On the 42nd day of our family road trip, the PapiBlogger family dodged major obstacles on our way to a visit to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.
PHILLY VISIT ALMOST DISASTROUS
We had everything going against us on our way to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The obstacles we experienced:
– A late start in New York.
– Terrible traffic in New Jersey.
– A late arrival in Philadelphia.
– Being told upon arriving at Independence Hall that the day’s free passes were already doled out.
Worst still was that my six-year-old Elena began to cry due to a massive earache and bad cough. A pharmacist at the drug store told me to give Elena some Children’s Tylenol and that she thought we would likely have to take her to an emergency room for some antibiotics. Desperate to relieve Elena’s pain, we prayed, gave her medicine and took everybody to a restaurant for some much-needed food.
By the time we were done with our late lunch Elena was feeling almost normal again. On a whim, we decided to double check with Independence Hall to see if by some miracle, now that several hours had passed and that the day was almost over, there was room for us. There was!
Your trip inside Independence Hall, THE meeting place where the Declaration of Independence was hotly debated and finally decided on July 4th, 1776, consists of a 10-minute guided tour with two parts. The first part of the tour is to an 18th century courtroom. It’s an interesting place because you see how courtrooms looked like back then but when you go, let the crush of people move ahead of you because what you really want to do is to stand in the back. Standing in the back puts you in perfect position to move quickly into the much more historic Assembly Room.
The Assembly Room is a place that is maintained almost exactly as it was before. It’s incredible to think that at one point you had some of history’s best leaders in one place: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Ben Franklin and many others.
EXPLAINING HISTORY TO KIDS
Long before we arrived in Independence Hall we had been building the kids up with the knowledge and places that gave them a strong context to what took place there. By the time they got there they were able to understand that the building is about more than the fireworks tradition they inspired.
In the future, I’ll be posting how I explain different parts of U.S. history to my kids but suffice to say that I use broad strokes. I basically told them that the English people who came to colonize what is now the New England states had had children and that after a couple of generations those “American-born” generations didn’t feel English. They couldn’t relate and didn’t want to have an English king they didn’t know as their “boss” and they didn’t want to give them their money (through taxes). American colonial history makes total sense to them now and that made their visit to Independence Hall much more meaningful.
We didn’t get to see it but don’t miss viewing the original copy of the Declaration of Independence that is on display in the west wing of Independence Hall.
A couple of additional facts/observations about Independence Hall:
– The building was completed in 1753 as the Pennsylvania State House for the Province of Pennsylvania.
– For a building of such extreme importance to our nation’s history, Independence Hall is very simple in design, decorations and furnishings. It’s simplicity is attributed to Pennsylvania’s strong Quaker influence at the time that disdained showiness.
– The U.S. Constitution was written and ratified inside Independence Hall. George Washington presided over those meetings.
– Independence Hall was technically the first capital of the United States as it was the first site of the meetings of the Second Continental Congress, from May 10, 1775 to December 12, 1776. After a brief hiatus, Philly resumed as the nation’s capital from 1791 until 1800.
– The first Congress, Senate and Supreme Court buildings are also in adjoining buildings and are all worth visiting. Our impression: wow, how tiny they were.
THE LIBERTY BELL
The Liberty Bell, located right in front of Independence Hall, is another icon you can visit. In the middle of the day, you’re wait in line there is easily more than an hour so get there early or go real late in the day. We got there 30 minutes before it closed and were able to walk right in without any line, snap our photos and walk out. The kids were pretty bored about the Liberty Bell because it was almost too symbolic for their own taste. The main role the Liberty Bell played in our colonial history was that it was frequently rung to summon the forefathers another meeting. It’s been symbolically used for many other things, including modern day protests by Sarah Palin’s Tea Party, but that didn’t interest the kids that much.
SPRINT NEXTEL ROAD TRIP TIP OF THE DAY
If you’re going to Independence Hall or another national destination that has limited visiting capacity, get an early jump on securing your visitor passes. In the event you’re late, however, don’t give up. Double check if passes have become available late in the day because they frequently are. It’s happened to us two times.