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10 Cool Things to Do in Philly

If you visit Philadelphia, you know the first things your friends will ask: Did you see the Liberty Bell? It’s easy to find, just across the street from Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. But there’s so much more to the city than just a cracked dinger. The next time you’re in Philly, here are 10 memorable, fun activities to help you fall head over heels for the City of Brotherly Love.

1) Pay homage to a founding father: One of the top Philadelphia CityPASS attractions, Franklin Institute explores the legacy of one of our nation’s most brilliant founding fathers and Philly native, Benjamin Franklin. The Institute is one of the country’s best science museums. If you’re a space geek, you’ll love the observatory’s telescopes where guests can view most planets and bright stars, star clusters and a few galaxies. Many already know about Franklin’s interest in electricity (no, he didn’t discover it), and one permanent exhibit lets visitors become a conductor for static charge, and to see the electrical impulses inside their own muscles. With a CityPASS ticket, guests can see the Fels Planetarium show at no extra charge. On May 9, the Institute will debut a stunning Genghis Khan exhibit.

Franklin Institute

2) Let the juice from a cheesesteak dribble down your chin: This iconic Philly feast is a long, crusty roll packed with thinly sliced, sautéed ribeye beef and melted cheese. Its other toppings often include fried onions, sautéed mushrooms, and hot or sweet peppers. John’s Roast Pork is one of the top purveyors, having been a favorite of local dockworkers since the 1930s. While you’re there, check out its roast pork sandwich too.

3) Get in touch with your whimsical side: Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG) is best described as a playful, three-dimensional, mural maze. Outside PMG is a garden of mosaic creations by artist Isaiah Zagar. Over 14 years, Zagar excavated tunnels, sculpted walls, and tiled and grouted a wandering, 3,000-square-foot wonderland. Inside, there are folk art statues, bicycle wheels, colorful glass, handmade tiles, and thousands of glittering mirrors. It’s dazzling and different.

Photo credit: Alex Thomson - Magic Gardens

4) Marvel at a masterpiece: If your taste in art leans toward colorful, captivating Post-Impressionist and Modern paintings, The Barnes has a fine collection of more than 3,000 works, including Renoirs, Cézannes, Matisses, Picassos, Modiglianis, and Van Goghs. In addition it has an impressive array of textiles, metalwork, decorative objects, African sculpture, Native American ceramics and jewelry, and even some Pennsylvania German furniture. Book tickets online in advance, because it frequently sells out.

5) Take in a ball game: At Citizens Bank Park, there are no bad seats. Known for its classic, old ballpark ambiance, great views and terrific food, this is a great place to spend an afternoon rooting for the Phillies. Or, I suppose you can root for the visiting team if you’re up for some friendly heckling. Stop off at "Bulls BBQ" and get your picture taken with Phillies great Greg "the Bull" Luzinski. There’s also an amazing kids section for the kids, full of games, a slide and tubes to explore. It’s truly one of the best ballparks in the country.

Photo credit: jfleischmann - Philly cheesesteak at John's Roast Pork

6) Go to prison: The grand, foreboding Eastern State Penitentiary provides a grim, sobering glimpse back at the city’s history of crime and punishment. It’s also a popular Philadelphia CityPASS attraction. Built in 1829, it housed infamous criminals such as Al Capone. It’s mostly an outdoor, audio walking tour narrated by actor Steve Buscemi. Located in downtown Philadelphia, the tour includes views of the cellblocks, solitary confinement cells, the hospital, death row and Scarface’s cell.

7) Hike the trail and climb the stairs: Schuylkill River Trail is a great path for jogging, bike riding, rollerblading or an easy stroll. Along the trail into the city, you will pass sculpture parks and enjoy views of the river. One stretch takes along Boathouse Row, which is a landmark of 19th century boathouses where rowers train and colorful regattas are held. At night, boathouse lights cast a gorgeous reflection on the water. Near the end of the trail, you can run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, just like Rocky Balboa.

Schuylkill River

8) Enjoy a local ale: Microbrew lovers will find a garden of joy at Yard’s Brewing on N. Delaware Avenue. These are renowned, serious brewers drawing gorgeous British-style ales including IPAs and stouts. The lunches are reasonably priced and you might want to try the hearty bison chili, featuring meat from animals that feed on the brewery’s spent grain. Now that’s recycling.

