What are the things that attract you to your destinations? When you travel for leisure what activities are you looking for? As we have seen during this series, food is always on my list. But I also enjoy history and visiting places that no other city experience will give me.
I will be discussing the many wonderful historic regions of Philadelphia in the next post. For now I want to delve into all that draws me to this city and sometimes back to the same attractions.
Let’s begin with the LOVE Statute in J.F.K. Park
You have probably seen a picture of this sign at least once in your life. I have seen this particular sign in person more than once. Each time I am still thrilled by the visual and want to keep clicking the buttons on my camera. I have even seen it decorated for the holidays. Either way it is still impressive and draws large crowds. I have just learned recently that many cities around the world have a similar version. I would be so curious to see how many photos of me in front of these signs I could collect (see the link below for more details).
This park was dedicated John F. Kennedy Plaza in 1967 after our beloved thirty-fifth President of the United States. The main features of the plaza include curved granite steps and a majestic fountain added in 1969. The nickname “LOVE Park” comes from the statute that overlooks the plaza. You cannot miss it, it is right in front next to the entrance of the park. There use to be a visitors center but now it is a resource for tourists as well as a gift shop. Sadly it was not one that contained anything that I “needed” but no worries I found other stores that were up my alley.
I have never seen the entire Rocky movie let alone any of the million sequels that came after it. That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the part that it plays in pop culture. I know a great photo opportunity when I see one. This is that and a whole lot more.
I had planned to run up the steps like Rocky did but when I saw how many steps there were I decided there are some moments in art that do not need to be recreated in my life. I have never even been in side the Philadelphia Museum of Art that looms over Rocky and is at the end of those numerous steps. I am sure one day I will make the effort so that it will be another quintessential Philadelphia attraction to cross off my growing list.
City Hall in Philadelphia is one of the most recognizable buildings in their city. If you watched the TV show “Body of Proof” then you saw it constantly in their opening and throughout the episodes. It is a beautiful building at the heart of this city not too far from the LOVE statute in J.F.K. park.
Other notable objects are the many giant sized board game pieces along the street directly across from city hall. Officially called “Your Move” was created in 1997 and creates a dichotomy from the many city official buildings that surround it. There are dominos, chess pieces, and my favorite monopoly pieces. They create a fun atmosphere for photos and I think a great way to have artwork in public. For me it was a pleasant surprise and I loved taking those pictures.
Eastern State Penitentiary
Some people love Disneyland. They go back year after year bringing their kids as they grow up. I do not care for Disneyland but I understand the love you can have for a particular destination for I have one too, Alcatraz. Yep the infamous “Rock” is a beloved treasure of mine. It is the reason I planned a trip to San Francisco in 2008 and the reason I hope to go back someday soon. The history, the convicts, just the site of it, its all fascinating to me, I walked out of their gift shop with two large shopping bags and a huge smile on my face.
Besides my love of that island the tour happens to be incredibly well run. Ex-cons who were imprisoned there as well as the guards that worked there guide you through each section as you listen to the audio tour.
When I knew I was going to Philly and thus Eastern State Penn, I had high hopes. We were off to a good start as our narrator for this audio tour was Steve Buscemi of Sopranos fame. As a fellow Brooklynite I took that as a good sign.
The penitentiary has a center base and eight rows that branch out which contained the cells. Each cell was for one person only. Many were still in use in 1971. They all had a back door to a tiny private space of the yard. This was all to enforce the seriousness and isolation of the prison. The shape, history, and pretty much everything about it is the opposite of Alcatraz but that was my only point of reference.
At Alcatraz the tour went over two hours but the timing was perfect. You arrived where they were talking about at the exact moment it came up. But because Eastern State Penn is not set up in a similar manner the hour and a half audio tour left me with a lot of time to stand in the hallways just listening not really touring. It was well done but upon my return trip there it bothered me even more. I had to skip through just to get moving.
The showstopper is Al Capone’s cell. It is worth the visit for that alone. It remains as he left it, furnishings and all. A coincidence is that he eventually ended up at Alcatraz. Apparently I am following in his footprints of his criminal past. To see his cell make sure you ask someone that works there because this is not a part of the regular tour, I wish I knew why. This is only a few blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art so after you see Rocky you can go visit Al.
Another great find in Philly is the Mutter Museum also known as The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. It contains some of the most notable medical findings of our country’s past and present. It also serves as a real life scientific resource for medical students. Student and tourist alike will see things they have never imagined while walking through this two-floor exhibit. There is no tour, not even audio, so you can look around at your own pace. Everything is labeled and explained which helps out greatly. Some things are mundane, comparatively speaking such as a collection of skulls. But then you run into things like the secret tumor of President Grover Cleveland, the world’s largest colon, a plaster cast of conjoined twins, and the thorax of John Wilkes Booth. By the time you leave you will have seen things that fascinate you and things that will haunt you. I am sure no two visitors have the same lists. The aforementioned items were on the list I had to see. Especially once the Travel Channel taught me that President Cleveland had that tumor removed on a boat with an insanely small staff to keep it out of the public eye. You know that means these are all true stories thus adding another layer of interest for me.
I had never heard of the Magic Gardens before but I learned during a visit thanks to a knowledgeable relative of mine. It sounded strange and being inside was a wonderful weird new experience for me. The artist behind the glass created the gardens, which are essentially a tremendous mosaic structure that exists outside organically. It is an art gallery completely made up of materials the artist found. The individual pieces of glass, bottles, etc., make for a wonderland for visitors to explore. It is amazing and the most unique piece I have seen. You wont find this just anywhere.
World Café Live
As a friend and fan of the most musically gifted person I know, one Levi Kreis, I was in town to see him perform live here at the World Café Live. It was a nice large space yet intimate enough for the crowd to focus on the entertainer. There were no expensive tickets to buy and they had an array of beverages and foods to order. I really enjoyed it there and wouldn’t hesitate to go back.
Now we are off and running to the historical side of Philadelphia.
Up next: For the City of Brotherly Love, Benjamin Franklin, and Betsy Ross's House: Historical Activities.
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