Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Road Trip: Philadelphia!

Road trip to Philadelphia? Bring it on! We're at the point where it's getting easier to travel with the kids, especially because Max is less fearful of new places. "IH OH-HEL" ("big hotel") are two of his favorite words. And so, we headed to Philly for the long weekend.

We were hosted by the Loews Philadelphia Hotel, located in the heart of the city in what used to be a bank. Built during the Great Depression, it's 36 stories tall and is considered the United States' first modern skyscraper. It's beautiful—and incredibly family-friendly, from the coloring books we received at check-in to the hospitality we got at the continental breakfast. Jonathan, the manager, pulled a table over to the TV when he saw that Max was getting antsy. He found him a coloring book, and tried in vain to locate some purple crayons as he was quickly made aware of Max's color preference. And then, he let Max borrow these:

Yep, "ur-ul" pillows.

The hotel is half a block away from the world's tastiest place, Reading Terminal Market, an indoor farmers' market with eighty-plus vendors selling food, flowers, and crafts.

This is Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce which sells jams, jellies, honey, and pickled everything. Also of note: whoopie pies from Beiler's Bakery; the pastrami sandwich at Hershel's East Side Deli; the roast beef, broccoli rabe and provolone hoagie from DeNic's; and Bassetts, where Max had three chocolate ice-creams in a row. Forget The City of Brotherly Love—this should be The City of Love Handles.

We developed an addiction to Old City Coffee, worth the ten-minute wait.

Sunday, we hit the Please Touch Museum, one of the country's best children's museums. It has six interactive zones in 38,000 square feet, all geared toward play and learning. There's a gigantic River Adventures water-play area (smocks provided), Flight Fantasy (where kids can experiment with balance, speed and gravity), replicas of stores where kids can shop, an Alice in Wonderland exhibit, and a beautiful carousel, among other wonders.

Max was out of his head with happiness—a car wash!

And a train!

And a gas pump!

I was extra-excited to be there because the museum is hosting a special exhibit, Access/ABILITY, through April 24. Its message: As human beings, we are more alike than different. Ironically or not, Max was too hesitant to roam through it because it was so crowded, but I took Sabrina. There was a wheelchair obstacle course, videos on how to do sign language, a place to type your name in Braille, art created by people with disabilities, and displays with protheses and other adaptive gear.

Sabrina gave the hand-pedaled bike a whirl and asked a lot of questions, and we got a good discussion going about disabilities. All around us, kids were asking their parents questions and absorbing, and it made me feel really, really good. This is one of the things I desperately want: for kids to understand what "disability" means and not be so fearful of children who have one.

A great sign, one of several: "We all learn in different ways. When it comes to learning, you may be good at some things, but not others. You may have a hard time reading, writing, or remembering, but be talented in other ways. You can use your strengths to overcome your learning weaknesses. Think about it!"

It was chilly in Philly, but we wandered around; this is the fountain in Rittenhouse Square. When William Penn helped plan and develop Philadelphia, he envisioned a "green countrie towne" with five public squares spread around the city; this is one of the original ones.

Washington Square is another one, which houses the Liberty Bell. Sabrina: "Look! Somebody broked it!"

That night, we had dinner at Jones, a hipster-diner sort of place. Dave got pistachio-crusted tilapia, I had tomato soup, Max did pasta and sauce and Sabrina got the best mac-and-cheese I have ever tasted, and I know because I kept stealing bites from her.

Monday, we hit the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia's Natural History Museum.

Max wouldn't go into the butterfly exhibit, but he was fascinated by the dinosaurs and dioramas featuring animals from North America, Asia and Africa. Word, be prepared to explain "dead person" if your 6-year-old sees a mummy.

We spent a lot of time at Outside In, a hands-on Nature Museum on the third floor. There were no turtles getting it on but there were bugs (Hissing Madagascar Cockroaches!), reptiles, a bunny, a sand pit and stuff to touch like animal horns and a real meteorite.

We spent a ridiculous amount of time cracking up over a special-effects movie where kids (and adults) could pretend to hang out with dinosaurs.

Then we got a flat tire going home, and Max was gleeful—I'm telling you, gleeful—about the bump-bump-bump of the car and the repair shop.

I have a bunch of discount coupons for Please Touch; email me if you're planning on going, and I can mail them to you.


  1. How fun! Love the pic of Max & the car wash. Also, as a person who is desperately trying to reduce her BMI, I have to say that the mac & cheese looked insanely good. :)

  2. Sounds like a fantastic weekend. That exhibit at the children's museum sounds absolutely wonderful!

  3. What an awesome museum! It reminds me a lot of Baltimore's Port Discovery Museum. If you guys are ever down in this neck of the woods you'll have to go!

  4. Marley and I are flying into philly tomorrow. Sounds like a fun way to spend the afternoon before Drs apps start on Thursday!

  5. Sounds like you had a blast! Love that picture of Max and the car wash, and those purple pillows look super cushy. Glad to know everybody had a good time! Makes me want to go someday myself! :)

  6. what a fun trip! i've had taking the kids to philly on my list of things to do forever, and reading all the fun things you did makes me really inspired to finally go this spring.

  7. Anna: GO! It is a wonderful place to visit.
    Janet: Ah, forgot to mention, that bandana bib is a new one I had made for Max. Some adjustments needed but it is WAY cooler than the bibs he had.
    Looking Up: I am that person trying to reduce her BMI as well. In theory.
    Crystal: Perfect timing! I hope you two can make it over to Please Touch.

  8. OMG sooo cute!!! Lisa and I want to do a Philly weekend and go there w the babies! Send me coupons!! Or better yet, come with us!!!!!

  9. love the bib ellen i wonder whoes great idea it was to get him one lol

  10. You make me want to go back to Philly! I was there for a summer in grad school . . . lived near Rittenhouse Square and LOVED to eat at the Reading Market. Those super buttery pretzels made by Amish families?? Out of this world delicious!! I can't beleive you found a children's museum with a car wash - it doesn't get any better than that!!

  11. That museum reminded me of the Classic Car International Museum in Utah. If you are in my neck of the woods, you have to visit the museum which is in Salt Lake City. I think Max will love it.


Thanks for sharing!

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