Adam Goldin | Philadelphia Blog

Adam Goldin covers Philadelphia news and updates.

Category: Tourism

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Go Primeval at The Franklin Institute

Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Times!

The Franklin Institute is a standard in the hearts of Philadelphians. From walking through the “giant heart” to the consistently exceptional special exhibits, the Franklin is equally as pleasant for a 30-something’s date activity as it is for a family outing.

The new special event is no exception. With Jurassic World: The Exhibition, the Franklin Institute gets you “the closest you will ever come to living dinosaurs.” Bringing you behind the scenes of the blockbuster movie, the exhibit is multifaceted. From paleontology, to animatronics, to the ethical consequences to consider in genetic modifications, this exhibit leaves children and adults alike with plenty to think about!

During your visit you’ll be guided through The Park by a virtual Park Ranger, and encounter the world’s most sophisticated animatronic dinosaurs as well as live actors in a movie-like setting that gets you up-close and personal with dinosaurs, and places smack-dab into the world of the Jurassic movies.

Then, step into the shoes of the scientists of the movie by walking into a science lab full of interactive exhibits. Jurassic World used world-renowned paleontologist Jack Horner as a collaborator, so the experience is not just an awesome up-close-and-personal with dinos, the exhibit also explores the science of paleontology. What are fossils? Check them out in person.  How did dinosaurs behave? How do we know what they looked like or what they ate? Learn about DNA science, cloning, and potential cause-and-effect of genetic modifications, with hands-on learning stations. There is an area discussing climate, the environment during the time of the dinosaurs, and the events that caused things to change. It also explores animal science, like scientists examining scat to learn more about and identify animals, and the science of camouflage.

The museum partnered with the Creature Technology Company, the brains behind the hit exhibit Walking With Dinosaurs, to create the animals you’ll see at the Franklin Institute. Walk through the iconic park gates from the films into a lush park that feels miles away from Foucault’s Pendulum. All your favorites are there, from Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptor, to a Brachiosaurus, culminating in a dramatic battle between the movie’s Indominus Rex and a Stegosaurus.

The exhibit runs from now until April 23rd, and is sure to please audiences of all ages. Check out the Franklin Institute Website for more info and prices!

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Ridesharing and the Philly Battleground

When it comes to rideshare laws in Philly, it has been a rocky story. When Uber and Lyft were made legal, both companies were only given two-year experimental licences to operate in Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Parking Authority had signed a deal with both the companies as part of the experimental licenses which, among other things, required them to pay 1 percent of their total earnings to the PPA. The PPA gave two-thirds of this amount to the Philadelphia School District and kept the remaining one-third to itself.

While still operating under the two-year license, taxi drivers in the city filed a lawsuit against the PPA, claiming that the protections and legal expectations for all of the city car services were not equal between ride-hailing services and the taxi or hired car services. Requirements like the Americans with Disabilities Act, which dictates all taxis have to adhere to certain accessibility guidelines, did not apply to ridesharing services. An injunction was filed against Uber and Lyft to prevent operation in the wake of the suit against the city. Though it made operation illegal, neither company seemed to be deterred by the injunction, which follows the trend established by Uber, when it began operation in Pennsylvania illegally at the start of it’s operation in PA.

The trend for rideshare companies has been, in many states, to keep operating, even when it isn’t legal. This creates a demand from the public that most city and state officials eventually give in to. Sure enough, PA Governor Tom Wolf signed a bill at the beginning of November to formally legalize Uber and Lyft with legislation permanently authorizing and regulating companies that operate as Uber and Lyft do.

We’ve seen this battle take place over and over again, in multiple cities. The biggest losers in these fights isn’t the rideshare companies, however, and it isn’t the cities or states. It’s the commonwealth. Users often rely on rideshare services to get to work when there are public transit failures or delays. Statistics show drops in cases of drunk driving in each city that correlate with arrival of Uber and/or Lyft. Those who cannot afford cars, or who have cars but cannot pay exorbitant parking fees, have options for emergencies or running errands that you don’t have when taking public transit.

