George Washington during and after the Revolutionary War . . . and Elmo too!
by JESSE NEVE
Our kids’ biggest surprise when we walked up next to the Liberty Bell was that it was still “broken.”
“It cracked hundreds of years ago,” Sarah scoffed, shaking her head. “Nobody has had time to fix it in all those years?!”
The kids were very impressed that we could walk all the way around the famous bell, and, more importantly, look underneath it. It is creatively situated with a wall of windows beyond it, so the backdrop is the beautiful Independence Hall.
The Liberty Bell was our first stop of the day on our walking tour around Philadelphia. We picked up our reserved tickets for Independence Hall before getting into line to see the Liberty Bell. We had about an hour before our scheduled tour at Independence Hall, so we viewed the bell and watched one of the two free films in the visitor center beforehand.
“Well, that’s Independence Hall,” ten-year-old Jonathan proclaimed as we stood in line with our tickets. “It’s where Independence started!”
Independence Hall is a beautiful, stately brick building that was built in 1732, the year George Washington was born. It was originally the State House of the Province of Pennsylvania.
Our thirty minute guided tour with a National Park Service Ranger led us into the Assembly Room. He painted pictures in our minds of the signing of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. It was surreal to see the chair that George Washington sat in and to imagine all of the excitement, courage and fear surrounding the signing of those two world-altering documents.
United States Mint
“It shouldn’t be called ‘the mint,’” Jonathan said, as we neared the indestructible-looking concrete cube built in the late 1960s. “It should be called ‘the coin.’”
The Philadelphia Mint has the capability to produce nearly two million coins per hour. It’s hard to determine how many we saw on our 45-minute self-guided tour. From a walkway forty feet above the factory, we watched huge sheets of metal travel through the press and transform into rolling carts filled with coins. We also saw an original coin press used back in the 1700s. The kids were pretty sure they should be handing out free samples at the end of the tour. No such luck.
Betsy Ross House
Everyone knows of Betsy Ross’ prowess as a seamstress and flag maker. The self-guided tour walked us through her life story in her family’s home, the birthplace of the American flag. We met “Betsy” in person, and learned about the tools and trade of upholstery and flag making in the 1700s.
Philly Mini Golf
What walking tour of Philadelphia (with a crowd of kids) would be complete without a round of mini golf? This unique attraction is located in Franklin Square and each hole is created to match a local Philly site. We golfed around a mini Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, Love Statue and Ben Franklin Bridge. The Square also includes a carousel, a picturesque fountain, an amazing playground, and the famous SquareBurger, if your crew is running low on fuel.
As we returned our putters at the end of our day, Jonathan told the man, “It was completely and totally awesome.” We agreed. The City of Brotherly Love was indeed.
I grew up on Sesame Street. Our kids grew up on Sesame Street. Finally, I could tell them how to get to Sesame Street!
Sesame Place is an amazing combination of theme park and waterpark. Kids who are are between the ages of two and twelve, will love this 14-acre park (older kids will have a blast, too, if they aren’t interested in colossal, death-defying, multi-story-drop coasters).
Our crew spent the entire day at this brightly colored, beautifully landscaped land filled with Elmo and Big Bird. The large variety of rides and coasters keeps youngsters constantly running to see “the next thing.” There are also crawl-and climb-through play areas, a kid-powered railroad, slides, and plenty of places for kids to expend their never-ending supply of energy.
There are shows and parades, and we could dine with (or without) Sesame Street characters. Picnic areas are available outside the park gates, so we brought our lunch with us. We even found ourselves on the classic recreation of the Sesame Street TV show set.
And then there’s the water rides! Our kids’ favorite was the family ride, where all six of us could ride together on one big raft. There is also a large variety of single and double-person rides, and places for little ones to splash around.
As Cookie Monster counted our six tired bodies as we exited the park, we agreed that it was a successful day at Sesame Place.
Just fifteen minutes north of Sesame Place is Washington Crossing State Park in Titusville, New Jersey. We stumbled on this little gem and decided that it was a wonderful discovery worth mentioning.
We entered the park and I read the story about that blustery Christmas Eve, during the American Revolution when George Washington led 2400 men, plus horses, cannons and ammunition across the Delaware River for their surprise attack on the opposition.
