Travelling in Eastern Pennsylvania

Using Depuy Shawnee (Shawnee on Delaware) as a travel base, we venture out to different sights in Pennsylvania's northeast.

Travelling in Eastern Pennsylvania

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by moatway on September 29, 2003

As it was our first trip to Pennsylvania, everything was new, but I had read about the town of Jim Thorpe and it provided us with our best day. The town is nestled in the Lehigh valley surrounded by mountains and is, for the most part, a well preserved piece of Victoriana. I advise a visit there wholeheartedly. Steamtown in Scranton is good fun for train buffs and families and it includes a short excursion in the price of entry which is reasonable. Across the parking lot there is a trolley museum that offers an excursion as well, which, since the car is quite open would be great for the family.

We did spend a day in Amish country, which I strongly advise, but I'll cover that in a second journal as the area is unique. We stayed at Shawnee resort at Shawnee on Delaware, and we have no regrets about that decision. Its proximity to the interstate made it a good touring base for the northeastern part of the state. It would also allow you a good springboard into New Jersey. But why?${QuickSuggestions} If you take the interstate to get to a destination, take the "road untraveled" on your return, particularly if you are hunkered down for a week at a resort. The Pocono countryside is incredibly beautiful. If you want to walk in it go up to Bushkill or Dingman's Falls.

If you are staying at Shawnee and have never been to New York, the New York daytrip is available between March and November. It was a great trip. If you're contemplating the daytrip to Philadelphia, it is my observation that you could do it on your own considerably cheaper. Although the traffic isn't pleasant, it's not rocket science to find Independence Park and there is undergound tourist parking there. Once you're there the site is free.${BestWay} See the above. In Jim Thorpe, park at the municipal lot by the station. It cost us $3 for the day and it was done. The town is walkable for everything that you'll want to see. In Scranton, go to the Steamtown parking lot. It's free and after you've seen the trains, your wife will want payback by going to the Mall at Steamtown. Since it is up a long walking ramp over the railyard, you'll at least enjoy the trip there.

In Philadelphia, the historical section offers a number of alternatives. You can take the family on a caleche ride--the family rate is $25. Or, you can try a street trolley tour that will allow you to get on and off at stops throughout the city.

This is going to be a driving vacation though if you want to see the state. We saw seven separate accidents in Pennsylvania on this trip--we've never seen anything like it--a couple of them were fairly serious. When you drive, be careful.

Depuy Shawnee

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by moatway on September 29, 2003

Best Things Nearby:
This is a wonderful area for the outdoors person. There are walking trails in the Delaware Gap Park and biking and running trails on the resort. There are a number of golf courses in the immediate area and there are a number of picturesque communities in the Poconos.

Best Things About the Resort:
The number of activities here is incredible. The visitor receives a schedule and will need it if staying on the resort. On Thursday, for example, there were 20 different opportunities at all levels--family, child, and adult.

Our unit was excellent... we could have slept eight easily and kept everyone happy.

Resort Experience:
Depuy Shawnee is part of the greater Shawnee resort at Shawnee on Delaware. The Shawnee resort features several RCI resorts. All of this is built around the 90-year-old Shawnee Inn and its golf course.

One arrives at Shawnee’s reception off route 209. The road recommended is Buttermilk Road and there is a real lack of signage. Arriving from the south on I-80, it is relatively easy. Approaching from the north one stays on 209, ignoring 209 Business into Stroudsberg, passes through and beyond Marshall’s Creek and if it’s not night you should see the road. The reception center is about half a mile to the left.

