From the signing of the Declaration of Independence to the creation of the Constitution, Philadelphia has been home to some of America's biggest historical events. The Philadelphia History Museum celebrates the full gamut of the city's more than 300-year legacy. Mere steps from the Liberty Bell, the museum's eight renovated galleries spotlight artifacts and artwork from a collection of more than 100,000 items. With topics spanning from early America to sports, this assemblage includes George Washington's writing desk, John Brown's musket, and Joe Frazier's championship boxing gloves.
The museum includes plenty of interactive elements, too, such as the world's largest map of Philly, across which visitors can walk or fulfill their dreams of doing the worm through every neighborhood. Besides its exhibitions, Philadelphia History Museum hosts a rotating schedule of programs and events, ranging from insightful lectures to concerts.
Children with parents in tow come in droves to squeal with delight at the amazingly expansive Please Touch Museum, housed in the soaring Memorial Hall that was built in 1876 for the Centennial Exhibition. The hands-on play areas are clever, cute and decidedly age-appropriate. On the main floor, kids can bang on musical instruments in a rainforest-themed space, race sailboats in rivers (splash aprons provided!), build and launch foam rockets or pretend to drive a bus. The lower floor features an Alice in Wonderland-themed area, complete with distortion mirrors and mazes, plus a foam-block construction zone, a tiny grocery store and a little hospital. A few areas are set aside for toddlers three and younger, and an extra three dollars at the entrance buys a ticket to ride the more than century-old restored carousel.
Taking in all of Philadelphia's history could take days, but the folks at Philly By Segway somehow manage to compress the city's sights into two-hour tours. Starting along the Delaware River, excursions pass landmarks like Penn's Landing, Independence Hall, and Elfreth's Alley, the nation's oldest residential street. Besides historical attractions, tours stop by other notable spots, like the art museum's "Rocky steps," which Sylvester Stallone famously climbed in his one-man adaptation of Rocky & Bullwinkle.
Accommodating up to six participants, every tour is led by one of Philly By Segway's Adventure Captains. Besides narrating the entire trip, captains snap pictures throughout, which are available for guests to take home afterward.
Philadelphia Theatre Company is a dramatic laboratory for new stage works. Since its founding in 1974, the company has premiered more than 140 original plays and musicals, with more than half moving on to New York and other major cities. Widely lauded by local outlets and frequently recognized with Barrymore Awards, the company would need to build a new black box theater to contain its accolades.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art houses more than 225,000 objects spanning a jaw-whopping 5,000 years of human history. An extensive permanent collection of both Eastern and Western art includes highlights such as Temple Hall, a full-size, immaculately carved sixteenth-century Hindu temple. Grapple with the challenges of modernity amid the display of twentieth-century New York Dada art, featuring several pieces constructed entirely out of apple-satellite-violet-blargh. Chandelier and chandelier-swinging enthusiasts will enjoy Hanging Around: Modern and Contemporary Lighting from the Permanent Collection, which explores how electricity turned function into fashion (the exhibit ends October 10).