Friday, February 20, 2015

Choose a Way: Philadelphia

There are a billion different ways to tour Philadelphia.  While we love having the experience of going with a guide, we're also huge fans of the self-guided tour.  Taking yourself around and doing everything at your own pace can be more relaxing and lots of fun.  But where to start?  Jim Cheney from UncoveringPA.com has a solution with his new interactive ebook, Choose a Way: Philadelphia.  Available for Kindle and the free Kindle App, this wonderful guide is chocked full of great ideas  with 39 different locations for all different interests, ages, budgets, and schedules.
 
The most fun part about Choose a Way: Philadelphia is its unique "choose your own adventure" style to touring the city.  You can open the book at any time of the day and right away get started with your Philly adventure.  We love how the options aren't just a list of locations, but rather a description of what visiting the place entails.  Once you make your choice, then you click to the page and see where you're headed.  After you've explored your first location, you then consult the book again to find your next destination choices.  There are actually enough locations and choices to explore Philadelphia for five whole days - each a unique visit!

Choose a Way: Philadelphia does not just give you a location and then leave you to figure out the city on your own.  It also has pages of great advice and suggestions on dealing with public transportation, food options, what to bring, and if advanced tickets are needed for any location.  We also love that it takes every possible visitor into consideration including international tourists with mentions of the airport and exchanging currency.

Daily Vacationer loved the idea of Choose a Way: Philadelphia so much that we immediately set out to have our own adventure.  The guide recommends having Google Maps or GPS set up on your device for an easy link to directions, but we opted for the physical Visit Philly map that you can pick up at any of the visitor centers (even following an ebook, we're still pencil and paper type people).  We started our adventure between 9:00am 10:00am which gave us a great list of places to begin.

For stop number one, we opted to go full out tourist and started with a visit to Independence Hall.  As the book mentions, usually timed tickets are needed, but as we went in February, we could just walk up to the security check and go right in.  We've done this visit before, but we'd never turn down the opportunity to enjoy such an iconic historical experience.  Even so, we wanted to make sure that the rest of our adventure was brand new, so our next choice was the Polish American Cultural Center - a fantastic and FREE little museum dedicated to Polish history, it's influence within America, and a look at their art and culture.  With friendly staff and an adorable gift shop area, we thought this place was wonderful and plan to return again.

To keep things random and fresh as we followed Choose a Way: Philadelphia, our next stop was the Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum.  The slick modern interior makes for a fun contrast to its location in Old City, and we were fascinated from the moment we entered.  The museum is a beautiful open space of two floors dedicated to the history of and daily realities of the science of chemistry from alchemy to current uses.  Even for non-science minded people, the exhibits are fun to look at and are filled with interesting info.  Although this is not a "hands on" museum, the giant periodic table tower in the center is an interactive touch screen.  The staff's passion for chemistry and down to earth way of sharing it is contagious.  A visit to this FREE museum is a must for everyone!

From this point, we decided to indulge a walk down 3rd Street for some of the coolest and quirkiest shops in town.  Briar Vintage is always a great favorite of ours, and we love to stop in at Wedge+Fig when we are in that part of town.  Even just window shopping along this route between Market and Race is a pleasure, but do yourself a favor and stop in at every place that catches your eye (it may take awhile!).  For our last stop we decided to head to a place that we have heard so much about but never made time to actually go: The Franklin Fountain.  From the outfits of the staff to the ancient cash register, this old-fashion soda fountain tucked near Penn's Landing is a fun recreation of a beloved bygone era.  The place can get hopping in warmer weather, but thanks to our visit in the middle of winter, we were able to peruse all the choices before making a decision (and there are A LOT of choices).  We thought an ice cream sundae was a fitting end to one of the coolest day we've ever had in Philly.
 
After taking Choose a Way: Philadelphia out for a spin ourselves, we definitely recommend this unique guide to anyone and everyone.  This guide book is a great purchase for yourself, but it would also make a great gift to anyone who loves or is planning to visit Philadelphia (did we mention it's only $6.99??) Within the span of one day we explored history, science, culture, fantastic shopping, and yummy food - most of it in places that we wouldn't have normally planned to go on our own.  We certainly had an adventure in Philadelphia, and we can't wait to go back and choose a whole new way next time!



(Amazon Affiliate)

 


 


Choose a Way: Philadelphia author Jim Cheney is a travel writer and photographer based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His writing focuses primarily on the state of Pennsylvania, but he also writes about his extensive world travels through Europe, Asia, and North America. Jim is one of the foremost experts on Pennsylvania, and writes UncoveringPA.com, Pennsylvania's top travel blog.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Franklin Institute: Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out

The animal kingdom is absolutely fascinating.  With so many shapes and sizes, breeds and kinds, and classes and species, there is always something new to discover about them.  The special Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out exhibit at The Franklin Institute's Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion (until April 12) gives visitors an incredible look at the insides of a huge range of wonderful creatures.  From tentacles and gills to giant hearts and tiny brains, Animal Inside Out literally dissects and exposes the inner workings and curious oddities of the natural world.