It’s not just the customers who lose out, there are many who have found a continuous source of income in the form of these companies. Students say that they have found a strong earning source which has enabled them to repay their student loans and lead a comfortable lifestyle on the whole. Flexible scheduling allows drivers to work second jobs, be single parents, or go to school while maintaining an income. Immigrants who have language barriers or lack of relevant job experience in the US can make a living driving for rideshare companies.

Though the outcome favored rideshare companies in Philadelphia, cities like Austin still feel the sting.

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Philly’s Hidden Gems: Ten Unknown Attractions

When it comes to sightseeing, visitors and locals alike focus mainly on the world-class museums and historical sites that were the foundation of the country. While you should absolutely visit those locations, here are some off-the-beaten path places to check out. Even some lifetime residents won’t know about all of these spots!

 1.  Mütter Museum

Okay, so the Mütter Museum isn’t very hidden, but it is super unique. Surgeon Thomas Dent Mütter, MD donated his lifetime collection of 1,700 objects and some money to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1858 under the promise that the college would hire a curator and maintain the collections as well as continue to expand it. Mütter’s collection was medical in nature, containing anatomical specimens, models, medical instruments, and more. Here you can find slides with sections of Albert Einstien’s brain, a collection of skulls used in the study of cranial anatomy, a plaster cast as well as the actual livers of famous conjoined-twin circus performers, Chang and Eng Bunker, and a “Mega Colon”, as well as a chest of drawers full of objects accidentally swallowed by patients and removed by a doctor.

2.  Insectarium

Not everyone knows that Philadelphia is home of the largest insect museum in the country. There’s interactive displays, live and mounted bugs, a “petting corner” and lots more to see here!

3.  Philadelphia’s Magic Garden

More a giant, immersive, outdoor art installation than a garden, this place is truly magic nonetheless. There is a museum dedicated to the artist, Isaiah Zagar, as well as the garden itself, spanning half a city block and containing multiple levels, everything you can see in the magic garden is covered in mosaic, folk art, glass bottles, sparkling mirrors, handmade pottery tiles, stories, and more.

4.  Giant Wooden Slide

There is a giant wooden slide (39’ long and 13’ wide) in East Fairmount Park. The Giant Wooden Slide was added to the Smith Playground in 1905. The Smith playground there has a playhouse and other activities for families, but the slide is unique and fun for everyone.

(And while you’re in Fairmount Park, visit the Cave of Kelpius, believed to be the 17th century home of America’s first cult of mystics to predict the imminent apocalypse. From Philadelphia, take Ridge Avenue to the beginning of the Wissahickon Bike Trail, and turn right onto the trail. Follow the trail into the woods (by foot or bike), alongside Lincoln Drive for almost a mile, then turn left. From there, just keep an eye out. It’s not easy to get to. Most people find it by accident. Fortunately, the Wissahickon is wonderful to explore, with the Toleration and Indian statues, and the Devil’s Pool.)

5.  Edgar Allen Poe Site 

He was known for living in Baltimore, but he did important work in Philadelphia. You can visit the site and learn about one of the most important figures in American literature. You will marvel at what an amazing life he had, and you can see some of the things that cast a shadow on his output as a writer. And after than, make sure you take a side trip to the Rare Book Department of the Philadelphia Free Library to meet Grip The Raven! Once Charles Dickens’ pet raven, Dickens had it professionally taxidermied and mounted when it died. This raven is the inspiration for Edgar Allen Poe’s famously intense poem.

6. The Moon Tree

Washington Square Park, and it’s Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier, are hardly a hidden gem. But most visitors don’t know they’re standing just a few yards away from a moon tree! Seeds were sent into space on the Apollo 14 Moon mission by the Forestry Service, and when they came back to Earth, the seedlings that grew were spread around the world, from the White House to Brazil to being given to the Emperor of Japan. Check out the one that landed in Philadelphia!

7.  Tiffany Glass Mural

Dream Garden, a 15′ x 49′ masterpiece mural created by the Tiffany studios, is made of over 100,000 pieces of favrile glass in more than 260 individual shades, and is a really stunning work of color and light. Displayed since 1916 in what is now the Curtis Center, it is one of the largest Tiffany glass installations in the world.

8.  Masonic Temple

The Masonic Temple is a place you need to see to believe. By turns gaudy and beautiful, made in a variety of architectural styles, this is one of the most elaborate Masonic buildings in the country both in architecture and in interior decor, the Temple also houses a museum containing items like George Washington’s Masonic apron and Ben Franklin’s Masonic sash.

