all about the benjamins.

There are lots of things that the city of Philadelphia loves - cheesesteaks, sports, brothers. But the thing that they love most of all is Benjamin Franklin. They just cannot get enough of the guy. There are reportedly 5,000 likenesses of him in the city, and that doesn't even include all the hundred dollar bills. There is a parkway and a bridge. Finally, there is an institute, which actually is on the parkway.

We had tickets to the Franklin Institute because we invested in the CityPass. The CityPass is available in many cities, and you get admission to several of the area's best attractions for a reduced fee. I like to keep a loose schedule when I travel, but I was quickly overwhelmed with all the possible things to do in Philly. So aside from the discounts, the CityPass gave me a checklist of things to do that I had essentially already paid for.

We decided to do the Franklin Institute first because it was across the street from the hotel. Also, it was about to rain. I had looked at the Institute when researching possible stops, but wasn't really sure if I wanted to go. The only thing I knew was that there was a giant heart that you could walk through. Woo. I wasn't even entirely sure what it was, as "Institute" is kind of a vague word.

Now that I've spent a rainy Thursday there, I can tell you that the Franklin Institute is a science museum. Oh, and it's also totally awesome. Some museums are stuffy, look-with-your-eyes places. The FI is not. There is another museum in Philly called the Please Touch Museum, but you could easily call the FI the same. While this makes it a great place for kids, I can report that it is a good time for adults who have not lost their childlike wonder. And if you have lost it, this might be a good place to regain it.

The Institute is divided into several sections that deal with different areas of science. It's all very light on reading and high on doing. And the activities are great in that they demonstrate a series of simple concepts until you have the whole complex system. You can play with magnets or build pulley systems or fold paper airplanes. There is a hall of mirrors with lasers where you can pretend you are trying to rob a casino and need to get through the alarm system. You can pretend to be a TV weatherman with a script and a green screen. They even have a shimmer wall! I've only listed a tiny fraction of all there is to see and do there. We spent most of a rainy Thursday there, and were just finishing up the airplane section when they were closing for the day.

There were several sections that we didn't initially have any interest in. But by the time we were through with those sections, we were suddenly very interested in those topics. "Trains? Eh." "Trains are so cool!" It kindles interest in learning. I can't think of any higher recommendation for a museum. The staff members are knowledgable, and they like to see silly adults playing with the exhibits. We even saw a janitor building a pulley system, his vacuum sitting in a heap beside him (in his defense, the floors were clean).

One of the 5,000 Benjamins in the city is the memorial that sits in the atrium of the Institute. It's a huge marble statue, twenty feet high. When I was going in, I imagined old Ben, who reportedly liked his ladies, checking out all the fine honeys coming in to check out his Institute. Maybe he even had a good pick-up line about the Giant Heart. But when I left, I was feeling less cynical, and I felt like the Institute was something he would have approved of. Instead of a pick-up line, I imagined him instead as that old guy in the Thomas Dolby video.


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