Looking around Depuy Shawnee we found that like many timeshares this site has evolved over time. It is built around "Fort Depuy", a maintenance building that had once been the clubhouse for a nine-hole golf course that previously occupied the site. The units near it were recent and we were fortunate to be in one of those. Each building had three units and while the buildings were quite attractive with their broad porches and chimneys, the unit interiors were doubly so. As we walked into ours we found a large living area with TV and fireplace on the left and a dining table that sat eight on the right. Behind the dining room was a large, fully-equipped kitchen with a second table which sat four. Passing between the living and dining areas we encountered a door on the left and an open-concept stairway on the right. The door led to a huge bedroom with two double beds, desk and bureau and its own full bath. Upstairs was a second bedroom that mirrored the first (plus TV) and a second full bath. Couldn’t have wished for more.

Further away at Depuy, the units resembled small two-story houses and some of them appeared considerably older and possibly smaller, and certainly less inviting. When you look for an exchange at a place as large as Shawnee there is a lot of serendipity in your assignment. Most of River Village II is beautiful, sitting on stilts in the trees on a steep bank. One section on its own road is less inviting… flat ground, few trees and too much parking lot. Most of the units at Ridge Top feature nice screened porches… what your porch faces, the woods or the road, is in the hands of the gods.

The list of things to do is extensive. Every day there are activities for children and families such as trips to NYC, massage therapy, psychic readings, kids bingo, tye dying, you name it. Most activities take place at the recreation center, which features an indoor pool, exercise room, video arcade, ping pong, gym, etc. Should you decide to stay on-site, it is possible to get out every day and you can take the shuttle bus and leave the car.

Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort
One River Road
Shawnee On Delaware, 18356
(570) 424-4000

Grey Towers (Milford)

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by moatway on September 29, 2003

A French chateau with twin towers sitting on a lofty perch in northeastern Pennsylvania? Yes, that would be Grey Towers, built in 1886 by James Pinchot who made his money importing and selling wallpaper in New York City, and who, at the age of 44, was able to retire in his original hometown of Milford, PA. He commissioned his friend, Richard Morris Hunt, to design a house and Hunt chose to echo the family’s French roots.

In spite of his wealth, Pinchot could not stop the forests surrounding the town and the chateau from being clear-cut so he suggested to his eldest son, Gifford, that a career in forestry would be opportune. Since the subject did not really exist, Gifford did what he could in related fields at Yale and went to study in Europe. Returning home, he began to work in the field of scientific forestry and was made Chief Forester of the newly created U.S. Forest Service by his friend, Teddy Roosevelt.

The Pinchot story is one of able people, Gifford and Cornilia Pinchot (a leading suffragette), his siblings, and his parents, all of whom were concerned about the well-being of the natural world and the state of the common man. The house is a testament to their success.

The house was donated along with 102 acres to the USDA Forest Service which runs the site. It is a notable dwelling built of local fieldstone. One enters an expansive entrance hall filled with large, late-medieval storage chests. Off the hall, in the base of one tower, is Gifford Pinchot’s office… the base of the other tower is given over to displays. The traveler enters the library through large doors… it is a wonderful room… a real library with overstuffed furniture, animal trophies, and wall cases filled with books. Gifford Pinchot was an avid hunter and his guns are displayed behind glass. . .an avid fisherman as well, he had special cabinets built for his rods.

Leaving the library, one enters the sitting room, which at one time had been two rooms, a sitting room and a dining room. A dining table is still there in the corner, somewhat out of the way. Cornelia Pinchot decided she wanted outdoor dining and she designed the Finger Bowl, a large pool around which family and guests gathered to eat. Food was served on balsa rafts and floated around the pool. That table is just outside the sitting room and is covered with trelliswork and wisteria vines, a magical place to eat. The sitting room that remains is large and very comfortable with large painted canvases glued right to the wall. Unfortunately, those on the exterior walls were all destroyed by water damage but have been well-restored. The motif in the room is the sea and the walls have mounted (replica) tuna and sea scenes.

Unfortunately, that, other than the exteriors of the playhouse (The Bait Box) and Pinchot’s study (The Letter Box), is all that one sees. Enjoyable, nevertheless.

