1st TR! Our Penn. Trip with Amusement Parks -- and Culture!

Kennywood, HersheyPark, Knoebel's, Dorney & Philly CULTURE
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Re: 1st TR! Our Penn. Trip with Amusement Parks -- and Cultu

Postby bert425 » Mon Jul 07, 2014 3:12 pm

Day 8 – Dorney Park (and Whitewater Kingdom)

So we got up around 8am, ate a light breakfast in the Concierge suite, and then headed down to get the car from Valet.
Dorney opened at 10, and it was about an hour away in Allentown, so we figured we’d leave the Hotel around 9 to be there just after opening.

The news was reporting that it was going to be the hottest day of the year thus far (at 92 degrees), so I expected that meant that a lot of folks would be at the Waterpark section of the Amusement Park. The directions once again worked out perfect, and we got to the front gates of Dorney just after 10am.

It was more crowded than I expected for opening, but everyone basically had the same idea I had – pull in, park, and COVER yourself with Sunscreen. (since it had been so overcast we hadn’t needed to use much sunscreen thus far, but man was I glad I had it at Dorney).

I started chatting with two girls in Bikini tops & shorts who had parked just in front of us, and since it was our first time there, asked for suggestions on how to approach the park. They said that everyone would go straight ahead to the suspended coaster, Talon, and suggested instead we head to the left and go directly towards Steel Force (the giant coaster we had seen the day before from the Tollway), and get in a few rides, as that would be crowded later in the day, and just work our way clockwise around the park from there. I thanked them and we got in the huge bag check line. I swear, this was almost the longest line of the day. . it took almost 20 minutes to get thru the checks, and it wasn’t “official” looking at all – just security guards with some plastic tables glancing into everyone’s bags. I guess what took so long was so many of the people had bags full of towels and snacks (apparently a no-no to bring in your own food).

Once we finally got in the gates, we headed to the left, and came across one of the many huge hills (flashbacks to Hershey!). LOL. . .we laughed, and went that way anyways (what else were we gonna do?).

My impression of the park? It was by far the most “corporate” looking of the theme parks we visited. It just didn’t seem to have a whole lot of charm, but it did seem to have a whole lot of concrete! Maybe we just noticed it because it was the first hot day, but there was not a lot of shade, or trees to be had. It just looked like rivers of concrete leading to rides. That’s not to say I didn’t like the park, I did, quite a bit. But yeah. . it could use some landscaping to make it a bit prettier. Then again, at least 4/5ths of the crowd had gone directly to the right and into the waterpark, leaving the ride-side mostly deserted, and resulting in very short waits for most rides.

We passed a few buildings that looked like at one point they were a restaurant, or maybe a queue for a long-gone ride, but had signage on them. These buildings were fenced off and I wonder if maybe they were/are a dark ride of some sort. My best guess is that these buildings are used for the Halloween Haunt attractions (later on one of the trains, we passed behind one of the buildings and saw some skeleton and zombie props on the back docks).

Anyways, we headed down the hill past a bunch of flat rides (the swinging boat we saw in EVERY park, the scrambler, the swinging claw, and a couple of unique flats (such as Apollo and Monster, that we didn’t see elsewhere on our trip)) and passed in front of Possessed (a shuttle coaster with suspended seats), and the closed Stinger (a disappointment, as I was looking forward to riding this – it’s a boomerang with suspended cars, instead of standard. . but apparently there had been an accident in May, and the ride was still shut down, with the coaster-car no where in site L).

We stood underneath Steel Force, and took a look up. The first drop is 205’ – it looked *really* high from directly underneath. But there was no line at all. . so after looking at the coaster-car and seeing it wasn’t “exposed” but rather a standard coaster car, Nick said he’d give it a shot (yes, despite having said “hell no” yesterday. . LOL).

With no one queued up, we got right up to the station, and bumped into the same girls from the parking lot – who had done exactly what they told us we should do (I think the only reason we hadn’t seen them on the way was due to our quick stop at the toilets). We laughed and per Nick’s preference, we got a middle of the train car. I got in first so I could leave my bag in a cubby, and he sat on the right. Big mistake, as he had a death grip on the lap bar for most of the ride, meaning that I rode with his sharp left elbow digging deep into my stomach/side the whole time! At the end of the first batch of drops, there’s a large helix that turns you back around for the bunny hills, and Nick said he started to grey out there. I quite didn’t believe him, as I didn’t think the ride had that much G-force, but then again, I didn’t get too much air time either, and he said he got a ton on the bunny hills. Needless to say, he didn’t care for Steel Force, but I loved it! And as there was no line, I wanted to ride again, but Nick said no way. So I asked the girls if they would re-ride with me. They said yes, so I handed Nick my bag, and we went back thru the queue and this time we sat in the front car. I also sat on the right this time. Wow. .what a difference the side makes (tho to be fair it could also have been where in the car we were sitting). .but this time? I felt the G’s in the Helix, and boy did I get a lot of air time on the bunny hills. Great, Great coaster.