Thanks to his invention of the amazing preservation process called Plastination, Dr. Gunther von Hagen was able to create this incredible showcase.  We were thrilled to find an explanation of the Plastination process included within the exhibit (especially after we gawked at the animals comprised almost entirely of only their blood vessels!).  We were also delighted to learn that not one animal was harmed or killed during the preparation of the exhibit, but rather all the animals (and the couple of humans) had their bodies donated posthumously.   We are admittedly squeamish and were a little concerned about seeing insides exposed, but we found the whole thing to be more of an artful homage to the animal kingdom rather than just a scientific display of innards.  From leaping reindeer and a massive bull to a towering giraffe and a cross-sectioned camel, Animal Inside Out is a truly unique look at not only the natural world around us, but also ourselves.
 
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Monday, February 16, 2015

Daily Vacationer Jr: Passport to Discovery at the Garden State Discovery Museum

The Garden State Discovery Museum is once again traveling around the globe with their Passport to Discovery series.  They invite their guests to join them in exploring different countries and cultures thru March with special crafts and lively entertainment.  Passport to Discovery is FREE with admission.
 
A couple of weekends ago, Daily Vacationer Jr had a fantastic time "traveling" to Scotland during the Garden State Discovery Museum's Scottish Celebration.  We designed our own tartan kilts and glued together a little Loch Ness Monster to take home with us at the Arts and Imagination table.  We were also treated to a Scottish Highland dance performance from the South Jersey Scottish Highland Dance School (Pipes and Drums of Barnegat Bay also performed the day before).  It was a lot of fun - we had a great time!


And while you're making plans on which Passport to Discovery event to attend (we recommend all of them!), don't forget to note the Discovery Theatre's upcoming performances of Pinocchio:
March 28, 31

April 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 11
1:00pm and 4:00pm
 
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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Local Destination: Winterfest and Blue Cross RiverRink

Every year the Delaware River Waterfront hosts the Blue Cross RiverRink - a wonderful place to skate with a fantastic view of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and the Delaware River.  This year, following the smashing success of the warm weather pop up Spruce Street Harbor Park, the Waterfront has gone above and beyond turning a fun Philadelphia tradition into an absolute must for everyone in the Greater Philly area by introducing  Winterfest.  With a lodge, bonfires, light shows, fantastic food, porches lined with rocking chairs, and the fun arcade, Winterfest can make anyone thrilled that it's winter in Philadelphia (and it's FREE!).

Daily Vacationer's first visit to Winterfest was during the holiday season when we were exploring the city on the Philly Phlash's Holiday Loop.  The cheerful music had nothing on the mood of the holiday crowds.  We could have stayed up on the Chestnut Street overpass and watched for hours and hours just soaking in the festiveness of the whole view.  Then on New Year's Eve, they welcomed 2015 with TWO fireworks shows (one at 6pm and one at midnight) hosted by Sugar Casino.  It was a fantastic show and a very well organized event on what can often be a chaotic night in other places.   Even with the end of the holidays, Winterfest continues to be a shining light of pure fun during these dark, cold winter days.
 
Whether it's cheering someone on in the arcade, chatting around the outdoor fires, sharing blankets on the porches, skating along in the ice rink, or playing Jenga on the couches around the "fireplaces", every spot in Winterfest is the best place to make memories with friends and family.  And the food - THE FOOD!! We were already of fan of Garces Group, but a taste of their Village Burger at the Lodge has made us love them even more (the fries are a favorite of ours too!).  If burgers are not your thing (though with their selection of beef and veggie burgers, we don't know how you couldn't be), the Distrito Cantina Truck has a great menu of tacos, quesadillas, churros, and a fantastic Mexican hot dog.  The Fireside CafĂ© is also on the premises offering winter favorites like warm drinks, baked goods, soft pretzels, and s'mores kits for the firepits in the winter garden.  Enjoy Happy Hour from 5pm to 7pm Monday thru Friday on all seasonal beers.  Be sure and check hours before you visit.
 
Thanks to the fun and excitement of just being at Winterfest this year (did we mention the light shows every half an hour in the evenings?), one doesn't have to even ice skate to have a good time.  However, we highly recommend a spin around Blue Cross' RiverRink.  It's only $3 for a session on the well taken care of rink and skates can be rented for $10 (sessions do sell out, so purchase tickets in advance).  The lockers and benches are located right near the rink entrance making getting around easy.  RiverRink is also a great place for beginners to give it a try as the skaters are not as "on display" as other rinks.  Winterfest and RiverRink can be rented out for parties, events, and fundraisers with different packages available.   They also host a ton of their own events open to the public on most weekends.  Groups are also invited to register together to receive a discount.
 
