Written by Suzanne715 on 06 Jun, 2005
After a hike up a steep stairway, we follow the macadam path to the movie house and take our seats. The short, informative clip provides a basic understanding about how caves develop over millions of years. As soon as the movie ends, we…Read More
After a hike up a steep stairway, we follow the macadam path to the movie house and take our seats. The short, informative clip provides a basic understanding about how caves develop over millions of years. As soon as the movie ends, we exit through a side door into the cavern.
Jackie, our guide, points out the Blue Ridge fault line running through the cave and explains how tectonic activity pushed fractured slabs of rock almost vertical. The large crevices in the limestone above us allowed water to seep through the rocks creating a carbonic acid that helped dissolve the limestone, creating the cavern.
Licking our lips, we feast our eyes upon the "Upside-Down Ice Cream Cone" Mother Nature has made. The melted ice cream blends three flavors together - green mint, vanilla, and chocolate. Geologists estimate the formations age to be approximately 84,000 years old.
On our way to the next room, we pass formations that look delicious enough to eat. Long thin sheets of caramel-colored taffy (cave ribbons), orange-glazed carrots (stalactites), shiny green beans (mossy stalagmites), and flaky biscuits (draperies) decorate the corridor.
As we enter the "Crystal Ballroom", thousands of sparkling deep purple and rich plum six-sided crystals catch my eye. Clumped together, this mass of dazzling jewels looks awesome. Other clear crystals glisten like diamonds, but made of calcite, they dissolve quickly in water.
Long ago on hot summer nights, the ballroom played host to hoe-downs with live bands. Afterwards, guests slept in the historic inn located on the grounds. The ballroom has held two baptisms and three weddings. The last wedding, between two employees of the cavern, took place on Halloween in 1993.
Just inside the "Cathedral Chamber" I glance to the left and see long, shiny streaks if rich orange and dark gold minerals cascading down the wall. The stunning streaks gleam with thousands of twinkling prisms and green dots created by glimmering crystals and moss. This magnificent display takes my breath away.
Meandering paths and stairways fill this gorgeous chamber. After climbing one staircase, we toss coins in the dry wishing barrel below. Scattered coins lying around the wooden barrel tell me I’m not the only one who missed. From here, we cross over a bridge and pass different size stalagmites that remind me of nesting dolls, one fitting inside the other until they are all stacked inside the largest one. In the back of this enormous room, we climb up steep cement steps reaching a lookout platform almost at the cavern ceiling. Stalactites above us look like inverted mountain ranges capped with snow and pure white "cave ribbons" wave down the wall behind us.
Following a walkway back toward the front of the cavern, we pass by the top of a large drop rock that fell thousand of years earlier. The rock, now covered in flowstone, looks like orange sherbet dripping with thick white icing.
Crystal Cave was discovered in 1871 and is the oldest show cave still offering tours in Pennsylvania. In the early years, visitors would arrive by stagecoach and tallow candles and oil lamps provided light for the cavern tours.
Purchase tickets in the gift shop. Tours last about 45 minutes in the 54-degree cave. During the summer months, Crystal Cave has an eighteen-hole miniature golf course, ice cream shop, gem panning, nature tail, picnic area, and luncheonette.
Crystal Cave is located in Berks County near Kutztown. From interstate 78, take Route 222 to Lenhartsville (Exit 54A). Then take Route 143 to Virginville. Follow the black and yellow arrows to Crystal Cave Road. The cave is open March through November from 9am-5pm. During the summer months it is open until 6 or 7pm, depending on the day of the week. The cave is closed December through February.
Crystal Cave: (610) 683-6755 or Crystal Cave
Berks County Visitors Information:
(800) 443-6610 or Berks County Visitors Information
Written by Suzanne715 on 07 Jun, 2005
Entering Lincoln Caverns through a man-made entrance, we walk through a long, limestone tunnel about six feet high. Water droplets splash the gravel floor. Just before the first room, a triangular boulder drips with glaze resembling a giant slice of peach pie.
Inside the golden-brown walls…Read More
Entering Lincoln Caverns through a man-made entrance, we walk through a long, limestone tunnel about six feet high. Water droplets splash the gravel floor. Just before the first room, a triangular boulder drips with glaze resembling a giant slice of peach pie.
