We recently spent a long weekend visiting Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the first time. I shared our stay at The Logan Hotel a couple of weeks ago and today will be covering Reading Terminal Market, The Academy of Natural Sciences, Rittenhouse Square, and a recipe for Strawberry White Chocolate Milkshakes.
Disclosure: I received tickets to The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in exchange for featuring the museum in this post. All comments and opinions are my own.
We left Northern Virginia early Saturday morning in order to avoid traffic and reach Reading Terminal Market in time for breakfast. Reading Terminal Market is located on North 12th Street adjacent to the Pennsylvania Convention Center. This large market has over 75 vendors featuring everything from eateries, bakeries, and restaurants to fresh produce, seafood, meats, ice cream, housewares, and Pennsylvania Dutch markets. It has been in operation since 1892 with train service on the upper level starting in 1893. By 1913, the building held 250 specialized dealers and 100 farmers. The market declined following WWII with only 20% occupation in 1979 and the last train leaving the station in 1984. With preservation efforts, the market was back to 100% occupancy by 2000. Here is a more detailed history of Reading Terminal Market.
We stopped before checking into the hotel and easily found parking across the street in the Parkway Garage. This garage on 12th and Filbert along with the Hilton Garage on 11th and Arch have discounted parking for 5 and 4 dollars respectively as long as you get your parking pass validated at one of the vendors (at least 10 dollar purchase).
The market wasn’t overly crowded when we arrived on a Saturday morning, but definitely started to pick up as we were leaving around 11 am. The longest lines by far were for doughnuts at Beiler’s Doughnuts. The way the line wraps around, you can watch the doughnuts being made while you wait. Evan wanted one with sprinkles while Chad and Claire shared an Apple Fritter. Here is a list of their flavors. Along with their flagship location in the market, they also have locations on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia and in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. As a note, they are closed on Sundays along with the other Pennsylvania Dutch vendors.
Another stop for Chad was Tommy DiNic’s. He got a Roast Pork Sandwich with Provolone Cheese and Broccoli Rabe. The sandwich was a good size at about a foot long and the meat was tender, but Chad wasn’t a huge fan of the broccoli rabe. In addition to the doughnuts, Evan and Claire also enjoyed pretzels from Miller’s Twist (closed on Sundays) while Chad and I split a Bacon, Egg and Cheese Pretzel Roll-Up.
Before heading back to the car, I stopped by Termini Bros Bakery for a cannoli. The first bakery opened in 1921 with this Reading Terminal Market location in operation since 1985. In addition to cannoli (filled to order), they also offer an assortment of pastries, cakes, and cookies.
There are so many more vendors to explore. I really wish I had gotten a box or two of chocolates at Mueller Chocolate Co. They have some fun and interesting items like chocolate body parts and chocolate covered onions.
Other notable stops at Reading Terminal Market include Bassett’s Ice Cream, Wursthaus Schmitz, Beck’s Cajun Cafe, Valley Shepherd Creamery & Meltkraft, Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagies & Cheesesteaks, Flying Monkey Bakery, John Yi Fish Market, Little Thai Market, and Dutch Eating Place. When visiting, keep in mind that many of the vendors are closed on Sunday and/or Monday.
After checking in to The Logan Hotel, we walked next door to The Academy of Natural Sciences. The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is located on Benjamin Franklin Parkway next to Logan Square. It is open 10-4:30 on weekdays and 10-5 on weekends and holidays. Check the admission prices here (cheaper online).
This is actually the oldest natural history museum in America (established in 1812 and opened its doors to the public in 1828) and the first to exhibit an entire dinosaur skeleton (Hadrosaurus foulkii in 1868). It features everything from dinosaurs and bugs to mollusks, dioramas, hands-on activities, and an extensive library. Most of the exhibits are geared towards younger children and allow for around 2 hours to see everything. Find the full list of exhibits here. If you want to avoid crowds, arriving later in the day is recommended.
Evan has recently gotten on a dinosaur (and bone and muscle) kick, so Dinosaur Hall was right up his alley. There were plenty of dinosaur bones and activities to discover and he was so excited to stumble upon a dinosaur model that showed the layers of muscles and bones too (photo below).
The massive Tyrannosaurus Rex dominates the hall along with over 30 other species represented including the Avaceratops, Chasmosaurus, Corythosaurus, Deinonychus, Pachycephalosaurus, Tenontosaurus, and Tylosaurus. This was after our visit, but the hall recently reopened with updated pedestals to showcase the dinosaurs.
In the back corner of Dinosaur Hall, behind the staircase, is the Fossil Prep Lab. Here, you can see the fossils being prepared in action or you can go to the exhibit above it called The Big Dig and search for fossils firsthand using a chisel and brush.
Claire was particularly enamored by the Dioramas. Mostly created between the 1930s and 1950s, the museum has 37 different dioramas featuring American animals on the first level and African/Asian animals on the second. Her favorites were the lion, tiger, and antelope.
In Butterflies!, you will find a tropical garden filled with butterflies and moths from Central and South America, East Africa, and Southeast Asia. Evan and Claire had so much fun trying to spot the butterflies. We didn’t have to search hard. They were everywhere. On any given day, the exhibit holds 20-40 species and a total of 60-150 butterflies. We were also able to see cocoons, frogs, and a praying mantis.
We spent most of our time in Outside In on the third floor. Much of this area is hands-on. Children can explore an eagle’s nest (photo below), relax at the reading corner with a nature book or puzzle, search for fossil shark teeth, play in the sand, explore a life-size tree, and see animals up close. Evan especially enjoyed watching the bugs, particularly the bees. Claire spent most of her time hopping between the sand area and the turtles/tortoise.