Just like Spruce Street Harbor Park was this summer, Winterfest is THE PLACE to go during the cold months in Philadelphia this year.  Only open until March 1st, don't miss out on your chance to experience what everyone is raving about.  This year the Delaware River Waterfront has given the city a place to stay warm and have fun no matter how cold it gets.

DAILY VACATIONER JR SAYS: WINTERFEST IS A GREAT PLACE TO BRING THE KIDS! THEY WILL LOVE THE COIN OPERATED RIDES AND LIVELY GAMES IN THE ARCADE, MAKING S'MORES BY THE FIRE, AND TAKING A SPIN ON THE RIVERRINK.  CHILDREN'S MENU ITEMS ARE AVAILABLE AT THE REFRESHMENT LOCATIONS AND KIDS 4 AND UNDER SKATE FOR FREE!
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Monday, February 2, 2015

Longwood Gardens: Orchid Extravaganza

 
Orchids have been a tradition at Longwood Gardens since 1922, with the art of tending to this special flower being handed down from gardener to gardener until today.  The Orchid Extravaganza presented by Longwood Gardens every year could not come at a better time.  Beginning in January and running until the end of March, this event is a summer oasis in the middle of the coldest months.
 
 
From the moment when you first enter the Conservatory and look out over the vast displays, you feel a sense of calm and relaxation taking over.  It's warm, it's beautiful, and it smells like heaven.  Walk slow and give yourself time to take it all in.  One of the most wonderful things about the entire exhibit is how each new view is somehow more dazzling than the last.  Just as you've decided that the East Conservatory is the prettiest place on earth, you wander into the Main Conservatory and see the greenest, most perfect lawns imaginable.
 
There are a couple of specific things to take note of as you wander through the breath-taking exhibits.  The Orchid Meadow returns this year after its popularity during last year's Extravaganza.  We also loved the vibrant Phalaenopsis displayed beautifully within metal sculptures.  The amazing horticultural and artistic displays, including these two, will leave you enchanted at each turn.
 
The Orchid Extravanganza is an exhibit for everyone and every age, with nearly 4,000 orchids on display in the 4-acre Conservatory.  Don't miss your chance to step out of winter and into this tropical world.
 
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More PHOTOS from Daily Vacationer's 2015 visit.

More PHOTOS from Daily Vacationer's 2014 visit.

Admission and Visiting Hours Information.

OrKID Days - fun for the youngest visitors.

April Orchid Extravaganza Sale.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Daily Vacationer Jr: Delaware Children's Museum

Daily Vacationer Jr is giving away a Family 4 Pack to the
Delaware Children's Museum!
***(Details below)***
 
The Delaware Children's Museum is full of practical play.  And by practical, we don't mean boring (this place could never be boring!).  Instead we're talking about a place that is filled with hands on, interactive fun that also teaches kids (and their caregivers) about important topics and basic life skills.  Pretty much every nook and cranny of the Delaware Children's Museum is another chance to learn how to thrive when dealing with real world experiences, problems, and opportunities (except for maybe the new Pirate Ship - that thing is just pure swashbuckling fun).
 
With all the interesting sounds coming from it, the first place you'll be drawn to (after climbing around in the amazing Stratosphere of course) is The Power of Me.  Here you can test yourself to see your reaction time, agility, and flexibility and see the different parts of your body and how they all work.  The Power of Me teaches kids (and adults) how to best take care of their bodies while encouraging activity and healthy eating in a fun way (our heart rate was certainly going after a turn on the rowboats and playing some games on the rock wall!).  We noticed that the Food-o-Matic Diner (nutrition), the bluescreen theater area (fun movement), and the tall slide in the center were big hits with the kids running around in this area.
 
Right next door to the Power of Me, it's time to don the hardhats in the innovative world of Structures.  Here you can role play every single job of a construction process from designing and testing to building completion.  While this area looks sparse at first, you quickly discover that there is a type of block/construction toy for almost any interest level.  For even very young kids, the tower near the entrance helps them pick out various shapes in their everyday world.  Some of our favorites of this area were tracing the different structures at the architect drafting board, testing our block buildings against earthquakes, and creating an actual arch with big blocks.