Inside the golden-brown walls of the "Mystery Room," an orange light shines up through dark yellow flowstone four inches thick, proving its transparency. Spindly tree roots dangle from the ceiling, some reaching down ninety feet from the mountaintop. The group descends a staircase near the center of the room that leads to a corridor with hundreds of waterlines carved in the rock, one barely above the other.
After passing the old cavern entrance, discovered while constructing Route 22 in 1930, we proceed down a stairway into a four-foot-wide canyon and stand at the bottom of a magnificent frozen "Niagara" waterfall (ninety feet wide and forty feet high). The cascading ivory flowstone twinkles with thousands of pearly "cave beads," producing a stunning work of art.
In the next room, flowstone resembles snow-covered icicles on a frozen mountain spring. Jennifer, our guide, shines a red spotlight on the formation and it glistens with purple gemstones. Reflections of stalactites in the crystal clear water of Sunset Lake make it appear deep, but in reality, its depth measures only five inches.
After exiting Lincoln Caverns, we hike up a gravel path to a sitting area with green and white benches just outside the second caves entrance. Jennifer unlocks the cavern door, and we enter Whispering Rocks Cave.
Whispering Rocks displays an enchanting, almost magical ambience. An enormous flowstone "Birthday Cake" formation of butter-cream flowstone and strings of pure white "cave popcorn," clinging to the walls, greets us as soon as we enter. Tiny translucent crystals dot the cavern ceiling, sparkling in the artificial light. The constant flow of water years ago has made the ivory and gold-colored walls smooth and marked with small scallops from splashing water.
Every turn has a surprise that delights the eye. Neatly folded "drapery" formations hang smothered in shiny glaze along thin passageways. Brilliant white flowstone presents one stunning array after another. "Cave ribbons" stream down walls connecting with knobby stalagmites. Helictites curl at all angles. Columns of every size and shape decorate the cavern.
A small sinkhole in the mountainside led to the discovery of this cave in 1941 by Myron Dunlavy, Jr., the owners son. On Easter Sunday, at the end of World War II, 100 people crawled through the hole to attend a morning church service in the "Chapel Room."
Winding our way through a narrow corridor, we approach a dark, tiny A-frame rock tunnel called the "Keyhole." One by one, we slip through the passage and head back through the cave to the entrance, enjoying this breathtaking, enchanting wonderland one more time.
Lincoln Caverns, open since 1932, is located in U.S. Route 22, three miles west of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. Follow the yellow signs. Admission for both caves is included in one price. Touring both caves takes about one hour. The temperature inside the caverns remains a constant fifty-two degrees. Lincoln Caverns offers a variety of programs for earning scouting badges, field trips, and parties. Gemstone mining, camping, snack bar, gift shop, nature trails, and picnic pavilions are also available.
The Dunlavy’s created a Kid’s Cave Crawl, a simulated spelunking adventure for ages 4 through 12. Children are given helmets and kneepads. The tour lasts about thirty minutes.
During October, the cavern hosts a Ghost and Goblin Haunted Tour. The rest of the year, Treasure Hunt tours are available for groups of twenty or more. A treasure map and clues, along with a guide, help participants figure out where in the cave the treasure is hidden.
Lincoln Cavern and Whispering Rocks open daily at 9am and closes between 4pm and 6pm, depending on the month. Hours for January and February are by appointment only. In December, the caves are only open on weekends.
For more information check Lincoln Caverns or call (814) 643-1358. Other area information can be found at Allegheny Mountains Visitors Bureau or call (800) 842-5866.
Gigantic limestone boulders surround the cavern entrance framed with railroad ties. Inside, old black lanterns light the dark pathway descending into the cave. We pass delicate, brown rock formations of two conjoined elephants with a monkey straddling their heads and a miniature Statue…Read More
Gigantic limestone boulders surround the cavern entrance framed with railroad ties. Inside, old black lanterns light the dark pathway descending into the cave. We pass delicate, brown rock formations of two conjoined elephants with a monkey straddling their heads and a miniature Statue of Liberty, before ascending a stairway to another room. Tiny stalactites and stalagmites create a Little Town of Bethlehem display lit with red and blue lights. Glistening "cave ribbons" with coffee and cream-colored stripes, resemble pulled taffy. Every so often a droplet of water slides down a stalactite, splashing the gravel beneath it. I inhale deeply and smell the cool, damp air.