We had wanted to ride Thunderhawk, the wooden coaster from the 1920’s that the park still has (it’s only woodie), but it didn’t seem to be running, and as we had heard it was rough, it wasn’t a good idea right then anyways. The intensity of Steel Force had made Nick a bit wobbly (terrible thing from the first ride in the morning!), so we decided to get some water and hydrate, and see if that helped. There didn’t seem to be any stands selling just water in the section we were in, but as we were walking, I spotted one near Possessed. Which just happened to have no line!
I had been eyeing this coaster since the front gate, as it looked pretty intense. In particular the back spike where it randomly “holds” the suspended seats face down towards the ground before shooting you back down. Nick had absolutely no interest in riding, so I gave him cash to go get water, and I got in line for the back seat.

Needless to say, it was AWESOME! I didn’t get much out of the twisted front spike, as the back seat doesn’t go too far up that side. But the back seat on the rear spike? . . wow. . way, way up there. I rode this twice too, and then joined Nick on the bench out front to watch it cycle and drink some water.

Around this time we saw Thunderhawk start to cycle, and even tho we weren’t feeling really up to the shaking, we decided since we were in the section that was down that giant hill, we likely wouldn’t be back this way, so we’d just try to hit most of the rides here. So we rode the Scrambler, the Zephyr Train, and the Monster – which I had been so looking forward to, but none of the other parks had one. Seriously, it had been almost 30 years since I last rode it (the Ocotopus at Astroworld). . I was in heaven.

I felt bad for the poor operator, as we brought our “crowd karma” with us:

Wherever we go, it always seems that a crowd follows us: Empty store? We go in, tons of people suddenly show up.

So even tho we got in line for Monster with only two little kids in front of us (and he had been running it with only one “arm” loading). .the moment we got in line? About 25 people showed up behind us, and the poor guy had to load 3 of the four “arms”. . . by himself. I completely understand why this Tilt-a-Whirl-on-steriods type ride got pulled from most parks – it’s a thruput nightmare, as it takes forever to load/unload!

I guess here’s a good place to mention the operations. They were pretty terrible for the most part, but I think that’s not the fault of the staff, but rather of the staffing. The coasters all had at least 3 folks working the stations, and the coasters loaded/moved quickly.

But almost all of the flats? Had a single operator. And the load/unload times reflected it. I completely understand, on a slow day (and we were there on a Monday), you don’t really need two operators. But some of the rides? Kinda do.
Scrambler, Tilt-a-Whirl, Apollo, Monster – all took way too long to load/unload. And that was due to only one person being staffed there. They not only opened/secured the lap bars, but also checked them after they were all secured, and then went to operate the ride.
The worst offenders were Musik Express (where we didn’t ride, but sat and watched and it took them almost 7 minutes to get the ride loaded!), and the Enterprise – where the ride took almost 8 times as long to load as the ride lasted! Seriously. It took almost 9 minutes for the young lady to get the ride loaded, and it ran for ~50 seconds.

Don’t even get me started on the Wild Mouse – a coaster that *did* have 3 operators. . one of whom sat on her butt in the shade sending groups thru (slowly, so the majority of the line was in the sun), but that’s a low capacity coaster anyways, seeing as each car only sits 4. They were sending out tons of ½ empty cars. Nick and I rode alone in the car – me in back, him in front. Luckily, it’s a pretty decent Wild Mouse, so it was really fun and worth the wait in the sun. . but sheesh.

Anyways, back to the bottom of the hill section of the park:

We also rode the Whip – meaning it’s one of the handful of rides we did at all stops. How did it rank? Pretty good:
1) Knoebel’s Whipper
2) Dorney’s Whip
3) Kennywood’s Whip
4) HersheyPark Whip.

We then headed over to Thunderhawk, and tho I wouldn’t rank it as my favorite wooden coaster, it was OK. Despite all the warnings, it was not nearly as rough as some of the others we had been on (Wildcat at Hershey for example). That could have been that it was “just long enough” to enjoy and not start hurting.

We were starting to get hungry, but I noticed that what was left in this section was an Intamin 1st Gen drop tower (called Demon Drop) that I really wanted to ride, as it brought back memories of Astroworld. Nick sat this one out too (drop ride + someone who’s not a fan of heights?. . yeah, he went on “bench: the Ride” while I rode Demon Drop). It was great and I even remembered to lift my back off the seat when it drops back to return to the station, avoiding the big “Ker-Chunk” that used to always hurt at Astroworld.

We headed towards the food court, and saw it was just in front of Dorney’s Flume ride, Thunder Creek Mountain. If you’ve been reading my trip reports, you know we love flumes, so immediately we got in line. This one was a bit of a disappointment. It had a good final drop with a bit of a splash, and it was kind of cool that some of the flume trough is concrete. . . but way, way too short. Good thing there really was not a line for it, despite the hot day. Heck, Dorney didn’t even offer pictures on the flume (the only park we went to that didn’t). There was a space where at one time they sold pictures, but the operators had no idea when or why it was taken out. (I would guess they simply weren’t selling).

