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In the 19th century, the Academy was the American equivalent of the best European art schools. A host of genres and mediums from the most prominent names in American art are constantly on display, with new pieces rotating their way into the collection. Some of America's best artists either taught or were students here, including Thomas Eakins and Mary Cassatt. The building itself is a work of art designed by Frank Furness, an influential 19th-century American architect.
This has been the jewel of the Philadelphia culture scene since it opened in 1857. The simple brick Federalist exterior opens into an ornate interior—art deco lamps, velvet cushions, and possibly the largest chandelier on the East Coast. The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Pennsylvania Ballet, the opera and the occasional pop show have performed at the academy. There is some criticism about the acoustics and sight lines, but none of this matters. This is where the big shows are.
Due to its spellbinding architecture and sheer grandeur, Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul is a must-visit place on the list of every tourist in Philadelphia. This beautiful cathedral is the centerpiece of one of the largest Catholic populations in North America. It was designed by celebrated architect Napoleon LeBrun and constructed between 1846 and 1864 by blending Palladian and Italian Renaissance architectural styles. A beautiful “baldachin” or “canopy” over the altar is evidence of the Italian influence while the church façade is in the Palladian style. In fact, you may be forgiven for thinking you are in Europe while viewing this glorious cathedral. Embark on an audio tour and learn more about its eight chapels, 2000-seat sanctuary, vaulted copper dome, and a spectacular apse featuring red marble carvings and stained glass work. During the tour, you will also be familiarized with the fascinating history of the basilica. As Pennsylvania's largest Catholic church, this monument is recorded in the National Register of Historic Places.
The Academy of Natural Sciences boasts one of the most extensive collections of dinosaur remains and fossils in the country. Visitors can view the 40-foot frame of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, the vanquished rulers of the Earth. In addition to the permanent displays, the academy often puts emphasis on ecological exhibits and their relevance to today's environment. It is conveniently located close to the Franklin Institute and other museums, as well as shopping and eating destinations.
The African American Museum is famous for carefully preserving and analyzing the pictorial and material culture and heritage of the African Americans. Over so many years of efforts, the museum has stored about 5 lac objects, images, documents, dressings, pictures and books of the natives. Major events held here are Celebrate Africa 2008!, Discover Greatness, AAMP Art and Quilters' Roundtable. Generally, on Saturdays, there are Family Days which feature face painting, story telling sessions, choreographed dances and projecting films. Local artists put on their beautiful art-work based on lives of entertainers, politicians and freedom fighters.
A jewel of the Independence National Historic Park, the Liberty Bell spans layers and layers of long-standing history. In 1751, William Penn asked that the new bell being cast for the Pennsylvania Statehouse be engraved with the words, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” When the bell first rang to call citizens to the first reading of the Declaration of Independence, little did it know that it was going to change the course of the country forever. It was later dubbed the 'Liberty Bell' by abolitionists, who adopted the bell as a symbol of their fight for freedom for all Americans. A copper-clad, 2,080-pound (940-kilogram) icon of American independence, The Liberty Bell yet serves as a symbol of pride, inspiration and freedom.
A working-class Philadelphian himself, Dr Albert Coombs Barnes established the foundation in 1922 to promote appreciation of the fine arts among the common man. Over the years, the Barnes Foundation has procured one of the most noteworthy collections of early French modern and post-impressionist paintings in the world. Works by artists like Renoir, Cezanne, Monet, Picasso and Rousseau are part of the collection. The collection has only toured once and then only a fraction of it was sent out. It is necessary to call ahead for a reserved admission ticket.
Franklin Square is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is one of five landscapes planned by William Penn in the late 1600s. It was formerly called Northeast Square, and later renamed in 1825 to honor Benjamin Franklin, a pioneer of the country as well as inventor and activist. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 14, 1981.
The red-bricked Georgian building in the midst of the 45-acre (18.2-hectare) Independence National Historical Park is one of the most recognizable historical landmarks in the nation, emblematic of the culmination of a series of epoch-making events that led to the birth of an independent America. The place where both the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Constitution of the United States (1787) were signed, the Independence Hall has come to be synonymous with the the ideas of freedom and democracy that the declaration is hinged on, and stands tall on Philadelphia's historic Chestnut Street, flanked by side wings and a steeple. Constructed between 1732 and 1753, the famed Independence Hall was the brainchild of Andrew Hamilton and Edmund Woolley, and also served as the meeting place for the Second Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention. The iconic Liberty Bell is located right around the corner, although its original home was Independence Hall's bell tower.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art features over 240,000 objects filled with treasures spanning across continents and cultures, drawn from a collection of more than 400,000 works of art like prints, drawings and photographs. The huge stone edifice of the museum, supported by majestic Doric columns, looks over the Schuylkill River. Scale the steps made famous in the 'Rocky' movies.
One of the city's most unique parks and outdoor spaces, Race Street Pier stands close to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, jutting out into the Delaware River. Manicured lawns cover one part of the pier, while a beautiful raised promenade occupies the rest of the space. From joggers in the morning to picnicking families and tourists looking for some calm by the river, the park sees a lot of visitors throughout the day, and is an excellent bet for people-watching. Panoramic vistas of the city make it a favorite hangout for photographers. Check website for more.
Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) can best be described as—a large, square space filled with ideas and beauty. Past shows have included retrospectives of Agnes Martin, Robert Morris, Cindy Sherman, Robert Mapplethorpe, Paul Thek and Peter Campus. There's no permanent collection, so check ahead about the current schedule. From July 1, 2008 ICA has become free to all visitors.