A Cool Listing

The park, once resplendent in the town’s heyday was a scrub of moss and weeds. The down and outs jostled each other for a spot on a rusting metal bench, anything to get off the sodden spring ground. Used needles lay amidst the shabby greenery, invisible and able to pierce the common light-weight shoes the children wear. There is a movement to reclaim it amongst the town’s elite, replant the flowers and clear the garbage from the ponds. Maybe it will happen one day, it would be so nice, but for now the rest of us are too busy working three part time jobs to make a full time wage. So we just skirt around it whatever the time of day, no shortcuts, no way, not ever.

Rittenhouse Square

Unlike the other squares, the early Southwest Square was never used as a burial ground, although it offered pasturage for local livestock and a convenient dumping spot for “night soil”.

History

By the late 1700s the square was surrounded by brickyards as the area´s clay terrain was better suited for kilns than crops. In 1825 the square was renamed in honor of Philadelphian David Rittenhouse, the brilliant astronomer, instrument maker and patriotic leader of the Revolutionary era.

A building boom began by the 1850s, and in the second half of the 19th century the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood became the most fashionable residential section of the city, the home of Philadelphia´s “Victorian aristocracy.” Some mansions from that period still survive on the streets facing the square, although most of the grand homes gave way to apartment buildings after 1913.

In 1816, local residents loaned funds to the city to buy a fence to enclose Rittenhouse Square. In the decade before the Civil War, the Square boasted not only trees and walkways, but also fountains donated by local benefactors – prematurely, it turned out, for the fountains created so much mud that City Council ordered them removed. The square´s present layout dates from 1913, when the newly formed Rittenhouse Square Improvement Association helped fund a redesign by Paul Philippe Cret, a French-born architect who contributed to the design of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the Rodin Museum. Although some changes have been made since then, the square still reflects Cret´s original plan.

Layout

The main walkways are diagonal, beginning at the corners and meeting at a central oval. The plaza, which contains a large planter bed and a reflecting pool, is surrounded by a balustrade and ringed by a circular walk. Classical urns, many bearing relief figures of ancient Greeks, rest on pedestals at the entrances and elsewhere throughout the square. Ornamental lampposts contribute to an air of old-fashioned gentility. A low fence surrounds the square, and balustrades adorn the corner entrances. Oaks, maples, locusts, plane trees, and others stand within and around the enclosure, and the flowerbeds and blooming shrubs add a splash of color in season.

Rittenhouse Square is the site of annual flower markets and outdoor art exhibitions. More than any of the other squares, it also functions as a neighborhood park. Office workers eat their lunches on the benches; parents bring children to play; and many people stroll through to admire the plants, sculptures, or the fat and saucy squirrels.

Public Art

Like Logan Square, you can see several of the city´s best-loved outdoor sculptures in Rittenhouse Square. The dramatic Lion Crushing a Serpent by the French Romantic sculptor Antoine-Louis Barye is in the central plaza. Originally created in 1832, the work is Barye´s allegory of the French Revolution of 1830, symbolizing the power of good (the lion) conquering evil (the serpent). This bronze cast was made about 1890.

At the other end of the central plaza, within the reflecting pool, is Paul Manship´s Duck Girl of 1911, a lyrical bronze of a young girl carrying a duck under one arm – an early work by the same sculptor who designed the Aero Memorial for Logan Square. A favorite of the children is Albert Laessle´s Billy, a two-foot-high bronze billy goat in a small plaza halfway down the southwest walk. Billy´s head, horns, and spine have been worn to a shiny gold color by countless small admirers.

In a similar plaza in the northeast walkway stands the Evelyn Taylor Price Memorial Sundial, a sculpture of two cheerful, naked children who hold aloft a sundial in the form of a giant sunflower head. Created by Philadelphia artist Beatrice Fenton, the sundial memorializes a woman who served as the president of the Rittenhouse Square Improvement Association and Rittenhouse Square Flower Association. In the flower bed between the sundial and the central plaza is Cornelia Van A. Chapin´s Giant Frog, a large and sleek granite amphibian. Continuing the animal theme, two small stone dogs, added in 1988, perch on the balustrades at the southwest corner entrance.

At Night

Once predominantly a daytime destination, Rittenhouse Square is now a popular nightspot as well, with a string of restaurants – including Rouge, Devon, Parc and Barclay Prime – that have sprouted up along the east side of the park on 18th Street.

So these days, you can take in the serenity of the natural landscape from a park bench in the sunshine and then sip cocktails under the stars at one of many candlelit outdoor tables.

Meanwhile, several more restaurants, bars and clubs have opened along the surrounding blocks in recent years, like Parc, Tria, Continental Midtown, Alfa, Walnut Room, and Twenty Manning just to name a few.

