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.