Eastern State Penitentiary

9) Tour a treasury of oddities: The Mütter Museum doesn’t shy away from displaying its jolting collection of medical specimens, including pieces of Albert Einstein’s brain. It has beautifully preserved collections of anatomical curiosities, models and medical instruments. One of its displays has 2,374 inhaled or swallowed foreign bodies that Dr. Chevalier Jackson extracted from the throats, esophaguses, and lungs of his patients during his nearly 75-year practice. If you don’t find that hard to swallow, you’re in for a treat.

10) Indulge in a doughnuts: I don’t know how hungry you’ll feel after looking at jars of peculiarities, but if you have to make a munchies stop, go to Federal Donuts for outstanding doughnuts and fried chicken. Don’t be shocked if there’s a line. Their flavors range from the traditional to the daring (grapefruit brulee? Bring it on!). And there’s nothing like some fine, fried chicken with a galaxy of glazes. No room for gluten-sensitive up in here.

Photo credit: Garrett Ziegler - Pumpkin spice latte donut, Federal Donuts, Philadelphia

Brewin’ U.S.A.: The Nation’s Best Brewery Tours by Region

There’s a reason why Ben Franklin coined beer as the proof that God loves us and wants to be happy. As one of the world’s oldest prepared beverages, dating all the way back to 3500 B.C., this wonderfully flavorful concoction was instrumental in the formation of civilizations, serving as the backbone for many religious gatherings and festivities.

The art of brewing has taken many different shapes since the beverage was popularized and spread through Europe by Germanic and Celtic tribes in early 3000 B.C., but one thing remains true: nothing quite compares to a cold mug of suds after a hard day’s work. From the German biergartens of yore to their more modern counterparts, beer drinking has long been a social activity around the globe. Today, people still gather in pubs and enjoy checking out brewery tours to see how their favorite beverages are made.

Whether your bartender is tossing you a pint of Budweiser during the game or you’re kicking back beneath the palms with a cold Corona in hand, beer still remains the most popular drink across the globe… for those old enough to imbibe, of course.

New breweries take flight overnight, boasting sensational flavors, but every lager and pale ale has its own uniquely vibrant story of creation. That’s what makes a cold one so special. Pull up a bar stool at your favorite local watering hole, grab an ice cold oat soda, and take a gulp of CityPASS’ top breweries by region.

Northeast

Boston – Harpoon Brewery

One of the most historic cities in the U.S. boasts a myriad of attractions, so when you’re looking for things to do in Boston and find yourself craving a cold mug of suds, look no further than the Harpoon Brewery. Started in 1986 and based on their love of beer, the Harpoon Brewery team set up shop in the city’s popular Seaport district. The brewery offers full-guided tours, including beer tastings for just $5. Tickets for brewery tours are only available the day of, so be sure to swing by 306 Northern Avenue in Boston to get a taste for some of the flavor-filled beverages being brewed by the Harpoon Team!

NYC – Brooklyn Brewery

Whether you’re a tourist jockeying for prime position atop Rockefeller Plaza or a long-time local weaving your way through the busy city streets, sometimes the urban jungle of New York City can be a bit much. If that’s the case, make your way across the river to one of our country’s brewing epicenters, dating back to the 1800s.

Brooklyn Brewery cut the ribbon to its renovated plant in 1996 and hasn’t looked back since. With the help of highly respected New York brew master Garret Oliver, the brewery offers various tours throughout the week. Starting at 5pm every Monday through Thursday, Brooklyn Brewery provides Small Batch Tours where the first 30 guests to RSVP receive a guided tasting of four beers alongside an insightfully historic experience throughout the Northside warehouse. The weekends offer up a more eclectic atmosphere, as Brooklyn Brewery offers up free tours, food, live music and an unmatched selection of their finest craft-beers!

Mid-Atlantic

Pottsville, PA – Yuengling

If you call yourself a beer-enthusiast and love the taste of cold hops and colorful tones, you’ll feel quite at home when you step through the historic doors of the Yuengling brewery. America’s oldest brewery operates out of Pottsville, a small town 100 miles west of Philadelphia. Wandering through our country’s first brewery, you will find yourself immersed in the deep history of the Yuengling name. Check out the hand-dug fermentation caves that were used for storage in the centuries before refrigeration, and taste historic pints that have become the backbone of American brewing. All tours are open to the public and free of charge, so don’t miss the opportunity to drink down some history in Western Pennsylvania!

Delaware – Dogfish Head

Known for their tasty selection of pale ales and uniquely crafted spirits, Dogfish Head has taken their passion and turned it into a country-wide favorite for hipsters and beer-lovers alike.