A small back room contains a "cave chimney" and a skinny cement staircase leading up to the original entrance. Millions of years old and growing very slowly, the height of the chimney hole reaches sixty feet. It is estimated that it will take approximately another 2,000 years for the chimney to create the first natural cave opening.
Shannon, our tour guide, points out fragile cave coral, also known as "cave popcorn," and ancient fossils on the towering walls. Trilobites, Brachiopods, and other creatures that once lived under the sea still cling to the rock in fossilized form. Shannon shows us tight coils of helictites (growths that defy gravity) emerging horizontally off the wall. Thin hollow tubes known as "soda straws," hang from the ceiling. Old, grooved seaworm trails wind through the sand-brown rock bed. Near the center of the cave on the ceiling, a section of black volcanic rock provides proof of tectonic plate activity.
Since the cave has no natural openings, no tales of cave dwellers exist. However, I find the story about the first explorers of the cavern amusing. A small hole discovered by miners was not large enough for a grown man to fit through. Seeking outside help, three local Boy Scouts jumped at the chance to investigate the cave. Lowered down by ropes, they explored the cave and reported their findings. After four years of preparation the show cave opened for business in 1932 as Wonderland Coral Caverns. Later, "Wonderland" was dropped from the name and a new, safer entrance dug out.
Another cave tale has a romantic side. In June 1984, the cave owner at the time, Steven Hall, married his sweetheart in the "Cathedral Room" with friends and family gathered by their sides. Wedding photos are on display in the cabin where tour tickets are purchased.
The tour runs twenty-five minutes in the fifty-two-degree cavern. The ancient history is very interesting. The coral reefs and fossils date back to the Devonian Period (354 - 417 million years ago), when most of the United States lay under The Great Inland Sea. To learn more about the Devonian Period, check The Devonian Period.
Coral Caverns is located in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, in a small town called Manns Choice. To get there take the Pennsylvania Turnpike to exit 146 (old exit 11). Go south to the town of Bedford and take a right at the first light (Pitt Street, Route 30). Continue west on Route 30 to the Jean Bonnet Tavern. Bear left on to Route 31 West for three miles to Manns Choice. Just before the town, look for a large sign on the left and bear left. Then turn left on to Cavern Street.
The hours of operation are daily, 10am to 5pm July and August. During May, June, September, and October, the cave is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. The cavern is closed November through April.
For more information check Coral Caverns . The phone number is (814) 623-6882. For places to stay, eat, or other things to do in the area, check Bedford County or call (800) 765-3331.
Written by Suzanne715 on 18 Jun, 2005
Tucked away in the Laurel Highlands of western Pennsylvania lies the 435-acre Laurel Caverns Geological Park, the largest cave in the state. There are three cave options; family tour, wild caving expeditions, and repelling. My husband and I sign up for the 3-hour guided cave…Read More
Tucked away in the Laurel Highlands of western Pennsylvania lies the 435-acre Laurel Caverns Geological Park, the largest cave in the state. There are three cave options; family tour, wild caving expeditions, and repelling. My husband and I sign up for the 3-hour guided cave expedition. Jason, our guide, explains the rules and checks to see that each person has at least two working flashlights. After signing release forms, everyone is issued hard hats.
Single file, the group moves down a passage lit with glowing chandeliers. The air begins to feel cooler and the space around us grows darker and smaller. At the end of the stone corridor, we slide one at a time between two flat, horizontal rock slabs, entering the Ball Room on the other side. Hearing echoes of a babbling brook, we find it with our flashlights and follow the stream through the area.
Jason shows us three passages that lead into the next room. He labels them easy, medium, and hard. Everyone chooses a path, and we meet at the next checkpoint, not far away. (I’ll warn you in advance, easy doesn’t mean "easy," it means easiest of the three choices.)
Crouching on a wide rocky ledge at Sleepy Rock, our flashlights scour the damp, dark cavity. The spotlights dance across this cavern stage, creating a spectacular show of boulders, deep crevasses, and shaded layers of red, brown, and grey rock.
Laurel Caverns has been explored since the late 1700s. An a-frame section where hundreds of early visitors scrawled their names on the walls is known as the Post Office. After reading a few names, we cross through it, then follow a narrow passageway on the other side to the bottom of the cave. We have now descended 46 stories down the inside slope of the mountain.
