Historic Philadelphia and Family Adventures
By Candyce H. Stapen
We catch sight of the graves of Benjamin Franklin and his wife Deborah through an opening in a brick wall along Philadelphia’s Fifth Street near Arch. The simple marble slabs dappled with sunlight remind us that this 300-year-old legend, Revolutionary War leader, inventor, scientist and diplomat was, after all, only human.
For us, that makes his achievements even more powerful. Historic Philadelphia, America’s first capital, makes the legends of the American Revolution real and puts into perspective the events surrounding the creation of our nation and its concept of freedom.
At the interactive National Constitution Center, a part of Independence National Historical Park, we listen to a speech by former slave Sojourner Truth, use a touch screen to find out who could vote in various decades, and hear a fireside chat delivered by Franklin Roosevelt.
We use a computer to perform a key word search for “freedom” in the Constitution and then for “women” (very interesting). Kids like taking the presidential oath of office and posing with life-size bronze statues of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention.
The places you and your kids have read about—the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were adopted—are some of Independence National Historical Park’s 20 sites open to the public.
From April through October, get immersed in Revolutionary events on Once Upon a Nation’s “Independence After Hours” tour. Time travel to the 18th century as Isaac, clad in breeches, a waistcoat and a tri-cornered hat, escorts the group to dinner at the Colonial themed City Tavern. Isaac instructs us to respond to his toast of “hip, hip” with a rousing “huzzah.” While we munch turkey pot pie, or other Colonial inspired entrée, Thomas Jefferson drops by for a chat.
Following the meal, Isaac rouses Caleb, the sleeping night watchman at the Pennsylvania State House, as Independence Hall was then known. Once inside, Caleb relates such anecdotes as how Ben Franklin appears to be asleep in his chair, but then startles the debaters with a pithy comment. (Recommended for ages 10 and older).
For kids with you, visit the much enlarged Please Touch Museum. Re-located in Memorial Hall, the only building remaining from the city’s 1876 Centennial Exhibition, the museum fills the grand space with imaginative
Kids can go down the rabbit hole into a hall of mirrors and have tea with the Mad Hatter; construct and race boats in the water play area, River Adventures; go shopping at a mini-supermarket and ride one of the
trusty steeds on a restored Dentzel carousel.
The Penn’s View Hotel, located in Old City by the waterfront, is a friendly place to stay. Rooms come with complimentary continental breakfast.