DC & Philadelphia: Preliminary research

Aug 15th, 2015, 03:14 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I might (ahem) be a bit biased, but if you love colonial history you might want to give a week to Philadelphia...and you could even spend more time, but it is very pedestrian friendly. Here are some ideas for your time--scroll down for spring photos: missalg.tumblr.com

Small warning about May at the Smithsonians: field trip season. Big time.
Amy is offline  
Aug 15th, 2015, 04:22 PM
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We just went to DC two weeks ago. I hadn't been since a trip in high school, many years ago and my husband had never been. We mostly did the typical tourist things, but our one slightly off the beaten path thing was the National Cathedral. It is about a 20 minute drive from downtown, but I thought it was completely worth it. The architecture is lovely, the grounds are gorgeous, and there is an amazing view of the city from the observation gallery on the 7th floor. The stained glass windows are worth the trip, as well. The Metro doesn't run that far, but there are buses that will get you there. There is also a great little pizza/Italian restaurant called 2 Amys that is just a couple of blocks from the cathedral, if you happen to visit near mealtime.

Since you said you wanted to go into the deeper layers for this visit, you might check out a thread over on the Trip Advisor DC forum. It's called DC's Hidden Gems for Tourists. It tends to get buried a few pages down, but it is full of great ideas, if you are doing more than the Smithsonian and the monuments.
BetsyinKY is offline  
Aug 15th, 2015, 04:51 PM
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BetsyinKY- thanks so much for pointing to the tripadvisor thread! I've been to national cathedral, though- previous trip was with a parochial school and I think we hit every significant religious structure in the area lol. It is beautiful, you're right.

Amy- yessss I know and it's a bummer. But it's a tossup- massive groups of kids in matching shirts or masses of confused tourists. I think weather is going to have to be the deciding factor rather than crowds. And the philly and DC debate is still on- thinking 9 days in DC, four nights in philly, but I just don't know.
marvelousmouse is offline  
Aug 15th, 2015, 08:27 PM
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Actually, April is the big time field trip month, not so much May.
NewbE is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 08:13 AM
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I think the OP needs more time in Philly. I agree with the other Amy especially about colonial history. I was there for 2 1/2 days and felt I barely scratched the surface.

The Barnes is hardly a full day. Two hours did it for me, and I really enjoy museums. It's not a large collection, but very narrow in scope. You should know it is very top heavy on Renoir and Cezanne. If you're not terribly interested in them, move this museum down to-do list. If you want more diversity, the Phil Museum of Art is right down the street and a more enjoyable experience, imo and also puts on some wonderful visiting exhibitions. Also the Rodin Museum practically next door (Philly branch of the same one in Paris) to both.
amyb is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 10:17 AM
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Ah. So maybe five nights in Philly? Do you think 7 days is enough for DC? 1 day will be Gettysburg day trip. I don't want to shortchange Philly, but this trip is mostly about the Smithsonian's I didn't get to explore last time- because for one thing, free is good. Very good

Anyone have a good "sample itinerary" for Philly? Just wondering how much I can realistically fit into 3-4 days. I'm not really planning on an itinerary for DC, but I think I'll need more organization for Philly. I AM the sort of person who reads all the placards and historic markers

Thanks for the heads up about the Barnes. Not really Renoir fan, so that may be a shorter trip. But who knows- sometimes design is more engrossing than content for me.
marvelousmouse is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 11:20 AM
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A good idea of sample itineraries for Philadelphia can be found at www.visitphilly.com Of course, a great deal depends on your personal interests; "Old City" could easily take two days if you go into detail, and that's just the beginning. A lot of the colonial stuff is free.

For getting the most out of the time, I'd probably book Independence Hall tour tickets online first http://www.nps.gov/inde/daily-ticket-information.htm , then work from there on what to do with the rest of the time. The Liberty Bell pavilion can have long lines; you might want to view the bell from the outside. The Constitution Center is across the street from the Visitors' Center, which is across from Independence Hall: there is an admission fee there, and to be honest it's not one of my favorite places, but it has a lot of fans. Going toward the river, you can also stop at Carpenters' Hall (First Continental Congress) and Franklin Court, as well as the Todd (Dolley Todd Madison) house, the 18th century garden, and on to Christ Church and Elfreth's Alley. On Arch Street there is the Betsy Ross possibly house; she might not have sewn the flag, but she was pretty interesting nonetheless; she was one of the last members of the Free or Fighting Quakers, meetinghouse at 5th and Arch across from the Christ Church burial ground, where B. Franklin is buried. The Quaker (standard issue non-fighting) meeting house that is at 4th and Arch has an interesting exhibit on the founding of Pennsylvania.

In the other direction from Independence Hall, Washington Square has the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and was the burial place for Revolutionary prisoners and yellow fever victims. There's also the Dream Garden mosaic in the Curtis building, not colonial but too beautiful to miss. A little more far-flung is the Taddeus Kosciusko house and Mother Bethel AME church. There are lots of guides and maps at the Visitor Center and of course visitphilly.com.

In the area there is also the terrific National Museum of American Jewish History and the small but to me fascinating Philadelphia Museum of History at Atwater Kent. (Both have fees.)

Midtown is the Reading Terminal Market (eating, gazing, and Amish products from Wednesday to Saturday), City Hall, and the Wanamaker Building (organ concerts on the world's largest pipe organ at noon in what is now Macy's.) There is also a small but active Chinatown, and the Dilworth Park outside City Hall. Going up Broad Street from City Hall is the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and midtown also has a quirky selection of stores like www.durossandlangel.com

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rodin Museum, Mutter Museum, Barnes, and Eastern State Penitentiary are all in the same general direction, along with the Schuylkill River Trail/Boardwalk.

Bartram's Garden is not near much else, but is a treasure trove for colonial/gardening enthusiasts. Tinnicum Wildlife Reserve is also rather on its own, but nice for hiking.

And of course we haven't even touched Fairmount Park: Shofuso Japanese house, Mt. Pleasant (bought but not used by Benedict Arnold) and other colonial mansions, plus Laurel Hill cemetery.

Another of my favorite museums is the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, in the University area.

Um, that's a beginning, anyway...

To be honest, I'd probably be an incoherent mess after seven days of Smithsonians, although I do realize there is a great deal more than those in Washington. (And my reference to field trips in May is just my personal experience in the first two weeks of May: let us just say, I would have to be paid a lot to go to the Museum of Natural History during that time. The "season" is from March to June, but I can testify to the crowds of early May.)

To me, Philadelphia is easier to navigate than Washington, and the walking is more manageable in the areas where attractions are located; it's just smaller scale altogether. I would want an itinerary for DC too if I were you, I think, with reasonable ideas on the amount of walking and/or Metro in-between the locations you want to visit.
Amy is offline  
Aug 17th, 2015, 12:52 PM
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Amy has given you wonderful advice (as usual). If you are going to visit Independence Hall, make the Visitors Center your first stop so you can get your free timed ticket to Independence Hall. Then you can work around that.
schmerl is offline  
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