Jason checks his watch and asks where we want to go next. He gives us a few choices, and the Beach wins– a unanimous decision. Resting on boulders along the incline of thick, damp sand, everyone turns out their lights and listens to springs trickling through the darkness. After a short rest, we venture behind the walls of the Beach, then slide down a tunnel of flowstone resembling soft-chocolate ice cream. Passageways packed full of sand look like rock walls but crumble with a little pressure from our hands. This area is still being excavated.
On our way out of the cavern, my husband and I hang at the back of the group. As the others climb upward in the pitch-black, their twinkling lights in a broken "S" chain are all that remain visible to us, still at the bottom. The beginning of the group waits for the rest of us on a rock ledge leading to the next passage. Looking up, the flashlights portray shimmering stars on a clear night.
With over 3.5 miles of passageways, Laurel Caverns is the 16th longest cave in the United States. The 52-degree cavern contains only 30% Loyalhanna limestone. The other 70% is a mix of sand and clay. Most passages and rooms have ceiling heights of 10 to 40 feet.
I highly recommend this thrilling spelunking adventure. It is a bargain at only $19 per person. Teenagers will love it. There are many areas of the cave to explore, so go more than once and do a different section each time. The climb back up is a little strenuous, so being in good physical shape is a must. You’ll work up a sweat, so don’t overdress. Participants must be at least 12 years of age, and ages 12 through 17 must be accompanied by a parent.
Wear long pants, long sleeves, sturdy boots with good tread, and cheap gloves. Take along a water bottle, two flashlights (Size "D" battery or larger) per person, and a small first-aid kit. (TIP: Using a headlamp keeps your hands free for climbing. Inexpensive ones can be bought at Wal-Mart for a few dollars.)
On the family tour ($9.50 adult, $7.50 youth), you observe some pretty interesting phenomenon, such as strands of white fungi that bend in bright light, an optical illusion that defies gravity, and a tunnel of colorful lights that respond to loud noise. The family tour runs an hour in length and departs every 20 minutes.
Although repelling ($35) has been available for youth and scout groups for some time, it is now being offered to everyone 12 years of age and up. You repel three times off a 45-foot cave cliff.
The geological park, located on Route 40 between Uniontown and Farmington (50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh), is open May through October everyday from 9am to 5pm. During mid-March, April, and November, Laurel Caverns is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. The cave closes during the winter months. The cave is within a 3.5-hour drive from many places in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. For more information click on: Laurel Caverns, or call 724/438-3003.
The Laurel Highlands offers a variety of other activities to do during your stay, such as biking trails, whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking, golfing, historical sites, amusement parks, and six state parks. The region’s website link is: Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau .
Written by Suzanne715 on 21 Jun, 2005
Arriving at Kipona, I was delightfully surprised by the bright, bold colors everywhere. Large blue, red, and yellow banners line the crest of the riverbank. Green flags wave overhead in the soft breeze. Red and white petunias spill over flower boxes at an eating area…Read More
Arriving at Kipona, I was delightfully surprised by the bright, bold colors everywhere. Large blue, red, and yellow banners line the crest of the riverbank. Green flags wave overhead in the soft breeze. Red and white petunias spill over flower boxes at an eating area on City Island by picnic tables spouting hunter green umbrellas for shade. Wide concrete walkways and stairs, built along the water’s edge for blocks, hold patrons in bright summer outfits. Meticulously painted drag boats in a rainbow of colors sit just a few feet from the shoreline awaiting their turn to race. Spectators compare engines and paint designs and pick their favorite boat to win.
As the light flashes from red to green, the drivers and their boats scream up the channel, two at a time, in hopes of winning and moving on to the next round. The races last three hours. Its a great excuse to get out and enjoy the fresh air of summer before it's gone for another year.
Kipona, one of the oldest waterfront festivals in the United States, is held every Labor Day weekend. The word Kipona means "Sprakling Water" in the Native American language. The drag boat races are usually scheduled for Sunday afternoon. It is held along the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania skyline--Riverfront Park, City Island, and the majestic Susquehanna River. There are food stands, children's rides, canoe races, live music, arts and crafts, Native American Pow-wow, fireworks and more during the three-day event.
