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: Liberty Bell and Independence Hall with Kids

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

Liberty bell
You can take this picture of the Liberty Bell from outside the building.

You can’t go to Philadelphia as a newbie and not see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. So of course this was on our list to do. Here’s something else you should know. Tickets are free, but if you don’t reserve Independence Hall tour tickets in advance (or go wait in line, going early), you may not get in. So if you’re on a tight schedule, I recommend you call ahead or reserve online for a $1.50/person fee. Especially in high season. By afternoon, tickets may be gone. Tickets are required March through December. Continue reading “Philadelphia: Liberty Bell and Independence Hall 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.–


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.

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

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

Philadelphia: Eastern State Penitentiary with Kids

**This is part of a series on Philadelphia with kids. Please see all the posts in the Philadelphia series here, or check the bottom for individual links.**


The Eastern State Penitentiary was one of the places at the top of the list for my husband on our trip to Philadelphia with the kids. I went to college in Philadelphia and hadn’t heard of it when in school there. Turns out, there’s a good reason. It only opened to the public in the years since then.

In fact, the penitentiary started making its renewal with fundraising efforts you’ve probably heard of: the Terror Behind the Walls, one of the most haunted, spooky type Halloween experiences in the country. Continue reading “Philadelphia: Eastern State Penitentiary with Kids”

Review: Scott’s Pizza Tour in NYC

This dude loves his pizza.
This dude loves his pizza.

We were looking for something fun to do with the kids and my in-laws, the Friday after Thanksgiving. Having just “won” two tickets to Scott’s Pizza Tour in a silent auction, we signed up and bought four more tickets to bring my Chicago in-laws and our kids.

Let’s start off by saying that Scott is PASSIONATE about pizza. That comes through loud and clear. This is a man who loves pizza, loves sharing his information and learning everything he can. He’s also hilarious and great with adults and kids. For those reasons alone, the tour was a delight. It takes a special tour for my kids not to complain or fight with each other for three hours – especially when at least half of the tour time is outside. And it was in the 30s that day – brrrrr!!!!

A few fun pizza facts:

–There are 2,000 pizzerias in New York City Continue reading “Review: Scott’s Pizza Tour in NYC”

Review: Storm King Art Center

Having visited the Grounds for Sculpture recently, I was keen to get outside and see some more when my parents visited me. My mother is involved in the art world, and when I told her Storm King wasn’t too far away, she was eager to go. And we’re so glad we did. Storm King is one of the premier sculpture gardens in the world. Set on 500+ acres, the 100 or so large scale sculptures have plenty of space for themselves.

sculpture by Alexander Liberman
Iliad by Alexander Liberman (1974-76). This piece is similar to another Liberman we had on my college campus. We affectionately called it “Dueling Tampons.’

Wear good walking shoes, because you’re going to do a lot of walking. And it’s hilly. Storm King recommends spending 4-6 hours on a visit, if you have the time, and that you won’t see everything. Our goal was to see everything. We thought we did, but later saw pictures on the guides of  sculptures we somehow missed during the day. We were there about four hours, and our legs were tired by the end! (see the end notes for other ways to see Storm King, like  on the tram or on bikes).

Maya Lin
Maya Lin, who designed the famous Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., designed this Storm King Wavefield (2009), which is on 11 acres. Apparently, you can no longer walk on it.

If you’ve ever studied art history or art in general, you’ll recognize some of the artist names here: Alexander Calder, Maya Lin, David Smith, Nam June Paik, Mark Di Suervo, Richard Serra, Roy Lichtenstein, Sol Lewitt, Barbara Hepworth, Louise Nevelson, Henry Moore, Claes Oldenburg and more. They have works from all the heavyweight sculptors, focusing on monumental sculptures from the 1960s on. Continue reading “Review: Storm King Art Center”

Teach your kids to ski!

I learned to downhill ski in Arizona. Yes, there’s snow in Arizona – it’s up north. I learned at Snowbowl in Flagstaff (of Route 66 fame) – with my family. We still have a lot of laughs over those early skiing days. We took a family lesson, and my father tried to correct us kids, showing us what to do, even though we had an instructor there. Let me add that my father was also a beginner, with no more experience than us.

We soon switched to separate lessons. And we finally learned how to get three of us off the lift without falling into a pile.

After college I moved to California and was fortunate to have Lake Tahoe relatively close, spending many a ski weekend with coworkers and friends, and eventually my husband – at the various mountains there.

The kids took their first ski lessons at Bear Valley, in California. My son was so wiped out he fell asleep during snack time and they didn’t dare wake him for his second lesson. That one day of skiing taught us something important. If you’re going to learn to ski, you should immerse yourself for a few days to do it. And then keep it up. Continue reading “Teach your kids to ski!”

Review: The Grounds for Sculpture

The Grounds for Sculpture had been on our bucket list for the past few years, and we finally made it there this summer (on a very hot, muggy day – with a rain interlude while we were eating lunch). If you haven’t been, you must go. This is a place you could go to multiple times and not see everything. Why? There are more than 260 sculptures spread out over 42 landscaped acres.sculpture2

It’s located on former New Jersey State Fairgrounds land, and was started by J. Seward Johnson, whose work you will see prominently. More to come on him. It was Seward’s idea to make a sculpture garden open to the public, to introduce and make others comfortable with modern sculpture. The Grounds opened in 1992, financed by public bonds, private institutions and Johnson’s foundation. It transitioned to a nonprofit organization in 2000. Read more of the history of the Grounds for Sculpture here. 

This is supposed to resemble Monet's garden and bridge - which it totally does. They pipe in the smoke/fog for effect.
This is supposed to resemble Monet’s garden and bridge – which it totally does. They pipe in the fog for effect. You can walk across it. It looks a bit like a painting itself!

The name “Johnson” certainly rings a bell in Central New Jersey. For good reason. Continue reading “Review: The Grounds for Sculpture”

Review: Duke Farms In New Jersey

When we read about Duke Farms opening to the public a year ago (May 2012), we put it on our list to do. We finally went, albeit without kids (they’re at camp) but can’t wait to take them there.

The barn house ????
The farm barn, which is now the orientation center, is the first building you’ll see in the parking area.

Duke Farms is one of the largest undeveloped parcels of land in New Jersey, made up of more than 2,700 acres. Doris Duke’s father, tobacco farmer J.B. Duke, bought the land as a luxury homestead, endowing it with formal gardens, water features and grand buildings like the one you see above. Of note, the family home is not available for touring (and we couldn’t even see where it was while there).

F meadows
A meadow outside the Farm Barn.

Doris Duke, as the sole heir, inherited the land, where she spent part of her childhood. She put it in her foundation, for land preservation and land stewardship. What a gift! Continue reading “Review: Duke Farms In New Jersey”