July 11, 2016

Only in Philly, Only During the DNC

The DNC Host City Casts A Vote For Fun With Political-Themed Activities & Exhibitions

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Twinkling lights—red, white and blue in celebration of the Democratic National Convention—outline Boathouse Row. Photo by R. Kennedy for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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To mark National Tourism & Travel Week 2015, Philadelphia's hospitality industry assembled its ranks in front of Independence Hall. Photo by R. Kennedy for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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Philadelphia, the country’s first World Heritage City, is all in for the Democratic National Convention. Museums and attractions around the city are getting in the red, white and blue spirit with political-themed events, exhibitions and specials. As convention delegates head to the Wells Fargo Center to cast their votes for a nominee, here are 19 ways locals and visitors can cast their votes for fun:

Exciting Exhibitions:

1. The National Constitution Center’s timely Headed to the White House gives people the scoop on the electoral process, from the moment a candidate announces his/her campaign to the presidential swearing-in ceremony. Throughout the interactive exhibition, “candidates” discover how elections have evolved over time, create and star in their own ad campaigns, work with an interactive speech coach and take a seat behind the Oval Office desk. Through November 13. 525 Arch Street, (215) 409-6700, constitutioncenter.org

2. Sweep the Country: Political Conventions in Philadelphia, presented at The Heritage Center of The Union League of Philadelphia in partnership with the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent, covers the 11 political conventions held in Philadelphia between 1848 and 2000. After this year’s DNC, items and stories from Philadelphia’s 12th political convention will be added to the display. Videos featuring historians and historic objects, including badges, ribbons and pins, transport visitors to past conventions, complete with celebrations and strife. Open to the public on Tuesdays, Thursdays and second Saturdays. Through early 2017. 140 S. Broad Street, (215) 587-6455, ulheritagecenter.org

3. As the nation faces hot-button issues related to incarceration, historic Eastern State Penitentiary unveils a daring new exhibition, Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration. Focusing on changes in laws, policing and sentencing, the three-year interactive exhibition challenges people to explore ways to shape the future of the American criminal justice system. 2027 Fairmount Avenue, (215) 236-3300, easternstate.org

4. A special exhibition drawn from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts’ (PAFA) permanent collection explores themes of humor, protest and portraiture in the cross-section of American art and politics. Called Happiness, Liberty, Life? American Art and Politics, the show addresses American artists’ often-explosive engagement with the political process. Part of the exhibit, The Wall of Washington presents more than 20 representations of George and Martha Washington, and pop artist Red Grooms’ circa 1982 Philadelphia Cornucopia, a “sculpto-pictorama” of Washington, Jefferson and Franklin, last exhibited in 1987. A companion installation in PAFA’s next-door Historic Landmark Building traces the history of presidential portraiture from the 19th century to the present. Through September 18. 118-128 N. Broad Street, (215) 972-7600, pafa.org

5. Just before the Fourth of July, 57 decorated Donkeys Around Town will pop up in interesting spots throughout and just beyond Center City. Each fiberglass animal, fabricated in nearby Chester, Pennsylvania and decorated by Philadelphia artists affiliated with the Mural Arts Program and artjawn.com, will represent one of 50 U.S. states, one of five territories, Washington, D.C. and Democrats abroad. The donkeys furnish great opportunities for home-state selfies. Through September 5. phldnc.com

6. The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University dug deep into its 200-plus-year-old collection to create a mini-exhibition for the DNC. Presidential Archives: Letters, Hair, and Fossils showcases the museum’s connections to presidents of all political parties—including fossils that belonged to Jefferson (mammoth, mastodon, sloth); hair samples from Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Adams, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson; and Ulysses S. Grant’s and Thomas Jefferson’s membership cards to The Academy of Natural Sciences. Through July 29. 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 299-1000, ansp.org