Grey Towers National Historic Site
Grey Towers National Historic, 151 Grey Towers
Milford, 18337
(570) 296-9630

The Crossings (Tannersville)

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by moatway on September 29, 2003

I don’t know why every vacation trip in the States has to feature a dose of outlet shopping, but if you’re going to do it then you may as well go to the biggest you can find. In northeastern Pennsylvania that would be The Crossings at Tannersville on I-80. It will take you the best part of the day… there are eight buildings (one of which has two floors) which house 103 stores and six outlets for edibles. The question I was left with was "How can there be 103 stores and no Black and Decker outlet?" There was a Coleman outlet, but that doesn’t count.

I don’t have to describe what outlet shopping is like--sometimes you make out like a bandit, sometimes not. Here...not. The buys were few and far between and I found that after I bought shoes at Bass (Mix and Match buy three items and the fourth and cheapest is free), I went to Bass Shoes (buy one pair, the second is 50% off). A better man than I would have returned the shoes to the first and gone to the second.

Other than that, it was pretty mundane. A big parking lot (clean), only four washrooms (clean) and one ATM (near the food court in building C). A coupon book/directory is available… most stores have them but for 103 stores there are only a dozen coupons that could be used on-site. The Crossings is part of the Chelsea Premium Outlets Group (32 other outlet malls).

The Crossings Premium Outlets
1000 Route 611 (off Exit 45 Of Interstate Route 80)
Tannersville, Pennsylvania
(717) 629-4650

Asa Packer Mansion (Jim Thorpe)

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by moatway on September 29, 2003

The Asa Packer mansion is easy to find. It sits on a hillside, immediate to and dominant over, the town of Jim Thorpe. It has all the appearance of a wedding cake with exterior porches on the first two floors, two floors above them and a large cupola on top. It was the home of Asa Packer (b. 1805) who originally trained as a carpenter before coming to the Lehigh valley to work on the canal boats. After a couple of years, he purchased a store, then built coal boats, then became a coal shipper, and finally a railroader. He turned each success into more money and finally amassed a fortune of $300 million, a multi-billionaire in today’s terms. He built the Lehigh Valley Railroad and founded Lehigh University in Bethlehem; he served twice in congress and was a nominee for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1868, a notable man. Oh yes, he built a very nice Italianate house from the porches of which he could watch some of his companies at work.

The house is now operated by the Jim Thorpe Lions Club and the visit is by tour. It is a wonderful time-capsule and the interiors are not so much large as they are livable. What strikes the visitor in every room is the woodwork. Packer didn’t spend that much on the house originally… probably around $14,000, typical for a large house of the time. At the time of his 50th wedding anniversary, he redecorated, adding ornate woodwork throughout the house and stained glass in the stair landings, spending $75000. It was worth it.

Entry is through the office where Packer managed his empire with his male secretary. Although it is an office, it features a magnificent chandelier. Next to the office is the parlour, which features draperies that were Packer’s 50th wedding anniversary present to his wife. Along with the fine woodwork in all the rooms, in the parlour, and the adjoining hallway, one is aware that the walls are stenciled with a technique that involves throwing sand or gravel at the walls--interesting. The tour of the main level goes to the dining and kitchen areas of the house and up the servant’s stairs to the bedrooms. This is one house that the visitor sees, with the exception of the ground floor, in its entirety.

When the Packers died, the house ended up in the hands of their daughter, Mary Packer Cummins. After an unfortunate marriage, she returned. Much of what the visitor sees has her impression on it. When she died in 1912, the house stood vacant for 40 years. . .it is a miracle that it survived. In many cities it would have been terribly vandalized. In Jim Thorpe, however, it survived with its glass, furniture, and decorations intact until it was finally open to the public in 1956. The carpets are a little threadbare, but it makes for a wonderful visit.