A bit moist, we decided we had to eat something by this point, but first I discovered a small stand alone store (that looked like it had been repurposed from something else) near the toilets that was selling discounted Dorney Merchandise. So here I stocked up on magnets for co-workers, postcards, and even a Posessed T-shirt for me (only $5). . score. . so even if I just sleep in it it’s a good deal.

We didn’t see anything in the food court that looked the least bit appetizing – and I could see now why folks had warned me to eat before coming to the park. It was already almost 1pm tho, and we had to eat something. I had been recommended on place, “Chickie and Pete’s”. . so we looked on the map and headed over there. While standing in line (and yes, there was quite a line, which I took as a good sign, since most of the other food places had no lines). . I recalled that I had been told that there were two “Chickie and Pete’s” in the park and the better one (better menu) was the sit down one.
So I asked someone about it, and they pointed us thru “Planet Snoopy” – the kid’s section of the park.

This part of Dorney was pretty amazing. . themed wonderfully, with a good mix of rides, from rides for toddlers, to ones that looked like adults could ride.
Nick did not want to ride any kiddie rides, and we were hungry, but I regret not pushing Nick to go back and ride (or at least try to ride) Linus Launcher or the Snoopy Monorail. Oh well. It’s a great section of the park tho – check it out: https://www.dorneypark.com/things-to-do/planet-snoopy

Right on the other side of Planet Snoopy was the sit down Chickie and Pete’s – as well as a bunch more rides including Hydra – a floorless coaster that starts off the ride with an upside-down roll right out of the station! It didn’t seem like a good idea to ride these after eating, but we were too hungry to wait, so held off on the rides and went into the restaurant.

It was like being in a sports bar.

Really, you would never know that you were in a theme-park. All dark wood, and booths/tables, with a 2nd level balcony, tons of TVs all tuned to different sports, and a full menu. It was quiet and cool (A/C yay!), and the waitress was friendly, and offered recommendations. We got the Crab Fries (which they are known for, and were really good, tho Nick couldn’t eat many of them due to the spices on em), and I got the Buffalo Chicken Cheesesteak (spoiler, it gave me the craps something awful overnight), and Nick got the chicken tenders sandwich – which was good, but had way too much breading on it. . . the waitress even said that they hear that complaint a lot. It wasn’t “bad” food, but it wasn’t great. . still, apparently we had the best there was to offer. LOL.

I commented on how dead everything was, and she said they were slow in the restaurant as it was a weekday, but that the park will really pick up after 3pm when the kids get out of school and come to the park for the evening. We took that as a heads up to get back out into the park and get the rest of the big rides done before the place got busy.

We left the restaurant and headed right to Hydra. Nick didn’t want to ride it, which surprised me, since it’s similar to Superman at Fiesta Texas (at least in coaster-car and restraints) and he likes that one. But he was adamant, so I left my bag with him, and went to get in line. I was pleasantly surprised to see signs pointing to “seats for larger guests” in rows 4 & 5. Now, even tho I had fit in every other coaster seat on this trip (including the other coasters in Dorney, having just eaten, I went for the “big boy” seat. WOW. . what a nice, comfy ride! Not squished in at all, and because there was some “wiggle room”, I got a ton of air time. . .tho that first sloooooow jelly roll out of the station felt like it kept me upside-down for at least 20 seconds.
I got off and told Nick he would love it, and that I would ride it again with him if he wanted to. . but he decided he did not want to ride this coaster, so we moved on and went to the wave swinger. He did tell me later that night that he kinda regretted not riding that, as he probably would have liked it. Again tho, another great coaster. Dorney seems to have quite a few good ones!

We didn’t want to get soaked, so didn’t ride the “shoot the chutes” tho we did watch it for a bit. And then we went ahead and rode the other train that Dorney has. The set up is “odd”.. they have two trains (zephyr and cannonball), but neither one really goes around the whole (or even ½ ) the park. Still, we like trains, so we rode it, and it was pleasant enough, and we saw the folks getting absolutely soaked on the rafting ride, and passed by the Waterpark areas, to see how crowded those pools were.

As we were back near the front section of the park again, I decided to go on Talon, the suspended coaster, but Nick came with me in line because the line is “hidden” so we couldn’t tell how long the wait was. Turned out that it filled in behind us (crowd karma) pretty good, but I only had a 1 train wait. I again noted the signs for the “larger guest” seats, but when I got in that row, there wasn’t one of those seats – the give away is the double seat belt. So I just told the attendant to “push.” He asked, “are you sure?”. . and I said “yes”. .so he pushed down hard to get the restraint to click. (and yes my ribs just throbbed in memory when I typed that. . LOL). But hey, I fit. Talon is an intense ride, and has several tight helixes close to the ground, in addition to a few inversions. I got off it feeling pretty light headed, and told Nick he would *not* like that one. . . I liked it, but felt absolutely no need to re-ride.