Structures flows naturally into ECOnnect with a walk through the Eco House, a sustainable house that's big enough to play in and small enough for kids to feel right at home.  ECOennect was definitely our personal favorite zone.  The camping/woods area reminded us of all the times we'd pretend to camp out as kids (but so much better).  On a practical level, this area teaches kids about the animals who can be found in this region as well as camping safety tips while also giving them an appreciation for the intricacies and beauty of nature.  Located just next to the woods is the fun water area.  Put on a plastic smock and learn about the flow of water through rainstorms, dams, locks, and floating ships (or just splash your hand around to enjoy the feel of water - there was quite a lot of that going on).
 
ECOnnect has recently expanded its fun to include a pirate ship (with a great slide for littler kids), as well as the museum's fantastic Touch Tank Aquarium.  The Aquarium is the home for cartilaginous fish, bony fish, and invertebrates, so you'll have a chance to see rays, Hippo Tang fish ("Dory" from Finding Nemo, star fish and so much more.  We particularly enjoyed seeing the horseshoe crabs and sea urchins.  And don't forget to go up and around the Aquarium for some bird watching.
 
Bank on It, directly across from ECOnnect, was probably one of the most practical exhibits we've ever seen at a children's  museum.  This area takes you through every aspect of money from earning it and spending it to investing it and saving it.  Kids who like thinking games will love setting up their own lemonade stand and attempting to make it profitable.  Other favorites we saw for kids in this area included playing with an ATM and using a pneumatic tube just like at a real bank.  Bank on It takes the confusion and unrealistic "magic" out of currency and demonstrates the real life work to attain money and the different ways of putting it to good personal use.  This is especially a great place to visit with older kids who are beginning to handle their own money.
 
Next door in Training Wheels, the youngest visitors (0-preschool) get a fun and safe place to run around all their own.  Explore a world of all things transportation from a trip on the train, to working in the car shop, to learning about gears and wheels.  The littlest of visitors will enjoy exploring or just relaxing in the soft padded boat in this area.  (Caregivers of very little ones will also appreciate the little carpeted reading nook in ECOnnect as well as the nursing room in Training Wheels - with a chair and toys for older siblings).
 
 
Make sure to stop in at Studio D for some downtime and art exploration.  Paint  a picture, sculpt with clay, or do any of the other fun crafts the museum may have depending on the day.  We loved that there was also a little area with soft seating for reading books and doing puzzles for the kids that aren't quite old enough for paint and clay.  We were also thrilled that you could leave your kids' painted masterpiece on the drying rack until you were ready to leave.
 
The Delaware Children's Museum often hosts special exhibits (like the current Block Party that we explored and loved last year too) and has a calendar full of special events including their Junior Engineers series and Grand Adventures for grandparents and their grandchildren.  Once a month the museum offers $2 admission on a Wednesday night from 5pm to 8pm.  And their new late Friday and Saturday evening hours gives more time for play, learning, and enjoying special activities (like their Sea Life Scavenger Hunt).
 
We had a wonderful time at the Delaware Children's Museum and especially recommend it for caregivers with older children.  While they still have the hands on play that younger kids love so much, there are a lot of concepts and areas of fun that will intrigue kids who would normally be "too old" for a children's museum (they also have an admission price that can't be beat as well as FREE parking!).  Whether it's matching colors at a pop up activity station, learning the power of a dollar at Bank on It, or braving the elevated maze of the Stratosphere, the Delaware Children's Museum inspires and teaches kids about themselves and their surroundings in a way that helps prepare them to grow up in confidence.
 
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(Closed on Mondays)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Daily Vacationer Jr: Linvilla Orchards: Fore the Planet!


  
Is it raining/snowing/cold again?? If you're looking for an engaging inside activity, look no further than Fore! the Planet, Linvilla Orchard's indoor mini-golf course.  It promises 18 holes of serious fun, and it definitely delivers.  With golf club sizes for everyone, Fore! the Planet can be a fun afternoon out with friends or a family event.  The game is suitable for almost all ages, but don't be fooled by the size - the course is trickier than it looks and those searching for a fulfilling competition will find it here (and those looking to just hit a ball around until it finally lands in a hole - any hole - will also find that here).
 
The course was put together by the Academy of Natural Sciences, making Fore! the Planet literally all about the planet from environmental issues to animal adaptation.  Each hole comes with a description and some educational info.  We'd advise not skipping the lessons, as they often hold the key on how to score better at various holes, plus they are fun and engaging in themselves.
 
Open until April 4th,  make sure that you schedule a day for this fantastic mini golf course!  Daily Vacationer Jr had a ton of fun attempting the course (we noticed an advantage with the kid-sized clubs...hmmmmm...), and we loved reading about and exploring the details at each hole.  Our absolute favorite holes were #6, Backyard Explorer, and #15, Spawning Salmon.  Hats off to Linvilla Orchards and the Academy of Natural Sciences - this is a great idea!




 
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