Pope’s visit boosts City of Brotherly Love

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senior travel talkPope Francis went to Philadelphia as part of his historic trip to the United States, shining a spotlight on all there is to see and do in the place named by founder William Penn as the City of Brotherly Love.

For American history buffs, there are few places more closely linked to this country’s founding than Philadelphia.

The Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were debated and signed at Independence Hall, the 18th-century home of Pennsylvania’s colonial government. The Declaration was read aloud in the area now known as Independence Square. Run by the National Park Service, the hall is open year-round, but admission is by tour only. Free timed-entry tickets are required from March through December. Nearby is the Liberty Bell, displayed in a glass chamber. Exhibits explain the bell’s history and how it’s inspired generations of Americans.

While Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell may be Philadelphia’s most famous historic sites, there are many places with a connection to American history.

At the Betsy Ross House, visitors can learn about the woman credited with making the original American flag. The National Constitution Center tells the story of “We the People” through artifacts, interactive displays and film. The Benjamin Franklin Museum is dedicated to exploring the life of the scientist and statesman who was one of Philadelphia’s most famous residents. And the Franklin Institute, named for him, is one of the country’s premier science museums. A new exhibit, “Vatican Splendors,” featuring more than 200 works of art and historic objects, is on display through Feb. 15.

The “Rocky” movies are among the most famous set in Philadelphia. Anyone who saw the original will remember Sylvester Stallone as boxer Rocky Balboa running up the 72 stone steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and raising his arms in victory. Today, there’s a bronze statue of the Rocky character near the foot of the steps. The museum itself, with its world-class collection, is well worth a visit. A new exhibit, “Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life,” includes works from the 1800s to the Pop Art era of the 1960s.

Of course Philadelphia is a great place to eat, too. While Pennsylvania’s largest city is renowned for its exceptional epicurean fare, perhaps its best-known contribution to American culinary tradition is the cheese steak, invented by Pat Olivieri in 1930.

Today, visitors can sample the original at Pat’s King of Steaks, or try one from its rival and South Philadelphia neighbor, Geno’s Steaks. Both are open 24 hours and take cash-only. To order like a local, remember to tell the cashier whether you want your steak with or without (onions), and if you want it plain, with Cheez Whiz, Provolone or American.

Another must-see stop on the Philadelphia culinary tour is Reading Terminal Market. The 19th-century public market has been revitalized and is home to an eclectic mix of restaurants and shops as well as places to buy fresh and prepared food.

For help planning a trip to Philadelphia, contact your travel agent.

Lucie Giguere is an agent and office manager of Travel Leaders/Travel Advisors International at 204 Front St. in Lincoln. Contact her at (401) 725-1234 or lucie@taitrips.com.

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