To say that Philadelphia played an important role in Colonial America can’t be overstated. The city is home to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Important sites like Valley Forge and the Brandywine sit just a stone’s throw away. Yet somehow, the City of Brotherly Love didn’t have a single museum dedicated to the movement that founded the United States of America. Until now! I recently got a chance to get a sneak peek at the brand new Museum of the American Revolution, which opens on Wednesday, April 19th.
Tulips and daffodils are sure signs of spring. But so far cherry blossoms! What started as a Japanese tradition of picnicking under the blossoming cherry trees has been adopted internationally as a rite of passage each spring. Cities around the world are now celebrating spring by hosting celebrations under the cherry blossoms. Philadelphia is no different. Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia hosts a week long celebration in honor of those pretty flowering trees. The final event of the cherry blossom week is Sakura Sunday in Fairmount Park. And this year’s Sakura Sunday was bigger and better than ever!
Quick. Think of Philadelphia. What’s the first museum that comes to mind? Probably the Philadelphia Museum of Art? Maybe the Franklin Institute? For out of town visitors looking to get the most of the city, there are lots of things to see that might ordinarily be easy to overlook. For locals, there are places that you might have heard about but never made time to go visit. Regardless of the reason, there are plenty of museums to inspire, entertain and pique your curiosity. But now is the time and go visit! Here are 5 Philadelphia museums off the beaten path that you shouldn’t miss!
The Philadelphia Horticultural Society (PHS) knocked it out of the park this year with the 2017 Philadelphia Flower Show. Holland: Flowering the World is a people-pleasing theme. The florists and landscapers from around the region have beautifully executed the theme. If, like me, you love tulips then you simply won’t want to miss this year’s exhibition.
In recent years, the theme for the Flower Show has made things a bit difficult for the exhibitions. “The Movies” was inexplicably interpreted as Disney princesses. The National Park Service, while beautiful, wasn’t very floral. Simply put: people want to see flowers. They want to see colors. They want to anticipate spring. And if ten acres of blooming trees and flowers don’t get you in the mood for spring, then you’re just not trying.
You may already be familiar with George Nakashima furniture if you’re a fan of the American craft movement or a regular viewer of Antiques Roadshow. You can find the groundbreaking furniture designs of the celebrated American architect and woodworker in countless homes and businesses. His unique and highly modern pieces are exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, over 200 pieces are in a Nelson Rockefeller home as well in Kentucky Knob, the home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for I. N. Hagan. Today, his family run the furniture business from the George Nakashima workshop and studio that he set up in New Hope, Pennsylvania, in the 1940s and 50s. Half the year, they offer tours of the George Nakashima house, workshop, and studio. It’s a unique behind-the-scenes experience in these carefully crafted items.
For a long time, I was reluctant to try Philadelphia’s City Tavern. I passed by it countless times as a teenager and during my college years. It was merely a landmark on my route to South Street or when I’d go to rock shows at the nearby Khyber Pass club (RIP). I thought of City Tavern as just another tourist trap. And while that is true to a certain extent, City Tavern has a lot more to offer than most give it credit for.
My husband and I somewhat spontaneously made reservations for lunch a few days before our visit to celebrate our anniversary. It seemed like a fun place to try.
Central Philadelphia is great for traveling on foot. And, no, it is not just because public transit coverage is spotty. (Not the whole reason, anyhow.) In addition to being relatively flat, you can literally walk through time. From the Art Museum to the Liberty Bell. Across cobblestones and concrete sidewalks. Through streets where the likes of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and countless other founding fathers walked during colonial times. I’ve put together a Philadelphia walking tour to explore the culture and the history — and get a bite to eat, too!
The steps outside the east entrance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art are as far as some visitors to the city ever get to the museum’s impressive collection. Ever since Sylvester Stallone’s 1976 run up those steps in Rocky, tourists flock to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. They’re eager to retrace Rocky’s steps. They race up the steps, arms triumphantly raised. At the foot of the steps, along the street, visitors patiently form a line to get their photo taken with a statue of Rocky.
Sometimes you just need a day off. And that’s just what we did earlier this week.
After dinner a few weeks ago at Parc on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia we decided to return. But this time for breakfast. And, boy, was it good! While my husband had the Eggs Benedict and I the Eggs Norwegian, which substitutes smoked salmon on the eggs Benedict, I’m still daydreaming about the meal.
Mother Nature gave hints of spring, too. The restaurant really adapts the Parisian feel — or what I’d imagine it to be. Large, floor to ceiling windows just let the beautiful sunlight come rushing in. It was a lovely experience to an equally lovely meal.
Meanwhile our visit to the Philadelphia Flower Show was not quite as enjoyable. After my visit last year, where the plants weren’t looking quite so lively, we decided to go early on this time. Apparently so did everyone else. Even arriving at opening, you couldn’t get close enough to any of the exhibits to see anything. What I could see all looked very similar. While I was very excited about the theme of the National Parks, I was very disappointed with the execution. I think this might be my last visit to the Flower Show for a while.
At least I have that wonderful meal to carry me through…
Photo from The Philadelphia Flower Show’s Facebook page.
Right on the Schuylkill River, just between the Fairmount Water Works and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (you know, those steps that Rocky ran up) is Philadelphia’s Boathouse Row.
This past weekend we took a walk along Boathouse Row. The weather was just too perfect to hide in the Art Museum at the International Pop exhibit’s preview. The sunshine and relatively warmer temperatures were a real hint of spring!
The historic buildings on Boathouse Row date back to the late 19th century and are still in use. Each year, Boathouse Row sees a number of major rowing regattas. One of the regattas is the Dad Vail Regatta, the largest intercollegiate rowing event in the United States. The Victorian style buildings are quaintly decorated and at lit up beautifully at night.
As anyone from the greater Philadelphia area will tell you, Longwood Gardens is known for its special Christmas displays. Located just outside of the city near the state line between Pennsylvania and Delaware, Longwood Gardens is more than 1000 acres of gardens which came to real prominence under the ownership and loving eye of Pierre S. du Pont and his wife, Alice. Each year, Longwood Gardens prepares a special Christmas display. A large portion of the famed Christmas display are holiday lights that you can admire as you walk the property. But the extremely popular exhibit requires timed tickets and, from previous experience, I can assure you it’s extremely crowded during the nighttime hours when the lights are aglow. So, instead, I made a late morning journey to visit Longwood Gardens and appreciate the display.
Each spring, people flock to Philadelphia’s West Fairmount Park for the city’s annual cherry blossom festival. The setting is perfect with countless cherry trees and Shofuso, a traditional Japanese home and garden. But through those warm spring, summer and fall months, you can visit Shofuso even if those famous blossoms are not on display. The house and garden is a special gem you wouldn’t expect to stumble upon within the park. And it’s one you shouldn’t miss either!