Harrisburg is an easy drive from all over Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virgina. There is plenty of parking ($2) on City Island. The festival is free. For more information on the drag boat races or other Kipona activities, check Kipona Festival.
Written by Owen Lipsett on 06 Jul, 2005
The farmland to the east and west of Philadelphia produces the best meats, milk, and produce on the United States' East Coast - which plays a major part in Philadelphia's large number of fine restaurants. Fitting for a city as justly famous for its…Read More
The farmland to the east and west of Philadelphia produces the best meats, milk, and produce on the United States' East Coast - which plays a major part in Philadelphia's large number of fine restaurants. Fitting for a city as justly famous for its plebian as its patrician culture, it's also home to some of America's most unique (and fattening) regional cuisine.
If you're on Atkins (or any other sort of diet, for that matter), you may want to stop reading here, but if you don't mind putting on a bit of weight, here are some suggestions regarding how to do so enjoyably. Besides, Philadelphia's eminently walkable streets allow you limitless opportunities to burn it off...
Food carts: Most American cities have these seemingly unsanitary institutions, but none can match Philadelphia's for their quality, density, variety, and (perhaps most importantly!) hygiene. As the fast casual trend has raised the prices (and expectations) at the city's sandwich shops and lunch counters, these humble vehicles dish out huge quantities of tasty fare that will almost always leave you change from a $5 bill. The largest concentrations are in Center City (particularly around City Hall), across from 30th Street Station, and at strategic points near the University of Pennsylvania campus.
My personal favorite is Pong Yee, a marvelous Chinese institution that puts its four-walled competitors to shame in terms of price and quality, although certainly not service. It's best to call your order into (610) 812-7189; otherwise, you'll have to wait 15-20 minutes for the food to be prepared - all dishes are made to order. The Singapore noodles, beef with broccoli, and "pork billy" specialty of the house are all winners - it's located next to the University of Pennsylvania's renowned Wharton School at 38th and Spruce Streets. It's open 11am-9pm Monday to Saturday.
Also outstanding (and a bit closer to Penn's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, which is the main draw for casual visitors to West Philadelphia) is Magic Carpet Foods - a vegetarian lunch truck which nevertheless draws confirmed carnivores like me for its superb seitan and flavorful falafel. The lengthy line at noon testifies to its popularity, but it moves very quickly. In particular, the Belladonna wrap and falafel salad (be sure to ask for lots of tahini on top) are outstanding and ridiculously inexpensive. It's located at 34th and Walnut, the northeast corner of Penn's undrgraduate campus. Note that it's only open 11am-3pm on weekdays.
Hoagies: A cynic (which many people will tell you is simply a synonym for Philadelphian) might tell you that the only thing that distinguishes these flavorful sandwiches from Boston's subs or New York's heros is their city of provenance. But there's something much tastier about these homages to traditional Italian lunchmeat and fresh vegetables (you won't find any bologna inside in any sense of the word!), which take their name from Philadelphia's Hog Island shipyard, where workers first enjoyed them. I'd personally argue that the freshness of the Delaware Valley's superb farm products explain their superiority to their Northern cousins, although others credit the subtler blend of spices employed than in Boston or New York. Betraying my recent arrival to Philadelphia, I'm still sufficiently seduced by their overall quality that I haven't yet found a single favorite hoagie shop. Wherever you order one, I am told by native Philadelphians that they're best enjoyed with a light Italian dressing, which brings out the flavor in their vegetable components.
Wawa: You might think that in listing a chain of convenience stores as one of Philadelphia's culinary traditions, I'm illustrating either the city's charmlessness or my own ignorance, but I can certainly assure you it's not the former. Wawa, an offshoot of the dairy company of the same name, offers surprisingly inexpensive and fresh food and the best produce you'll ever see at a store of its kind. In particular, their computerized hoagie ordering system is a joy matched only by the relatively reasonable price for these tasty sandwiches. On any jaunt through the city, you're sure to see people drinking from their trademark square liter bottles of various beverages - their iced tea and chocolate milk really deserve to be distributed nationwide!
