Our travels up the East Coast continued into Philadelphia.
The city was such a pleasant surprise to me. It feels small, full of history with a gorgeous mix of old and new architecture.
But first …
I mentioned in the D.C. post that my parents flew in for a few days to explore the city with us. And then I casually threw in that we convinced them to stay with us through Pennsylvania and to NYC. We had hotel rooms for New York, but there was 6 days in between. Which meant we squished EIGHT PEOPLE in a 200 sq ft Airstream.
You might wonder how that worked out … and while it was cramped, we were just so happy to have them with us that we figured it out. My parents slept in the back bedroom, Ryan slept on the dinette, Audrey and I slept on the pull out couch, Mason was in his hammock and the two older boys graciously took to the floor.
We spent a few nights in Harrisburg, PA where we did a little bit of shopping (my parents only packed for 5 days in DC, so they needed a few more things to stretch out the impromptu trip to 2 weeks!) swam in the pool and took the kids to a movie. Campground bathrooms and showers and outdoor dining were super helpful in making the 8 people thing work.
Once to Philadelphia, we were excited to go see the city.
Our first stop was Independence Hall.
The National Park Service offers tours daily and we joined one first thing in the morning.
The tour took us through the first floor of main building first viewing the 1700’s courtroom of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Across the hall is The Assembly Room.
This one room holds major American importance. It was here that George Washington was made Commander in Chief of the newly created army prior to the Revolutionary War. It was here that the Declaration of Independence was approved and signed. And it was here in 1787 where the U.S. Constitution was written and approved, with George Washington overseeing the Constitutional Convention.
After having traveled through so much history, finishing up at this site was so impactful. To think of the men who worked together to bravely declare independence and who later came together to form a new government that endures today … we were so grateful to step foot in such a historically significant site.
The foyer of Independence Hall is filled with natural light and beautiful wood architectural details. I couldn’t help myself from waiting for the crowds to exit so I could snap a few photos.
Across the park from Independence Hall is the Liberty Bell.
The real Liberty Bell! This bell used to hang atop the Old State House (now called Independence Hall) and was used to call lawmakers to their meetings and townspeople to the reading of the news.
The inscription on the bell reads:
“Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof”
It has been an inspiration throughout history to abolitionists,women’s suffrage advocates and Civil Rights leaders.
After grabbing coffee and the most delicious almond croissants at La Colombe, we drove through the city.
We had lunch at Reading Terminal Market – a huge market with produce, Amish merchants and amazing restaurants (why did I not take photos?!! Actually, I know why. It was packed and we had 8 people to navigate through the crowded rows to figure out what to eat and where to eat it. Slightly stressful, but fun nevertheless).
My mom really wanted to see the Betsy Ross house and we just happened to drive right past it.
Tours are offered to learn more about the first stars and stripes flag.
Instead of taking the Betsy Ross tour, we moved on to the Benjamin Franklin Museum where we learned all about the life of this famous Philadelphian.
The museum is located on the site where Franklin’s home sat as well as a replica of his printing office. Benjamin Franklin was such an interesting and influential man. He was an inventor (remember the whole kite and key thing?), a newspaper editor and printer, the first U.S. Ambassador to France, served as U.S. postmaster general, and fought against slavery from as early as the 1750’s. He is considered on of the Founding Fathers of the United States and has been called “The First American” for his relentless campaigning for unity among the colonies.
I’ll tell you, I could read and learn and listen to history for days.
And look! Benjamin Franklin himself came for a visit.
After our long and very enjoyable day, we dined at Farmicia. It sits in old town with that super cool juxtaposition of old and new architecture we enjoyed so much in Philadelphia.
We’ve found that when searching for great restaurants, we’ll google ‘farm to table’ and choose from that list. We’ve had great success finding good places with that simple search.
We planned to explore the city again the following day, but the rain and thunderstorms crept in and so we stayed away and hung out around the campground for the day.
Early the next morning, we packed our bags, locked up the Airstream and left our car at the train station where we took an Amtrak into New York City.
This was the kids’ first time on a train and was a great option for getting into a major city without taking our monstrous trailer.
While we didn’t see all that Philadelphia has to offer, we were totally impressed. Great food, beautiful buildings and so rich in American History.
I grew up in PA and especially enjoyed this post. Did you know that the inscription on the Liberty Bell is actually a Bible verse? It’s from Leviticus 25:10. I’m guessing they don’t mention that on the tour these days.
Glad you enjoyed my hometown! You seemed to hit all my favorite spots including our legendary coffee La Colombe, Farmicia, and Reading Terminal Market. I commute into the city daily and come through 30th St. Who knows I may have run into you and your family if I wasn’t away on our annual beach vacation– Cape May, NJ. If you’re ever in these parts again the Jersey shore is also a must visit. Cape May is a lovely old shore town with old Victorians and many historic places to visit including a wonderful zoo. I hope you at least drove past Elfreth’s Alley, walking around Old City is also fun. Ben Franklin also started the first lending library in our city which lead to the Free Library of Philadelphia, an amazing resource!
It’s been lovely following along on your family adventure!
This brought back so many memories. Thanks for sharing your trip with us!
Yay, so glad you loved Philly! I grew up here, lived six other places, and came back here for good when I met my husband 7 years ago. Wish you could have stayed longer; there is so much more to see.
