Sep 10, 2012

Philadelphia: America's Most Historic Square Mile

John and I have been to Philadelphia several times in the past but every visit has been rewarding. Our recent trip left us with the desire to return again soon. There is so much to see and do in this place where America began. We stayed at the Omni Independence Park Hotel, which is not only a great hotel but it has an awesome location just steps away from most of the historic places.

There were many new additions to Independence Park since our last visit. Our first stop was the Independence Visitor Center where we watched two great videos. One, “Choosing Sides,” dealt with the points of view at the beginning of the revolution making us realize what a difficult and stressful time it was. The words came from journals and letters written at the time of the Revolution. The other, “Revolution,” was a short review of the Revolutionary War. The Center has displays and is where people can sign up for a free tour of Independence Hall but from five to seven it is open for those without tour tickets. There is a reverent feel to the room where the Declaration of Independence was debated but I recall reading that there were many heated discussions and disagreements during the meetings.

There was no line at the Liberty Bell Center that became our next stop. We have seen the Liberty Bell in three different locations. Today the Liberty Bell is positioned with a view of Independence Hall. There are several displays that help pass the time while people line up to have their picture taken with the bell. Outside the Center is one of the newest additions to Independence Mall. Called the “President’s House” it tells the story of Presidents George Washington and John Adams plus the nine enslaved Africans held by Washington in the first executive house.

Across the street is Liberty 360, a 3-D film highlighting America’s most treasured gift – liberty. It is also one of the “Once Upon a Nation” sites. We loved this concept. There are benches at historic sites with storytellers ready to tell the rest of the story – for free. We were lucky to hear several storytellers during our visit because their season was cut short due to lack of money. Hopefully, they will get more funding next year.

One morning we were at the National Constitution Center to see Will Ferrell who was there to promote his new film, “The Campaign.” Ferrell signed the Constitution, which is one of the activities at the Center. His visit was short – very short – which was too bad because the Center has a lot to experience. We stayed for several hours, signed the Constitution, and enjoyed the informative interactive displays. The multi-media presentation, “Freedom Rising” is excellent. Before we left, we visited the “voting booth” where visitors placed red or blue balls, representing the political parties, in a tube. President Obama was in the lead by a large margin.

One of our favorite places was also close to the Omni Hotel and we almost missed it – The National Liberty Museum. The focus tends to be on individual with patriotic artwork, diversity displays and stories of courageous people including those involved in the 9/11 tragedy. I was impressed with their religious freedom displays. There is plenty to see and do because, as they say, “Freedom is not a spectator sport.”