Did you know there's a new roller rink at City Hall? Or that two museums have opened and another just completed a $230 million renovation? There are lots of fun, new things to do in the Philadelphia area. Here's how to make the most of your summer - including tips!
In May, the Faith & Liberty Discovery Center opened on Independence Mall, just across from the Liberty Bell and adjacent to Independence Hall. It’s an auspicious location from which to consider the relationship between faith and liberty from the country’s founding to the present day. The $60 million museum explores 6 core values that are common to the Bible, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution -- faith, liberty, justice, hope, unity and love.
The museum is an initiative of the American Bible Society and clearly states that it welcomes people of all faiths and no faith.
The museum makes clever use of technology and it really adds to the experience. Each visitor is given a small baton, called a lamp. When visitors find an exhibit that intrigues them, they touch the lamp to the illuminated donut-shaped light beside the display. When they get home, they can go online to delve deeper into the information they collected. The lamp also sets off sensors that bring exhibits to life as people walk past. Visitors are given a chance to express their own opinion about the ideals expressed in the exhibits by entering a booth where their thoughts are recorded for the museum archives and on a display where words written on a touch screen are projected onto a wall. Video is used extensively and effectively, including a 360-degree theater where visitors learn about William Penn’s commitment to freedom of religion in the city he founded and small cubbies where visitors can seemingly have one-on-one interaction with life-size videos of people sharing their personal stories of faith and hope. There are also spaces for personal and communal reflection.
Tip: Each lamp comes with a card that has a URL and code number that can be used to access the information collected at the museum. Snap a photo of the card so that if you lose it, you’ll still have the information you need to access what you've collected.
The Neon Museum of Philadelphia is home to120 neon signs, including vintage commercial signs, animated signs and one-of-a-kind artworks that Len Davidson has been collecting for decades including historic signs from iconic Philadelphia businesses (think Bookbinder’s, McGillin’s), national commercial signs (i.e. Buster Brown), animated signs, neon clocks and more. The museum, which is located in the NextFab building in Olde Kensington, is dedicated to preserving historic signage as an important part of the city and country’s heritage, as well as promoting neon art and appreciation of the 20th century American roadside.
Tip: Don’t miss the written narrations that tell the rich history of each sign. The stories are amazing, and often amusing.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art just completed a $230 million, Frank Gehry-designed renovation. The museum, already one of the largest in the nation, now has 20 thousand square feet of additional exhibit space including 61% more space for American art, 37% more space for contemporary art and nearly 90 thousand square feet of additional public space.
The majestic addition has two new galleries -- one that explains the development of early American art in a more inclusive manner, including Philadelphia’s prominent role, and another gallery dedicated to modern and contemporary art. The latter is being inaugurated by an exciting show called, “New Grit - Art and Philly Now,” featuring the works of 25 contemporary artists with ties to Philadelphia.
Tip: The Rocky steps are still open for runs and photos, but the entrance to the museum at the top of the steps is not. Enter the museum from the dramatic new vaulted West entrance or the North entrance.
Secret Garden at the Rosenbach Museum
After being neglected for more than two decades, the garden at the Rosenbach Museum is once again flourishing. It’s full of flowers and native plants that were selected for their connection to the literature in the museum’s collection, including works by William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson and Lewis Carroll.
The Rosenbach Museum’s collection of rare books, manuscripts and fine and decorative art objects was started by two brothers who lived in the exquisite 19th-century townhouse on the 2000 block of Delancey. Philip Rosenbach collected arts and antiques, and his brother, Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach, collected rare books and manuscripts.
Visitors not only get a look at the large and astounding collection, but also a peek inside a townhouse on one of the city’s prettiest blocks. The 1,600-square foot garden in the back is the only remaining garden on the 2000 block of Delancey Street. Access to the garden is included with museum admission.
Tip: The entrance to the garden is on Panama Street, which runs parallel to Delancey, directly behind the museum.
The west apron of City Hall, which was once used for parking, has become a cherished outdoor public space used for ice skating, a garden, an interactive fountain that delights children, the phenomenal holiday show, which is projected onto the west side of City Hall, the holiday market featuring local artisans, public events like movie nights and exercise classes, and private events. And this summer part of the area has been transformed into a roller rink. It has a distinctly retro feel with market lights, a checkerboard floor and a hula hoop-inspired art installation overhead.
The roller rink is open daily until July 11. Sessions are one hour and advanced booking is recommended. The interactive fountain is still accessible on either side of the rink.
Tip: Save money by skating on Mondays and Tuesdays from 11 am to 5 p.m.
Whether it’s a skating rink, a secret garden, or a neon sign, there are plenty of new things to experience in Philadelphia this summer.
by Irene Levy Baker, author, 100 Things To Do In Philadelphia and Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia. Both books are full of tips. Visit www.100ThingsToDoInPhiladelphia.com for more tips. Ready to start having fun? Need a Father's Day gift? Go to the website for signed copies of books. For free shipping, use promo code TheCityPulse.
For more blog postings by Irene Levy Baker including a list of the sweetest places for sweets, where to take outside exercise classes and information about pop-up gardens: click here.