Weekend In: Philly pt1

The Memorial Day, I took advantage of free family housing (read: visited family) and went to Philadelphia, PA. I drove from Michigan. I brought a friend. I’d been to Philly previously for work, but this would be my first trip to see the sites and be a citizen.

Here are 5 things I didn’t realize about Philly:

1. Traveling on on the Ohio and PA turnpike is expensive.

Traveling on the turnpike is a great a idea for a number of reasons. It’s also horrible. Ohio has it figured out, with nearly exactly $20 in tolls from outside Toledo east through the state. Pennsylvania, however, is having issues. I-76, the PA turnpike, is under construction. And clearly paying for all of that with the tolls of one year. Crossing PA cost nearly $60, for one car. There’s a lot of construction. We did not take it west/home, and did not, really, take any more time. Six complete stops on the way there(Thursday, Friday); zero on the way home (Monday).

2. Probably, parking will be a nightmare.

I get city living, in theory. No, you don’t need a car. Great. Then why is it so hard for me to park mine?! Now, keep in mind there is an entire television show about the Philadelphia parking authority. I’ve seen it. It’s a shit show. And now I know why. Over night parking at “a cheap lot” cost $33 for 24 hours. Thankfully we found street parking seven blocks away for the remainder of the trip.

3. “City hot” is a whole other thing.

This weekend was hot. HOT. Summer hot. Nearly 90 degrees in Philly. But humid and stagnant and “city hot”. City hot is different because there is no escape. There was an occasional breeze — and they were lovely! — but generally the hot just descends on the city and doesn’t go anywhere. For three days. And you’re walking. Hot.

4. New Jersey is, like, right there.

I grew up literally across a narrow river from Wisconsin. I understand that states touch. I just did not realize all of that was happening so close to the city of Philadelphia. This was immediately obvious due to the traffic from everyone leaving the city for “down the shore.”

5. Chinatown is a must.

IMG_2574The Chinatown in Philly is absolutely fantastic. Nearby Franklin Park is currently hosting a Chinese lantern festival (through 12 June). Admission is $17 per person at night, to experience them in their full glory, but if you can only take a quick stop during the day, you won’t be disappointed. And it’s free! This picture and the one above was taken there. A surprise lion dance popped up down one street while the red pagoda entrance beckoned us into Chinatown proper. Stop for lunch at Dim Sum Garden. The three of us spent $28 on 5 items (total) and left food on the table. The soup dumplings were fun (be careful — they’re hot!), and the pork fried dumplings were the best I’d ever had. It’s no wonder they were voted Zagat’s Best Asian Restaurant in the city.

Weekend In: Cleveland

Despite its relative proximity to the southeast Michigan, I’ve never been to Cleveland before. Or, I don’t remember being there if I have ever been. Which I generally think is worse than not having been.

When the opportunity came to head down for the day, I was happy to ride along. I brought along the audio version of Andy Cohen’s “Most Talkative,” and after a leisurely breakfast, we were off. Metro-Detroit to Cleveland is a manageable three hours. On the way there, we took the lake-side route, avoiding tolls.

During this quick trip, there was only one clear goal. We were meeting up with a good friend of Lauren’s at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame “around” lunch. It was a bright, sunny…. windy, freezing day along the lake shore. Which is precisely where the RRHOF is.

Parking couldn’t have been easier, with a structure at the adjacent Great Lakes Science Center. With a bit of time to burn, we harnessed our inner child and did some exploring.

More of a ‘hand-on-museum’, the Science Center offered kids the opportunity to interact with every exhibit. Admittedly, two grown ladies are not the audience for this place. This became extremely clear as the combined noise of “all the crap on the 3rd floor” had us rushing for the exit after one quick turn.

Lunch and more adult scenery beckoned and we made our way to the RRHOF. The restaurant offered few, but quality choices, and was not ridiculously priced. Which is always nice to see in museums. Perhaps because there is an entrance fee , there’s no need to rake you over at concession too. Thoughtful of them. We ate and waited, and soon friends arrived and our tour of the building began.

The layout of the RRHOF was not entirely easy to navigate. Several “half floors” and back-tracking stairs made it a bit confusing. The 5th and 6th floor special exhibit area featured a photo expo on Herb Ritts, which was outstanding. To my mind, more space could have been dedicated to this.

To me, the best parts of the museum were the engraved walls with each inductee’s signature, and the lowest level which contains wardrobe from notable acts. The meat dress is here, as are the tour costumes of many contemporary artists.

The final stop on the tour, and one which should not go without comment, was the store. A huge selection of vinyl records, tshirts, magnets and more take up nearly half of the first floor.

In total, we spent about six hours in Cleveland. This seems like just the right amount of time to do both museums. If you have kids, you’ll undoubtedly spend more time at the GLSC, but presumably less time at the HOF.