A bit dizzy from Talon, we headed for something low key – the grand Carousel at the entrance – which again, only had 1 operator and took way too long to load, but at least the ride was long-ish, and had pumped music from speakers rather from the central organ. Dorney has a 2nd smaller, and older, carousel, but that one didn’t look like it was worth going on so we bypassed that.

We did a little bit of shopping, and looked at some of the midway games, but by now the heat was really getting to us. Remember, not a lot of shade in the park. If we were into waterparks, we might have wandered over that way, but really, we have little/no interest in that, so didn’t even bother with that section – other than what we saw from the train.

The park was starting to get a bit more crowded, the waitress was right and I was noticing more teenagers coming in.

We sat and watched a few rides cycle (the Musik Express, Tilt-a-whirl, Enterprise), and I determined that I really wanted to ride Apollo, as that was a unique ride that we hadn’t been on yet for this trip. It was fun, but that did me in. . . too much spinning, resulting in some dizziness. After that I was done with rides. So we wandered around for a little bit, and around 4pm, I said to Nick – it’s going to mean we hit rush hour, but if you want to head out, we can head back to Philly.

I really did like Dorney Park, despite the lack of “charm” (and shade!). . it had some really good rides, and I felt that we had a full day, despite never doing anything in the waterpark.

We made it back to the car – I remembered we had parked by “Sally”, and tried to find the exit from the parking lot.

Silly me had not printed directions from Dorney back to Philly.. stupidly thinking we could just backtrack. Surprise, the toll-roads don’t go back the exact way they go. So we missed a turn to where we wanted to go and got stuck going at least 5 miles in the wrong direction before being able to turn back around. We actually went back to Dorney’s parking lot, and tried again, and the 2nd time was the charm, as we eventually got onto the tollway leading to Philadelphia and started to head back.

We made good time until we hit the SAME traffic we had hit the day before. . .really crawling along at 7-10 miles an hour for almost 40 minutes. We got back to the hotel just in time to miss the Reading Terminal Market (again). . so decided we’d grab a snack in the Concierge suite, and just finish our El Vez leftovers from the night before. We checked out he Marriott pool and found it was just a 4’ deep lap pool (boo). . so ended up not swimming, and I think we just spent the rest of the evening either hanging out in the room, or in the concierge suite just relaxing.

I don’t think we turned in too early, but we were tired from a full day, and the next day we had to be up and out fairly early, so we could be at the Visitor’s Center by 8am for tickets to tour Independence Hall.
View from the parking lot just after 10am.
(yeah, it was crowded, but most everyone went to the waterpark).

that's Stinger on far left, Posessed (the two yellow spikes), and Steel Force (the big lift hill)
walking towards the front gate
Sign for Posessed with a peek of Steel Force's 2nd hill on the left.
Posessed's rear spike.
Posessed's front spike (with the twist)
Car held on rear spike before dropping down.
car going up twist on front spike.

(it's a suspended shuttle, so you hang under the track).

that's the track for Stinger (the blue one) on the right.
Nick waiting for me to finish riding. Steel Force's lift hill (205 feet) in the background.
From the Thunderhawk exit ramp. .

Thunderhawk's lift hill, and Steel Force's train on first drop.
looking the other way at the the 2nd drop and rest of Steel Force, as well as the parks 1st Generation Intamin drop tower, Demon Drop.
me and the zephyr train (with the Dominator drop tower in the background)
Zephyr without me (or the engineer) blocking the view.

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Re: 1st TR! Our Penn. Trip with Amusement Parks -- and Cultu

Postby neil009 » Tue Jul 08, 2014 7:47 am

It is kind of a shame that the nicest part of the park (with the most trees) is Planet Snoopy.

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Re: 1st TR! Our Penn. Trip with Amusement Parks -- and Cultu

Postby DLex » Tue Jul 08, 2014 7:51 am

neil009 wrote:It is kind of a shame that the nicest part of the park (with the most trees) is Planet Snoopy.

I always found the area between thunderhawk and Steel Force to be quite shaded. :|

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Re: 1st TR! Our Penn. Trip with Amusement Parks -- and Cultu

Postby bert425 » Tue Jul 08, 2014 9:13 am

DLex wrote:
neil009 wrote:It is kind of a shame that the nicest part of the park (with the most trees) is Planet Snoopy.

I always found the area between thunderhawk and Steel Force to be quite shaded. :|

but there's NOTHING there, except for the Scrambler.

the rest of it is all concrete (just look at those pics by Possessed).

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Re: 1st TR! Our Penn. Trip with Amusement Parks -- and Cultu

Postby boldikus » Tue Jul 08, 2014 9:28 am

I love these trip reports! Great photos and detailed descriptions.

bert425 wrote: So we made really good time – until we took the exit towards downtown Philly. And traffic just slowed to a crawl. Seriously, 7 miles on this road towards downtown, going ~10 miles per hour. And it turned out it was like this the next day on the way back from Dorney too! I don’t know how folks deal with this. It would make me crazy! And I only had to deal with it twice (and as a passenger at that).