Emily, you must look up the HBO mini-series called “John Adams” (it’s on Amazon Prime). It’s a fascinating look into the characters who founded our country! :)
So brilliant to take the train into NYC and leave both the car and trailer behind! While there’s definitely no place for an airstream in NYC, I wouldn’t even want to try to drive an SUV in the city. BTW, how did you squeeze the extra 2 passengers into the car?
It was a great idea! We have an 8 passenger suv :)
I’m going to Philly Labor Day weekend to attend the open house for the LDS Temple and now I have a few more ideas about things to see/do. Thank you.
This post reminds me of my visit to Philadelphia when I was a child growing up in New Jersey. I loved it all! Did you find the Liberty Bell to be smaller than you had expected? How wonderful that your kids are getting such a rich lesson in history this summer. Can’t wait to see your post on my birthplace: NYC!
I’m so happy you were able to visit Philadelphia. It’s one of my favorite cities. It’s charming and easy to navigate, but with the same level of sophistication as NYC. Too bad you didn’t get a chance to visit my other fav Philly suburbs including Collingswood and Haddonfield in New Jersey. They are also delightful towns with a lot of rich history, darling independent shops, and wonderful photo ops!
I cannot imagine having eight people in the trailer. I think it truly speaks to your adventurous spirit!
It has been too long since I was in NY city. Where did you stay? I would like to file away a great place to stay with children.
We stayed at the Affinia near Madison Square Garden. They made a mistake on our room so we ended up with two doubles and a rollaway (we pushed two chairs together for the fourth kiddo) and it worked out fine. Good location for sightseeing and close to the subway, but if/when Ryan and I return, we’d love to stay somewhere a little less touristy.
I love history and traveling and I think it is because my Milwaukee parents took us on all kinds of trips when we were young, mostly out west. It was so easy and cheap in those days now that I look back on it. Sometimes my mom (the nite owl) would drive till 2 in the morning while we slept, then pull over in a rest stop or corner of a truck stop and we’d all sleep in the car. Little sister in the back window, Dad across bench seat in front, mom in back, and my other sister and i on the floors somewhere! I can’t even imagine it now. Also tells you how much stuff we did NOT drag with us to keep us entertained. We’d sing, look out the window, play car games, argue but we got along. Lunch might be a loaf of bread and package of baloney eaten at a roadside park. Bananas for desert. And to this day, all 3 of us are still traveling and know LOTS about other states, cities, and the history and geography of our glorious country. You would want us on your team for Trivial Pursuit! So I guess my point is, you are immersing your children in such fantastic history and geography and it will serve them well for their lifetimes. Whether they appreciate it right now is one thing, but be assured they will thank you for it in the future!
Hello again Emily! You may not remember, but we met while in Maui in May 2015…my husband and I were celebrating our 10th anniversary. I’ve loved reading all your posts about your cross country trip. My father refurbished a 31′ Airstream Excella and we have enjoyed many camping trips the past few summers. A friend recently gave me a great camping tip…use a pool float as a mini air mattress! I pulled the short straw and slept on the floor during our last camping trip. The pool float was such a life saver and I was actually very comfortable. We stored the float in the shower during the day. So glad your family has had such an amazing summer!
Emily, you are the spitting image of your beautiful mom. Lovely, the both of you. How great for you to experience all of this not only with your children and husband but your parents in tow. Such amazing memories for all of you. God has richly blessed you. Enjoy, and keep passing it on in the positive way that you effortlessly do.
Emily, I can not express to you enough as to how much I have enjoyed reading your blogs since you and your family started this journey. I have enjoyed each and everyone of them. It is almost as though I am a little mouse (or big :) and going with you every where you go. Your pictures are incredible and beautiful. Thank you for taking me ‘along’ on your road trip. You have such a beautiful family.
Love it! We went to all the same places! This brought back so many memories. Thanks for sharing your trip with us!
So great that you got to meet Ben Franklin – he’s actually married to Betsy Ross, they got married on 4th of July a few years ago- how sweet is that!? (just a little local history you may not have been privy to while they were “in character” which is just about always).
I still get goosebumps whenever I see pictures of old Philadelphia. I grew up in New Jersey (south Jersey, that is – 15 minutes outside of Philly) and the history that city always draws me in. I absolutely love that you are sharing our country’s founding history with your children. Thank you for posting pictures, too. For someone who hasn’t been able to visit “home” for quite some time, they have brought great joy!
Your kids are so photogenic!
and I, too, am thoroughly enjoying your posts. I follow you on Instragram so it is fun to see where you are daily then read about it in detail later.
Thank you for taking the time to take gorgeous photos to share with us and writing the highlights of your visits!
Okay– you HAVE TO watch “National Treasure” now!!! My kids LOVED that movie and we live close to Philly so they recognized scenes in the movie after visiting the sites. And you were smart to take Amtrak to NYC. We do that all the time from Lancaster… a perk to living here! ;)
I’ve so enjoyed reading your posts! I love to read and I love history- thanks for adding things to do to my bucket list LOL
I’m still enjoying all your posts and pictures. Your family does not know how lucky they are to be able to embark on such an adventure. Keep the pics and narratives coming. Love everything about this!