7. PoliticalFest brings political entertainment to the people, via family-friendly exhibits on politics, government and history at seven city attractions over six days. One ticket gives participants access to all seven locations ($15 adult, $5 ages 17 and under, students and seniors). July 22-27. phldnc.com/politicalfest

  • At the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Politics and You! invites guests to climb aboard the fuselage of Air Force One, interact with C-SPAN exhibits The American Presidents and Electoral Boards, take a selfie behind the desk in an Oval Office replica, add their image to an I Am Democracy photo mosaic and explore the Future Leaders Zone, filled with political fun and games for kids. 1101 Arch Street, Hall F, (215) 418-4700, paconvention.com
  • The National Constitution Center presents Headed to the White House (see above), along with interactive Political Theater, featuring trivia, interviews and panel discussions. Parked outside, C-SPAN’s “Campaign 2016” bus offers a climb-aboard view of the TV journalist life. 525 Arch Street, (215) 409-6600, constitutioncenter.org
  • First Families at the National Liberty Museum displays sets of White House china dating back to George Washington’s tenure, First Ladies’ fashions, POTUS footwear and First Family portraits, and offers special programs provided by the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement. 321 Chestnut Street, (215) 925-2800, libertymuseum.org
  • The Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent traces the major role the city has played in making of commanders-in-chief through Philadelphia & the Presidency, starring a must-do “whistle-stop” photo op. 15 S. 7th Street, (215) 685-4830, philadelphiahistory.org
  • Founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the country’s oldest lending library, will showcase a life mask of George Washington, death mask of Abraham Lincoln, various presidential locks of hair and rare books, graphics and manuscripts about women in American politics and 19th-century African-American political conventions. 1314 Locust Street, (215) 546-3181, librarycompany.org
  • The Historical Society of Pennsylvania exhibit Founding Documents includes the earliest surviving version of the U.S. Constitution, a Declaration of Independence with a misprint and John Dickinson’s draft of the Articles of Confederation. 1300 Locust Street, (215) 732-6200, hsp.org
  • Last but not least, the Heritage Center at the Union League’s Sweep the Country: Political Conventions in Philadelphia (see above) rounds out the PoliticalFest ticket. 140 S. Broad Street, (215) 587-6455, ulheritagecenter.org

8. Open the entire week of the DNC, the National Museum of American Jewish History shows rare foundational documents demonstrating President Washington’s commitment to religious liberty and equality for citizens of all faiths. On display, the 1790 Letter to a Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island and Washington’s nondenominational Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1789. As a bonus: convention attendees receive two-for-one admission; convention volunteers are admitted free. 101 S. Independence Mall East, (215) 923-3811, nmajh.org

Festivals & Tours:

9. Before and during the DNC, both Hillary and Bernie fans can explore their favorite nominee’s and candidate’s historic roots with two guided walking tours running daily. In mid-July, Philly Tour Hub’s Urban Adventures launched the two-hour I’m With Her: Hillary Clinton and Philly’s Founding Women and the two-and-a-half-hour Feel the Bern: Bernie Sanders and Philly’s Revolutionaries. The Hillary tour begins at 10 a.m. and explores the roles of women in the 18th century, impact of First Ladies, the women’s suffrage movement—even early American healthcare. The Bernie tour, at 1:30 p.m., takes left turns only, stopping at a historic church where the 1% and 99% worshipped together, a working-class 18th century home and the country’s very first big banks. $34 per person. July 17-31. 229 Arch Street, (215) 280-3746, phillytourhub.com

10. Pre-empting convention excitement, Political Moviefest shows free alfresco films in Dilworth Park. Philadelphia’s Center City District had movie buffs vote on which political flicks would be shown on City Hall’s west side. Voters selected classics Selma, The Manchurian Candidate, The American President and All the President’s Men—screening in that order. Before and during the four-night festival, audience members can avail themselves of refreshments from Brûlée Catering’s Dilworth Park Café and Air Grille, along with treats from Capogiro and Philly Pop Kettle Corn. July 20-23. 15th & Market Streets, (215) 440-5500, ccdparks.org/dilworth-park

