Enjoy a Free Visit to a U.S. National Park in April

05 Mar 2006, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA — Image by © Buddy Mays/Corbis

April 10, 2017 – Just in time for spring break, the National Park Service and National Park Foundation are joining together for National Park Week, from April 15 to 23. And if you visit a National Park on the weekend (either April 15-16 or 22-23), you’ll be admitted free to the parks that normally charge a fee.

There are 417 National Parks across the United States, so chances are there is one in your area.

I’m planning a trip to Gettysburg National Park, a famous Civil War battleground about two hours from my home over the weekend of April 22-23, and the spring blossoms promises lots of photo opportunities. Although I’ve been to several National Parks in the Northwest and Southwest, I tend to miss the local sites in my own backyard.

It’s the perfect way to spend time with the kids, since many schools are closed for spring break that week. However, if you can’t make it this month, the parks will also offer free admittance on August 25 to celebrate the National Park Service’s birthday.

It’s a Weird World After All

PMWWWEC_MainImageAugust 26, 2016 – Are you the ultimate theme park connoisseur?

If you’ve been to Disney World more than 10 times you probably think you are. You may also want to seek help for your addiction and admit it’s time to broaden your horizons before you plan your next theme park excursion.

In honor of Labor Day approaching faster than the Rock and Roll Roller Coaster, here are 10 Bizarre Theme Parks from Around the World courtesy of listverse.com, the people who love compiling lists as much as I love reading them. Between the 10 stages of hell, a Japanese prison, the crucifixion and war mongering, there is something for the entire family.

Philadelphia’s Japanese House and Garden

June 2, 2014 – Yesterday’s spectacular weather was perfect for a late spring stroll through Fairmount Park, and a visit to the Japanese House and Garden.

Shofuso, also known as Japanese House and Garden, is a traditional 17th century-style Japanese house and garden located in Philadelphia’s West Fairmount Park.

Shofuso, also known as Japanese House and Garden, is a traditional 17th century-style Japanese house and garden located in Philadelphia’s West Fairmount Park.

The house was built in Japan in 1953 (a gift from Japan to America) and exhibited in the courtyard at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was moved to Philadelphia in 1958.

The house was built in Japan in 1953 (a gift from Japan to America) and exhibited in the courtyard at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was moved to Philadelphia in 1958.

Shofuso was modeled after a famous guesthouse in the city of Otsu, built in 1601.

Shofuso was modeled after a famous guesthouse in the city of Otsu, built in 1601.

The Journal of Japanese Gardening named Shofuso the third-ranked Japanese garden out of more than 300 Japanese gardens in North America.

The Journal of Japanese Gardening named Shofuso the third-ranked Japanese garden out of more than 300 Japanese gardens in North America.

Over the years, Shofuso fell into disrepair due to lack of maintenance. In 1975, Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo contacted the Consulate General of Japan in New York to inquire about the possibility restoring Shofuso for the 1976 Bicentennial Celebration. The Japan-America Society raised funds a complete major restoration of the house and garden in June 1976.

In the early 1970s, Shofuso fell into disrepair due to lack of maintenance. The Japan-America Society raised funds a complete major restoration of the house and garden in June 1976, just in time for the Bicentennial.

To continue preservation and maintenance of Shofuso, a non-profit organization, the Friends of the Japanese House & Garden was incorporated in February 1982.

To continue preservation and maintenance of Shofuso, a non-profit organization, the Friends of the Japanese House & Garden was formed in February 1982.

Ranking Philadelphia: A top five list

general_philadelphia-city-hall

May 16, 2014 – Philadelphia is a fine place to live, work, and play, but it takes plenty of criticism from those who may not share the love. I perused through the files of www.Ranker.com to see how my fair city stacks up against others in several categories, and here is what I discovered:

5. Philadelphia is 19th out of 64 on “America’s Coolest Cities” list.
I have visited both the #1 and #2 spots (San Francisco and New York City), and agree they have a high cool factor; however, Philadelphia is just as cool and should place higher on the list. Aside from the usual attractions that offer a great history lesson, the birthplace of America features the unusual, too. The Mutter Museum, for example, highlights a history of medicine and an interesting display of medical oddities, and Eastern State Penitentiary, the country’s first modern penitentiary may not be active – it closed in 1971 – but it is open to visitors, and it plays a huge factor in the city’s Halloween fun every year. Laurel Hill Cemetery in East Falls, the National Historic Landmark and the resting place of Titanic passengers and Civil War generals, is another must see. Additionally, filmmaker David Lynch lived in Philly in the 60s and 70s, and shot his epic “Eraserhead” here, which had a huge impact on the city. Sections of Fairmount, where he lived and filmed, are known as Eraserhood.

4. Philadelphia is 5th out of 28 of the “Best Food Cities” in the U.S.
New York, Chicago, New Orleans, and Kansas City may come before Philadelphia on this list, but #5 is respectable for the City of Brotherly Love when it comes to the best food. With several establishments from premier restaurateur Stephen Starr scattered throughout the city, Philly can hold its own in the elite and trendy restaurant category. Whether you want to grab a quick bite at the swanky Continental with two locations in center city, a cheesesteak at Tony Luke’s in South Philly, or sit down and linger over a fabulous meal at Buddakan, the city has a place for everyone. Better yet, visit Citizens Bank Park. Philly’s baseball yard was recently given the honor of the best ballpark food in the country.

3. Philadelphia is 14th out of 25 on the “Most Intelligent Cities” list.
Quite a ridiculous ranking, if you ask me. Seattle and Minneapolis are nos. 1 and 2; I have visited both cities, live in Philadelphia, and I never noticed a difference. If anything, it rains nine months out of the year in Seattle, and it is bitter cold in the winter in Minneapolis which also lasts about nine months, so resident don’t seem very intelligent living in those climates. If the rankers are basing this on top universities located in these cities, I challenge them to name one more prestigious than The University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League presence located in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. Go ahead, I dare you!

