Philadelphia – Ben Franklin’s Town

Genie Davis September 28, 2011 No Comments

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Philadelphia Sky line

Philadelphia Sky line.

You might think Frank Sinatra – and his Big Apple song – when you think of New York. You might think of the current President, or George Washington, perhaps in Washington, D.C. In Boston, it’s pretty much Paul Revere that comes to mind, historically speaking. But Ben Franklin is the go-to-guy for Philadelphia. You’ll find his picture in taxi cabs, exhorting you to behave in a civilized manner. You’ll find his bust, in a rainbow of colors as modern art inside the sleek Philadelphia Kimpton Palomar Hotel. You’ll find his grave – and his doppelganger impersonator standing over it. You’ll find breakfast available with another permutation of Ben at the National Constitution Visitor Center. He’s more of a mascot to Philadelphia than the shaggy green Phillies fanatic doll my daughter was given by her great uncle when she was a baby – although you’ll see images of this Muppet-like critter around, too. And of course, there’s the Ben Franklin Institute, the science museum named for the man.

Our first look at the Ben-efits of a stop in Philadelphia were in the back of the taxi that took us from train station to hotel, with his visage telling me to turn off my cell phone in the cab and other politeness tips. We were amused.

Kimpton Palomar Hotel Philadelphia

A rainbow of Ben Franklin busts, Philadelphia’s Kimpton Palomar.

We were charmed by the multi-colored Ben busts by the check in desk at the Kimpton Palomar. We were also charmed by the fact that the hotel offered a special, free in room pay per view movie for families with kids – a promotion that runs in the summer months. The hotel itself is sophisticated in feel without being over the top, fresh fruit water and delicious, fresh hot pretzels were available in the lobby for mid-afternoon snacking which is a great treat for all ages. For adults, there is a wine reception around a cozy fireplace; lemonade is offered for the kids and a little-too-salty-for-us truffle oil popcorn. Dark wood, candle light, fun op art takes on portraits of our country’s founding father’s – including Franklin – make up the lobby space decor. The rooms are serene, almost zen like in feel, with awesomely comfortable beds and a cool, grey-brown- beige modern vibe.

Kimpton Palomar Hotel Treats for the Kids

Fun treats for the kids at Philadelphia’s Kimpton Palomar.

Kids programs? Yes, indeed. A lovely gift at check in, loaner books – including Goodnight Moon. Best of all were tot sized fake leopard robes. And the ability to order cookies and milk to the room by utilizing the clever “cookie currency.” The hotel is also ecologically minded offering recycling bins, high efficiency lighting, and toxic-free cleaning chemicals. The staff was very helpful with restaurant recommendations, and assisted us willingly with storing our bags when we had hours to spare past check out and we wanted to explore the city a little bit more before our train. Best of all,  when kids’ pajamas were left behind, the pj’s were courteously returned to us at no charge. Bathroom and bedroom were both spacious and well appointed. The kids enjoyed that many of the public hallways were lit by soy candles – another green, energy saving device that led a pleasantly off-beat air to the property. In the morning, there were free Cannolis, coffee and tea in the lobby – a pleasant way to start the day.

Kimpton Palomar Hotel at night

Kimpton Palomar at night.

But back to Ben. Perhaps your day will start with Mr. Franklin. After all, we thought that kids of all ages would enjoy the tourist kitsch of Breakfast with Ben. Geared to school age kids and ready to accept small tots, this big breakfast feast — including oatmeal, which pleased our vegan – includes the chance to ask questions of Ben, and the perfectly in character actor portraying him, of course. Running from 9 to 10:30am every Saturday morning (Summer months), this is a fun and educational start to a day in Philadelphia.

Inside the main exhibit hall of the National Constitution Visitor Center you will meet Ben again., cast in bronze, in a moving recreation of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in which you can “interact” with the bronze replicas of the signers ostensibly as they would’ve been positioned in Independence Hall. Yes, you can also see Independence Hall itself. You’ll need to secure tickets at the Visitor Center, as crowds are limited through hourly admittance. Or come after 5, when no tickets are required.

Ben Franklins Grave, Philadelphia

Local custom - pennies for luck tossed on Ben Franklin's grave.

At Ben Franklin’s grave site, the kids can toss pennies – later collected for charity – for good luck on his grave. Or they can sit and chat with Ben awhile, on a shady bench near by. Here the actor willingly riffed on any subject presented. My daughter’s music tour – well, Ben invented something not dissimilar to an organ. The burial grounds themselves make a fascinating stop on a tour of Philadelphia.

And of course, there’s the wonderful science museum known as the Franklin Institute. Walk inside the iconic Giant Heart, first opened in 1954, and updated in 2004 as a part of an inclusive exhibit called The Giant Heart: A Healthy Interactive Experience. I’d loved this exhibit as a kid, and now it’s even better, with state of the art interactive displays for kids of all ages. Tots will just enjoy the heart itself – and probably remember it as long as I have. And they’ll also enjoy the large scale crawl through arteries, while older kids and adults can study the giant EKG that runs through the middle of the exhibit hall. If you’re not squeamish, settle in for a look at open heart surgery in a surgical theater recreation.

The museum also houses Ben Franklin himself. The Ben Franklin memorial offers the biggest look at Ben in town: located in the rotunda of the museum you’ll find a 20-foot high statue of Mr. Franklin, carved from white marble. The rotunda itself is modeled after Rome’s Pantheon. From breakfast with Ben to closing time at Ben’s museum, you’ll find a trip to Philadelphia ben-eficial.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

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