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What makes a city memorable? What makes a memory last when you visit a place? Just racking my brain for all the cool times I spent in Philadelphia, I think it comes down to two things – cool things to do and cool people to share the experience with you. I have a couple of those memories that I’ll share, but I also know that I need to make a few new memories in a couple of these other locations. Even though I went quite a few times and this is one of the older, historic cities of the United States, it still changes. No changes are more obvious than the first item on my list.
See a well-pitched game at Citizen’s Bank Ballpark
If you ever had the misfortune of attending a game at Veterans Stadium, you understand how badly the town needed a new baseball stadium. Citizen’s Bank Park starts to make up for all the years of bad baseball viewing. It also helps that the Phillies already won a World Series Championship and an NL Pennant while in the new digs. If you want to get a good feel of those current Phillies teams, go catch a game when Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels pitches. They will help to make up for any time you had to watch bad pitching (I’m looking at you Royals fans.)
Run the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Yes, you’ve seen “Rocky.” What steps does he run up? You guessed it, the stairs leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which are now known as the “Rocky Steps.” However, you need to go beyond the stairs and go inside. One of my memories that I mentioned above was my first trip to this museum with my good friend Lisa. I remember strolling through the museum, turning a corner and all of the sudden I was in the Arms and Armor gallery. A huge room devoted to swords, weapons, armor and shields. Even now my jaw drops to the floor because I don’t ever expect to see big glass cases filled with instruments of death and destruction. It just seems a bit weird. I think my friend Lisa got tired of hearing me exclaim about it, but I think she secretly really enjoyed the exhibit as well. If you hit the museum before May 6th, you can see the Vincent Van Gogh Up Close exhibit.
Eat a cheesesteak from Geno’s or Pat’s (your choice)
Right across the street from each other are two of the best cheesesteak shops in Philadelphia, Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks. Pat’s has the history, around since 1930 and the creator of the cheesesteak, but Geno’s has fans as well. (It’s such a rivalry that it merits an article from the L.A. Times.) I’m not one that likes to step into the middle of a brouhaha, so I send you to the corner and leave the decision to you. My advice? Get two cheesesteaks.
Walk the lines of defense at Valley Forge
Twenty-five miles from the wonderful confluence of cheese, steak and a roll is Valley Forge National Historical Park. I love touring Revolutionary War and Civil War sites because just by walking around you get a better feel for the differences in war and all of the dangers. You walk through open fields where battles occurred. You walk along trenches where sentries looked for the enemy. Just walking along the lines will give you an idea of how close the enemy could get before the armies could see each other and that helps put the war in a much more immediate perspective.
See some scientific history at The Academy of Natural Sciences
I first went to visit The Academy of Natural Sciences quite a few years ago when they had an exhibit devoted to the great Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones. I still think back to that exhibit and think about how far a museum has to stretch to get an exhibit about a cartoonist that draws animals into a natural history museum. I don’t mind though, because any chance to get to see the artwork of Jones is good enough for me. Today, you can go see an exhibit on the 200-year history of the museum or just go to Dinosaur Hall.
Any suggestions for things that I missed? Any additional recommendations for the area? Just let me know in the comments.