LOL this has to be 76. The worst.

bert425 wrote:Once we FINALLY got to our exit, the Google directions became worthless, as downtown Philly is all 1 way streets (seemingly going against you), and they are all narrow and crazy.

Growing up here I'm more than used to it, but visitors always need to remember - odd numbered streets go north, even go south. It really helps if you are trying to get around center city.

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Re: 1st TR! Our Penn. Trip with Amusement Parks -- and Cultu

Postby bert425 » Wed Jul 09, 2014 5:25 pm

boldikus wrote:I love these trip reports! Great photos and detailed descriptions.


I'm enjoying writing them up. (only 1 left, the big "Culture" day in Philly. . . LOTS of pics to sort thru).

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Re: 1st TR! Our Penn. Trip with Amusement Parks -- and Cultu

Postby bert425 » Wed Jul 23, 2014 3:40 pm

Took me way longer than I had intended to get back to this and finish off our trip report – apologies!

Day 9 – Culture day in Philadelphia.

This was the last full day of our trip, and I really wanted to make the most of it and see as much of Historical Philadelphia as we could squeeze in.

We already knew we were going to skip the National Constitution Center, as we had seen on the evening News that they were packing up all the life-size statues of the Presidents to put them into storage prior to a re-model. And without those statues? Honestly, the museum seemed a bit dry (nothing we couldn’t see online. . since most of what was remaining seemed to be interactive/online exhibits).

But we absolutely wanted to tour Independence Hall – and the only way to do that (since I hadn’t been able to get tickets online. . the limited online tickets were already given out) was to go to the Independence Visitor Center when they opened in the morning and stand in line for the timed tickets (free, but similar to Pearl Harbor, you have to have tickets for timed tours to get in). The in-person tickets account for about 70% of the tickets handed out, so I knew if we got there prior to the 8:30 am opening, we’d have a really good shot to get timed tickets for whatever tour we wanted.

The Independence Visitor Center is at Market and 6th, and our hotel was at Market and 13th, so we got up and out fairly early (they opened at 8:30) and headed down Market street towards the Visitor Center.

Similar to how Seattle likes Starbucks, man, do people in Philadelphia like Dunkin Donuts! I swear, in only 7 blocks, we must have passed 5 different DD stores! It was safe enough to walk downtown, tho a little bit skeevy . .I was glad we were there on a Tuesday morning, so lots of “work” traffic on the sidewalks.

We got to 6th and Market, and I headed towards what I thought was where we needed to go to line up, but luckily we stopped at a crosswalk light, and I happened to strike up a conversation with a lady also crossing who told me that she would show us where to go (and when I commented on the Dunkin Donuts everywhere, she offered us some of the Munchkins she had in the bag in her hand -- LOL), I was glad we bumped into her, since she brought us around the back of the Visitor’s Center (NOT where it shows you on the maps/flyers I had picked up), and we joined a line of about a dozen other folks (tho it filled in behind us).

A Park Ranger came out with a megaphone (it was only about 8:05), and entertained the line, and told us about the history of the National Park area, and the opening times for the different buildings, and what charged admission, etc. He explained how it would work once they opened up the doors, and where we should go to get our tickets if we wished to tour Independence Hall. He also pimped the Visitor Center gift ship (most of the stuff in there was tacky), as well as the museum displays inside the visitor center.

At around 8:20, they opened up the Visitor Center, and we went to the Park Rangers who were handing out the tickets for the Independence Hall tour. The tours run every 15 minutes from 9am until 4 (if I’m not mistaken).

As the Liberty Bell opened up at 9 (and was right across the street from the Visitor Center, and on the way to Independence Hall), we decided that we’d do the 10am tour, which would give us time to look at the exhibits in the Visitor Center, and stop at the Liberty Bell.

As you can see from the lack of pictures from the inside of the Visitor Center, the exhibits there – while interesting – were not photo worthy. The exhibits in the Visitor Center mainly focused on Slavery in the time of Washington, and I suppose that is because the President’s House/Slave Quarters Memorial is just across the street in front of the Liberty Bell center (we found that memorial to to be more informative).

We finished at the President’s House memorial, and got in line for the Liberty Bell Security screen with only about 8 other people (and it was already 8:45!). I was shocked that there were so few folks lined up, but it was all in the timing, as the school groups (it was the last week for Penn. Students) hadn’t quite gotten there yet. So our timing was perfect, as once they opened and we went thru security, we had pretty much the entire Liberty Bell Museum to ourselves! Resulting in some spectacular photos (although somehow, even tho there were so few people there, Nick managed to get “legs” behind the Liberty Bell in almost every picture he took (heh).