9.  Rosenbach Library

The Rosenbach Branch of the Free Library is the best one in the city. You could spend hours in its shelves wondering what hidden gems you will find next. It has one of the most incredible rare book and manuscript collections in the world. From Thomas Jefferon’s inventory of his slaves, or a first edition of Dox Quixote, to notes and outlines for Dracula penned by Bram Stoker, to a hundred personal letters of George Washington, this place has an incredible cross-section of history.

10.  The Chemical Heritage Foundation

The Chemical Heritage Museum has a great museum, chronicling the history of science and technological achievements, but their First Friday events are the real gems. (I.E. events like: Writing & Reading Alchemy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, Extreme Art Makeover, Make Your Own Book Of Secrets, and Cheese, Chocolate, and Fermentation.)

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Art on the Outside: Philly’s Murals

Though Philadelphia contains one of the more renowned art museums in the world, there’s only one way to see art and the city at the same time: the street art.

From the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, to artist Isaiah Zagar mosaic-tiling every wall he can get his hands on, to world-class graffiti and street art, nearly every street in Philadelphia is bound to have a surprise in store.

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The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program began in 1984 as an anti-graffiti program, and has created almost 4,000 murals since. From the recent color-blocking of Broad Street to Philadelphia On A Half-Tank, a mural painted on the side of an oil tank at the refinery in South Philly at Penrose Ave and 26th in 1999, there is an incredible amount of history in the program. Some works have been torn down or built over with time, but that is part of being in a living-breathing city. The majority of the murals with the project are not just for art’s sake, but also have a purpose. One of the project’s murals was painted on the side of a methadone clinic, and some over the 1,200 artists who helped to paint the mural were patients at the clinic at the time, as part of a rehabilitation program. The founder of the Mural Arts Program shared her top 10 favorite with The Guardian, and you can check them out here.

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One of the most unique ways to see murals in the city is to take a ride on the Market-Frankford elevated line. From 45th to 63rd streets, there are a total of 50 murals creating an experience called “Love Letters”. Some can be seen from the street, but not all, as they are meant to be seen from the train. Created by Philadelphia native Steve Powers, all 50 murals are love letters from a partner, from an ex, or from the residents to their city. Ranging from cutesy sentiment to powerful declarations, Love Letters from the El is an experience I highly recommend you make time for, even if you normally drive.

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Isaiah Zagar’s work is instantly recognizable to long-time residents of Philly. The Magic Garden, his multi-story maze-like art piece is the most famous of his work, particularly after a long-fought battle with the city to keep it. But you won’t just find his work in the Magic Garden, you can see his handiwork all over the city in the South Street/Queens Village area, particularly in alleyways. There are so many murals that they made a map to show them all.

Mural Locator is a website dedicated to pinpointing murals on maps all over the globe, and can help you find murals that aren’t part of the Mural Arts Project or Zagar’s body of work.

No matter if you are a long-time local or a brand new tourist, if you are on a unique-yet-romantic first date or looking for something to do with the kids on a nice day, there are endless ways of touring, viewing, and getting to know the wonderful art on the streets of Philadelphia.

What Will Hosting the DNC Be Like?

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The Democratic National Convention is right around the corner, and the question becomes… What is Philly going to look like in that time?

For those of us who were around during the Pope’s visit in September of 2015, there is some amount of hesitation about the city’s ability to host so large an event without the entire city coming to a screeching halt. Businesses lost revenue, streets, trains, and even bridges were closed, cutting people off from transport to and from jobs, and the revenue boost for the city and it’s local business owners expected from entertaining so many visitors turned out to be a bust as well.

The DNC is primarily being held within the Wells Fargo Center, and XFinity live will be included in the surrounding security perimeter. While the finalized security routes have not been determined officially as of yet, we can all expect “some closures” and a “non-scalable wall”. Special Agent James Henry spoke to the issue, and said that this will be on a smaller scale than the pope visit, and the impact will be minimal. Planning, he said, began shortly after the Pope left town, so hopefully the lessons learned from the papal visit will be reflected in the city.