Asa Packer Mansion Museum
Packer Hill Drive
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, 18229
(570) 325-3229

Old Mauch Chunk H.O. Scale Train Display

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by moatway on September 29, 2003

I can’t resist model railroad displays. The Old Mauch Chunk H.O. Scale Model Train Display is on the second floor of the Hooven Building, right next door to the old train station in Jim Thorpe. It was a forty year project by one family and a portion of it is on display.

When I entered, it was night. Frank Sinatra was playing on the sound system, the skyscrapers, houses, and streetlamps were all lit… I was really impressed. There are over two hundred structures in this layout, some of them emulating buildings in the Allentown, PA area. The layout features thirteen mainlines, all of which were in operation. The original construction also featured car tracks. . .a lot of car tracks, but only two were in operation. Apparently, it is hard to find parts for the cars that had been used in the layout and they work as they can.

As the lights returned, Sinatra disappeared and a voice described the logistics of the site. There was also a ticket-taker/guide on site who was more than willing to talk about what I was seeing. Apparently, the show starts every half-hour on the half-hour, but I don’t think it matters much when you walk in the door. All in all, for the money, it was good fun and if you have children with you, they will really enjoy it.

Old Mauch Chunk Model Train Display
41 Susquehanna Street, Second Floor Hooven Mercantile Bldg.
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, 18229
(570) 325 4371

The Old Jail Museum (Jim Thorpe)

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by moatway on September 29, 2003

The Old Jail Museum is a walk up Broadway in Jim Thorpe (just a few blocks) from the train station. I suggest you walk as there are lots of parking down at the station, but there is little in the jail area. It is an imposing building, built in 1871. The county jail until 1995, it has a total of 72 rooms, 28 of which are regular cells and 16 of which are isolation cells in the "dungeon".

The visit here is done by tour, beginning in what once was the warden’s apartment. The last warden to use the apartment moved out in 1970. The space was later used by guards and the upstairs space was used by convicts on day-release programs. The tour takes the visitor everywhere--to the dungeon area, the basement really, a dank area housing the heating system and the isolation cells, a reminder of man’s inhumanity to man. Upstairs is the gallery with two tiers of cells. Some of the cells were used as showers and laundry, but it is the structure at the end that makes this jail different than those you may have seen before. It is a gallows, but not just any gallows. It's a gallows suitable for the hanging of four men at once. Although this gallows is a reconstruction, it reminds the visitor of the terrible injustice once done in this place.

The coal miners of this area were immigrants, many of them Irish. They worked for little money and at the end of the day had to buy their necessities from the company store. As a consequence they were constantly in debt to their employers who kept private police to keep this situation in place. When the miners, most of whom were members of the Hibernian Society, formed the Workers’ Benevolent Association in order to seek better working conditions they were branded "The Molly Maguires". A number were prosecuted for crimes they did not commit in a courtroom run not by the state, but by the mining companies. The jury was not a jury of peers, there were no Irish Catholics on it and although the burden of proof was not met, the Molly Maguires were sentenced to death. Four of them were hanged at the same time in the Old Jail in 1877 in front of a large crowd. Before he was hanged, one of them placed his hand on the wall of his cell and declared that his handprint would stay there forever as proof of his innocence. It is there to this day even though the entire section of wall was once removed. Spooky?

The jail the, is more than just a jail… it has an interesting story behind it about conditions in the area in the last half of the nineteenth century. The building is interesting, the story moreso.

Old Jail Museum
128 West Broadway
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

Country Junction (Leheighton)

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by moatway on September 29, 2003

Country Junction brags that it's "The World’s Largest General Store". There are two of them, so I expect that they must share that honour. We visited the main store just outside Leheighton; the second store is at Wind-Gap on route 512. With three acres of shopping under one roof, it is big retail. It is to some extent, like an amusement park… areas of the store have received names and the aisles are not just aisles, they are streets. The "Italy" section contains imports, the "wharf" contains things related to the sea.

