Cityscapes Philadelphia – What To Do, Art Museum Edition

PhillCItyHall 199x300 Cityscapes Philadelphia   What To Do, Art Museum EditionWe barely scratched the surface of things to do and see in Philadelphia, and are already planning a trip back.

We invested in the three-day Philadelphia Pass  which was offering a discount when I purchased it, making it an even better value even though I hedged my bets and bought Doug an adult pass. Some of the attractions cut off child pricing at 12 and don’t offer student pricing (the Zoo for example) and I didn’t want to end up double paying in the end. If you are in the same situation, and have more time for research, I suggest checking out all the attractions you plan to visit and purchasing adult or child for your tweens and teens accordingly. Order online and pick it up at the Independence Visitor Center right downtown, which is a pretty good spot to start your exploration of Philadelphia anyway.

The Philadelphia Pass was definitely a good value for us as it offered admittance to everything on our “must-do” list. The City Pass is another less pricey alternative but it didn’t work for us because it required a choice between two attractions that were on our must-do list.

Since we had never been to Philadelphia, we took full advantage of one of the benefits of our 3-day Philadelphia pass, two-days on the Big Bus Tour , a hop on/hop off double decker tour bus that stops at most of the major attractions. Next time, we’ll just use public transportation (or walk) but for our first visit to the city, it was good to have the guidance.

NOTE: All the above companies promote offerings for other cities, including New York, so worth checking out for other destinations.

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Our sightseeing basically revolved around Art, Science and History. In this post, I’ll share our art excursion, much enjoyed by me, tolerated (just) by Douglas.

Our Stops: The Barnes Foundation, including the special Cezanne exhibit, and the Rodin Museum.

The permanent exhibits at The Barnes Foundation are amazing, full stop. Starting with the building itself. The collection is a mix of largely Impressionist and Modern Art collected by Dr. Barnes at the turn of the 20th century as well as African art, furniture, jewelry and metalcraft. Barnes actively designed the displays, so each wall, each room is itself an artwork, with the pieces in each grouping combining to make a whole that you can appreciate as much as you do its individual parts. The galleries have windows, with the shades opening and closing as the natural light changes so the artwork is displayed, literally, in the best possible light.

Staggering fact: the art in the permanent collection is worth $25 billion in today’s market.

I was less impressed with the Cezanne exhibit, The World Is an Apple: The Still Lifes of Paul Cézanne. Perhaps because I was a little rushed by my non-art loving travel companion so I was not taking advantage of the audio tours, but it just felt on the small side, especially given the extra entrance fee it requires.

Know before you go: Bags, briefcases, backpacks are not allowed in the exhibit hall. At the coat and bag check they will provide you with a clear plastic tote for any items you need to carry with you. I imagine this is because the collection includes small objets d’art and jewelry that are NOT exhibited behind glass cases.

DetailBurghersRodin 300x199 Cityscapes Philadelphia   What To Do, Art Museum EditionThe Rodin Museum. Certainly one of the most impressive settings I’ve ever seen for a sculpture museum, and I loved seeing old favorites like the Burghers of Calais and the Thinker. It was very focused on Rodin’s Gates of Hell, and offered less context for Rodin’s life and other works such as the monument to Victor Hugo. I guess you need to go to the Musée Rodin in Paris for that. I believe it is however the second largest collection of Rodin after Paris, so if you are a fan (as I am), a must see. Your entrance fee also gets you admission to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We did not make that stop this trip however, as Doug was pretty much “arted-out” by that point.

A neat fact about Philadelphia – it was the first US city to create a public art program requiring real estate developers to commission art as part of the development process. Building projects that receive public funds are required to allocate 1% of the budget to public art.

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Public art in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. One of four dragons representing the seasons.

Cityscapes: San Jose

I had a little down time after BlogHer last month so I checked out the San Jose Museum of Art. A small museum, it took a little over an hour to cover all the galleries. I particularly enjoyed two exhibits, Initial Public Offering, a selection of recently acquired works, and Legacy, an exhibit of modern art donated by collector Emily Fisher Landau to the Whitney Museum of American Art.

You can take photos in the IPO gallery so here are two pieces that I loved.

SJMA Image 1 300x225 Cityscapes: San Jose

 Cityscapes: San Jose

You cannot take pictures in the Legacy gallery, so I will just tell you to be on the lookout for the lovely wall of works by Jasper Johns, and in the same room, a silver sculpture that screamed “Game of Thrones.” Just think raven and a head. Just a head.

The museum has a small but lovely gift shop. Definitely worth checking out if you are looking for a gift for someone who likes unique jewelry or modern art inspired household and tech gadgets.

In the San Jose area with more than a few hours, but not enough to make the trek to San Francisco? The Winchester Mystery House is well worth a visit if you have an afternoon, and is conveniently located near the Santana Row outdoor (and upscale) mall for shopping and restaurant choices. I’ve always had good luck at The Left Bank, but if Paris bistro isn’t your bag, there are many other dining choices.

Further afield, take the drive over the Santa Cruz mountains and check out the Santa Cruz boardwalk. If you have kids, you will probably be here all day, but if you can spring free, drive a little south to Capitola for interesting little boutiques and a lovely beach.

Hotels: the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz — right on the beach,  and still in Santa Cruz but further inland,  The Chaminade. In downtown San Jose, you can’t go wrong with any of the choices near the Convention Center – Hilton, Fairmont, Marriott, St. Clair, Hyatt.

Cityscapes: Chicago

Summer 2013 including Chicago 260 200x300 Cityscapes: ChicagoLast summer, Doug came with me to BlogHer and we spent a few days afterward seeing the sights of Chicago. I had the best intentions to write a recap of the trip way back then but life intervened.

This year I am determined to keep the Roadtrip rolling with reports from our stay- and va- cation trips. In my next few posts, I round up some recommendations for things to do in Chicago, New York, San Jose and Philadelphia.

Starting with Chicago.

Get out on the water. The river and the lake. From the river, you are able to see the amazing architectural heritage of Chicago, and the lake…. Well Lake Michigan just needs to be experienced.

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We took the Chicago Architecture Foundation tour on the recommendation of some friends, and it did not disappoint. Buy your tickets in advance; on weekends, the river tours do sell out. No time for a full-on boat tour? Take a water taxi. Shoreline and Chicago Water Taxi both stop at multiple points along the river, so you can get a little river flavor and to where you need to be at the same time.

For your lake experience, it all depends on your tastes. Lots of choices leaving from Navy Pier – dinner cruises, speedboats, tall ships. We chose the Tall Ship Windy I like schooners and part of the schtick of the Windy was a pirate story which I thought Doug would enjoy.

Other important stops on a Chicago tour, especially with a teen boy — The Field Museum and the Willis Tower.

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At Navy Pier, don’t miss the free Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows.

stained glass exhibit 300x200 Cityscapes: Chicago

We also wanted to check out the Shedd Aquarium but the lines were super super long by the time we got there so my best advice is to make it your first stop of the day right at opening if a visit with the fishes is tops on your list.