I visited my sister Banu in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania over the July 4th holiday. When you are a family of 4 siblings, organizing a family get together is next to impossible. Coordinating a timeframe that works for my siblings and I, along with our spouses and all our kids is a major feat. Which means we are lucky if we can all meet together every 2 years. This year all of us got together over the July 4th holiday!
My sister Banu has been living in Philadelphia with her husband Ranjit and kids Maya and Udai for over 2 decades. What a beautiful city this is. With it’s historical significance and all it’s cobblestone streets and old world charm this is a wonderful city to visit. I have visited Banu many times over the years and have seen all the famous historical sites Philadelphia has to offer like Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, and the Benjamin Franklin Museum.
On this trip I told Banu I wanted to see the Philadelphia that the locals frequent. The little downtowns and neighborhoods that locals go to for a nice lunch or dinner, or for a stroll. Maybe even check out some local gardens or go to a couple of local nurseries. That was my objective for this visit to Philadelphia, to venture “off the beaten path.”
We were in Philadelphia for one week and I wanted to maximize my time and check out as many new sites as I could, while the kids just wanted to hang out with their cousins. We somehow managed to do both.
Day 1, Tuesday 6/28. Philadelphia Zoo, Downtown Philly & Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens: On Tuesday afternoon the kids headed to the historic Philadelphia Zoo with my brother Kiran. The Philadelphia Zoo has been around for more than 100 years! Chartered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on March 21, 1859, this was the first zoo to open in the United States. It’s opening got delayed by the Civil War, and the zoo officially opened its doors to the public on July 1, 1874.
While my brother Kiran and kids went to the zoo, Banu, Rani, and I headed to Philadelphia’s downtown shopping district. Here we checked out Pine St. that is also known as Antique Row. We also strolled on Fabric Row and Lamp Alley. We found most of the shops to be closed on this Tuesday afternoon. Seems Tuesdays are when stores close shop in this district.
While walking around this neighborhood we stumbled upon a mural. It looked so beautiful that Rani asked me to take a picture.
As we got closer to the building we realized that it was an urban garden made to look like a mural. It was a large street sculpture made of recycled materials.
Called Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, it was beautiful. Intricately patterned and made with all recycled materials, this was a very interesting street sculpture. A beautiful garden made from recycled materials? What a novel concept. We wanted to check it out but it is also closed on Tuesdays. If you are in the Philadelphia area in downtown seeing the historical sites, take a detour from the tourist sites and check out Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.
After our walk in downtown Philly we met my brother and kids at the very popular local ice cream parlor Capogiro Gelato and trendy Mexican restaurant El Vez, before heading home for the evening.
Day 2: Wednesday, June 29th. Day trip to Lambertville, New Jersey & New Hope, Pennsylvania: On Wednesday the game plan was to head to the antique shopping towns of Lambertville, New Jersey and New Hope, Pennsylvania. Most of the kids wanted to skip this trip, and we let them hang out with my Dad and Kiran at home. Rani loves anything vintage and chose to come with me and my sisters Banu and Shobha on this day trip. This was an awesome trip. We had a great time exploring these quaint towns whose claim to fame is the hundreds of antique shops here and their weekly antique flea market. I will do a more detailed post on this fun foray into antique shopping.
Day 3: Thursday, June 30th. Visit to Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania and Chestnut Hill Neighborhood: On Thursday my sister took us to the Morris Arboretum and to the charming neighborhood of Chestnut Hill.
The Morris Arboretum was beautiful, and we only covered a fraction of what the park had to offer. This is a huge 92-acre lush green landscape with multiple gardens to explore. There was a swan pond, sculpture garden, English garden, Japanese hill garden, and perennial garden to name a few. This was one huge garden landscape. We chose to check out their massive tree house “Out on a limb” which was a canopy constructed among the treetops.
Our next stop on the arboretum tour was the miniature railroad trains that ran on tracks constructed in a miniature replica of the city of Philadelphia. This was a lot of fun.
Our last stop at the arboretum was a stroll in their rose garden. A gorgeous garden overflowing with flowers in all colors and textures.