The Exhibit around the bell are fascinating, and you can actually get really, really close to it! They had a guard stationed next to it, and we were chatting and he told me that they need to keep someone stationed so close to stop people from touching – and LICKING – the Liberty Bell. Yes, that’s really a thing! (I googled it when we got home, and apparently it’s based on an episode of “How I met Your Mother” where one of the characters licks the bell to “taste freedom’).


We had been told by the Park Ranger at the Visitor Center that there is another Security Checkpoint outside of Independence Hall, so we should arrive early for our tour. So we headed across the street and thru security and sat down to wait for our tour.

It was now getting close to 10am, and here came all the school groups. I didn’t mind in the least, that our 10am tour consisted of us, and a school group of about 40 kids, and their chaperones. Although the Ranger leading our tour spoke clearly, and answered questions well, it was nice to hear the “teacher” expanding on what the guide was saying to her class. I love stuff like that, as it gave us a “behind the scenes” tour, with info and tidbits that the Ranger Guide doesn’t cover on the tour.
Being that it was only the Capitol for a few years (Congress only met there twice after Declaration of Independence/Constitution was signed, but before the Capitol moved from Philadelphia), Independence Hall mainly consists of just two large rooms – an Assembly room, and a Supreme Court room for Jury trials (as in old England).

The Assembly room is where both the Declaration of Independence, and the US Constitution were drafted and signed over a several year period.

We then went next door to the “Congress Hall” and took a brief tour of the House Chambers, and got to go upstairs to the beautiful Senate Chambers.

Between Independence Hall and he Congress Hall, there is a small building with an exhibit called Great Essentials (that we almost missed, since it looked like a gift shop).
But what it actually is, are displays of surviving copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States, along with the inkstand that was used during the signing of the Declaration and Constitution.

If you ever get a chance to go, make sure you don’t miss this. Fascinating stuff.

As there are no toilets on site, we decided to make our way back towards the Visitor Center to use the rest-rooms, as well as grab something for lunch. There were food carts everywhere, but I had seen some flyers that an office building had re-done their first floors into a Food Court/Shopping Center, so we asked for directions there, and it was just across Independence Park. That’s where I had my GOOD Philly Cheesesteak, and Nick had some Tacos (I think). We again timed it perfect, as literally moments after we got our food and sat down, *hundreds* of school kids on field trips flooded the foodcourt and lined up for Cheesesteaks. (luckily they all sat downstairs together).

We finished off a very good lunch, and headed up 5th street towards Christ Church Cemetery, admiring the horse drawn carriages (and feeling bad for the poor horses out in the heat), on our way to look at Ben Franklin’s gravesite. I had considered going into the Cemetery, but when we actually go there, Franklin’s grave is set by an open gate, so you can look at it without actually going in. So even tho they encourage entry (and were selling souvenirs!) we just continued up Arch street to Betsy Ross’ house.

Ok, now Betsy Ross’ house? THIS is a tourist trap. You enter in the gift shop, and there’s a short self guided tour. It didn’t help that as we were starting in the first room, a huge group of school kids gathered in the courtyard, and started their own tour. Unlike at Independence Hall, they zoomed thru the house here without really stopping to read or look at anything. Now granted, it’s a small house, but damn, it was crowded (and hot) in there. The stairwells are teeny-tiny (folks in those days must have been toothpick thin), and steep! The basement was cooler, and it was interesting to learn that Betsy made gunpowder and bullets in addition to sewing all the flags.

Once the kids cleared out, we spent a bit more time here (10-15 minutes tops), but honestly? The nicest part of the Betsy Ross house was the courtyard, where we sat by her grave, in the shade, and enjoyed some water. They had a woman in character telling stories in the courtyard as well. . but she seemed to be geared towards the kids, so instead of listening to her we headed further down Arch street to 2nd street and hung a left towards Elfreth’s alley – something that had been recommended to me to go see by the concierge at the hotel (and since we were near it at Betsy Ross’ House, we made the trip).

Elfreth’s alley is the oldest residential street in the Nation, founded in 1702, and still lined with tiny houses from that era that are occupied. It was long and narrow, and very, very cool. You could imagine being in the 1700’s and living on the street – as I’m sure it’s very similar to how it looked back then. I believe it’s designated a historic monument.

It was one of my favorite sites we stopped at while in Philly, and you could tell that most of the houses are still occupied (there was one up for sale -- $900K ! – and unfortunately, they were doing some work on it while we were there, which brought some modern trucks/workers into the alley. But luckily, it’s one of the end houses, so once we passed them and got into the main alley, the illusion came back of being transported in time.

Just lovely.

By then it was almost 1:30pm, and although we were exhausted, having been walking non-stop since we left the hotel that morning, we still had plans for the rest of the day.

I had gotten a coupon the day before (at the Allentown Tollway plaza) for a discount at the Franklin Institute – the big hands on Science Museum in Philadelphia -- and Nick wanted to try going there (since he loves Science Museums and they were open until 5pm). As a bonus, two days earlier, the Museum had a grand opening of three new exhibits: Your Brain (featuring a giant climbable Neural Net), Circus! (the physics behind circus performer’s acts), and the 100 Greatest Inventions. They also had a display of underwater photography by one of “National Geographic” best photographers.

