The Franklin Institute brings hands-on science fun at Pennsylvania's most visited museum. Spanning three floors, the Institute gives a voice to human ingenuity—past and future—with hundreds of interactive exhibits such as The Giant Heart, Changing Earth, and Sports Challenge, as well as explosive live science shows, an indoor SkyBike ride, and the city's tallest IMAX theater,which is 5 stories high. Though now filled with a range of space-age attractions, the Institute began with single purpose.
Samuel Vaughan Merrick and William H. Keating established The Franklin Institute in 1824, to honor the life and achievements of Benjamin Franklin. In the following decades, the Institute hosted forward thinkers such as Nikola Tesla, who gave a demonstration on wireless telegraphy in 1893. In 1930, the board decided to expand the space into a new science museum—and raised the funds in 12 days. The museum opened to the public in 1934—and in the same year hosted the first public demonstration of an all-electronic TV system.
A visit to The Franklin Institute’s includes access to three floors of permanent interactive exhibits including the iconic, two story tall Giant Heart. Other exhibits include Space Command, which invites visitors to recover an unmanned space probe and examine real astronaut equipment. At Changing Earth, visitors create their own weather patterns, play with steams of water, and build structures that can stand up to earthquakes or all-elephant 5Ks.
At various daily showtimes, the Franklin Theater’s high-contrast screen displays 3D films on animals, earth ecosystems, and human history. In the recently renovated Fels Planetarium, the second oldest in the nation complete with a rooftop observatory, audiences witness projections of weather and space spread across a 60-foot seamless aluminum dome. Daily live science shows draw an enthusiastic crowd, and interactive science carts invite visitors to observe a live heart dissection or try their hand at paper-making.
Burrowed inside Treasure Island Hotel and Casino is Kahunaville Island Restaurant & Party Bar—a triple-threat dining, drinking, and party venue boasting big-island flair-style bartending and an epic selection of rums. The flashy mixologists "transcend the typical role of a bartender and become a source of entertainment," writes Justin Lawson for Vegas.com. Bedazzled bartenders such as Essie from Stockholm and Nicola from Milan turn ordering a tropical cocktail into an acrobatic exhibition of flipping bottles, throwing flames, and convincing pimento olives to jump rope. Meanwhile, seasoned chefs whip up eclectic eats that feature Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Asian flavors sprinkled over steaks, seafood, and burgers.
The restaurant sports a tiki-hut motif, its faux palm leaves shading diners as they nosh at vibrant tables of blue, green, yellow, and orange patterns. A stone water wall glows phosphorescent, while stone pillars accept the snug embrace of flowery vines and confused tree-huggers. Outside, patrons enjoy mixed drinks on the patio under huge palm trees or beside a sapphire pool. On Wednesday–Sunday, DJs add an upbeat soundtrack while patrons dine and view sporting events on one of three projection screens or 22 HD flat-screen TVs.
When chef John McKibben first opened Grape Street Cafe in 1997, his small restaurant took a back seat to a large front-of-the-house retail area where customers could purchase house-made sauces, salads, and high-quality wines. Though the concept quickly transitioned to focus on the fresh, house-made dishes flying out of his kitchen, McKibben has held on to his retail license and continues to encourage his diners to finish their meal by picking up a bottle of wine to go or commissioning a self-portrait painted with balsamic vinegar.
With the exception of a handful of rotating nightly specials, the menu has stayed largely the same, and Chef McKibben credits the cuisine as the eatery's 14-year secret to success. Dinner finds the shop's signature hot sandwiches, creamy pastas, and pizzas sharing top billing alongside nationally inspired entrees such as a baked Alaskan halibut topped with lemon beurre-blanc and Colorado lamb in a sweet-and-sour mint glaze. However, the diverse menu is designed to complement the restaurant’s real draw: its extensive wine selection. Up to 90 vinos are available by the glass each day, with selections that hail from as near as Napa and as far away as Mosel, Bordeaux, Rioja, and Mos Eisley.
It goes without saying that Ukranian model and actress Oleksandra Nikolayenko-Ruffin knows a thing or two about beauty. But the 2004 Miss Ukraine Universe winner is also the brains behind her self-named spa, a tranquil and luxurious facility that earned a five-diamond rating from The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. Housed inside the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino, the wellness sanctuary pampers guests with a massive menu of services that enhances everything from skin and body to scalp, hair, and nails. Facials are enhanced with hydrating botanical extracts and ingredients such as pumpkin pulp or papaya enzymes, which may cause pores to ask for second helpings. Six Davines Natural Tech hair treatments perform a spectrum of good deeds for scalps and manes, from softening damaged hair with silk proteins to excavating strands sequestered beneath chlorine and hard-water deposits.
Marble tile accents the walls of the spa, where cushy recliners congregate with other upholstered furniture inside separate lounges for men and women. Visitors to the spa typically check in at least 30 minutes early so they may change or cartwheel into a robe and sandals and warm up in the steam room, sauna, or whirlpool.
Aces & Ales blends pub-style comfort food and a rotating selection of 22 artisanal beers on tap with musical entertainment, fusing the passions of owner Keri Kelli, craft beer enthusiast and former guitarist for rock legend Alice Cooper. Plucking out distinctive pours more precisely than a neophyte harpist learning "Stairway to Heaven," the staff lines up select imperial stouts and hefeweizens to escort gastropub-inspired bites such as Belgian-style fries with bacon and blue cheese or homemade Maryland crab cakes. The bar's 14 plasma TVs, meanwhile, catch diners' eyes with 55 inches of pro-sports action. A classically trained robot moonlighting as a jukebox emanates waves of nostalgia and patron-selected tunes before local bands take the stage to test the stability of the exposed brick walls, which have previously resonated with the voice of Alice Cooper himself.
Queen Victoria Pub dishes up traditional British sandwiches, pies, and entrees 24 hours a day. Secret-recipe beer batter envelops crispy fried fish paired with British chips, and bangers join mashed potatoes and baked beans for teatime and soft-spoken discussions in which the word “balderdash” is politely thrown around. Savory pies are baked in-house with combos such as meat and mushrooms, steak and kidney, and cheese and onion beneath tender puff-pastry crusts. Whether sidled up to the bar or nestled in their seats, guests quench thirsts with 20-ounce brews such as London Pride, Harp, and Smithwick's while surveying British sports on the televisions and absorbing sound waves emitted by the resident Beatles cover-band, Revolver, who plays every Wednesday through Saturday from 9 p.m. to midnight.