Further Exploration in Philadelphia

One of the highlights exploring the city was touring the Philadelphia Mint.   There are primarily two mints in the United States that make coins, the other is in Denver.  This was our first look at a mint and it was a very interesting visit.  Mark was especially interested because he is a coin collector and continues to collect on our trip, visiting coin shops when available in the various towns and cities we come across.   The self-guided Mint tour took us past windows that looked down on the many machines.  We were provided information on the history of the Mint which began in 1792 and produces circulating coins, commemorative coins and medals.  Designs are created and engraved here and we learned about the process from the beginning to the striking of the design, washing, packaging and storing of the coins before they are taken to a Federal Reserve.   After reaching a Reserve, coins become actual money but until then they are essentially worthless.  It was fun to look down and see stacks and mounds of penny blanks and nickels.  It was thought provoking how much money in coin passes through here.   No pictures are allowed inside, so can’t share anything of the process we viewed.

One day we visited the National Constitution Center, which is a very large museum focusing on all aspects of the U.S. Constitution and how our country has put into place various laws and policies throughout the years.  There are fun photo spots for the kids and in the picture above, Luke participates in a swearing in ceremony as the next president of the U.S.  As Mark and I have been traveling we have encountered numerous school groups on field trips.  We have sat with them during films at visitor centers; joined tours with them at state capitol buildings and followed throngs of energetic kids navigating the halls and rooms of museums and historic sites.  But the Constitution Center was the most intense yet.  Have you ever visited a place that was so chaotic and loud that you wanted to escape and find some quiet before you lose your mind?   Even though the building here is huge, the noise was deafening and the number of young people milling around unreal.  It seemed like many schools were coming at the same time to get in their obligatory visit before the school year ended.  It became impossible to concentrate on the exhibits so we cut our visit short.

A high point of the museum is Signer’s Hall which features 42 life size bronze statues of the Founding Fathers.  They are displayed as if they are at the final day of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 in Independence Hall.  In the room you can find famous faces such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.  Some of the signers stand in groups or pairs conversing, creating an interesting and creative exhibit.  Above, Jonathan and Levi stand with good old George.  And below, Luke enjoys a moment with Benjamin Franklin.

My favorite building in Philadelphia was the City Hall.  The first time I saw it I was like, wow, this is magnificent!    Reported to be the largest municipal building in the United States, it was begun in 1871 and took 30 years to complete.  The 548 foot tower is the tallest masonry structure in the world without a steel frame – it is just brick and stone on top of each other.  A 37 foot high statue of the founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn stands on top of the tower.  The building is very ornamental with at least 250 statues on it.  Although we did not take a tour inside, the rooms are supposed to be very lavish as well.  In front of the Hall, we met a friendly officer who told us the building was almost torn down.  I did some research and found out that 20 years after the building was finished, there was talk of dismantling it because it was in the way of traffic and considered a monstrosity.  The building was saved because it would have been such an enormous expense to tear it down.  Because of the size of the building, it is hard to capture it all in a photo, so this is just a part of it.

In front of the building is the neatest fountain system.  Jets of water spurt up from the concrete and since there are many crisscrossing paths, it is a great place for the young (or young at heart) to run around!

The huge decorative gates at the entrance are more than 25 feet tall and very cool.  They were installed in 2015 at immense cost and lead into an interior courtyard that gives an opportunity to admire more of the building’s magnificence.   Below, our family heads outside past the gates.

We were fortunate to find two fun museums for the kids in Philadelphia.  The first was the Franklin Institute which I wrote about in an earlier blog.  The second is the “Please Touch” museum which has been serving children here since 2008.  When we got to the outside of the museum I was surprised to find this grand building that was not what I expected for a children’s museum.  We found the inside to be a remarkable work of architecture as well.  It was built for the 1876 Centennial Exposition which was the first World’s Fair in the U.S.  Below is a look at the main entrance area with a Statue of Liberty torch made completely of toys sitting under a glass dome.

The museum has two floors of interactive exhibits that encourage children to play, learn and build.  Some of the activities are a supermarket, restaurant, pizza shop, ice cream store, doctor’s office and shoe store.  Children can be construction workers, drive a city bus, take a ride on the metro or launch rockets.

The favorite with many kids including Luke and Levi was the fancy carousel.  With an all day pass they enjoyed many rides before wearing out.

One of the most interesting places to eat in Philadelphia is Reading Terminal Market.  This place is a feast for the senses.  One of America’s largest and oldest public markets since 1893, it offers an incredible selection of almost any kind of food you might want.  Although you can buy produce, meats, breads, cheeses, etc., we came here twice to eat dinner.  The market has more than 75 small businesses and there is something to tempt anyone with an array of ethnic and specialty foods.  From the central seating area, we fanned out to choose our meal and gathered back to see what everyone came up with.  In the picture below, Luke eats lobster macaroni and cheese.

Both times Mark could not resist his perennial favorite, a fresh carved turkey dinner with all the fixings.  Levi selected the orange chicken which reminded him of the Panda Express version he enjoys so much.  I can’t resist a grilled cheese sandwich and tried an unusual offering featuring sharp cheddar, macaroni and cheese with brisket.   On our second visit Jonathan and I were curious to try DiNic’s, voted best sandwich in the U.S. by Travel Channel some years ago.  It consists of roast pork, sharp provolone and broccoli rabe in a French roll.  I thought it was really quite good.   Shannon brought back donuts for dessert that are very popular, hence a long line.  When Mark and I spotted someone eating great looking cannolis, we tracked down the bakery making them.  The shells are filled with the ricotta cheese mixture in front of you when you order.  They were good, but I have decided after eating cannolis a few times lately that they are not a favorite of mine.  In the picture below, the pastry bag hangs above the shells.

It was a great week in Philadelphia creating fun memories.  There is more I could share, but it is time to move on to our next spot, the Amish country in Lancaster County.

Thanks for reading!

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