You can't miss them. The white and blue boats on wheels coasting the streets of Philadelphia or riding the waves of the Delaware River with the sounds of the Rocky Theme or passengers merrily doing the YMCA coming from inside their open windows. With a fascinating history and an enthusiastic way of sharing Philly facts and folklore, Ride the Ducks is one of the funnest (and funniest) trips around the city Daily Vacationer has ever taken. Though usually assumed to be only for tourists, Philadelphia area locals looking for a new twist on familiar sights will also enjoy this novel and humorous (dare we say campy?) view of Center City.
|(Photo: U.S. Army)|
The Ride the Ducks story actually begins during World War II when the DUKW (more commonly known as "Ducks") amphibious vehicles were designed to transport fully equipped troops and cargo to assist in a war that was being fought across channels and seas and into ports and beaches. With the ability to ride right from land into water and back onto land again, the Duck boats were incredibly helpful to the Allies during battles along the French and Italian coastline and later again in the South Pacific. The Ducks were also used in the Korean War and were continually used by the United States Army until the 1960s. Then in 1977, Bob McDowell revived used of the amphibious vehicle for sightseeing in Branson, MO. Today Ride the Ducks tours in 8 locations around the country carrying 1,500,000 guests annually on their fleet of 95 Duck boats.
Though the mechanics of the vehicle remain the same as the original, the design of the tour boats has changed significantly in order to keep up with modern day safety and comfort standards. Every Duck boat is fully equipped with first aid and emergency gear for on the road, as well as life jackets in Infant, Child, and Adult sizes for the water portion of the tour. The ride on the river is made even safer with a boat captain taking over for the bus driver and a rescue crew standing by just in case. The transition from land to sea and back again is done effortlessly but also professionally and with every precaution being taken.
The tour itself boards in Historic Philadelphia right near the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall (tickets can be purchased at the Independence Visitor Center). It's a fitting start to a Philadelphia tour with a look back at the city's fascinating beginnings and most famous role in U.S. history. After a look at Washington Square, Jeweler's Row, Old City dining, City Hall, and various public art, the Duck Tour rolls into the Parkway Museum's District to take a look at Logan Square, the Barnes, the Rodin Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and The Academy of Natural Sciences. Then it's back into the Old City for points of interest such as Elfreth's Alley, the American Jewish Historical Museum, and the Betsy Ross House before heading down Race Street.
At this point Ride the Ducks one ups all the other bus tours in the city by driving straight into the Delaware River sending up an exciting wave of water during the the tour's famous "Splashdown" (don't worry - remarkably, no one gets wet). The river cruise portion is fascinating and refreshing with a unique look at the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, the Delaware River Waterfront (including Penn's Landing and the Independence Seaport Museum), as well as landmarks across the way at the Camden Waterfront (such as the Battleship New Jersey and the Adventure Aquarium).
The Duck Tours are made especially fun with witty and knowledgeable tour guides who are quick to banter with guests, sing along with the tour's continuous soundtrack, and throw an amusing story or historical rumor in with the facts. (On our tour we had Ranger Rick, who shared the spotlight with Matt, our friendly, funny, and trustworthy driver.) With a never-ending assortment of Duck puns, guides continue to "quack" jokes and entertain with a self-deprecating sense of humor about riding around on a Duck boat. Like your favorite teacher from school, Ride the Ducks takes what might be dry or repetitive information and turns the subject into something that is exciting and fun to learn about and experience. From history to legend, art to science, and diverse cultures to pop culture with a bit of fun weaved into it all, Ride the Ducks is definitely all it's "quacked up" to be!
Daily Vacationer Jr says: Ride the Ducks is a great way to tour Center City with kids. Younger ones will enjoy the music and friendly guides, older kids will find themselves absorbing knowledge in the midst of amusing commentary and obvious jokes, and everyone will love "splashing down" into the Delaware River. Parents of little ones can park their strollers at the "stroller tree" to be picked up after the tour and can fit infant car seats right next to them on the bus.