Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Oh say can you see?

I cried... I didn't intend it...I wasn't expecting it. But I did. It got to me.

The multi-media Show at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is called "Freedom Rising" and is one of the most powerful experiences I've had at an attraction.

While you sit in a modern theatre-in-the-round a live narrator combined with music and images explains the story of America. It's triumphs and tragedies. It's struggles and shining moments. How the Constitution has pulled citizens together as one nation and divided them at times. "We the People" comes to life in a crescendo of emotion. Then you walk out to the interactive areas to participate and learn more. I truly enjoyed the Founder's Hall and original documents here but what got to me was the end of the show "Freedom Rising". After immersing ourselves in the grand story of America's history and the people who sacrificed so much along the way, the narrator looked right at me, pointed and said, "Now it's up to you." ...that's when I cried.

Under the Sea

I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this Aquarium! Don't let the location keep you from going. The Adventure Aquarium is located in Camden, New Jersey just across the river from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. River Shuttle is the best method but you can also take a bus or taxi there.

What a treat. "Scuba Santa" was visiting when I was there and the kids went berserk. Well... I did too. The huge Ocean Theater is so much fun to watch with a theater sized viewing window and stadium seating. Everyone got a great view of Santa and the sea creatures in the tank. Great exhibits, touch a shark, 4D theater (showing Sponge Bob), Penguin Island and more. Shark Realm was one of my favorites with a 40 foot viewing tunnel that makes you feel part of their world. After visiting Jules Verne Gallery where creepy ocean creatures like Giant Spider Crabs and Jellyfish lurk I am convinced that this is one of the best Aquariums around.

Let Freedom Ring

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was pivotal in creating our new United States. Visiting the places where Franklin, Jefferson and other founders met is awe-inspiring. No visit would be complete without seeing the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. But be prepared. To protect these National treasures the security is high. It's very similar to Airport security measures so factor this into your visit.
A good place to start, of course, is the visitor's center to get oriented and a timed entrance ticket for the Independence Hall tour. Although these attractions are free they are organized from this location.
Do spend some time reading panels and plaques for a complete story and don't miss Benjamin Franklin's Burial Plot just down the street and the site where Thomas Jefferson completed the Declaration of Independence. Everywhere you turn in Philadelphia, History winks back!

Anchors Away

The Independence Seaport Museum is spread out on the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania waterfront at Penn's Landing and you have to see it all. The building, ship and submarine. It's the only way to get the full effect.

Inside the building you learn amazing maritime history from shipbuilding to navigation. Wonderful figureheads and an interactive ship construction area. Once you are armed with nautical knowledge you must visit the 1892 ship Olympia and WWII Submarine Becuna. One of the highlights here is the Submarine veterans who work there and share real life adventures with the guests! I can't imagine living on a submarine for months at a time given the cramped quarters. All seafaring fans will enjoy this authentic attraction and a chance to step back in time.

The Heart of Philadelphia

The giant, walk-through heart at the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia Pennsylvania is a blast! Where else can you explore massive aortas and walk around circulation systems?
This tribute to Benjamin Franklin includes many of his personal items and encourages hands-on science. Lots of buttons, levers and switches. While much of it is kid-friendly, there is plenty for adults and kids of all ages. They even have a very nice Food Cafe. Travelling exhibits and an IMAX Theater keep the museum fresh while old favorites, like the giant heart, still inspire.
The beautiful memorial statue of Ben Franklin in the rotunda is impressive and sets the tone for invention and exploration. One of my favorite areas is "Sir Isaacs Loft" on the third floor. Here you can discover scientific principles in action and really understand how things work in our world. There is so much to see and do at the Franklin Institute Science Museum that you don't know where to start. Just dive right in. Ben would be pleased!

Take me to the Zoo

The Zoo, like many things in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is America's first Zoo. Forty-two acres of animal delight! They do a great job of blending the old and the new here.
I really loved the old stone zoo buildings and modern exhibits like "Big Cat Falls" will keep you entertained for hours watching the cats explore their environment.
While they have unusual animals like White Tigers and Giant River Otters, they also have more common species in interesting settings like the Flamingos. When I walked around one corner past a large rock, I came face to face with a bear! He looked at me and I looked at him before I realized there was a deep moat between us. After sniffing the air he turned and walked away but I have to admit my heart was pounding.
Those kinds of surprises are common at the Philadelphia Zoo and the grounds are beautiful for strolling or taking a break. Everyone I met was pleasant and took the time to expain the animals to me, which felt like a personal tour. If you enjoy beautiful, historic settings filled with interesting sights, then the Philadelphia Zoo is for you.