So this is a strange new world we are living in! While I am busy worrying about how this may be impacting the long-term social skills of my children, I am also trying to come up with new ways to view our city and explore its amazing historic and cultural depths. So here’s a quick round-up of my first attempts at social-distance exploring.
Go On a Mural Arts Self-Guided Tour
Philadelphia is mural city. According to Mural Arts, we have more than 3,600 official murals, plus any number of rogue artists. So it’s not hard to come up with a quick map to explore some public art, and Mural Arts even has a few suggested one-mile tours that are easy to do as a family.
With murals decorating all parts of the city, the tour is only a suggestion for themed-viewing. To keep our sanity in tact, we’ve gone about it scavenger hunt style. If this social distancing experiment goes on any longer, I will share some of our better scavenger hunts for all the locals.
Find the Old Congregations of Philadelphia
As a diverse colonial city, Philadelphia supported a number of different religious practices from the beginning, and many structures and markers still stand today. Old Philadelphia Congregations is a modern consortium of historic churches and synogogues that provides historic insight into these early places of worship. There are almost 20 in close proximity to one another in Old City, making for a great way to be our own guides to history.
Explore Open Spaces
Philadelphia is home to amazing parks, not just playgrounds. Both Fairmount Park and Wissahickon Valley Park boast more than 2,000 acres of open parkland, trails, and hiking without leaving the city limits. Even smaller parks like Penn Treaty offer room to run while maintaining a healthy distance from others, but it does come with the temptation of a playground. With small kids, the proximity to such parks is amazing for burning off this pent up energy!
Gain Historic Insights
We have more than 300 historic markers here in Philadelphia, and some of them rather strange! From famous people to products, to moments of incredible significance, you can learn a lot from these markers scattered through out the city. If, like us, you’ve been forced into homeschooling, these serve as a great tool for local social studies.
Unsurprisingly, you’ll find more of these in the Old City and Society Hill sections of town, but they are everywhere. To learn more, visit the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
Make an Art History Project at Notable Cemeteries
“Walk in the footsteps of people who held this nation together during its formative years” reads a marker at Old Pine Street Presbyterian Cemetery. And indeed, with the numerous certified historic cemeteries dating back to the late 1600s, you can visit the graves of many notable figures, including Ben Franklin at Christ Church.
Taking note of the imagery, quotes, and even the dates can lead to incredibly interesting conversations with your children. I’ve even found that talking about past outbreaks has been a great way to talk about what we are currently experiencing. While this may be novel on a global scale in the modern world, it’s certainly not a new problem we’ve faced.
Would love to hear your tips on staying active and engaged in your community during these strange times!