Backyard Adventures was the special exhibit for the summer. It ran from June 9th to September 10th. Here, the kids were free to explore and learn about the biodiversity of a backyard garden. Evan was able to see the world through a bee’s eyes on the bee bike and Claire enjoyed playing a round of backyard-themed mini golf. Other activities included digging in the dirt of an augmented reality garden bed; dressing-up as a spider, bee, or ladybug; creating the world’s largest vegetable; building inside the tool shed; and more interactive games.
The next special exhibit opens on September 30th and lasts until January 15th. It is called Tiny Titans: Dinosaur Eggs and Babies and features dinosaurs through their eggs, nests, and embryos.
The museum often has special events/activities and Evan was delighted to to join the Lego event on the second floor during our visit. A couple of tables were set up with a variety of dinosaur and bug themed legos. There was also a section with Mega Bloks for the younger crowd. Depending on the day, other activities include live animal presentations, a reptile cart, Audubon Page Turning (daily turning of James Audubon’s The Birds of America, published between 1827-1838), and even sensory-friendly mornings before the museum opens for those with Autism (the next date is October 15th). We weren’t in Philadelphia for this event, but I did appreciate the museum stories to help prepare Evan for our trip. Those can be found here.
There is also a cafe in the ground level if you need a bite to eat. All floors of the museum are stroller-friendly with elevators available or you can store your stroller like we did by the coat racks (not secured). Overall, we had such a great time at The Academy of Natural Sciences and the kids could have spent all day here. It was a great start to our weekend.
After the museum, we walked down towards Rittenhouse Square to eat lunch at Mac Mart.
Mac Mart is located on S 18th Street in Rittenhouse. After beginning as a food truck in 2013, this flagship store opened in 2016. A creamy seven-cheese macaroni and cheese is the base for a variety of mix-ins, drizzles, dollops, and dips. You can pick from one of their many prearranged flavors or build your own bowl. The kids had plain mac and cheese while I tried the Cheesesteak (thinly sliced beef, onions, ketchup, panko crunch) and Chad had the Chicken Bacon Ranch which was the favorite for both of us (buttermilk ranch marinated chicken chunks, bacon, and potato chip panko crunch). Other fun bowls include Margherita (tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and panko crunch), The Rittenhouse (creamy cheese, garlic sautéed spinach and artichoke dip, panko crunch), Corn Dog Cup (hotdog bites, cornbread crunch, ketchup drizzle), and Jalapeño Popper (jalapeño oil, garlic sautéed jalapeño and cream cheese dip, panko crunch).
The mac and cheese is served in reusable containers with tops which is perfect for toting leftovers home (or back to the hotel).
After a short swim break at the hotel, we went back to Rittenhouse for dinner reservations at Max Brenner. We left a little early so we were able to walk around and explore a bit. At the heart of Rittenhouse is Rittenhouse Square, one of the five original parks planned by William Penn.
Rittenhouse Square is surrounded by a variety of restaurants, nightlife, and shops. We stopped in a couple including Di Bruno Bros.. This gourmet grocery store features a large assortment of cheese, meat, seafood, pastries, a coffee bar, and a cafe on the second floor. This is their flagship location and they have four other locations in Philadelphia.
We had dinner on our first night at Max Brenner (there are also locations in Boston and New York City). The menu was quite extensive and unique, particularly in the sweets department. The food wasn’t the best we have ever had, but it was definitely fun (and our most expensive meal of the weekend). I had the Classic Chocolate Martini and the Chocolate Crepe Pasta. The crepes were cut into ribbons to give the impression of pasta and were paired with milk chocolate ganache, vanilla ice cream, caramelized hazelnut bits, Choco-pops, and grated white chocolate. Chad ordered the Strawberry White Chocolate Smoothie (which Claire ended up drinking over half) and the Chicken Cheesesteak Waffles with Cocoa-Spiced Waffle Fries. I really enjoyed the flavor of the fries.
The kids’ menu offered many interactive choices. Evan picked the “Escaping Pasta Robes.” A bowl of plain penne pasta was accompanied by a syringe filled with tomato sauce and a small bowl of grated cheese. Evan had a lot of fun with this, but wished the portion was a bit larger. Claire had the cheeseburgers, but ended up not eating much since she filled up on the smoothie.
The chocolate shop at the entrance has specialty items available for purchase like the chocolate syringes photographed above, bonbons, gift boxes, caramelized nuts (we were offered samples of these while we waited for our table and they were quite delicious), fondue towers, and more.
There were two recipes that I really wanted to try at home from this part of the trip- the Strawberry White Chocolate Milkshake from Max Brenner and the Chicken Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese from Mac Mart. I decided on the Strawberry White Chocolate Milkshake mostly because I had just made another Mac and Cheese recipe recently, but the Chicken Bacon Ranch is definitely on my mind for in the future.
The milkshake comes together easily with a combination of blended vanilla ice cream, fresh strawberries (frozen can be substituted), white chocolate, milk, and a little vanilla extract for an added boost. I served them topped with whipped cream and mini white chocolate chips. While I used white chocolate chips in this recipe, the version at Max Brenner actually blends in a white chocolate ganache.
If you aren’t a fan of white chocolate, you can also use dark chocolate as shown by Domestically Blissful.
I used a large blender that easily holds all the ingredients. If your blender is smaller, divide the recipe in half.
Strawberry White Chocolate Milkshake
Adapted from Domestically Blissful
2 cups fresh, hulled and sliced strawberries
2/3 cup white chocolate, chips or roughly chopped
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups vanilla ice cream
Mini white chocolate chips or sprinkles
In a blender, add the strawberries, white chocolate, milk, vanilla extract, and ice cream.
Blend until smooth. Serve immediately topped with whipped cream and mini white chocolate chips if desired.