November 1 2008 by Amy Graff
Rule #6: Bells don't stand. They ring.
"What are you going to do in Philadelphia?" the man sitting next to us on the plane asked Dante.
"I don't know," Dante responded.
"You must see the Liberty Bell."
"Oh you must see the Liberty Bell. It's the most important thing to see in Philadelphia..."
So of course, Dante became fixated on the Liberty Bell. When we woke up on Friday morning in Philadelphia all Dante could say was, "Liberty Bell! Liberty Bell! Liberty Bell!"
After breakfast, we walked right into Liberty Bell Center, where we shared the bell with another small tour group.
"Is that it, Mommy?" asked Dante, who was clearly disappointed by the 2,000 pounds of copper.
"Yes, that's it."
"What does it do?"
"Well, it stands for freedom."
"Mommy, bells don't stand. They ring."
"Uh...this one doesn't ring."
"Mommy, this is boring."
As we left the center, I realized we made a wise decision to visit the bell first. There was a huge line out the door and we had beat the crowds--but more importantly my son's expectation were now lowered. Everything in Philadelphia would seem extraordinary when compared to the boring bell that doesn't stand--or ring.
Rule #7: Resist the TV in the hotel room.
After visiting the Liberty Bell, Dante and I walked across the street to tour Independence Hall. It was in the Assembly Room (pictured below) of this building that George Washington was appointed commander in chief of the Continental Army in 1775 and the Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776. In the same room the design of the American flag was agreed upon in 1777 and the U. S. Constitution was drafted in 1787. It was also in this room that my son said to me, "Mommy, can we go back to the hotel to watch TV?"
At that moment, I kicked myself for allowing Dante to watch TV for an hour in the hotel room before breakfast. I wanted to check email and unpack our bags and setting him in front of the boob tube was so easy. But I knew, if I wasn't careful, that the TV would become the highlight of his trip.
After Independence Hall, we headed to the National Constitution Center, where interactive exhibits communicate the history and meaning of the U.S. Constitution. While we were sitting in the center's theater waiting to watch the show, "Freedom Rising," Dante said to me, "Mommy, you need to buy aqua balls."
"What are you talking about?"
"Mommy, I saw them on TV this morning. You stick them in the dirt next to your plants and they water your plants for you. Mommy, you won't have to water the plants. I saw it on TV."
In the evening we returned to the hotel for a break before dinner.
"Can we watch TV, Mommy?"
"No, let me read you a book."
Rule #8: When in Philly, eat cheesesteak.
"I want this every night for dinner," Dante told me after taking a few bites out of a cheesesteak at Campo's. The eatery in Philly's old town turns out sandwiches piled high with thinly sliced rib-eye steak and melted cheese. Dante, who ordinarily ignores meat on his plate, wolfed down the sloppy concoction as if he hadn't eaten in a week.
While Campo's is known for the tastiest cheesesteaks downtown, Pat's and Geno's are the most famous in all of Philly. The rivals are located across the street from each other in South Philadelphia. If we have time, we hope to hit one--or both of--these spots. Do you have a favorite place for cheesesteaks in Philly?
Rule #9: Take a touristy tour.
If you ask Dante what his favorite thing is about Philadelphia, he says the duck. The duck? Huh? Did he meet a friendly mallard or something?
What he's talking about is Ride the Ducks, an amphibious sightseeing tour. You hop into an unusual vehicle, a Duck (pictured above), that travels along the streets of the Historic District, South Street area, and Old City, before plunging into the Delaware River. The Ducks are based on the DUKWs that were first built by General Motors in 1942 for use in World War II, but today they make the perfect tour buses--and boats.
Our guide, Jake (pictured), laced the tour with humor and pop culture references. "Anyone seen the movie National Treasure?" Jake asked our group as we passed Independence Hall. "Well, in the movie Nicholas Cage runs to the top of the bell tower in that building. Oh yeah, and the Declaration of Independence was signed there too."
He also inserted all sorts of unusual facts. "Benjamin Franklin says that he did his best work in the buff. He called it 'taking an air bath.'"
And Jake played music over the radio to go along with the sights. Before our vehicle splashed into the Delaware River, he blared the song from Jaws.
My son found this all laugh-out-loud funny and I actually learned a lot along the way. Kevin Bacon's father, Edmund, is responsible for the restoration of most of the red brick homes in Philly's storybook-perfect Society Hill neighborhood. Who knew?