Scrapple: I'll be honest, I find the concept of "cornmeal mush made with the meat and broth of pork, seasoned with onions, spices and herbs and shaped into loaves for slicing and frying" (the dictionary definition of scrapple) a tad off-putting. Nevertheless, as your faithful Philadelphia correspondent, it's my duty to inform you of this apparently delectable dish, developed by Pennsylvania Germans in the east of the state and then popularized throughout the northeast as a result of its Philadelphian renown. True conoisseurs apparently enjoy the fried loaves dipped in maple syrup, which my mother claims I did as a child. (I disclaim all knowledge of such consumption.) At least, she tells me that I consumed it "raw" (as opposed to fried), which is perfectly safe, as the pork has already been cooked. (Although the concept of safety is perhaps in the eye of the beholder in this case!)
Cheesesteaks: By contrast, I'll freely admit to consuming a cheesesteak at none other than Pat's Steaks, the self-proclaimed originator of the sandwich synonymous with Philadelphia. If you're willing to make the journey through South Philadelphia (Rocky's neighborhood) on foot, it's certainly a just reward. However, if you follow my lazy example and take a cab to its bare-bones location at the intersection of 9th Street and Wharton and Passayunk Avenue, you'll be punished for your indolence by a sensation of bloating almost as soon as you've finished wiping the sandwich's residue from your mouth, hands, and clothing (and you will have to do this!) While some claim that Geno's, located somewhat more salubriously inside a McDonald's-style shelter (Pat's resembles a stadium concession stand) catercorner to Pat's, is superior to its predecessor, its self-proclaimed "authenticity" (and higher prices) suggest that it is in fact struggling to truly possess this quality. In any case, I've never been tempted to try it.
Regardless of where you order your sandwich, it's important to learn cheesesteak etiquette (yes, there is such a thing!). You should decide beforehand what you'd like to order, as a single error will make Philadelphia's countermen belie the city's otherwise justified reputation for friendliness. As for the order itself, first state the sort of sandwich you'd like (pepper, plain, and pizza steaks are just what they sound like). But you should never ask for a "cheesesteak." Rather, state "American", "Provolone," or "Whiz" (the choice of connoisseurs - yes, as in Cheez Whiz), and do not repeat John Kerry's ignorant error of stating "Swiss" unless you're in the mood for public humiliation. Then state either "wit" or "wit-out" depending on whether you'd like onions. Personally, I'd recommend "American wit" and then topping it with complimentary hot peppers, but "Whiz wit" is the most authentic order.
There's no better way to round out any Philadelphia fast-food meal than by purchasing a water ice, a combination between a slightly more flavorful slurpee and a fruit sorbet, which is most delicious (and filling) if ordered with frozen custard mixed in. Rita's is the most widespread purveyor of this particular delight.
Philadelphia’s streets were famous long before Bruce Springsteen memorialized them, as the first in the United States laid out according to a grid system. Indeed, Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously inhabited in the United States, numbers among them. But it’s not the individual…Read More
Philadelphia’s streets were famous long before Bruce Springsteen memorialized them, as the first in the United States laid out according to a grid system. Indeed, Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously inhabited in the United States, numbers among them. But it’s not the individual sights along them but the overall assemblage that makes them so special.
Unlike more recent American grid plans, Philadelphia’s is still evident wherever you go in Center City, as the area between the Delaware and Schuykill Rivers is known. The north-south axis of Broad Street (variously known as 14th Street and "The Avenue of the Arts") meets Market Street, which runs East-West, at the fin de siecle City Hall. City Hall is fittingly topped by a statue of William Penn, the city’s founder.
Like any great city, however, Philadelphia's founding myth is in a sense just that, as a Swedish settlement predated the city Penn founded to serve as the capital of his eponymous religiously tolerant colony, not to mention the innumberable native American villages which the Swedes encountered nearby. To explore the city it’s perhaps better to set the most famous aspects of Philadelphia's history aside in order to focus on the less famous, but no less significant, nature of its original design and layout, which are more readily apparent than in any other American city.
Considering that City Hall is appropriately located at the city’s very center, it offers the best view of this assemblage, which predates it by more than two centuries. From the building's construction in 1901 until One Penn Plaza was erected in 1987, it was the city's tallest building, and it remains the tallest publicly accessible one. Designed by John McArthur in 1871 and constructed over the course of three decades for the then-princely sum of $24.5 million, it lost its intended status of the world’s tallest before it was finished. Cynics have often pointed to this as the first of the many grandiose ambitions it failed to live up to.
