History Comes Alive In Philadelphia — Photo courtesy of Historic Philadelphia
Philadelphia’s Historic District isn’t noteworthy just because it’s home to so, so many monumental events in the founding of the United States and its democracy. While it’s true there may be more iconic moments packed into Philadelphia’s Historic District than anywhere else in the country, it’s also true that in Philadelphia, our nation’s story isn’t told through the dry frames of monuments or in the immobile faces of statues. Rather, history literally does come alive here in a way that’s interactive, engaging, relevant and, most importantly, interesting.
Nat’l Constitution Center
Anyone who doesn’t believe the U.S. Constitution is a living document has yet to experience it here at the National Constitution Center, at the nation’s official center devoted to its study. A visit begins with a multimedia theatrical introduction that features a live actor, then winds through permanent exhibits that ask children to take the Presidential Oath in front of a video camera, try on a Supreme Court Justice’s robes and take a quiz to determine whether they would have enjoyed the right to vote at various junctures in American history. But the fun isn’t reserved for the kiddies: adults can appreciate the many opportunities to email members of Congress, debate issues of the day with other visitors and ask questions of the global thought leaders who present regular dialogues.
Storytelling Benches and Historic Re-enactments
Once Upon a Nation storytelling benches are a hallmark of Historic Philadelphia. Relax on one of 13 benches throughout the district while an official live storyteller weaves magnificent tales of the bravery, passions and predilections of colonial Philadelphia’s lesser known figures. Stories are free and benches are labeled with a “Once Upon a Nation” sign. At the end of the story, kids can collect a flag and a star to decorate said flag; children who receive stars from all 13 benches qualify for a coupon book and fun prizes at the Historic Philadelphia Center (6th & Chestnut streets) or at Franklin Square (6th and Race Streets). At certain sites, like the Betsy Ross House, historic re-enactors tell gripping stories and lead visitors in old-time military ceremonies and readings of the Declaration of Independence. Download maps and schedules at www.historicphiladelphia.org.
Participants in Historic Philadelphia’s various Historic Adventure Tours don’t just get to watch the action, they get to be the action! The Independence After Hours tour features dinner at the colonial-era City Tavern followed by a nighttime visit to Independence Hall to watch patriots debate the laws that will go on to provide the foundation for American democracy. The Colonial Kids Quest sends kids off in search of the “missing” Declaration of Independence, and the Valley Forge Secrets and Spies program enlists children to foil a plot to kidnap General Washington. Meanwhile, the Valley Forge After Hours adventure tour at Valley Forge National Historical Park seats guests at dinner with Martha Washington before a march to Washington's Headquarters to meet the General himself and hear soldiers stories while sitting around a campfire. Valley Forge tours depart from various locations around the park, a 30-minute drive from Center City. Many Historic Philadelphia events are seasonal; check www.historicphiladelphia.org for schedules and locations.
Lights of Liberty
Debuting in spring 2012, the re-imagined Lights of Liberty Show once again takes to the nighttime streets, where visitors will marvel at mammoth 3-D digital projections of the events that led from the early discussions of the Declaration of Independence to its momentous first public reading. Lights of Liberty is a seasonal tour that departs from the Historic Philadelphia Center.