After an hour and half at the Morris Arboretum, the heat and humidity was getting to us. We decided to head to lunch in the quaint Chestnut Hill neighborhood. With cobblestone streets and charming old-world style buildings, this was a beautiful area. Loads of cute antique shops and boutiques can be found on this strip, and they all look like pictures on a postcard.
In Chestnut Hill we had lunch at a cafe called Cake. Cake was a beautiful restaurant inside a large greenhouse. With glass from top to bottom and lush greenery inside, Cake was a lovely cafe where we had a delectable lunch.
Cake was attached to a florist shop, pretty cool idea! After lunch we stepped into this charming florist before heading home.
Day 4: Friday, July 1st. Day trip to Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania: When my sister Banu told me about Hershey’s factory in Hershey, Pennsylvania and how you can do a factory tour, I was excited to take the kids to check it out. The town of Hershey, Pennsylvania is a 2-hour drive from Philadelphia. We thought it would be a fun experience to see how Hershey’s chocolate is made and decided to make a day trip to Hershey’s Chocolate World. This was a fun and very interesting trip. I will do another post on this eventful and very unique road trip.
On this same day, Banu’s neighborhood celebrated 4th of July early. They put on a spectacular evening fireworks display, which we all got to watch from her deck. We had first class seats to this outstanding firework show!
Day 5: Saturday, July 2nd. Visit to local nurseries with sisters Banu and Shobha. The kids were rebelling, they were done sightseeing and by Saturday they just wanted to hang out at home and relax.
This was the perfect day for Banu to take Shobha and me to a couple of local nurseries. We stopped by Norview Farms in King of Prussia and Main Line Gardens in Malvern, Pennsylvania. Banu mentioned that Main Line Gardens is a favorite local institution. Until recently, this nursery was a locally owned family run nursery for 3 generations, that’s over 100 years!
Day 6: Sunday, July 3rd. Visit to The Barnes Foundation. With one of the largest collections of post-impressionist paintings in America, this museum was a delight to see. The museum has works by Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, and Modigliani. We spent a long 2 hours exploring all the galleries and paintings in this museum.
One noteworthy characteristic of Albert C. Barnes was his forward thinking even back in the 1930s. He was a progressive employer who hung art in his factory and began teaching his racially mixed workforce about art aesthetics. He established the Barnes Foundation as an educational institution with the goal of using art as a teaching tool to foster critical thinking and analytical skills. Inspired by philosopher John Dewey, Barnes saw this approach as a way to advance democracy in America.
Day 7: Monday, July 4th. Family pictures and return trip home. Our vacation was coming to a close. No one wanted the party to end. After a week long gathering of 18 people, my sister Banu said the house was going to feel empty and quiet. We took some last minute family re-union pictures and got ready for our trip back home to California.
The kids had an amazing time hanging out with their cousins the entire week. They looked like they were on a week long slumber party!
I had a fabulous time spending time with my sisters Banu and Shobha and brother Kiran. All our spouses including Hitesh, Jaidev, Ranjit and Prachi had a wonderful time too. This is a family get-together we will remember for many years to come 🙂
Though we covered a lot of places on this visit to Philly, it didn’t feel too hectic. That’s because Philadelphia is a compact city and getting from one place to another does not take very long. With its lush green landscapes, full of streams, canals, rivers, and lakes, it is a pleasure driving around.
I’ve been to Philadelphia many times, but this is the first time I got to appreciate the beauty of this charming city through the eyes of a local resident, my sister Banu. Exploring Philly and the surrounding areas “off the beaten path” style truly gave me a taste of what this beautiful area has to offer. With its charming old neighborhoods, trendy downtowns, and lush green areas, and of course it’s significant historical sites, Philadelphia is a great city to visit.
For information on the sites and attractions in and around the Philadelphia area check out these web sites. Independence Hall, Liberty Bell & Bejamin Franklin Museum Top 10 things to do in Philadelphia Visit Philly.com New Hope/Lambertville Visit Hershey, Pennsylvania Morris Arboretum