Operating out of their brew house by the sand in Milton, Delaware, the Dogfish head team offers far more than your traditional brewery tour. Block out a few hours of your day to visit this brew house, as it offers countless activities including beer sampling, bocce and corn hole, live music, food and more. Dogfish runs guided tours Monday-Saturday, every hour from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. After your tour, be sure to stop by the gift store to grab some DFH memorabilia and a growler for the road!

South

Tampa Bay, FL - Cigar City Brewing

A state that is widely recognized for its amusement park attractions offers far more than an exhilarating thrill for Sunshine State visitors. When you’re looking for things to do in Tampa and the southern sun has you seeking a bit of shade, we have the perfect place for you to spend a few hours.

Despite what you may think, Tampa has a rich history of brewing credentials dating back to 1896 with the establishment formally known as Ybor City Brewing Company. Renamed The Florida Brewing Company, business took flight as the brewery became a local watering hole for soldiers during the Spanish American War in the 1890s. Flourishing through the prohibition, The Florida Brewing Company faced large-scale national competition and business slowly declined throughout the 1970s and ‘80s. Just when Tampa thought beer was a lost cause, Cigar City Brewing took flight as the 21st century turned, becoming the go-to spirit for the hot southern sun.

When it comes to the brewery tour, you won’t have to dig too deep into your wallet to purchase a quality experience. Cigar City offers $5 brewery tours complete with visits to their canning and bottling lines, a fresh 16oz beer of your choice, and CCB pint glass for an added souvenir!

West Coast

San Francisco – Anchor Brewing Company

Although there is no shortage of San Francisco attractions on offer, if you’re interested in historic brewery stories and carefully crafted beverages, Anchor Brewing Company is a must see.

Dating back to 1849, Anchor Brewing was born inside an old beer-and-billiards saloon on Pacific Street. The saloon was bought in the late 1890s by a pair of German brewers, and Anchor soon became one of the city’s most popular beverages -- but not before a few bumps in the road and various location changes.

Anchor Brewing made history in 1993, becoming the first brewery in the world with its own in-house distillery. This immediately began drawing beer-aficionados from all over the glove to its headquarters in The City by the Bay.

Brewery tours took flight, allowing visitors to get a glimpse of deep-rooted brewing traditions that continue to satisfy the taste-buds of beer-enthusiasts world-wide. The brewery offers two guided public tours each weekday, by reservation only. The tour includes a brief history of the company, a three-floor brewery walk-through and the fan-favorite tasting session to close the 1.5 hour tour.

With all this beer talk, you may already be making your way to the bar for your favorite pint of suds. While you enjoy those uniquely flavored hops, be sure to keep in mind our list of top breweries by region, so that next time an adventure calls your name, you’ll have something tasty to look forward to!

Do you have any favorite breweries throughout America? If so, we would love to hear about them! Let us know your favorites in the comments!

Flower Shows Bound to Brighten Winter Weekends

A friend in North Carolina recently shared, via social media, a picture of daffodil shoots emerging in his yard. It will be weeks before those shoots mature into blooms, but their presence is encouraging.

This time of year can be hard. The cheery brightness of the holiday season is past, and, for many, the worst winter weather is upon us (or threatening). Sure, warmer climates offer a respite, but the difficulty and expense of reaching a sunny, warm locale may prove prohibitive. Instead, you can visit a place where spring is in full bloom – and it may be in your own town.

Photo credit: Cromely - Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Flower and garden shows are timed to arrive just when many of us are despairing that we’ll never be outside in short sleeves again. These events satisfy our need to anticipate spring and summer, and help us begin the planning process for our next great outdoor planting adventure. Many shows take place over a weekend – the largest are even longer – so visitors can take their time absorbing all there is to see, learn and smell. Below are a few reasons to seek out a flower show this winter.

A Taste of Springtime in Winter

Virtually all flower and garden shows seek to inspire visitors by presenting actual gardens that have been constructed by nearby businesses and designers. This year’s Boston Flower and Garden Show (March 11-15), with its “Season of Enchantment” theme, invites garden creators to broad interpretations, taking advantage of the “magical metamorphosis” that occurs in nature every year. The Boston show will also have a redesigned floor plan, so people can lose themselves in the constructed gardens before venturing beyond.

