The McKenna family received a whole truckload of lemons thanks in part to Winter Storm Euclid (seriously, they are naming winter storms now?) and to the fact that US Airways can’t seem to manage their resources correctly. Instead of sulking and pouring in a Philadelphia area hotel, we decided to make lemonade and in true McKenna-style, we crammed as much of a city into our limited time as we possibly could.
To recap how we actually got to that point, it all started the day after Christmas. We were scheduled to fly out to my in-laws house for a few days. Early that morning, the initial flight out of Indianapolis got cancelled and Susie worked diligently to try to fix our trip. The final plan was to fly to Philadelphia that night, stay overnight and then fly to Savannah. We got to Philadelphia relatively unscathed, got some sleep and then loaded up the next morning, ready to see Grandma and Grandpa. Ominously, Susie’s cell phone rang as we were getting out of the airport shuttle. Our flight had just been cancelled. After some heated discussion, Susie talked us onto a Friday morning series of flights instead of Saturday flights. This left us one unexpected, full day in Philadelphia. And so our adventure began.
We trekked back to the hotel we had just vacated and then went to the Denny’s next door because we were all getting ‘hangry‘. The day was off to a bad start and we weren’t sure it was going to get any better. But leave it to Denny’s to start the rally.
Unbeknownst to me, Denny’s has partnered with The Hobbit to have some Middle-Earth inspired items. Not being a big fan of the movie nor of buying into gimmicky movie tie-ins, I was initially skeptical. But after checking it out a bit further, I decided to go for it. And none of us were disappointed!
With our bellies full and our spirits lifted, we decided to call a cab and adventure downtown. We had quickly come up with a list of about 5 places that we wanted to visit. We weren’t exactly sure if it was even possible to get to all of them in one day, but we decided to see if we could do it.
The cab dropped us off right in front of Independence Hall. Not a bad place to start our whirlwind trip. We quickly discovered that many of the places that we wanted to see were easily within walking distance. While I am the Revolutionary War aficionado in the family, Susie had apparently always wanted to see the Liberty Bell. And since we quickly discovered that the Liberty Bell was right behind us, that was our first stop.
If you have never seen the Liberty Bell before, it is housed inside of a fascinating little museum. People were lined up around the building to get in. Once inside, I was amazed at how quiet it was. It was like everyone could feel the history present in the room with us. I had never experienced anything like it before. Just when I thought that a love of the Liberty Bell was the only patriotic secret my wife was hiding, I soon discovered that there was one other love of hers which just happened to be sitting blocks away from The Liberty Bell.
When I was in 7th grade, my parents took my brothers and I on a trip to Washington DC. One of the things that we saw there was the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where the print currency. I was very excited to see the facility, but I remember being extremely disappointed by the whole thing, mainly because I don’t think there was that much that they let you see. Susie, however, loved the entire tour and really wanted to see the US Mint. So we walked the few blocks over to the facility and stood in a security line (something we have become very good at in the past week).
Unfortunately, they do not let you take any pictures inside of the Mint, but I will say that it was all that I wished that the tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing would have been. There was some history, some science and you got to watch the entire process unfold right in front of your eyes. Nothing I can write will do justice to the experience. I learned so much about something so simple that we all take for granted, simply because we are around coins all the time. For example: unlike English coins, the front and back of US coins are oriented opposite of each other – one side is right side up, the other is comparatively upside down – such that when you flip it end over end, you always see the image right side up. Just another way our Forefathers thumbed their noses at the King when we were forming our great nation!
Our next stop was the National Constitution Center. To be honest, I had never actually heard of this place before, but we ran into multiple people who told us that it was a great place to visit. Essentially across the street from the US Mint, it seemed like a great place to head towards, especially given the dropping temperatures and our overall lack of winter outerwear.
The National Constitution Center consists of two different parts. One is a wide variety of displays and interactive exhibits centered around The Constitution, including bronze statues of 42 signers of the Constitution as artists imagined they might have been on the day of the signing.
The other half of the center is an area for temporary exhibits. The current exhibit was not something I was particularly interested in, but I was glad that we went to it. It was dedicated to the rise and fall of Prohibition in America. I have never been interested in the Prohibition Era of American History for a few reasons. First, I have never been that excited by the cult of the gangster which flows out of that era. Second, the era seems pretty open and shut – people thought we drank too much, rallied support to ban it, we found out the ban just led to worse problems, we repealed the whole thing. However, that is just the bare bones of the story. Turns out that Prohibition wasn’t exactly a failure like I had always thought.
For starters, the data on how much, how often and how young Americans were drinking was mind-boggling, even compared to now. We really did need to make a change! On top of that, the Prohibition Era had major effects on taxation, the courts, civil rights, and police powers, just to name a few. Add on to that the cultural roots of jazz and the modern night club and the effects of the Prohibition are long-lasting and felt to this day. If you have a chance to go to see this exhibit either at the National Constitution Center, or if it goes on the road, I would highly recommend it. It might have been my favorite part of the day.
The day was rapidly turning to night and with a very early flight in the morning, we needed to think about getting dinner and getting back to the hotel. However, Susie had one more item on Wish List to check off, Independence Hall. Unfortunately, there are limited number of tickets given out each day to get inside and you have to get them early. Considering we didn’t start this process until about an hour before closing, we were in trouble. Luckily, there is a side building that you can see without a ticket, so we tried to make the best of it.
As luck would have it, there were a significant number of people who had tickets for the last tour of the day who decided not to show up, such that people like us who just happened to come across the “stand-by” line, ended up getting inside to take a peek at the room where our country was born.
Not thinking that we could top anything else that we had already done that day, we decided to head off to dinner, where I had what is probably the greatest chicken pot pie ever baked.
Despite the terrible beginning, it turned out to be a fabulous day in Philadelphia. While we never planned to spend the day in the City of Brotherly Love, we certainly felt the love and enjoyed making lemonade out of the lemons we had been handed. Not a bad way to spend a day!