I figured if we walked back up to Market Street (a main artery) we could get a cab, so we headed down 2nd street towards Market, passing all kinds of little shops (and a comic shop Nick wouldn’t let me go into (boo!), and we passed right in front of the beautiful ChristChurch. As we had bypassed all the other Churches we had seen (Nick joked we’d probably burst into flame if we stepped inside), I really wanted to go in, but we were cutting it tight for the Franklin Institute, so I settled for just looking in on the grounds as we walked by. The architecture on the church is beautiful tho.

I hailed a cab on Market street (pretty easily, it turned out) and we headed over to the Franklin Institute, getting there just prior to 2pm.

The cab (of course) took the “scenic” route, but I had familiarized myself with the area from the prior Sunday, so I called him on it, and “miraculously” we arrived soon after I commented he was going the wrong way for the museum. (funny that). Anyways, he dropped us off out front, and went in thru the main atrium, past the large statue of Benjamin Franklin.

This museum is huge! In addition to the 3 new exhibits, the Museum also sports a large Biology section – with it’s “famous walk thru human heart”, a large section on the weather/Earth, a large area devoted to electricity, a wing that was devoted to Flight/airplanes, and on the floor below that a wing devoted to trains/steam power. Also sections on ‘the science of sports’, an interactive inventors lab, a whole bottom floor devoted to space exploration/gravity, a Planetarium (included with purchase), and IMAX theatre, Sir Issac’s Loft (interactive physics and laws of motion displays) and quite a bit more things to do!


The Lady at the counter, hadn’t seen my coupon before (yay?), and had some trouble figuring it out (it was a percentage off coupon). . .but by the time she was done, I think we got in for only $9 each (instead of the $18.50 / person price). So that was a very nice deal.

There were a TON of school kids here too (around Junior High-High School age) – most of them acting like idiots, and misbehaving. I assume the chaperones figured the kids were old enough to wander the museum without much supervision, but they would be wrong.

Luckily, as we got here after 2pm, we only had to deal with them for about an hour, as they started leaving around 3pm, or going to the main lobby for IMAX shows. I even had a conversation with a Franklin Institute employee who agreed that although it was GREAT to see kids in an interactive science museum. . . there were KIDS in the interactive science museum, destroying the experience for others.

We missed the first Planetarium show by minutes, but were able to catch a showing about Telescopes and how they work – tho I really do miss the old-school giant star projectors that Planetariums used to have. The Franklin Institute uses a new, digital projector, which while cool. . just wasn’t the same as sitting around the old projectors in the center of the room.

Nick loved the Train wing, and we both very much enjoyed the new Brain Exhibit (tho we declined to climb up the neural pathways – basically an indoor ropes course!). We DID both go thru the giant human heart – wow, was that a tight squeeze in places! I didn’t get stuck, but it was close in places. Made me wonder how many fat folks have gotten clogged in an artery

We had a great time looking at the perpetual motion machines, and we both hated the 100 Greatest Inventions exhibit. It was simply too immersive (you start off in a room that’s entirely flooded with projected objects onto the floor/walls/ceiling. It felt like being inside one of “Blade Runner’s” neon billboards. To much stimulation, and we got out of that exhibit fast.

The Circus exhibit was quite enjoyable, tho they obviously had gotten it from another museum (so it was “new” to them). The exhibit signs were all written in both English and French, and some of the exhibits were showing a bit of wear/tear. But it was still good. As was the Optical illusion alley in the Brain exhibit.

I think my favorite part of the whole visit was in the Electricity Room, where you put your hand on a Van de Graaff generator and use your body to complete the circuit and light up bulbs, and move dials. Nick got a little too close to me (and hey, it didn’t say NOT to), so I reached out my hand and touched him.

What a Zap!

It was so loud, and startled us both, that we burst out laughing. It was great, and he kept saying for the next 20 minutes that he “couldn’t believe” I had done that!

It was getting close to 5pm, and the Institute was announcing that it was closing, so we skipped the Sports Physics wing (quick walk thru only) and did a very quick look at the Underwater photography. It’s too bad we had to look so quickly, as these photos are gorgeous!

We did a quick look thru the Gift shop on our way out (Nick was worried it was after 5pm, but I knew they wouldn’t thow out folks who were shopping!) but we didn’t buy anything. The Institute was setting up for a function in the big room with Franklin’s statue, and that’s when they did start hustling folks out.

We knew exactly how to get back to the hotel – we had walked this way on Sunday afternoon from the Philadelphia Art Museum – so although we were exhausted, we headed back to the hotel on foot.

This trek again took us thru JFK (ie: Love) Park, and again there were tons of homeless folks hanging out on benches. This time, there was a homeless lady taking photos for folks in front of the “Love” statue (for tips, of course), but there weren’t many folks around. So I handed her our camera (and a few bucks), and she took some decent shots of us – tho we refused to follow her posing requests: “Hold hands” “Kiss on the cheek” “stand back to back” I guess she thought she was a DisneyWorld Photographer.. . still, the pics came out decent.

