Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Day in Philadelphia for $20

Why is there a British flag hanging in Elfreth's Alley?
Let's call it...a sign of the glory of the First Amendment.

Yesterday I went with my friend Pat, my sister Samantha, and her boyfriend Jace to Philadelphia. Jace is from Maine and had never been here before. He is also studying to be a history teacher. So, we undertook to show him historic Philadelphia, on a budget. Our itinerary:
  • 8:04: Purchase SEPTA "Independence" day pass for $10 each and catch the R5 into 30th St Station.
  • 8:45: In West Philadelphia ("born and raised..."), catch the El to 2nd and Market St.
  • 9:10: Tour Christ Church at 2nd and Arch, birthplace of the Episcopal church. See George Washington's pew, a 300-year-old chandelier, and a 600-year-old baptismal font, among other treasures. Stingily give only $1 of the suggested $3 adult donation.
  • 9:30: Walk through Elfreth's Alley, one of the few preserved colonial streets left in the wake of demolition for Independence Mall and I-95. Price: free.
  • 9:45: Walk past Benjamin Franklin's grave on the way to Independence Hall. Price: Free.
  • 9:50: Get a fresh, fluffy, warm, mustard-drenched pretzel from a food truck. The pretzel is so good it "lives up to Avatar's hype." Price: $0.50
  • 9:55: Reach Independence Hall looking for tour tickets, only to discover we must walk a block to the "Independence Visitor's Center" to pick up the tickets. The Center is immensely pointless, a fact made more bitter by the knowledge of the aforementioned demolition of Elfreth's Alley-like neighborhoods in its place. Grudgingly pick up free tickets for the 11:45 tour.
  • 10:00: Stop in and see the Liberty Bell. Have the feeling that the history presented here is to real history as muzak is to music. Nevertheless, the bell is cool. Price: free.
  • 10:15: Stop for another pretzel at another cart. Find the second every bit as delicious as the first. Price: another $0.50.
  • 10:15 Walk to the Second Bank of the United States, and stumble upon an incredible exhibit of portraits of Founding Fathers and their contemporaries. Here is history intelligently and legitimately displayed, as the exhibit tries to explain these folks as products of a movement called the Enlightenment, grouped so as to leave room for visitors to make their own inferences and contextualization. See some really cool paintings. Price: free.
  • 11:30: Return to Independence Hall for tour. Hear excellent tour guide involve the whole group, which included visitors from both coasts, the South, Canada, and France. Price: free.
  • 12:30: Walk to Reading Terminal Market for lunch. Realize there are better times to go than Thanksgiving weekend at peak lunch time. Wait around 45 minutes for a cheesesteak at Spataro's, which proves pretty much worth it. Save money and unnecessary calories by bringing a water bottle from home. Price: $8.
  • 2:15: Walk to City Hall. Explore the tallest masonry building in the world. Find the city's Christmas Village set up in wooden huts on the west side. Meet Germans selling roasted nuts. Find out from the merchant that his group came from Bavaria just for this market and will return two days after Christmas. Share Pat's roasted pecans, which are out of this world. Price: free to me, $4 to Pat.
  • 3:30: Walk through Love Park with the intention of reaching the Franklin Institute.
  • 4:00: Stop in to see the Comcast Center's video wall, and receive 3D glasses for their "Holiday Spectacular" show. Enjoy the beautiful screen, though it is merely a glorified screen saver. Discover exactly how empty Christmas becomes when stripped of its Christian context, as most spectacularly displayed by a children's chorus of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" for the finale. Price: free.
  • 4:25: Return to Love Park for photos of Sam and Jace under the iconic sign.
  • 4:45: Take the El past the giant clothespin to 5th and South with the intention of dinner at Pietro's and an exploration of the street. Price: free.
  • 5:15: Elect instead to return home for free lasagna from Mom's kitchen. Stop by Carpenter's Hall, site of the First Continental Congress. Price: free.
A wonderful day with a few surprises to boot. Total cost was $10 for SEPTA, $1 for the Christ Church donation, $1 for two pretzels, and $8 for lunch.

$20 for a day packed with history, culture, and delights for the senses in a world class city? Sounds like a great deal to me.


Wesley Boles said...

Sounds like a fun day if you're young and fit! Beats our visit to Yellow Springs but on our way there we did see some really interesting properties. Pennsylvania is rather pretty in a quaint way. It was fully populated when our neck of the woods was scattered farms. Jace is giving up history teaching for psychology!

Pat said...

I'm afraid I've given you some faulty information regarding City Hall. It's the largest municipal building in the U.S., not the world, but is the tallest masonry building worldwide. An impressive building, indeed.

Ben said...