2. Philadelphia is 5th out of 14 on the “Famous Firsts in U.S. Cities”.
Cincinnati and New York City are nos. 1 and 2 for their famous firsts of ambulance services and aquariums. Philadelphia falls in at #5, which again is respectable, but when you realize that our famous first is the computer, you will likely agree we belong higher in the ranking. Sure, ambulance services are important, and aquariums are nice, but considering most homes have at least one computer and the work force could not exist without them, the computer and Philadelphia should easily take that #2 spot.

1. Philadelphia is #1 of the 27 cities with the “Worst Sports Fans”.
The city has the lazy sports media to thank for this absurd ranking, since they keep the stories alive by consistently referring to throwing snowballs at Santa in 1968, and other exaggerated occurrences. Bottom line, Philadelphia is a great sports city with passionate fans who may exercise their right to boo, but Philly is the seat of our country’s democracy, so our rights are important. Ironically, Philadelphia also lists #7 out of 30 on the cities with the “Best Sports Fans” list. I think we belong higher up on that list, too.

View the complete lists at http://www.ranker.com/review/philadelphia/1792338.

 

The Grand Central Station of Philadelphia

May 5, 2014 – Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station is a hub for Amtrak trains bound for national destinations, and for local SEPTA trains that run throughout the city and local suburbs. A unique and artistically designed building, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The ornate inside columns make one feel they are inside a museum, rather than a transportation station.

The ornate inside columns make one feel they are inside a museum, rather than a rail station.

Construction began in 1927 and the station opened in 1933, starting with two platform tracks.

Construction began in 1927 and the station opened in 1933, starting with two platform tracks.

The building's exterior has columns on the east and west sides, giving it a balance between classical and modern architectural styles.

The building’s exterior has columns on the east and west sides, giving it a balance between classical and modern architectural styles.

The coffered ceiling is painted gold, red and cream.

The coffered ceiling is painted gold, red and cream.

An archangel at the 29th Street entrance holds a dead soldier to honor Pennsylvania Railroad employees killed during WWII.

An archangel at the 29th Street entrance holds a dead soldier to honor Pennsylvania Railroad employees killed during WWII.

Spring in Old City

April 28, 2014 — A dose of Old City Philadelphia in the spring is exactly what I needed after a long, cold, and snowy winter. My lunchtime stroll through the gardens surrounding Independence Hall offered photo opportunities and the chance to escape without leaving the city.

Close up shot of a tree on Independence Mall, across the square from Independence Hall

Close up shot of a tree on Independence Mall, across the square from Independence Hall

An Amish group takes a tour of Independence Hall.

An Amish group takes a tour of Independence Hall.

The top of Independence Hall, the birthplace of America, and the site where the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776.

The top of Independence Hall, the birthplace of America, and the site where the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776.

Spring daffodils bloom.

Spring daffodils in bloom.

An inviting place to sit and relax on a beautiful day.

An inviting place to sit and relax on a beautiful day.

Spring tulips in bloom!

Spring tulips in bloom.

Wide view of the garden adjacent to Independence Hall.

Wide view of the garden adjacent to Independence Hall.

The streets of Philadelphia, part 6

April 14, 2014 – Over the past five weeks, we covered a lot of territory and visited the neighborhoods in Rittenhouse and FairmountOld City and Elfreth’s AlleyUniversity City and Powelton Village, Fishtown and Queen Village, and Chestnut Hill and Manayunk.

Today, in our last part of the series, we’ll take a closer look at South Philadelphia and the Italian Market area, and Northeast Philadelphia, where a working farm sits among the crowded residential streets.

South Philadelphia

The heart and soul of Philadelphia’s southern region is the Italian Market that runs along 9th Street. I drove to the heart of Little Italy where the streets are narrow and there’s not a Starbuck’s, Walgreens or Olive Garden in site.

As one of the oldest and largest working markets in the U.S., the Italian Market is still predominantly Italian, but also includes some items from other cultures.

Photo source: visitphilly.com

Photo source: visitphilly.com

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From fresh produce, cheese, pasta, baked goods, seafood, and Italian Water Ice, to antique shops, herbal shops, jewelry and more, Philadelphia’s Italian Market has something for everyone.

pasta shop

There are also a variety of excellent Italian restaurants and pizza shops, and of course, the famous Pat’s Steaks and Geno’s Steaks at the southern end.

Photo source: Bergheimfollies.blogspot.com

Photo source: Bergheimfollies.blogspot.com

Photo cource: Phillymagazine.com

Photo source: Phillymagazine.com

Philadelphia’s 9th Street Italian Market is off the beaten path as far as city attractions go, but if you’re looking for a unique way to spend an afternoon and a lot of good food, it’s worth the trip.

Northeast Philadelphia

Large urban cities and farming rarely go hand in hand, but in Philadelphia, it is part of the culture in the Northeast section of the city.

Fox Chase Farm, located at 8500 Pine Road, is closed to the public, except during public events.

sheep

 The farm, complete with plenty of livestock, sits on 112 acres near Pennypack Creek.

livestock

The farm has existed at this location for over 200 years, and has been known by various names.

farm

Friends of Fox Chase Farm, an all-volunteer group with over 400 member families, keeps the farm working. In 2005, the farm was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

full view

While Fox Chase Farm is a working farm on grand scale proportions, there are smaller urban centers and agriculture projects in Philadelphia that grow local produce. These centers are scattered throughout Philadelphia, in Kensington, North Philadelphia, West Philadelphia, and other areas of the city. Additionally, there is the Walter Biddle Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences in Northwest Philadelphia (Roxborough) that trains students to be future farmers.