11. Philadelphia’s popular Night Market moves to the daytime—and into Historic Philadelphia—just for the DNC. Philly Feast, United We Eat brings a diverse lineup of food trucks, live music, local vendors and American history for a foodie block party. July 25. 3rd & Arch Streets, phldnc.com

12. For the DNC, Christ Church, where many Founding Fathers worshipped, displays a segment of a coat of arms belonging to King George III, a recreated U.N. Chapel and two presidential letters: one from George Washington to Reverend William White in 1799 to thank him for sending a copy of his sermon and one from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Reverend Felix Kloman to thank him for the creation of a U.N. Chapel in the church. Grave markers at Christ Church Burial Ground identify the burial sites of Benjamin Franklin, Dr. Benjamin Rush and three other signers of the Declaration of Independence. For the convention, historians offer hourly 20-minute tours that highlight the revolutionary contributions of the country’s Founding Mothers, including Deborah Franklin, Julia Rush, Abigail Adams and Martha Washington. July 25-28. Church, 2nd Street between Market & Arch Streets; Burial Ground, Arch Street between 4th & 5th Streets, (215) 922-1695, christchurchphila.org

13. South Philly’s vibrant East Passyunk Avenue expands its weekly summer-evening stroll into a DNC Passyunk Passeggiata Street Festival, closing down the byway to cars so pedestrians can roam amid alfresco dining, live music, five DJs, a farmers’ market from early evening until post-convention time. July 27. E. Passyunk Avenue from Tasker Street to Broad Street, visiteastpassyunk.com

Food & Drink Specials:

14. Looking to break a record during the DNC, Philly’s hit Center City Sips happy hour starts in Comcast Plaza, Centre Square and Dilworth Park and then continues in dozens of restaurants and bars in a valiant attempt to become the biggest such event of its kind. July 27. Centre Square & Dilworth Park, 15th & Market Streets, Comcast Plaza, 1701 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, centercityphila.org

15. Reading Terminal Market destination Bassetts Ice Cream has been churning out its product since 1861. But the family-run operation known for its Philly-style recipe waited until July 2016 to introduce its red, white & blueberry flavor—vanilla ice cream swirled with raspberry and blueberry puree. It’s available through the DNC. 1136 Arch Street, bassettsicecream.com

16. Historic Philadelphia’s Victorian-inspired ice cream parlor The Franklin Fountain dishes out patriotic parfaits made with raspberry ice, blueberry ice cream, whipped cream and berry compote sprinkled with white chocolate. They’re also serving up two new flavors: Feel the Bernt Sugar, consisting of burnt sugar ice cream with burnt amber sugar candy bites, and Lightning Rodham, made with coffee ice cream, crushed chocolate espresso beans, white chocolate “lightning” and mini pretzel rods. 116 Market Street, (215) 627-1899, franklinfountain.com

17. Political affiliations don’t mean much at McGillin’s Olde Ale House. Established in 1860, the city’s oldest continuously operating pub welcomes everyone to enjoy a Red, White & Bleu Burger, a char-grilled burger topped with roasted red peppers, caramelized onions and crumbled bleu cheese, along with a Dublin Donkey, a concoction of ginger beer and a shot of Jameson, or the Red, White & Blue cocktail, a mix of strawberry daiquiri, piña colada, Blue Curacao and rum. 1310 Drury Lane, (215) 735-5562, mcgillins.com

18. Fans of spectacular skyline views—especially the top of Independence Hall—and custom cocktails can enjoy both at Stratus Lounge, the Hotel Monaco’s rooftop bar. The destination drinking spot has created the Jackass just for the DNC, it’s made with jalapeño-infused Jefferson’s Bourbon, ginger beer and lime. 433 Chestnut Street, stratuslounge.com

19. Delegates, media and locals can find out the latest offers and convention-centric specials at restaurants, bars, merchants and more by following #DNCdeals.

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