Philadelphia: 5 Ways to See the Barnes Foundation with Kids

–This is part of our series on Philadelphia with kids. See all the posts in the series at the bottom.–

I thought the Barnes Foundation wouldn’t be kid-friendly. Surprisingly, it was.

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The museum is organized in a different kind of way, with each gallery containing ensembles – groups of pictures and utilitarian metal tools that looked decorative, designed to make you think about the art in unique ways, to see how they relate to each other. You won’t find only Renoirs in one room, or paintings from a certain time period displayed together. Plus there are no signs on the walls with the names and artists, nor any explanations at all on the walls. Many of the frames do have the artist’s name on them, though, if you look carefully. Find a gallery guide at the benches in each room.

Vincent van Gogh, Dutch, 1853–1890. The Postman (Joseph-Étienne Roulin), 1889. Photograph © 2012 The Barnes Foundation.
Vincent van Gogh, Dutch, 1853–1890. The Postman (Joseph-Étienne Roulin), 1889. Photograph © 2012 The Barnes Foundation.

Barnes continually changed his ensembles around, and the displays you see are the same ones (in the   same order) as when he died. He never wrote up explanations as to why they were put in those orders, nor is anyone sure what he hoped viewers would see in them. Continue reading “Philadelphia: 5 Ways to See the Barnes Foundation with Kids”

Philadelphia: Mutter Museum with Kids

–This is part of our series on Philadelphia with kids. See all the posts in the series at the bottom.–

Let’s start out by saying this is not the Mutter Museum, pronounced like it looks. The “u” should have an umlaut over it – two dots next to each other. Say it like “Mooter Museum.” This museum was on my list to visit for a long time, and I figured the kids would find it strangely fascinating. They did, but they also found it unsettling enough that they sat out out a good portion of it because they couldn’t stomach looking through it all.

Of note, you can’t take pictures inside. These photos are all courtesy of the museum. Dr. Mutter collected these strange specimens to use in teaching. The museum is part of  the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

The Main Gallery of Philadelphia's Mütter Museum George Widman, 2009, for the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
The Main Gallery of Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum
George Widman, 2009, for the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

When we first walked in Continue reading “Philadelphia: Mutter Museum with Kids”

Philadelphia: National Museum of American Jewish History with Kids

–This is part of our series on Philadelphia with kids. See all the posts in the series at the bottom.–

Jewish Museum

We’ve been wanting to check out the National Museum of American Jewish History (which I still can’t say without having to look it up for accuracy) since it opened in its current form in 2010. Previously it shared space with Congregation Mikveh Israel (see the bottom for more on that), since its founding in 1976. This museum is on Independence Mall, just down the street from Mikveh Israel, and across from the Independence Mall Visitor’s Center. Continue reading “Philadelphia: National Museum of American Jewish History with Kids”

Philadelphia: Magic Gardens

–This is part of our series on Philadelphia with kids. For more in the series, see the bottom of the post.–

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My daughter and I were very excited to see Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, a nonprofit space that artist Isaiah Zagar created in an empty row house spot. It now extends inside the adjacent row house.

Unfortunately the day we showed up, we didn’t realize they were closing early for a wedding, so we had to make do with peeking through the gate, and walking around the neighborhood. The good news is  that you can still see a lot even when it’s closed. And just by wandering around South Street, within a few blocks of the gardens, we could still see a lot of large scale murals. There’s a list in the brochure you can get on site and probably in other tourist locations as well.

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This mosaic mural was around the corner from the Magic Gardens.

I think the biggest question for us was Continue reading “Philadelphia: Magic Gardens”

Review: JFK Library in Boston with Kids

 

JFK library

Today is the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. I thought I’d commemorate the date with a look at his legacy, or at least his library. I visited the JFK Presidential Library and Museum last summer on my Boston trip.

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The library opened in 1979, in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. If it’s not on the University of Massachusetts Boston campus, it’s in the same area, and the bus takes you through the campus to get there. Originally it was supposed to be on the Harvard campus, but for a variety of reasons (including Cambridge residents not wanting in there!) they changed the location. The library was in planning from when JFK was president. At that time there were only 4 other presidential libraries. Continue reading “Review: JFK Library in Boston with Kids”

Review: All Six Attractions in CityPASS Boston

I recently spent a week in Boston while my husband was at a conference and my kids were at camp. My goal was to do as much touring as possible (in addition to seeing some family and friends). Last time we were there as a family, we contemplated getting a CityPASS, which gives you admission into four attractions for about half the price of paying individually. We ended up not going that route last time, but CityPASS was kind enough to give me one to try this time (I liked it so much that I’m not an affiliate). Between the two trips, I’ve now been to all the attractions offered by CityPASS (four are included – and for one, you have a choice between a free visit to one of two museums, and a discount at the other). This is the first in a series on Boston.

Here’s a review of all the attractions.