I admit that they seemed to have a lot of stuff. One section was purely nautical, great for decorating a cottage, particularly if you’re fond of plastic tuna and killer whales. Throughout the store, it is possible to pick up a life-sized or slightly larger than life-sized molded-plastic figure. I saw Elvis (so it’s true, the king lives), Marilyn Monroe in her famous scene from Some Like it Hot, and of course a number of Stan Laurels and the occasional Hardy. There are lots of candles and gift items as well as some great food items. Everything for Halloween is here, oh, make that Christmas, oh, make that Valentine’s, and it goes on from season to season. You say you want a life-sized cow wearing a cowboy outfit? Got one, you bet. A pig in a chef’s hat? Of course, several.

The store is also a great place for kids as there is a free petting farm and a pet shop with puppies, a place to eat, and a theatre. The kids might be a little bored while mom and dad are selecting kitchen cabinets or insulation in the large building center, or perhaps mulling over a leather recliner in the huge furniture store. So it’s a gift shop, hardware store, furniture emporium, supermarket, and entertainment center ad infinitum. Why would anyone traveling through stop in for a look-see? Same reason we did--because it’s there and after all, it might actually be the world’s largest.

Country Junction General Store
6565 Interchange Road, Route 209, Forest Inn
Lehighton, PA, 18235
(610) 377-5050

Shawnee's Daytrip to New York City

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by moatway on September 29, 2003

Up bright and early on a Tuesday morning, two busloads of people from a variety of states and countries leave the Shawnee Reception Center at 7:20am on a rainy morning. Most of us are first timers, a few of the blasé have visited the Big Apple before. The plan is to get to Staten Island to take the 10am ferry into New York, but unfortunately the rain has slowed traffic and we don’t get that ferry, or the next, but the 11am ferry. The ferry gives a view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and in no time, we’re in Battery Park. The speed of the morning tour indicates that this will be exteriors only--Castle Clinton, the old Customs House, and into Wall Street and the Financial District. We get a view of the New York Stock Exchange (and the heavy security around it) and move on to Trinity Church. Unfortunately, the lateness of our arrival means that services are underway and entry is barred. Undeterred, we move on to Ground Zero.

So much has been read and written about Ground Zero that one wonders if one is now immune to the to the terrible events here. But the site has a poignancy--it cuts deeply. Then it’s down Fulton Street to South Street Seaport.

I hadn’t expected anything like the South Street Seaport with old buildings converted to shops and restaurants, a harbour with tall ships and beautiful views up the river toward the Brooklyn Bridge. It is a nice place to catch one’s breath and have lunch. We rejoin our bus and drive through Chinatown to Midtown Manhattan. We are dropped off on 42nd Street and with a map and a suggested route of march and we are left on our own for about three hours.

Three hours is enough to get a snapshot impression of the city that we have read so much about. Around the corner is Times Square and then it’s up Seventh Avenue to go to the Rockefeller Center on 49th Street. Then to Saks Fifth Avenue. It’s time to reaffirm that one does, indeed, live in squalor–-conditions that the average customer in this store would barely recognize. I fear I have "tourist" written all over me, and it's in foot-tall caps (or is this like Harrods where most of the people are tourists?).

Then it’s across the street to visit Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. It is huge and a treat. Having seen so many European cathedrals, I could only observe that it was clean. We’re on Fifth Avenue now, and the world is our oyster--Tiffany’s, Trump Plaza, F.A.O. Schwartz--then we see Central Park. After mingling with the wealthy in front of the Plaza, we move to Sixth Street (the Avenue of the Americas). Back to 42nd Street and the bus to return to Shawnee.

We have survived our initiation to New York and we are pleased with the whole experience. We shall return.

Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort
One River Road
Shawnee-On-Delaware, Pennsylvania, 18356
(570) 424-4000

Steamtown National Historic Site (Scranton)

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by moatway on September 29, 2003

Steamtown is a National Historic Site run by the National Park Service. For train buffs and train watchers it is close to the Holy Grail, but for the rest of us it is educational, interesting and a great place to spend a few hours. It sits on a 40 acre site in the Scranton railroad yard of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. While you are admiring an old steam engine, the latest diesel locomotive passes by, doing its work.

