Every year, my family takes a trip to somewhere new. We’ve gone done a bunch of different things over time, but this year we decided to do an educational trip to Pennsylvania. We spent three days in Philadelphia, a day in Hershey, and a day in Lancaster, and here are the top things we did at each:
- Independence Hall: Getting to stand in the room that the Declaration of Independence was signed in was incredible. Tickets were free, and you can even reserve them online. There are displays of authentic copies of the Declaration, Constitution, and the Articles of Confederation (they are copies made at the time of the originals). The tour begins in a room where a guide gives you a brief history, then you go through the rooms where he points out who sat where and the various occurrences in each room. It is also right next to Congress Hall, where you get to learn about the history of congress and see giant portraits of Marie Antoinette and her husband, placed there to honor France’s involvement during the Revolutionary War.
- The Big Bus Tour: This was super cool because you could hop on and off at any point during the tour. You also get to see most of the city without walking around, and the tour guides are full of interesting facts.
- The Reading Terminal Market: This is basically a mall of restaurants and grocery stores. It was crazy busy during lunchtime, but it was still cool to see the different stalls with different foods. Plus, it is connected to the station that is Reading Railroad from Monopoly.
- The Liberty Bell: It is not worth standing in the lines that we saw for it, but it was still cool to see.
- Eastern State Penitentiary: This was not originally on our itinerary, but we saw it on our bus tour and we were all fascinated by it. This imposing structure was built in 1821 with a lot of gothic architecture. It turns out that the dramatic gothic features were purely for show, but the building itself was still fascinating on its own. They’ve renovated several of the cells, but have also left many of them in the same state of disrepair that they found them in after the facility was abandoned in the mid-1900s, giving a haunting feeling to the building. Among other notable criminals, Al Capone stayed there and was actually given a luxury cell. Overall, I highly recommend this!
- The Betsy Ross House: This was so fascinating, and we learned so much about American history during the Revolutionary War. There were several hands-on activities throughout the house, and an adorable courtyard where Betsy Ross is buried. She had such a fascinating life that I never knew about despite all the history I have done over the years.
- Bonus: The Franklin Institute was interesting, but it was a giant science museum. The coolest thing there to me was the giant statue of Benjamin Franklin. The Mint also told us several interesting facts about coin making, and the Christ Church Burial Grounds were interesting. Benjamin Franklin is buried there, along with several other signers of the Declaration and heroes from different wars. They say Ben Franklin still makes around $40,000 a year from people throwing pennies on his grave.
- Travel Tip: Most of these activities were done using the Philadelphia Pass, which gave us access to all of these at a large discount.
- The Amish Village: This was an adorable home that was previously owned by an Amish family. It was set up like an Amish home today would be, and the tour guide was full of information about the different facets of Amish life in the 21st century. Plus it had a beautiful garden and farm animals you could pet and feed (see adorable pig below).
- Sight and Sound Theatre: Y’all. The single best thing that we did on this trip was see the play Jesus. It was incredible. The acting, the music, the sets. They sprayed us with water, had a slow motion moment that looked like it was a movie, they even had real animals running around the stage, including camels, pigs, doves, horses, and goats. Besides their technical excellence, their storyline was amazing. They made the gospel real in a way I had never seen before. I’ve seen the Passion of the Christ, but this was much more personal. You don’t experience the brutality of the torture Christ went through, but you do experience the struggle he went through in the garden the night before, when His disciples fell asleep and He felt as though His Father had abandoned Him. I could literally write a whole post just on this. It was amazing.
- So being a Chocoholic, I was excited about this. Hershey World was a bit disappointing overall, mostly just an overpriced tourist trap. The part that I did love was the historical bus tour of the town. We learned all about the Hersheys and their vision for and impact on the town. The Hersheys were such incredible people, and Milton Hershey has made an impact on countless people’s lives.
So that was our trip in a nutshell. Overall it was phenomenal, and I am excited to see where we go next year!
All pictures on this page are my own photography.