Plan on Pennsylvania for Family Fun and Learning
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- Family Fun and Learning in New Jersey
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- Kid-Friendly California Fun and Learning
Anchored in the east by Philadelphia, birthplace of the US, and in the west by a revitalized Pittsburgh, with rural countryside inbetween, Pennsylvania has a lot to offer a family on vacation. There are numerous historic sites and battlefields from the Revolutionary War and Civil War, but also peaceful valleys, quiet farmland and too-cute small towns that welcome visitors. The western part of the state used to be considered frontier in Colonial times, and still retains a bit of that restlessness and bravado.
1) Independence National Historical Park and Liberty Bell Center – The Declaration of Independence, the postwar convention for our Constitution; it all started here in this cluster of buildings in Philadelphia. Stop by the Visitor Center for free, timed entry tickets for Independence Hall, look for “Once Upon a Nation” storytelling sessions and tours, see interactive exhibits about the Constitution, watch Colonial crafters at the Betsy Ross House and stand in awe before the cracked Liberty Bell that pealed the news of independence in 1776.
2) Carnegie Science Center – One of four Carnegie museums in Pittsburgh, the Center not only features a planetarium, Science of Sports activities, fun Science Stage demonstrations, the science of food in the Kitchen Theater and 8000 square feet of interactive fun, but also some state-specific exhibits. Walk through a detailed miniature railroad & village depicting early 1900s western Pennsylvania, and examine how Pittsburgh has become a leader in eco-friendly, green building technology.
3) Gettysburg – The turning point of the Civil War, this four-day battle across 250 acres was, at the time, the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil (50,000 killed or wounded.) To understand the scope and impact of the different skirmishes and President Lincoln’s famous two-minute Address, see the Visitor Center scale-model map or the giant Cyclorama display, and consider the park’s Licensed Battlefield Guide Service for seasonal private battlefield tours in your car or with a guide on a tour bus. Huge groups of costumed reenactors bring key moments to life during annual July Civil War Heritage Days.
4) Pennsylvania’s Maritime Heritage – Two different museums offer a look at history through actual vessels; the War of 1812 Brig Niagara at the Erie Maritime Museum in Erie, and Commodore Dewey’s Spanish-American war cruiser Olympia (plus submarine Becuna) at Philadelphia’s Independence Seaport Museum. Both offer special in-depth programs like the Niagara’s Day Sails underway on a square-rigger, and the Seaport Museum’s Teen Boat Camp wooden boat-building class.
5) Brandywine River Museum – American artwork from three generations of the famous Pennsylvania Wyeth family is housed in a 19th century gristmill in Chadds Ford; it includes painter N.C .Wyeth’s illustrations for the books Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Last of the Mohicans. The museum’s Explorer Mornings program is geared to children ages 3-14, and there are a variety of summer workshops.
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