10 Quirky & Cool Stops - A Guide to Funky Philly Fun
On April Fools Day, the Philadelphia Streets Department used mimes and clowns to silently rebuke drivers and pedestrians who ignored safety laws at a major downtown intersection. When I read that Philadelphia used clowns recently to scold texting pedestrians and drivers, I was amused and impressed at the city's quirky approach to confront these annoying scofflaws.
City officials are always looking for ways to engage the public on safety issues even though it's not so funny that each year about three-dozen pedestrians are killed in Philadelphia.
Leave it to Philadelphia to find an interesting way to amuse and inform — a city that doesn't mind wearing its quirky heart on its sleeve. So visitors, when not checking out the famous Philadelphia sites for which the city is known, consider these interesting stops:
1. Mutter Museum showcases a collection of medical oddities, including beautifully preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models and medical instruments in a 19th century "cabinet museum" setting. Sincerely unsettling and captivating, the Mutter's new exhibit, Grimms' Anatomy, presents real-world examples of the sometimes gruesome or grotesque fairy tale bodies, along with instruments from and rare illustrated editions of these stories.
2. Visit Edgar Allen Poe's House. Sure, Poe battled bad luck, personal demons and married his cousin, but his work also remains engaging as horrifying, mystifying, and full of genius. Poe lived in Philadelphia for six years and that period is said to be his happiest and most productive. Learn how Poe influenced modern horror and mystery writers, and pose with the Raven. There's a wealth of things to see and do. It will be closed until June 30, 2013, for restoration work.
3. See a performance at Painted Bride Art Center. Painted Bride Art Center offers performances of dance, music and the spoken word. It's a forum for artists, audiences and communities to push the boundaries of how they can create and experience art. This fall, they're even offering a Salsa Caliente Boot Camp!
4. Philadelphia's Magic Gardens is a 3,000-square-foot plot of urban land covered entirely by a labyrinth of mirror, tile and reclaimed trash mosaics that were designed and inlaid by legendary folk artist Isaiah Zagar. This summer, the gardens is featuring Twilight in the Gardens, where visitors can enjoy live music, hang out with friends, explore artistic activities and enjoy drinks.
5. OMIGOSH! SHOES! The Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine Shoe Museum is a non-lending shoe library displaying 250 pairs (out of a collection of more than 1,000). It displays fashions from Ella Fitzgerald's gold boots and Sally Struthers' platform shoes from All in the Family, to shoes donated by Dr. J, Joe Frazier, and Bernie Parent's Stanley Cup skates. There are numerous historical displays including damaging shoe fashions represented in the museum's collection of tiny Chinese lily shoes, where women's feet were bound into deformed shapes in pursuit of "beauty." Admission to the museum is free, but visits must be scheduled in advance by calling 215-625-5243 or by email.
6. Whispering Benches – The Smith Memorial Arch on the Avenue of the Republic has a stone bench where two people, sitting on far ends of the 50-foot bench, can whisper and hear each other clearly. Totally cool. Avenue of the Republic near Please Touch Museum, Fairmount Park.
7. Start Thinking – The spectacular Rodin Museum has 140 bronzes, marbles, and plasters that represent every phase of Auguste Rodin's career. Located on Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway, guests will encounter The Thinker (don't forget to rub his toe) and the foreboding The Gates of Hell.
8. The Stoogeum is the headquarters of The Three Stooges' 2,000-member fan club and the world's only center devoted to the lovable characters. Aficionados of The Three Stooges can peruse 100,000 pieces of memorabilia or attend a film screening or workshop. You do not need a reservation to visit the museum, only for the presentation in the theater. The Stoogeum is open every Thursday (except holidays) from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., and by appointment.
9. The Philadelphia Doll Museum is the only museum in the country dedicated to the collection and preservation of black dolls. It tells the absorbing story of how African-American people have been perceived throughout history, and explores the subtle societal messages conveyed by its 300 handmade and manufactured dolls from Africa, Europe and America.
10. The Insectarium is the country's largest bug museum. Even if I'm not sure I want to encounter giant cockroaches ever again, there are thousands of live and mounted insects that can be viewed by children and adults. It also includes discovered and extinct species. Guests can bug out while watching insect movies and creep through a manmade spider web.