Because Sunshine is Free…


My sincerest apologies for the recent lack of content- I was traveling over spring break and then ended up with strep throat (that I’m almost sure I picked up from breathing that recycled airplane air). The good news is that I’m back and that the weather here in Philly is absolutely gorgeous. This means that I get to suggest two of my favorite activities in the world that are 100% free and guaranteed to make you feel more culturally stimulated and more connected to the city.

1) Wander. Between the biting cold and vicious winds, being outside for more than 45 seconds can be physically painful during the winter (well, maybe not so much this winter, but you know what I mean). Now that the sun is shining and things have begun to bloom, there’s no better time to explore Philadelphia. Take the subway to a stop you’ve never been to before (read as: take a subway South to somewhere you’ve never been before) and see what you find. Some of my favorite spots in town are ones that I’ve encountered by chance, whether they’re coffee shops, restaurants, or thrift stores. Tackle a different neighborhood every time- Old City (will never be prettier than it is during the Spring), South Philly (is more than just South Street), Rittenhouse Square etc. Whatever you’ve been “meaning to check out” but haven’t gotten around to- get to it now! (The best part about this is that you can grab a friend, a group, or just your iPod, and don’t need to worry about looking weird one way or the other).

2) Wissahickon Park. Despite my deep love for the city, I’m often torn by my comparable love for the outdoors. Wissahickon Park is a 1,800-acre wooded gorge that features excellent running trails, spots for grilling, a creek (yes, you can play in it), a path (for the romantic walkers among us), and a bunch of really old statues and buildings hidden throughout it. I’ve been going to Wissahickon to trail run (and rock climb, and bike ride) with my Dad since I was a wee child, and it’s easily one of my favorite places in the area. Nowhere else do I feel so encompassed by nature, and so disconnected from the outside world. Added bonus: there are highway/road bridges that run over certain parts so even though you get a nice juxtaposition of gratified infrastructure to accompany the trees, that’s pretty much the only “outside world” interference that you’ll get. I enter my favorite trails in Manayunk, which is an easy bus ride away from campus.

The moral of the story is that sunshine is free, and there’s nothing us college kids love more than free stuff, so take advantage of it.

Note: (If exploring isn’t your thing, never fear, I’ll have a specific, destination-oriented PEX activity for you later this weekend).

National Constitution Center

Hey there, history fans- this one is for you.

If you make it through four years of college in Philadelphia and don’t make it to the National Constitution Center at least once, you have done something terribly wrong and should plan on moving to Canada because you clearly have no interest in your nation’s history. (How’s that for incentive?)

Aside from being a right of passage, (and being really easy to get to via subway) the NCC actually has some cool stuff. With a ton of permanent exhibits and feature exhibits, you’ll get a huge dose of history from all over the world (Diana and Napoleon are featured right next to George Washington) in what is likely the most engaging format you’ll come across.

Since the NCC is a huge deal, they get huge endowments, meaning that they have money to spend on things like enormous interactive exhibits, a movie theater, special events (and have you seen how gorgeous that building is?).  An added bonus to going soon is that Independence Mall is beautiful, and the perfect place for a picnic (coughdatecough).

Highlights (for me) going on right now include the “Spies, Traitors and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America” as well as Posters for the People: Art of the WPA”. Check out everything else the NCC has going on here.

Get your geek on, Temple.

Art Museum Part 2

I recently dragged my mom to round two of the Philadelphia Art Museum and I am sad to say that this excursion was significantly less impressive than my previous one. I went specifically to check out the “Unsettled: Photography and Politics in Contemporary Art” exhibit because it boasted work by my all-time favorite artist, Barbara Kruger.

Though the exhibit was designed to cover all social-political issues in the last 40 years, it lacked a distinct message, which made the pieces feel disconnected and the “meanings” behind the images contrived. Without proper context, a portrait of a gay couple performing fellatio is less a powerful statement and more pornographic. If you’re not an obsessed Kruger fan like I am, I wouldn’t bother make the trip.

Other exhibits on display in the Tuttleman building are “The Peacock Male: Exuberance and Extremes in Masculine Dress” and “Collab: Four Decades of Giving Modern and Contemporary Design“. The former boasts an array of flamboyant articles of clothing ranging from beautiful ivory vests to Phillies tracksuits. The latter exhibit is kind of like going through a high-end Ikea showroom. Though it was an interesting visual experience, unless any of these exhibits fall under the umbrella of one of your specific passions, I would recommend satisfying your curiosity with photos in the gallery below.

Philly Loves Really Old Houses

Ah, historic Philadelphia, how I love thee. Unless they touch a particular nerd button in you, these landmarks in Philly probably won’t do much to get your heart racing with excitement. They are, however, a perfect afternoon stop when you’re wandering the city during the summer with a friend significant other. Free with your PEX passport, historic, beautiful, free, convenient, and free, you’ll feel smart and cultural, and it’ll only take about 20 minutes. Big win, right?

Physick House, 321 South 4th Street.

Built 1786.

Inhabited by Dr. Philip Syng Physick, the “Father of American Surgery” and family from 1815-1837. Dr. Physick was cool because he…

  • Stayed in the city during the yellow fever epidemic of 1793
  • Was one of the foremost lecturers of his time
  • Pioneered use of the stomach pump, autopsy, and numerous surgical instruments and operative techniques

Only free-standing federal townhouse remaining in Society Hill.

Contains a large garden that includes a winding path, grotto and classical sanctuary.

Period room displays as well as second-floor medical museum.

Open year-round. No reservations required (though it is recommended that you call ahead if you’re going on a Saturday)
Tours are given Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 12-4 p.m., Sunday from 1-4 p.m.
*Other Philly landmarks (really old houses) in your passport are Powel House, Grumblethorpe and Waynesborough

10 Things I Love About CHF

CHF = Chemical Heritage Foundation

I took three years of chemistry in high school (yeah that’s right, I’ve synthesized acetylsalicylic acid) so this museum was right up my ally. If you’re a fellow chem-lover (or you’re just trying to appease a friend who is), you’ll definitely want to check this one out.

View from the second floor

1. You can get up close and personal with elements. A flask full of the body’s quota of nitrogen? Don’t mind if I do.

2. It’s free.

3. You can check out the entire process of synthesizing plastic.

4. You can check out the history of chemistry, including actual lab equipment– very impressive (and large).

5. They have engravings of 17th century alchemy books. If the geek in you isn’t wide awake at this point, there is no hope for you.

6. Hilarious gems of wisdom on the walls including, “The loveliest theories are being overthrown by these damned experiments. It’s no fun being a chemist anymore” (Justus von Liebig, 1834)

7. There’s an interactive periodic table where you can learn all about each element (even the weird ones).

8. There are two floors. The staircase, as well as the floor on the second level, are clear, creating an insanely cool (if not slightly unsettling) effect.

9. Just by going, you’re committing to your nerdy-ness, so there’s no need to hold back.

10. Conveniently located at 315 Chestnut Street, it’s a great location to stop by and then explore the beautiful surrounding area. (You’ll probably run into some historical tours, which, if you’re like me, is an added entertainment bonus to any afternoon).

Have I sold you on it yet? Thought so. Let me know how you like it!