The Liberty Bell Center

The Experience

The Liberty Bell has a new home, and it is as powerful and dramatic as the Bell itself. Throughout the expansive, light-filled Center, larger-than-life historic documents and graphic images explore the facts and the myths surrounding the Bell.

X-rays give an insider´s view, literally, of the Bell´s crack and inner-workings. In quiet alcoves, a short History Channel film, available in English and eight other languages, traces how abolitionists, suffragists and other groups adopted the Bell as its symbol of freedom.

Other exhibits show how the Bell´s image was used on everything from ice cream molds to wind chimes. Keep your camera handy. Soaring glass walls offer dramatic and powerful views of both the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, just a few steps away.

History

The bell now called the Liberty Bell was cast in the Whitechapel Foundry in the East End of London and sent to the building currently known as Independence Hall, then the Pennsylvania State House, in 1753.

It was an impressive looking object, 12 feet in circumference around the lip with a 44-pound clapper. Inscribed at the top was part of a Biblical verse from Leviticus, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof.”

Unfortunately, the clapper cracked the bell on its first use. A couple of local artisans, John Pass and John Stow, recast the bell twice, once adding more copper to make it less brittle and then adding silver to sweeten its tone. No one was quite satisfied, but it was put in the tower of the State House anyway.

Fast Facts

The Liberty Bell is composed of approximately 70 percent copper, 25 percent tin and traces of lead, zinc, arsenic, gold and silver.

The Bell is suspended from what is believed to be its original yoke, made of American elm.

The Liberty Bell weighs 2,080 pounds. The yoke weighs about 100 pounds.

Audacious Freedom

Audacious Freedom, the major, new exhibit at the African American Museum in Philadelphia , explores the lives of people of African descent living in Philadelphia between 1776 and 1876.

Discover how African Americans in Philadelphia lived and worked while helping to shape the young nation in its formative stages.

Exhibit themes include entrepreneurship, environment, education, religion and family traditions of the African American population, played out through interactive displays, video projections and vivid photography.

The groundbreaking exhibit allows visitors to “walk the streets” of Historic Philadelphia using a large-scale map. Young children can join the action with Children´s Corner, which highlights the daily lives of children during that period.

Museum Without Walls

The Experience

Museum Without Walls: AUDIO is a multi-platform, interactive audio tour, designed to allow locals and visitors alike to experience Philadelphia extensive collection of public art and outdoor sculpture along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Kelly Drive. This innovative program invites passersby to stop, look, listen and see this city public art in a new way. Discover the untold histories of the 51 outdoor sculptures at 35 stops through these professionally produced three-minute interpretive audio segments. The many narratives have been spoken by more than 100 individuals, all with personal connections to the pieces of art.

Works in Museum Without Walls: AUDIO include the sculpture Jesus Breaking Bread, which is located in front of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul at 18th and Race Streets. The sculpture´s audio program features the voices of three people who are each intimately, yet distinctly, connected to the piece. Listeners can hear Martha Erlebacher, the wife of the now-deceased sculptor and an artist herself, recall the personal challenge Walter Erlebacher set to humanize the figure. Monsignor John Miller, who oversaw the commission of the sculpture for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, discusses the artist confrontation with historic interpretation, and Sister Mary Scullion, who runs the renowned program for the homeless in Philadelphia, Project H.O.M.E., and who also attended the sculpture dedication as a student, talks about the importance of placing the figure outside of the church.

In the audio program for the sculpture Iroquois, listeners will hear a first-person account from Mark di Suvero, the artist himself, who discusses the abstract sculpture and its open shapes that invite public interaction and viewing from multiple angles. I think that in order to experience [Iroquois] … you have to walk in through the piece, you have to have it all the way around you and at that moment, you can feel what that sculpture can do, says di Suvero. Lowell McKegney, di Suvero construction manager and longtime friend, compares the sculpture to music and encourages listeners to appreciate it in the same way.

History

Philadelphia has more outdoor sculpture than any other American city, yet this extensive collection often goes unnoticed. This program is intended to reveal the distinct stories behind each of these works, that have become visual white noise for so many of the city residents and visitors.

Sadsbury Woods Preserve

A more than 500-acre nature preserve ideal for walking and hiking, Sadsbury Woods is also an important habitat for interior nesting birds and small mammals. An increasingly rare area of interior woodlands, defined as an area at least 300 feet from any road, lawn or meadow, provides a critical habitat for many species of birds, especially neo-tropical migrant songbirds.

Situated on the western edge of Chester County, the land remains much as it did centuries ago, and now serves as a permanent refuge in an area facing dramatically increasing development pressure.

The colorful birds that breed in the forest during the spring and summer months fly to South America for the winter. To survive here, they need abundant food and protection from the weather and predators, something they´re able to find in Sadsbury Woods. A recent bird count identified more than 40 different species in just one morning.