As the visitor approaches the parking lot, he passes several steam engines and the realization hits that this is going to be a special place. At the ticket booth, you are given a bracelet that allows you access to the whole site and a half-hour train ride up to the old Scranton Station, a tourist destination in its own right and now a Radisson Hotel. At the Visitor Center you can receive your orientation… it’s a big site and you realize that you are standing in a large roundhouse with its turntable and track intact.

It is possible to start your tour anywhere you want, or you can hook up with a tour given by one of the site interpreters. The interpreters are typical of the Park Service, knowledgeable and enthusiastic and generally speaking, they are students of that which they teach, so they aren’t operating with a script, they have done their research. We started with the half-hour train-ride in old cars pulled by a steam engine. There was an interpreter on board and he discussed the train and the surroundings. He was followed by a former coal miner who talked about the mining of anthracite in the area and its advantage over soft coal.

Arriving back in the round house we went to look at the displays. In the 1902 section of the roundhouse there was a cut-away steam engine. I had no idea how it worked but as I walked into the Technology Museum I got a pretty good idea. The part of the museum that I enjoyed the most was the history section. There were interesting displays and film on everything from the architecture of train stations to train wrecks.

There are a lot of static train exhibits. Engines range from a 4-8-8-4 Big Boy to the smallest engine, a tiny thing that would fit into a one-car garage and leave room for storage. There were cars that were accessible--a caboose, a mail car, a private car, a boxcar--and of course engines that were, for want of a better expression, museum pieces. What I really liked looking at was the unimproved stock. There are a large number of old cars and engines in various states of disrepair. This is a working museum that rebuilds stock. Add to all this a theatre with frequently running films and an excursion train at some times and you’ve got a great family environment and entertainment.

Steamtown National Historic Site
150 S Washington Avenue
Scranton, Pennsylvania, 18503
(570) 340-5200

The Electric City Trolley Station and Museum

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by moatway on September 29, 2003

How do I feel about the Electric City Trolley Station and Museum? It sits across the parking lot from Steamtown and occupies the old silk factory. The tour is self-guiding and the visitor takes a two-page set of directions and follows them as best he can. It starts with an eight minute film, which is the best part of the visit. I had no idea why Scranton is called the Electric City and I had no idea that a trolley line might run 100 miles and be used for carrying freight and coal. I was suitably impressed.

Leaving the film, one observes the equipment that turns AC into Direct Current to power the trolleys. There are three trolleys in the museum--a work trolley that is not accessible, a cut-away trolley demonstrating their construction, and a pretty normal trolley car. This is a working museum and one can look through a glass door at a number of trolleys that are currently being rebuilt.

This is good for kids as there is a room dedicated to very young children who can play with toy trolleys, etc. The fee here was $3.50/adult and if you wanted a chance to ride a trolley on the old Laurel line that ran between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre it is an extra $4.50. Again, that might interest the children, particularly as the trolley ride takes one through the mile-long Laurel Line Tunnel and stops at the Historic Iron Furnaces. In retrospect, if I had to choose one or the other, I’d take the trolley ride. I guess that’s how I feel about the electric City Trolley Station and Museum.

The Electric City Trolley Station and Museum
Steamtown National Historic Site
Scranton, Pennsylvania

Shawnee's Daytrip to Philadelphia

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by moatway on October 1, 2003

It’s 7:20am in the morning and thirty of us are getting on a bus for Philadelphia rather than sleeping in. We have come from parts far and wide and want to see the liberty city the easy way, guided and coddled. Moving rapidly past the new National Constitution Center (I am constantly impressed with the ability of government to build striking buildings containing vast amounts of space and not much else, but even that is illusory as you should catch the multimedia orientation, "Freedom Rising" and wander about in the exhibit hall), we move to the Liberty Bell Pavilion. It is unfortunate that one has to go through the same process that one would have to go through in a major airport. ("Do you have any change in your pockets? Please put it in the tray"… and so on). Finally we are in, and there it is, an American icon. The saving grace here is the interpreter from the National Parks Service whose humour and insights make the bell come alive. I understand that the bell is to be moved back to Independence Hall.