And unlike the Pope’s visit, which saw many Philly residents leaving town for a mini vacation just get out of Dodge, the mayor is urging city residents to stay in place for the DNC. A campaign has been launched, with the slogan “You Don’t Want To Miss This”.

Perhaps in an effort to keep the city from shutting down, and the huge amount of waste that went along with the mass exodus of Philadelphia residents during the Pope’s tenure, there will not only be local discounts for convention-goers, but for residents as well.

Even if you don’t have a ticket to the convention, there will be lots of events that are open to the public, if you are of the inclination to attend. From art installations to PoliticalFest, to the ability submit testimony to the official party platform, there will be a lot of activities in the city apart from the convention. Visit the PHLDNC webpage, or the Morning Call online for more information, including where the aforementioned #DNCDeals can be found.

A proposal is currently working it’s way through the Pennsylvania Legislature that would lift restrictions on the sale of alcohol. Temporarily, of course. House Bill 1196 is looking to create a “national event permit” allowing for establishments hosting the event to circumvent many laws, including 2 a.m. serving cutoffs, permit holders can sell wine that has not been purchased through the PLCB, and alcohol-to-go rules will remain in effect for all approved establishments. So get ready to party like it’s the 2016 DNC. Earlier this month, another bill that allowed for, among other things, wine sales at grocery stores, longer state liquor store hours and 24/7 beverage service at casinos passed the House in a 157-31 vote.

Philly’s Hidden Gems: The Wagner Free Institute

WagnerFreeInstituteOnce a Victorian science institute, now a living, breathing connection to the past. A museum about museums. A look into how we viewed science at the turn of the century.

In the 1840’s, William Wagner was so passionate about science he gave lectures out of his own home. He amassed an extensive collection of scientific specimens often used as reference in these lectures. At some point, the crowd of Victorians anxious to listen to William Wagner speak grew so large they couldn’t all fit into the room with him. Called the “gentleman naturalist” by his peers, Wagner decided that the popularity of his collection and lectures has grown to the point they needed their own home. He expanded into a new building he named The Wagner Free Institute of Science.

With lofty ideals about continuing lectures and a museum of science open and free to the public, the beautiful Victorian Wagner building was completed and opened in 1865. It houses the natural history collection Wagner collected in his home and allowed him to expand his specimens. There is also a commanding, beautiful lecture hall in which he could continue to lecture all the way up until his death in 1885.

Immediately after the death of William Wagner, renowned biologist and paleontologist Joseph Leidy was brought on to curate and head the research. He expanded the repertoire of the museum and organized the entire collection according to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Every taxidermy and mount, from insects to sea life, was arranged in order of simple to complex organism, rather than genus or species. This reorganization of the museum took place in 1891, and was never changed again. The museum has been upkept beautifully, but not a thing has changed in more than 120 years. From the 1865 handwritten labels of the specimens to the original cherry wood cases made for the museum’s exhibits, everything is frozen in time. A look into a place in our history when technology, scientific knowledge, and the pace of the average life was changing so rapidly, there is both an air of stillness and an air of excitement and possibility to the museum.

There is also an element of humor, seeing a platypus in a case next to a sloth, which is next to an anteater, as an example of Darwin’s theory of evolution. But they also house many “type specimens” – the first identification of a new species. The Institute was the first to discover a skull of a saber-toothed cat on an expedition to Florida. There are complete skeletons ranging from buffalo to English draft horse, as well as taxidermy, shells, minerals, fossils, and of course, a brontosaurus as well.

There are some interpretations around the exhibits explain some of the changes in science and thought from the time of the handwritten placards to today, but it would be wonderful to the the museum embrace its dual role as science museum and ode to Victorian science in a time capsule. They do have a scavenger hunt for adults or young adults that can be downloaded before your trip or picked up there that can explain more details. The have hours set aside for artists who wish to sketch ever Friday afternoon. They continue to hold lectures on the premises, and they sponsor Science on Tap, which is a monthly gathering at the bar National Mechanics in Old City, with presentations by scientists and experts followed by lively debate and conversation.

Welcome!

Welcome to Adam Goldin‘s blog about Philadelphia. Check back here to learn more about all the amazing that the City of Brotherly Love has to offer.

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