The preserve has been assembled from more than one dozen parcels, an effort that was made possible thanks to landowners who were willing to sell their land for conservation purposes. One such landowner recalled exploring these woods as a child and wanted to ensure that his grandchildren and great-grandchildren would be able to do the same. Natural Lands Trust is working to expand the preserve, and hopes to eventually protect a total of 600 acres.
Support the Natural Lands Trust

The Natural Lands Trust seeks volunteers and members to help protect and care for Sadsbury Woods and its many other natural areas. Members are invited to dozens of outings each year including canoe trips, bird walks, hikes and much more.
Come Prepared

The preserve is open from sunrise to sunset. Pets must be leashed. Alcoholic beverages, motorized vehicles and mountain bikes are not permitted. Horseback riders are welcome, but you must ride in, because there nowhere to park a trailer. Maps and other material are available in the kiosk by the parking area.
Outsider Tip

The deep forest is a great place for spotting neo-tropical songbirds in the spring and summer months

National Constitution Center

The Experience

It only four pages long, but the U.S. Constitution is among the most influential and important documents in the history of the world.

The 160,000-square-foot National Constitution Center explores and explains this amazing document through high-tech exhibits, artifacts, and interactive displays. The Kimmel Theater, a 350-seat star-shaped theater, features Freedom Rising, a multimedia production combining film, a live actor and video projection on a 360° screen to tell the stirring story of We the people.

Then experience it yourself: don judicial robes to render your opinion on key Supreme Court cases, then take the Presidential oath of the office.

In Signers Hall, where life-size bronze figures of the Constitution´s signers and dissenters are displayed, visitors can choose to sign or dissent.

One of the rare original public copies of the Constitution is on display.

History

Freedom of speech, protection from unlawful search and seizure, and other individual rights were not part of the original Constitution. Recognizing its imperfections, the authors built in a mechanism to amend the Constitution, making it adaptable for unknown eventualities.

The first ten amendments guaranteeing numerous personal freedoms – The Bill of Rights – were not ratified until 1791.

Insider Tip

While the Center hosts amazing evergreen presentations, take a look at the Events Calendar for the latest premiere or traveling exhibit.

Kids Stuff

The Center frequently hosts special events with a focus on children that include informative and engaging hands-on activities. For specific information, check out the Center website.

The Philadelphia Zoo

The Zoo 150th Birthday

The Philadelphia Zoo celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2009. So stop by and celebrate this major achievement at America´s first zoo!

McNeil Avian Center

On May 30, 2009 the 17.5-million McNeil Avian Center opened to the public.

This new aviary incorporates lush, walk-through habitats where visitors can discover more than 100 spectacular birds from around the world, many of them rare and endangered. And in the multi-sensory 4-D Migration Theater, viewers can follow Otis the Oriole on his first migration south from where he hatched in Fairmount Park.

The Experience at the Zoo

One of the best laid-out and most animal-packed zoos in the country is set among a charming 42-acre Victorian garden with tree-lined walks, formal shrubbery, ornate iron cages and animal sculptures. The zoo has garnered many “firsts” in addition to being the first zoo charted in the United States (1859).

The first orangutan and chimp births in a U.S. zoo (1928), world´s first Children´s Zoo (1957), and the first U.S. exhibit of white lions (1993), among others.

In addition to its animals, the zoo is known for its historic architecture, which includes the country home of William Penn´s grandson, its botanical collections of over 500 plant species, its groundbreaking research and its fine veterinary facilities.
Big Cat Falls

The highly anticipated pride of the Philadelphia Zoo, Bank of America Big Cat Falls, home to felines from around the world, opened in 2006. The lush new exhibition features waterfalls, pools, authentic plantings and a simulated research station for aspiring zoologists.

Lions, leopards, jaguars, pumas, tigers and seven new cubs are the star attractions.

Visitor Details

Open daily, year-round. Parking can be tight so public transit is a great option.

Check out the Zoo´s trolley shuttle, available through October, making hourly stops at the Independence Visitor Center and 30th Street Station. Service is available starting at 10 a.m. seven days a week through August 31, 2008, with weekends-only service in September and October.

SEPTA Routes 15 and 32 Buses stop within blocks of the zoo. Find specific stops and schedules here.

History

The nation´s oldest zoo was chartered in 1859, but the impending Civil War delayed its opening until 1874. In addition to its animals, the zoo is known for its historic architecture, which includes the country home of William Penn´s grandson; its botanical collections of over 500 plant species; its groundbreaking research and its fine veterinary facilities.

The Primate Reserve, Carnivore Kingdom, and Rare Animal Conservation Center, with its tree kangaroos and blue-eyed lemurs, are brand new, but there´s still fun to be had in the historic, old-style bird, pachyderm and carnivore houses. In the Treehouse, kids can investigate the world from an animal´s perspective; outdoors, the Zoo Balloon lifts passengers 400 feet into the air for a bird´s-eye view of the zoo.

Longwood Gardens

The Experience

When you´re at Longwood Gardens, it´s easy to imagine that you´re at a giant, royal garden in Europe. Stroll along the many paths through acres of exquisitely maintained grounds featuring 11,000 different types of plants.

Encounter a new vista at each turn: the Italian Water Garden, Flower Garden Walk, aquatic display gardens and many others. Amble through Peirce´s Woods, eight outdoor “rooms” of distinct woodland habitats.

Inside the Conservatory is a lush world of exotic flowers, cacti, bromeliads, ferns and bonsai. Each season brings a different pleasure: spring magnolias and azaleas; summer roses and water lilies; fall foliage and chrysanthemums; and winter camellias, orchids and palms.

On land Quaker settler George Peirce purchased from William Penn, Peirce´s grandsons planted an impressive arboretum. The presence of a sawmill on the property prompted industrialist Pierre Samuel du Pont to buy the land in 1906 to save the trees.

Christmas is spectacularly celebrated with carillon concerts, poinsettias and thousands of lights; summer evenings are embellished with concerts, illuminated fountain displays and occasional fireworks.

Come Prepared

Longwood Gardens is open daily, year-round.

Don´t Miss

Indoor Children´s Garden – Surrounded by tree-covered seating and Longwood´s famous fountains, the new Indoor Children´s Garden provides a safe and engaging space where children can learn about nature with amazing plants and fun activities around every corner.

The Garden features a Central Cove, a Rain Pavilion and a Bamboo Maze, filled with a jungle of tree-sized bamboos for children to explore.

Outsider´s Tip

There are 17 fountains in the Indoor Children´s Garden to enjoy, where children will want to splash and play. An extra shirt or small towel might come in handy!

Buy Tickets Online In Advance

You can buy admission tickets to Longwood Gardens online through our partners at the Independence Visitor Center. Just click the button below.

Please Touch Museum

New Location!

Who doesn´t love the Please Touch Museum? And now, taking kids to the Museum is better than ever. The nation´s premier children´s museum – which has been a beloved landmark since it opened in 1976 – has a new home in Fairmount Park, opening its doors to a world of educational, hands-on fun.

The new location in Memorial Hall – a National Historic Landmark built in 1876 for the Centennial Exhibition celebrating the country´s 100th birthday – will boast three times more space for exhibitions and programs.

Just outside the museum, kids and adults will also delight in riding the meticulously restored 1908 Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel, built in Philadelphia for a now-defunct amusement park 10 blocks from Memorial Hall.

Visit The Please Touch Museum for more info!

The Experience

The city´s award-winning children´s museum is fun-filled, totally hands-on, and so delightful that adults are entertained, too. Each nook and cranny has a different theme – from the fantastic to the practical. In Alice´s Adventures in Wonderland, kids can play croquet with the Queen and sip tea with the Mad Hatter; nearby, oversized props bring Maurice Sendak´s classics to life.

Kids can take the wheel of a real bus and sail a boat on a mini-Delaware River; in “Nature´s Pond,” the youngest visitors (age 3 and under) can discover animals nestled among high grass and a lily pond, or enjoy stories and nursery rhymes in “Fairytale Garden.” Please Touch is also a first live theater experience for young children – Please Touch Playhouse performances are original and interactive and take place daily!

Please Touch Museum tends to be busier on rainy days. You may want to schedule your visit on fair weather days. Mornings are also a busy time with most school groups visiting during this time. Afternoons are a great time to visit the museum as well as Mondays when groups are not scheduled.

History

One of the lasting museums from the tourist upgrade of Philadelphia that coincided with the 1976 Bicentennial celebration, Please Touch Museum® filled a gap in the city´s cultural scene. Other museums in the area certainly have sections for children, but Please Touch Museum´s new home not only offers three toddler areas, but also exciting exhibit components for older siblings (for ages 7 and up).

Visiting Tips

Please Touch Museum tends to be busier on rainy days. You may want to schedule your visit on fair weather days. Mornings are also a busy time with most school groups visiting during this time. Afternoons are a great time to visit the museum as well as Mondays when groups are not scheduled.

Insider Tip

The museum has a full schedule of craft activities and music, dance and storytelling performances, which are entertaining for both kids and adults.

Great Kids’ Stuff

In The Supermarket, kids take control: They can stock the shelves, load their cart and ring up the order.
Buy Tickets Online In Advance

You can buy admission tickets to the Please Touch Museum online through our partners at the Independence Visitor Center. Just click the button below.