Continuing our adventures in Pennsylvania, we spent a day in downtown Philadelphia. Once again it was raining, but we decided to endure the weather this time to catch some of the sights. First, we stopped at the Independence Visitors Center to pick up tickets for Independence Hall. As it worked out we were done with our other stops with too much of a gap to our tour time, so we didn’t end up using them. But, you don’t know what times will be available until you get tickets.
Once we had our tickets, we went across the street to the US Mint. This proved to be an excellent tour. I have no photos since they’re not allowed inside, but I can give an overview. First, there was next to no line, which was especially nice since it was raining. There is a security screening, but its not to cumbersome. The main viewing area is on the upper level. This requires two escalators separated by a mezzanine displaying historical coins. An elevator is available towards the back of the gift shop (as are bathrooms) that accesses both levels.
Once you get upstairs the path is quite prescribed, but wide enough for strollers or wheelchairs to pass. There is plenty to see and read so that if you did look at everything it would take well over an hour. Where you will want to spend most of your time is in the viewing gallery that occupies about half of the upper level. This gives you an excellent view of the coin making machines and process. It isn’t too loud and the windows are big enough that even small children can see. The machines are labeled so you can get a feel for what is being produced during your visit. We definitely recommend a visit the next time you are in Philadelphia.
Then we headed back across the plaza, in the rain, to the liberty bell. Not sure this was worth the hassle. First, you can see the bell through the glass from outside. It is not as good a view, but one avoids the outdoor line and security. We were here only 15 minutes or so, less time than the line took. At this point we still had 1.5 hours to our Independence Hall tour slot and it was lunchtime. After a quick look at the choices we decided to head across town to the Franklin Institute instead of waiting.
The Franklin Institute is an excellent, kid-friendly science museum that we have been to before. But, we never seem to have enough time to see everything, so we had lots of new things to see on this visit. First we had lunch. They have an acceptable food court with plenty of choices for kids and adults.
The main downside to the Franklin Institute is that it is difficult with strollers. Technically, everything is accessible. But, the paths are not always clear and multiple times we ended up in the wrong elevator and therefore on the wrong floor. On the plus side, because it has reciprocal benefits with The Museum of Science, Boston, our tickets were included with that membership.
Some of our favorite exhibits:
Your Brain, with its two story tall neural network climbing structure. One of the best aspects of The Franklin Institute is the number of times gross motor for the kids is woven into the exhibits. There’s plenty to read too, but all the activities really keep them engaged.
The Giant Heart, a walk through (not stroller accessible) heart model.
Sir Isaac’s Loft, with its physics experiments.
Sportszone, with many measurable aspects of sports, from running, to basketball, to surfing.
Space Command, where you can build a moon rover model.
And, The Train Factory, which gives you a better idea of just how huge trains are.
I can’t recommend The Franklin Institute highly enough. One could easily spend an entire day there.
I think over our many visits to Philadelphia, the three places I would recommend anyone visit are The Franklin Institute, the US Mint, and The Philadelphia Museum of Art.