It faces directly northwest along Benjamin Franklin Parkway (which cuts the grid diagonally) at its greatest rival as the city’s most famous building, the neo-classical Philadelphia Museum of Art. In between lies Logan Square, whose name belies its design - that of a circle surrounded by a square onto which face a pair of the city's most august institutions: the Free Library (the country's oldest) and the Franklin Institute, the city's science museum. The circle itself contains Swann Fountain, in which young Philadelphians are frequently to be seen swimming during the hot summer months, despite the practice being officially prohibited. Within the broader plan of the city, Logan Square serves as the northwest quadrant's public square, as well as dividing the museums of the so-called "Art Museum Area" from the city's business district.
Its counterpart in the Southwest quadrant, Rittenhouse Square, is considered the city’s most prestigious address. Assiduous real estate agents have managed to apply the Square's name to the surrounding district as whole - which David Rittenhouse, one of the country's first great scientists and public intellectuals, would probably have found quite humorous. Despite its eminent namesake, the area distinctly lacks specific points of interest, although this is a blessing in disguise as it compels you to focus on the sheer beauty of its eighteenth and nineteenth century streets, the most pleasant in the city for idle strolling. Many feature relics of past inhabitants, in the form of small historical signs, and (more subtly) hitching posts, that in some cases serve to separate trendy bistros from the streets. As young professionals have begun moving back into the city (a somewhat slower process than most civic boosters claim) many of the area’s nineteenth century dwellings have been turned into apartments.
South Street separates Center City from South Philadelphia, the predominantly Italian-American area that is home to the city’s stadium complex, the Italian Market, Pat’s Steaks and (in legend only) Rocky Balboa. East of City Hall, South Street itself forms the southern border of Philadelphia’s most touristed area and is studded with the sort of stores you might encounter in either New York or London’s SoHo, although some interesting street art has nevertheless endured. Going north through the city’s southeast quadrant, the streets turn more verdant, and the buildings more historic, a prelude to Independence Hall National Historic Park which straddles Market Street (the building itself is on the street’s south side.
The northeast quadrant includes the remainder of the Park (most famously, the Liberty Bell and its pavillion). Between the Park and City Hall are the city’s small Chinatown and Reading Terminal Market, both of which provide relatively inexpensive and generally tasty sustenance for any wander. Still further north is the aptly named Old City, which contains most of Philadelphia’s commercial galleries, as well as some of its most popular restaurants and nightclubs. Fittingly, its Square has come to be named after Philadelphia’s most famous citizen, Benjamin Franklin. The Square in the southeast quadrant is named after George Washington and forms the heart of Society Hill,/B>, long one of the city's most genteel neighborhoods, which is the best place to base yourself for a weekend visit.
If this overview has seemed vague, that's entirely deliberate on my part – while these neighborhoods’ famous sights are well-known, you can best appreciate their subtler ones by seeking them out yourself. My two favorites of this sort both honor foreign-born Revolutionary War heroes. The massive statue of Polish (and American) revolutionary hero Thaddeus Kosciusko (near my workplace and Logan Square) and the grave of Commodre John Barry, the Irish-born founder of the American Navy, at 4th and Spruce Streets. There are thousands of others, and like Philadelphia’s streets, to see them is in a sense to own them, as they belong to all who pass by.
Written by moatway on 01 Oct, 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…Read More
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.
Written by diminor1929 on 22 Sep, 2002
Most people come here to spend the last week every August reuniting with friends and relatives they have known for generations. The encampment started 138 years ago when farmers who lived far away from each other used the Grange Fair as the main social…Read More
Most people come here to spend the last week every August reuniting with friends and relatives they have known for generations. The encampment started 138 years ago when farmers who lived far away from each other used the Grange Fair as the main social and business event of the year. In order to stay for several days, early grangers began renting old Civil War tents. There are spaces now for 950 tents and these spaces are tougher to get than New York brownstones. You have to be born into or marry into a family that has rights to one. The tents are coveted heirlooms that have witnessed generations of enthusiastic grangers come and go, through heat, hurricane, flood, lack of water, electricity, etc. . . . But the fair still caters to "daytrippers" and weekenders like myself to be successful. Newcomers and first-timers are welcome as well. If you plan to stay overnight, just make sure you reserve accommodations elsewhere, as you won''t be able to rent a space at the fair.
