, there are lots of food trucks within a few blocks).
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:
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).
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)
The Wissahickon Creek runs through Philadelphia, with many areas for a great hike or mountain bike ride. For a one stop hike and dose of culture, we visited the Schuylkill Environmental Center. With several miles of trails and indoor/outdoor art exhibits, it was a great place to take advantage of a gorgeous fall day. Starting with a viewing of their latest indoor art exhibit “Anthrobotanical” (exploring the connections between people and nature – you’ll have to guess what question we asked our weed – and if it responded…):
Followed by a hike and picnic:
Plus, it’s free!
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??):
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.
We explored a new part of town this week – the University of Pennsylvania campus area. U-Penn was established by Ben Franklin in 1751. The current campus dates to the Victorian era, and has a great example of Philadelphia architect, Frank Furness’s work – the Fisher Memorial Library:
In addition to the gorgeous library, the building also houses a (free) art museum, where we saw “A View of One’s Own” – photos of Rome by 3 women photographers from the 1910’s, 1950’s and 2000’s:
Walking campus, we saw the cutest little dog:
And my mom’s old dormitory – the fortress-like Hill College House, designed by Finnish-born modernist architect Eero Saarinen (who also designed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis):
Lunch was at Dana Mandi, one of local food critic Craig LaBan’s Best Philly Values – and an experience in itself: walk to the back of the Indian grocery store, go behind a curtain to the seating area, write your order on a scrap of paper and leave it on the counter. Like magic, delicious, cheap (the parathas were amazing) Indian food comes out on styrofoam trays, served in to-go containers.
No adventure is complete without dessert, so our final stop was the Sugar food truck (38th St. between Walnut & Sansom St.) for Tobey’s favorite – macrons: