Road Trip: Philadelphia

| Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, 8:04 p.m.

You don't need Road Trip! to point out that Philadelphia is home to Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross's house or other landmarks of the American Revolution.

But even the most dedicated American-history buff needs a break.

When that time comes, Philadelphia offers an abundance of exhibits and attractions worth a detour from Independence Mall.

Below are a few suggestions for those interested in options and additions to their itinerary.

Those interested in further customizing their trip should begin by checking out the possibilities the helpful website of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. at, which offers information on lodging, dining and shopping and comprehensive information on sights, sporting events and entertainment.

Alice T. Carter is a features reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or

Wet and Wild

Meet the hippos in a one-of-a-kind experience at the Adventure Aquarium.

Button and Genny — two 3,000-pound hippos — welcome visitors 365 days a year in their home at the aquarium in Camden, N.J., just across the Delaware River from downtown Philadelphia.

It's the only aquarium in the world to exhibit hippos, but there's lots of other aquatic animals on view as well.

Press your nose against the panoramic windows of the 550,000-gallon Shark Realm filled with more than 20 sharks — including a hammerhead shark and 850 other animals. Commune with manta rays and jellyfish or have a hands-on experience with purple ochre seastars, anemones, crabs and snails in the touch pool.

Details: or 856-365-3300

New and Notable

Now that the construction dust and the legal dust-ups have calmed down, art lovers can go back to focusing on the 181 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 59 Matisses and other works that adorn the walls of the Barnes Foundation's new home that opened in May.

The museum's 12,000-square-foot gallery displays the collections with the same scale, pairings and theme arrangements that Albert C. Barnes chose for his carefully curated collection in its original home in Merion, Pa.

In addition to showcasing great works by artists from Titian to Picasso, the new 93,000-square-foot building and its four-and-a-half acre grounds are a work of art in their own right.

Details: 215-278-7000 or

Lost and Found

A century after the RMS Titanic's sinking, more than 300 artifacts from the ship are on display at the Franklin Institute.

Through April 23, “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” showcases the story of the ship and its passengers in a 15,000-square-foot exhibit that displays parts of the ship, china and other dinnerware from the ship and clothing, perfume bottles and personal items recovered from the ship's wreckage. A re-creation of the ship's ornately decorated main staircase is also on view.

While at the Institute, Titanic buffs can see the IMAX film “Titanica” that chronicles the search for and discovery of the remains of the ship.

Details: 215-448-1200 or

Rice and Noodles

Chinatown is too narrow a description for the 12-block Center City area that stretches from Ninth to 12th streets and Vine to Arch streets.

The arching Friendship Gate at Ninth and Arch signals the entrance to this tightly packed neighborhood of shops and restaurants with wares and foods that extend beyond mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to offer a taste of Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanamar (Burma) and Vietnam.

If the choices seem overwhelming, sign up for a walking tour that includes stops at a fortune-cookie factory, a Chinese herbal medicine discussion at the Asian grocery, a Chinese place of worship, a Chinese bakery, the Asian supermarket, a fish market and ends with a full lunch or dinner served by the staff from Joseph Poon Chef Kitchen.

Details: 215-928-9333 or

Before and after

We know the Mayas erred in their predictions that the world would end Dec. 21.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, informally known as the Penn Museum, obviously anticipated the error.

They scheduled the exhibit “MAYA 2012: Lords of Time” to run through Jan. 13.

The show explores the Maya's time-ordered universe and its intricate calendar systems that enabled divine kings to hold power as “lords of time.”

Using interactive experiences, sculptures and artifacts recently excavated by Penn Museum archaeologists from a site in Honduras to explain the rise and fall of Copan. The exhibit explains how Maya ideas about time and the calendar have changed up to the present day and how it connects contemporary Maya to their heritage and concerns for the future.

Details: 215-898-4001 or

Nice and easy

After a day or two of “Don't touch the Liberty Bell” and “Keep your hands off the Monet,” kids and parents will appreciate a visit to the Please Touch Museum.

Set up in Memorial Hall, this family-oriented museum encourages hands-on exploration for the under-7 crowd through six interactive exhibit zones across 157,000 square feet, including four areas specifically designed for children 3 and younger.

Kids can play croquet with the Queen and sip tea with the Mad Hatter in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, take the wheel of a real bus and sail a boat on a mini-Delaware River or chill out with stories and nursery rhymes in the Fairytale Garden.

Don't leave before taking a spin on the carefully restored 1908 Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel that's housed in a 9,000 square-foot glass pavilion.

Details: (215) 581-3181 or

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