Thursday, August 6, 2009

Saturday, August 1st: (Don't) Let Alarm Clocks Ring

Day #2: Saturday, August 1

Don't you hate when you're sleeping in a hotel and the alarm clock goes off - LOUD - at some ungodly hour??! An alarm that YOU did not set, by the way. Oh no - the previous hotel guest set it and then forgot (we must assume) to unset it upon checking out of the room. Our alarm at the Hyatt decided to go off at 5:45 a.m. in the morning. Joy. Of course, I am unable to go back to sleep. I can only lie there and pray for karma. Grrrrrr.

Eventually, it really is time to get up and begin Day #2 of our Adventure - "Let Freedom Ring" is today's theme. It was NOT "Let Your Alarm Ring" at some ungodly hour.

Our first adventure today is a trolley tour of Philadelphia. We step on the Victorian trolley at 9:00 am and are greeted by Miss Kay - who can only be described as Bonnie Hunt in period costume. She is our guide for the tour and can be described in two words - a hoot. She was funny.

We are taken all over the streets of Philly. We go through Chinatown, where we get to see the internationally-known Friendship Gate, located at 10th & Arch Street. It was dedicated in 1984, and is quite stunning.

Another highlight was the Comcast Center, (17th & Arch), the tallest building in Philadelphia, and the 15th tallest building in the United States. We all get off the trolley and head into the lobby, where the Comcast Experience Video Wall can be seen. This is simply jaw-dropping. Wow. It's a 2,000 square feet high-definition LED screen, the largest 4-millimeter LED screen in the world. It spans 83.3 feet wide by 25.4 feet high - and displays spectacular video to visitors 18 hours a day. My picture below cannot do it justice - google it on You Tube and you can see some videos for yourself.

We make our way over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a run up the famous "Rocky Steps" - of which my daughter had NO idea what made them famous. Try explaining the movie "Rocky" to a 9-year old. We all got the opportunity to recreate the famous run up the seventy-two steps; we just needed the "Gonna Fly Now" song playing in the background!

And of course, when you reach the top of the steps, you MUST do the famous "Rocky Dance" and pump your arms in the air. Hey - it's required.

Our next stop is the National Constitution Center, located on Independence Mall. This is America's only museum devoted to the United States Constitution. We spend about an hour here by visiting the Center's permanent exhibition, "The Story of We the People", which tells the story of the Constitution, its history, and its contemporary relevance through more than 100 multimedia exhibits, film, photographs, text, sculpture, and artifacts. We begin by watching an amazing prefilm entitled, "Freedom Rising", a powerful, award-winning multimedia production which left me choked up.

We then went into the hands-on area, which could take days to do everything. Dear Daughter gets "sworn" is as President on a giant TV screen; she dons a Supreme Court justice robe and sits at a desk - all very fun stuff, but no photos allowed in this area, so we had to take pictures in our minds only. No Kodak moments.

We finish our visit here with Signer's Hall, where we wander among life-sized bronze statues of the 39 delegates who signed the Constitution (and the 3 dissenters) - all sculpted with historical accuracy. Photos are allowed here. I'm sure you've heard of "Dancing With the Stars." Well, here we have "Dancing with the Delegates."

We board the Trolley and our next stop is the Liberty Bell.

The line is long; the sun is hot...note for next time: take a hat and water. We finally get through security and get to see one of the more prominent symbols of the Revolutionary War. This first photo is a miracle in itself: there is not one person in the shot. Believe me, this is NOT easy to do - but the stars all aligned with the planets and the moons and I got the perfect shot of the Bell!

This is us in front of the Bell, with the 10,000 other Barbarians behind us. NOW you know why it's almost impossible to get a "person-free" shot of the Liberty Bell.

Next stop: Independence Hall. Our free timed ticket says we cannot enter until 12:00 pm, so we must wait. Patience.

Noon arrives, and we get to enter the historic building that was completed in 1753 and was the location where the Declaration of Independence AND the United States Constitution were signed. Our park guide, Mike, gave a very good tour and kept the children's attention by using them to represent the delegates while telling the history behind the building. Dear Daughter was the only one in our group who asked a question - she actually asked 2 questions - and Mike rewarded her after the tour by giving her cards as a prize. I'm so proud. I've obviously passed down my skills as a great orator.

We visit the Great Essentials Exhibit, located in the West Wing - which exhibits original copies of our founding documents, as well as the silver inkstand that was used for signing both documents. We took photos - but because the room is dark and the documents are behind glass - our photos stink. Sorry.

It was now time to say good-bye to Miss Kay, our wonderful guide all morning. Before saying goodbye, she passes out pins for our lanyards - the pins have the theme, Let Freedom Ring.

It's now time for lunch, so we walk across the street to The Bourse, a restructured building which now houses shops and a food court. We have enough time after lunch to run over 2 blocks to the Visitors Center and get our National Parks Passports stamped. That's always important.

Whew - the day's only half over - and look at all we've done so far! But we're not done yet - nope, far from it. We now meet back up with our group and participate in the Colonial Kids Quest.

The Declaration of Independence is missing! We had to help Phineas Bell search for clues at historic sites that will save the day. Along the way, we found his runaway dog, Freedom, and we met helpful two-legged and four-legged friends. Dear Daughter had a ball, running around the streets of Philly while searching for important clues. Her colorful hat drew quite the attention from everyone. Her face drew even more attention when she ate something sour.

After the Quest, we had a group photo with the characters, and the group all split up for the rest of the day.

We decided to head to Franklin Court and visit the Underground Museum, created in 1976 to interpret the remarkable life of Ben Franklin. Placed approximately 20 feet below ground to protect the remains of his home, the museum contains portraits of Franklin and his family, furniture, inventions, exhibits, and 3 films highlighting his extraordinary accomplishments.

It's now time to eat. We stumble across the Jones Restaurant - and we realize we've stumbled across a treasure. The decor is 60's funky; the food is down-home comfort. I can recommend the raspberry chocolate martini. (hiccup)

For our last adventure of the day, we hop on the Philly by Night bus tour. This was very good - a 90-minute tour that took us down South Street (which was a virtual parking lot),
Broad Street, the Avenue of the Arts (all lit up in blues and greens at night), and many, many other places.

We were beat. We were exhausted. We were ready to crawl into our bed. We hailed a cab and got back to the hotel around 11:00 pm. A long day.

A side note here: we were struck by how much art there is in Philadelphia. We learned that since 1959, Philly has had a program that requires new or remodeled construction to give back 1% of its funding into public arts. What an awesome thing! I wish every city had this - can you imagine the legacy we would leave for our children? Just a thought.

Anyway - time for bed.


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