Skywalk Observatory at the Prudential Center

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The Skywalk Observatory at the Prudential Center

While we tried to go to the Skywalk at the Prudential Center last trip, it was closed for a private function. And you’ll want to go on a clear day. I made it this time, and thought it would be very touristy, but I ended up loving it. It’s the tallest building in Boston (perhaps all of New England), at 50+ stories up. Included are audio tours for both kids and adults, and they were very informative. I ended up listening to both the kids’ tour and adult tour, in the name of research. The kids’ tour even gave information not always included in the adult tour. I learned a lot. Continue reading “Review: All Six Attractions in CityPASS Boston”

Review: The Art of the Brick – LEGO at Discovery Times Square

**Groupon good for half-off admission to The Art of the Brick now through October 2. Use through November 22. If it doesn’t pop up on that page, search for “the art of the brick” in the search box in the top right.**

While not an exhibit intended specifically for kids, The Art of the Brick definitely appeals to kids. And to adults too. The positive message extolling the virtues of art, and Nathan Sawaya’s optimism, “art can be anything” brings a fresh air to the exhibit. You can even be a successful artist like Sawaya, after going to law school and doing corporate mergers for several years. My son now wants to be a LEGO artist. Well, he did before too, but now he wants to even more.

See below for discount ticket information for the Art of the Brick.

Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

The sign when you enter is probably the only thing in the exhibit NOT made of LEGOs (okay, the signs and tables aren’t LEGO either). Room after room continues to delight and surprise.

Opening the exhibit was the Paint by Bricks section Continue reading “Review: The Art of the Brick – LEGO at Discovery Times Square”

Review: Body Worlds: Pulse – Good for Kids?

If you’re unsure whether to bring your kids to Body Worlds: Pulse at Discovery Times Square, look at the pictures below. If you think they can handle these pictures, then go (more details below). This is the second “body” exhibition I’ve taken my kids to. The last one was probably in 2007 or 2008 when my kids were much younger. They still remember it, especially seeing the black lung from smoking. That had an impact on them.

If you’re not familiar with the Body Worlds world, there is a lot of history behind it. Briefly, these people donated their bodies for plastination (controversial), the technique used here to preserve the body in various shapes. I’ll go into the process in more depth later. There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the Bodies exhibitions, ranging from whether people indeed DID donate their bodies, to the ethics of displaying bodies this way, to religious complaints, to the sale of plastinated organs and bodies. You can read more here – it’s quite interesting.

You’ll start out with a video which I found stressful. It talked about stress and the pace of life these days. The video was captivating (and frenetic) in that it was made with drawings of people and things that were done during the video (but sped up). For the first time in history there are more people that are over age 60, than under age 5. The show uses the plastinated bodies and organs to talk about health, how the body shows its health, how to stay healthy, focusing on areas like happiness, blood pressure, exercise, stress and food. And it shows how the body works.

Not comfortable in his own skin. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Not comfortable in his own skin. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

The first display was a bit shocking. Continue reading “Review: Body Worlds: Pulse – Good for Kids?”

Review: Whales: Giants of the Deep Exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History

Did you know that dolphins and porpoises are whales? We learned that, plus many other interesting facts about whales during our visit to the American Museum of Natural History’s exhibit Whales: Giants of the Deep. Admittedly I knew very little about whales before going to this exhibit. I didn’t know that the precursors to whales WALKED, losing their legs eventually as they took to the ocean full time. A simulation video of the whale’s evolution is a good visual representation. Learn more about whale evolution here.

Did you know that whales can be broken up into two categories: toothed whales and baleen whales? Toothed whales are smaller, and include dolphins and porpoises (porpoises don’t have beaks, dolphins do). Baleen whales are filter feeders, taking in larger amounts of small food and filtering it out, where as toothed whales go for single prey, swallowing it whole.

In addition to videos and other displays, the exhibit features Continue reading “Review: Whales: Giants of the Deep Exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History”

Review: Sleepover at the Liberty Science Center

There’s nothing like being at a Liberty Science Center Camp-In with 900 Cub Scouts and (some of) their parents.

One of the advantages to a museum sleepover is a behind the scenes look. You won’t get that here, but what you do get is presumably a smaller crowd than you’d get on a weekend. Of course if you’re there with almost 900 Cub Scouts, you’ll find that they all want to do the same things: race cars.

Even if you don’t want to read about the sleep-over portion – this post has a regular review in it too – keep reading.

The LSC does have a number of evening programs like you’d find during normal open hours – and like open hours, you can go to the programs or explore the museum on your own. While we were there, they offered two live science presentations (one on electricity and one on the four states of matter), and two lab programs (one on infections, and one on the Hudson Home lab).

The museum is too huge to tell all, so I’ll just pinpoint some of the highlights. You can’t see the whole museum in one trip.

Liberty Science Center lobby
Liberty Science Center lobby with collapsible sphere.  Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

Continue reading “Review: Sleepover at the Liberty Science Center”