Photo credit: Peter Miller

In Seattle, the Northwest Flower and Garden Show (Feb. 11-15) has 21 – yes, 21! – themed gardens to transport visitors to romantic hideaways, lush meadows, even a Victorian-inspired “steampunk” locale complete with a kinetic feature of moving gears and chains. Water features are popular elements in these display gardens, and in Seattle, visitors will see ponds, streams and even a waterfall incorporated into the landscapes. Did we mention the blooming flowers? Thanks to the expert handling and planning efforts of participating gardeners, florists and horticulturalists, these display gardens will burst with color. Visitors to the Chicago show (March 14-22), will have not one but two rose gardens to explore: one for climbing and shrub roses, another for miniatures. Expect to see tulips, hyacinths and daffodils galore, plus blooming shrubs such as azaleas and hydrangeas.

Expert Advice

Looking for help with weed control or unwanted pests? Perhaps you want to attract butterflies or bees? Maybe you have a small patio and can only garden in pots? A garden show is the best place to take questions and issues, as the professionals there are eager to help (and, yes, have problem-solving products for sale).

 

Photo credit: First Daffodils - Boston Flower and Garden Show

Garden shows have a history of educating as well as selling. Toronto’s flower show, Canada Blooms (March 13-22), has planned workshops on topics such as creating a wildlife habitat, gardening “all the days of your life,” and enjoying your garden with a puppy – a challenging task, given some dogs’ need to dig! In Seattle, visitors can learn about permaculture (creating self-sustaining ecosystems), vertical growing (a “living wall”), and what foods to grow to aid in diabetes management.

Some shows also provide limited one-on-one advice for specific issues. In San Francisco (March 18-22), the “Ask a Designer” booth provides a free garden design consultation. People can also register for a complimentary landscape consultation at the Seattle show. Another way to learn is by digging in. Philadelphia’s Flower Show – winner of the 2014 Best Event prize from the International Festivals and Events Association – features a Make and Take room, where you can create either an art and craft project or a terrarium of your very own. In Chicago, the How-to Garden has “Potting Parties” so you can learn what plants can safely cohabitate or the best way to alleviate root compression.

Photo credit: 8 Eyes Photography

A Great Outing

If you’re in need of a fun excursion for young children or older family member, a flower show is the place to go. You can shed coats and enjoy a climate-controlled atmosphere with no uneven sidewalks. Plus, there’s plenty to see. Beautiful visions abound and, with different areas of emphasis, it’s easy to change the scenery to prevent boredom.

At the “Butterfly Experience” in Philadelphia, visitors can interact with 20 species of butterflies in a contained, walkable (and sit-able) enclosure. When it’s time for refreshments, a twice-daily Garden Tea is a traditional respite with mini sandwiches, petit-fours and, yes, the beverage you’d expect (reservations required). An “Irish Heritage Garden” in Chicago is an acknowledgement of the history of that culture to the region.

Photo credit: lenngrayes - Chicago Garden and Flower Show

Most shows also offer photography exhibitions, which provide an opportunity for little ones to see different perspectives on flowers and plants...and play a mean game of “I Spy.” Other competitions are more direct. In Philadelphia, a daily “garden container challenge” will pit designer against designer onstage as they create lush and innovative container displays in a matter of minutes. Chicago’s flower show will host the 2015 National Cake Decorating Competition, sponsored by the Retail Bakers of America.

Flower shows offer a bounty of merchandise, from decorative to living. Designated marketplaces within the shows feature garden art and ornaments, along with tools and other supplies needed to create a bower of one’s own. Boston’s “Plant Promenade” takes the marketplace to a new level, placing plant and seed vendor booths alongside container garden “vignettes,” putting the products on display in real and vivid settings.

Photo credit: lenngrayes - Chicago Garden and Flower Show

Be sure to consult a particular show’s website for up-to-date information on exhibitors, workshops, special guests, and before- and after-hours events that can deepen the experience. Even if you don’t have a garden – or don’t ever like to get your hands dirty – strolling through a flower show is a great spring tonic, in the middle of winter.

Scope Out San Francisco’s Best Spots for Seafood

Farallon Restaurant San Francisco is known for its colorful neighborhood culture and melting pot atmosphere. Sometimes known as the “City by the Bay,” San Fran is also a beacon for those who savor seafood – whether they live within one of the various neighborhoods that comprise its 231 square mile city borders, or are tourists just passing through. While San Francisco offers a wealth of museums and opportunities to see fine art, as well as a touch of the unusual scattered throughout the city, its seafood dining options are beyond measure. CityPASS has narrowed the field to just a few of San Francisco’s most sumptuous seafood houses where you can get your grub on. From fine dining to more relaxed neighborhood fare, we’ve got all of your bases – and basses – covered! read more »

A Piece of Atlanta's History Looking to the Future

Underground Atlanta is a historic landmark as well as a noted shopping and dining hub in downtown Atlanta. read more »

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