Competition for the #1 theme-tent is stiff and people go to great lengths to win. Nightime in Tent City resembles Christmas with the brightly lit campsites decorated to suit the theme. Another one of my favorite attractions is the exhibits. Prize quilts, tablecloths, doilies as well as floral arrangements, canned foods and gourmet vegetables are on display in the main exhibition hall. Having a show "catalog" makes this more interesting as you can see the "requirements" for exhibits. You can view the assortment of livestock being judged either in the arena or cruise through the animal barns.
The mood of the crowd is unbelievably friendly -- everyone considers each other to be "family" in one sense or another. It is part kitsch, part Americana, part county fair/state fair all rolled into one. There are activities to entertain every member of the family. Senior citizens can attend special seminars on prescription drugs, legal terminology, sharing grange memories, old-time music and catch up with old friends. For children there are daily junior livestock exhibits, dances with a DJ, arts and crafts programs, a special kid''s day featuring a circus, Buford the Bear, a magician, Elephant Encounter, relay races, horseless rodeo activities, sand castle contest, and a Talent Show. Other attractions include "Cowboys for Christ" and "Deacons of Dixieland," "Phil Dirt and the Dozers," a live band, Horseshoe Pitching contests, livestock shows, Family Heritage Afternoon, Giant Ice Cream Sundae, High School band presentations, and a variety of performing groups. Of course there are the typical midway type games of skills and chance, amusement park rides, flea market type booths, a great assortment of new, state of the art RV''s open for inspection. Some of these are unbelievable! The list of fun stuff to do is endless . . . You have to go and experience it yourself to appreciate it all. This was my second year and I plan on going back again!
Written by ephraim on 28 Jun, 2001
OK, this is one of the stangest things I have ever seen in my life. I realize the sweeping import of that statement, but I''ll just take a deep breath and try and begin to explain the Wing Bowl. Every year the morning guys on…Read More
OK, this is one of the stangest things I have ever seen in my life. I realize the sweeping import of that statement, but I''ll just take a deep breath and try and begin to explain the Wing Bowl. Every year the morning guys on a local AM radio station (WIP 610) sponsor what amounts to the grandest and most spectacular buffalo-wing eating contest in the world. The hype is enormous, and even though it is held early on a January morning (so it can be simulcast with the morning sports show) it sold out the First Union Center. Well, that's not entirely accurate. The Wing Bowl is free, but once the crowd grew to well over 20,000, they stopped letting people in. That's right, over 20,000 Philadelphians decided it was worth it to trek out to the F.U.C., miss a morning's worth of work, all in the January cold, to watch a wing-eating contest. So, curious, I joined them for this year's version -- Wing Bowl 9. I was not disappointed. Imagine a mix between amateur wrestling, Hooters, the NFL pregame show, and Rocky. The contestants enter the stadium like boxing champions, their theme music blaring and their entourage in tow. They have names like "Damaging Doug," "El Wingador," and "The Irish Mute." Round after round, they scarf down plate after plate of buffalo wings as the 9 a.m. crowd drinks beer and shouts lewd shouts at the scantliy clad "Wingettes." WIP culls its contestants from various qualifying stunts in the weeks leading up to Wing Bowl. Could you eat a hamburger the size of a volleyball? Could you eat a can or worms? Then, maybe then, you have the makings of a Wing Bowl participant. Apparently it helps, judging from a look at this year's contestants, if you weigh over 300 pounds -- or in the case of "The Package," 700 pounds. It is a spectacle of the grotesque quite simply not be missed -- or believed. The national anthem (the national anthem) was sung by a woman while she bounced on a trampoline. The halftime show consisted of a man breaking full cans of beer on his head. In the end, "El Wingador" brought home the trophy by eating a Wing Bowl-record 147 buffalo wings (he also got a trip to Aruba, but something tells me the bragging rights are a bit more important to him). This yearly event is just not to be missed if you happen to be in Philly in the beginning of January. I have not found a more interesting way to spend a Friday morning than with 20,000 screaming, beer-drinking Philly fanatics watching fat men (and one fat woman) eat chicken wings. That's why I'll try and be back for Wing Bowl X. Close