We parked the van and the six of us piled out into the hot, summer afternoon. It was nothing like the nor’easter Washington and his men were enduring that night. We hiked down the path and onto the grass by the river.
I recalled the famous painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware that had hung in our house when I was little. My husband found the painting on his phone and I could see a light bulb forming over his head.
Before I knew it, he was showing the kids where to stand, giving them large sticks for oars, and removing sunglasses. We suddenly had a modern reenactment of Washington Crossing the Delaware right there on the bank. Although perhaps our rendition was not historically accurate (George’s men weren’t wearing jeans shorts or soccer jerseys), but we will always remember the bank of the Delaware River where George Washington and his many soldiers crossed that cold night in 1776.
And that is what taking a weekend road trip with the family is all about—creating lasting memories (while secretly expanding their horizons).
JESSE NEVE is a freelance writer from Minnesota and regular writer of this feature for Valley Living.
Family friendly places to stay:
We stayed in Bensalem, because I had researched it beforehand and, generally speaking, hotels were less expensive in Bensalem than in either the Philadelphia area or Langhorne.
· Sleep Inn and Suites Bensalem. 3427 Street Rd. 215-244-2300. www.choicehotels.com.
· Holiday Inn Express Philadelphia Northeast-Bensalem. 1329 Bristol Pike. 215-245-5222. www.holidayinn.com. Philadelphia
· Days Inn Philadelphia-Roosevelt Blvd. 4200 Roosevelt Blvd. 215-289-9200. www.daysinn.com.
· Holiday Inn Express-Philadelphia Midtown. 1305 Walnut St. 215-735-9300. www.holidayinn.com. Short walk to historical sites, daily self-parking fee.
· Holiday Inn Express-Philadelphia Northeast Langhorne. 3101 West Cabot Blvd. 215-757-4500. www.holidayinn.com.
· SpringHill Suites Philadelphia-Langhorne. 200 North Buckstown Drive. 215-891-5501. www.springhillsuites.com. Walkway connects hotel to Sesame Place, mandatory complementary valet parking in the summer.
Sesame Place and Washington Crossing:
· Sesame Place: 100 Sesame Road, Langhorne, Pennsylvania. 215-702-3566. www.sesameplace.com. Advance tickets available online. Deals and discounts on multiple day passes. Life jackets are free of charge. Lockers and stroller rental available. Parking fee.
· Washington Crossing the Delaware State Park: 355 Washington Crossing-Pennington Road, Titusville, New Jersey. 609-737-0623. http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/washcros.html. Park Entrance fee charged per vehicle in the summer.
· Independence National Historical Park. 215-965-2305. www.nps.gov/inde. Visitor Center at 41 North 6th Street. Films free of charge. Parking in underground garage (for a fee) or on 2nd street between Chestnut and Walnut Streets (also a fee).
· Liberty Bell: 6th Street and Market St. Free admission, first-come first served.
· Independence Hall: 520 Chestnut St. Admission by tour only. Purchase tickets online or in person. Tickets sell out early in the day, so advanced purchase is advised.
· Benjamin Franklin Museum: 317 Chestnut St. Artifacts and exhibits from the life of this Founding Father. Admission fee.
· Franklin Court Printing Office: 322 Market St. See what Franklin’s printing equipment would have looked like. Free admission.
· President’s House Site: Across from the Visitor’s Center. Location where presidents Washington and Adams both lived. Outdoor exhibit. Free admission.
· Declaration House: 599 South 7th St. Thomas Jefferson lived here while writing the Declaration of Independence. Free admission.
· Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary Soldier: Outdoor exhibit at Washington Square
· United States Mint: 151 Independence Mall East. 215-408-0112. www.usmint.gov/about/mint-tours-facilities/locations/philadelphia. Free admission. No parking facilities.
· Betsy Ross House: 239 Arch Street. 215-629-5801. www.historicphiladelphia.org/betsy-ross-house. Admission charged. Tickets available online or at the door. Adult and kids audio tours available.
· Philly Mini Golf at Franklin Square: 200 North 6th Street. 215-629-4026. www.historicphiladelphia.org/franklin-square. Tickets available online or at Franklin Square ticket counter. Pay parking available.