We also stopped at the office building across from City Hall, that for some reason has giant game pieces in their courtyard. Giant Monopoly pieces, giant Sorry pieces, Checkers, etc. . . so I took some pictures of those.

We got back to the hotel (once again) only to find out we had missed Market Street Terminal. . but we were so tired we didn’t care. We had intended to just go across the street to the Chili’s, but the Concierge recommended a burger place one block up – Burgerfi (which, funnily enough, I just found out they have one in Austin). It’s a “natural” burger place, with grass fed beef, and gourmet hot dogs. It was pretty good, and relatively inexpensive.

But the time we finished eating, it was close to 8pm, so we slooooowly walked back up the street to the Marriott, went up to the room, packed for our flight the next day, and collapsed into bed.

And that’s our trip report – really the next day was such a disaster that I could write another 10,000 words complaining (as I said at the start of my reports, we will NEVER fly American again. . delays on every leg of our flight). Overall tho, we had a fantastic trip, and no major hiccups throughout our trip thru Pennsylvania.

I’m looking forward to coming back to this part of the USA again in the near future – spending a week or so in Washington DC is my next goal.

Thanks for reading!

Nick in the early morning, lined up at the Visitor's Center

(that's the National Constitution Center in the background)
View of Independence Hall from the line up at the Visitor's Center
View of Independence Hall from the Security Line at the Liberty Bell Center
Nick in front of Independence Hall (outside Liberty Bell Center)
The Liberty Bell
Me and the Liberty Bell (just after 9am, NO ONE else around :))
Liberty Bell with Independence Hall in the background
Independence Hall thru the window at the back of the Liberty Bell Center. (that's George Washington out front)
Me and George Washington in front of Independence Hall.
Independence Hall clock tower
Independence Square (behind Independence Hall -- taken while we were waiting for our tour).
painting of the signing of the Constitution.
Painting over the Supreme Court room in Independence Hall.
Supreme Court room (cage on the right is where Defendant stood)
Nick in Supreme Court room.
Assembly Room --where Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were drafted and signed.
Leaving Independence Hall and headed over to Congress Hall.
me and a plaque in front of Congress Hall.
House Chambers in Congress Hall
Senate Chambers in Congress Hall
Senate Chambers in Congress Hall
Senate Chambers in Congress Hall
Senate Chambers in Congress Hall
Ben Franklin's gravesite
Ben Franklin's gravesite
Courtyard of Betsy Ross house.
Courtyard of Betsy Ross house.
Elfreth's Alley
Elfreth's Alley
Nick on Elfreth's Alley
Christ Church's steeple (as we were walking by)
hard to see, but our skeletons/ nervous system on display at the Franklin Institute.

I'm the one waving, Nick's got his arms crossed
my Humunkulous from an exhibit at Franklin Institute.
Train at the Franklin Institute (not sure what I'm doing. . Nick took the pic while my back was to him. . LOL)
Circus! exhibit at the Franklin Institute
Circus! exhibit at the Franklin Institute
Walking back towards the Hotel after 5pm.

that fountain behind Nick is in JFK (Love) Park
in JFK park, under the famous "LOVE" statue.
in JFK park, under the famous "LOVE" statue.
I believe this was a FreeMason's church.
with a giant "Sorry" game piece.
More giant game pieces
Philadelphia City Hall
Philadelphia City Hall

Have I mentioned how awesome donkeys are?
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Re: 1st TR! Our Penn. Trip with Amusement Parks -- and Cultu

Postby Nickstroberg » Wed Jul 23, 2014 4:40 pm

Man! I used to ride "possessed" at Geauga Lake when it was called Superman, and later, Steel Venom. Miss that ride, the hold break on the back spike whoops major ass. I just rode another ex-GL ride now at KD, Dominator. But anyways, looks like you guys had a lot of fun! and thanks for writing the report, so all of us could be there too :)

Why do I still have a donkey title???
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Re: 1st TR! Our Penn. Trip with Amusement Parks -- and Cultu

Postby bert425 » Wed Jul 23, 2014 4:43 pm

Nickstroberg wrote:Man! I used to ride "possessed" at Geauga Lake when it was called Superman, and later, Steel Venom. Miss that ride, the hold break on the back spike whoops major A$$. I just rode another ex-GL ride now at KD, Dominator. But anyways, looks like you guys had a lot of fun! and thanks for writing the report, so all of us could be there too :)


I'm really enjoying your report too! (looks like you had the same Hershey weather that we had :)).

we'll have to agree to disagree on Skyrush!

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Re: 1st TR! Our Penn. Trip with Amusement Parks -- and Cultu

Postby Nickstroberg » Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:04 pm

Yeah I can't believe you didn't like it! Oh well, theres one out there for each of us :) haha.


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