Despite what seems like Mother Nature’s best effort to keep us away from Philadelphia, first with Hurricane Sandy and then with a foot of snow, we managed to sneak there anyway. With the bus parked safely in Maryland, we took a day trip up to continue our American history tour in the nation’s first capital city.
We started our day in Independence Hall where we were able to stand in the Assembly Room that held the Continental Congress, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and some of the most famous debates among the Founding Fathers. It was unexpectedly moving to see the very chair that George Washington sat in while presiding over the meetings. The National Park Service rangers were really sharp and full of great information about the site. In an adjoining building we saw an early printed version of the Declaration of Independence.
Across the street we stood in a short, cold line for entrance to the Liberty Bell exhibit. I thought, “It’s a cracked bell. Let’s get in and see it so we can head over to the Mint and watch them make money!” Wrong. The hall was very simple but well laid out. By the time you actually get to the Liberty Bell, you’ve seen the progression from simple steeple accessory to iconic symbol of freedom. Like the Mona Lisa, however, you’d think it was bigger.
Time for lunch! Now, we’ve had amazing food all over the country – fresh fish in the Boundary Waters, organic local everything in Portland, chile in New Mexico, clam chowder in New England. What is Philadelphia famous for? The Cheesesteak. Last time Ayrril and I were here we tried the famous versions at Pat’s and Geno’s. Awful. This time we did a little research and found Campo’s Deli, just a short walk from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Awesome! Philadelphia, consider yourself redeemed.
On to the Mint! The US Mint tour showed how our coins are designed and produced, but it wasn’t as exciting as I made it sound earlier. Cool, informative, and well done but no pictures allowed, no hands on stations, and nothing was really in production while we were there. On the other hand, we saw a banner advertising a special exhibit across the street at the Constitution Center about the 18th Amendment and we were sold.
The exhibit was called The Rise and Fall of Prohibition and it was excellent! From the temperance movement to Prohibition, bootleggers to speakeasies, rum runners to repeal, we got to see how it all fell into place and then fell apart. The only thing missing was a drink at the end!
Before we went to Philly we introduced the boys to the best boxing movie of all time. So of course we ended our day by running up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art just like Rocky. It was cold and getting dark but we saw close to a dozen runners hit the steps in the 10 minutes or so that we were there. Thanks, Rocky! You make us all want to run through the streets and punch beef.