And off we go to Independence Hall (tours here are timed and you have to pick up your tickets before coming) where we report dutifully to the East Wing to pick up our tour. Again, going through the metal-detection process. Once again, it is the interpreter who makes the movement for independence and the events of 1776 come alive--he’s clever, funny, and knowledgable. Into the two rooms of the hall we go. First the courtroom and then into the magical room itself where the Confederation was put together. It even looks like a room in which serious work was done, but only two items in it were present in those fateful months in 1776--a quill pen and Washington’s chair. In the West Wing is the Great Essentials exhibit, and since it consists, for the most part, of the written word, it is potentially the least interesting room. But if the words are read and appreciated, you will find that they are poignant and important to the fabric of America.

I’m hungry. Well, the Bourse is just down 5th street, a converted business exchange that now houses small shops and a food court. The architecture of this century building is interesting enough that you should go in even if you don’t need to eat.

Where to? How about Franklin Court and the Market Street houses? Benjamin Franklin’s house once stood in Franklin court and as it was torn down by his heirs, a simple metal framework symbolizes its presence. Off Franklin court is the Underground Museum, a tribute to a great American. There are a number of exhibits on Franklin but I recommend that you see the film in the theatre. It is a brief biography of the great statesman and inventor and is fascinating. Having done that, we go off to Betsy Ross’s House ($2 donation). It’s in the realm of vaguely interesting and takes a mere 10 minutes.

At that point we were on our own for about an hour. We chose to visit the Christ Church burial ground where Franklin and a number of other revolutionary leaders are buried. We try the Portrait Gallery in the Second Bank of the United States, but it’s closed for renovation. ("To serve you better". . .hmmm.) Well, it’s just a short walk down Chestnut to Carpenter’s Hall (five or so minutes) and the New Hall Military museum (another great interpreter). Here too it is an interpreter who makes the otherwise scanty display come alive.

There are a number of other things to see here--some require a guide, some are open all the time. We missed a number of them. On the other hand, there was little "wow" factor here--without the interpreters, it is pretty dry and static. I suggest that you start your trip here at the visitor center and make a plan of action that relies on Park Service narrative as much as possible. Otherwise you can see everything on the quick-step and not retain a thing.

Okay, back to the bus. We’re going to Washington Crossing, a state-run site that is a short drive away and the site where Washington crossed the Delaware River on a December night in 1776. What? You thought it was just a painting? A traffic accident just a few vehicles in front of us brings us to a dead stop. Now this would have happened even if you had been driving your own vehicle, right? But our tour is somewhat truncated. Washington Crossing is actually two sites--the McConkey’s Ferry Section and the Thompson Mill Section. We see the former, not the latter.

These buildings are in the somewhat interesting category, but only if you can imagine Washington eating Christmas dinner in McConkey’s Ferry Inn. There is a rather good film in the visitor center, then a visit to see the Durham boats of the type that Washington would have used. Then the inn and across the street to the Mahlon Taylor House, a rather prosperous 19th century dwelling. We visit the Taylorsville store which is still in operation as a general store open to the public and then it’s back to the bus with about half of the whole site under our belts.

What do I think about the whole day? Well, it was over four hours of driving and the "wow" factor was definitely missing. We saw some things that any well-traveled person is supposed to see, but without the interpreters, it would have been very dry. At $54/person, I can’t recommend it. I think if you’re comfortable with driving, you won’t have a problem getting to and from these sites but I would save historical Philadelphia for that time when you are going to overnight in the city or its environs.

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