The Best of Philly- Eleven picks for 2011

October 21, 2011 9:22:57 AM PDT
Having merely a top 10 list for 2011 just doesn't seem right, especially when talking about a city as rich in history and culture as Philadelphia. Where else will you find major historical institutions expanding, two technologically modernized interpretations of history debuting, the only East Coast appearance of a monumental museum exhibition , and a month-long, $10 million festival of the arts? That's a lot of 'Wow!' Here are the latest reasons to head to Philly this year:

  • Visitors can take a new look at history during Liberty 360, a new 360-degree 3-D film adventure on view in the PECO Theater at the Historic Philadelphia Center. The 15-minute visual extravaganza is projected onto a 50-foot screen, where, at a resolution of 9.5 million pixels, a larger-than-life Benjamin Franklin leads viewers through some of America's most cherished icons of freedom. 6th & Chestnut Streets, (215) 629-4026,

  • Last November, Independence Mall welcomed the opening of the gleaming new National Museum of American Jewish History, a modern 100,000-square-foot, five-story glass structure architecturally designed to reflect the welcome embrace of America and the perennial fragility of democracy. Inside, exhibitions, rare artifacts and interactive displays mark the contributions, hardships and successes of American Jews through every phase of the country's history and invite all people to remark on the characteristics that make humans similar instead of different. 101 S. Independence Mall East, (215) 923-3811,

  • When The President's House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation makes its much-anticipated debut on Independence Mall on December 15, 2010, visitors will be able to see structural fragments of the home where Presidents Washington and Adams lived during their terms and where nine enslaved people served the first president. At the open-air Independence National Historical Park site, located just steps from the Liberty Bell Center, visitors will learn about the events that transpired at the President's House through illustrated glass panels, timelines and video re-enactments. They'll also have a place to partake in silent reflection at the 24-hour site. 6th & Market Streets, (215) 597-0060,

  • The Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent (PHM) will reopen this spring with all new exhibits, a renovated building and a reinstallation of the famous Philadelphia floor map. Through galleries grouped into themes such as "Made in Philadelphia," "Sports & Their Fans" and "Turning Points," the museum showcases legendary craftsmanship and athletic prowess, plus many of the iconic artifacts, that comprise the city's 328-year history. Furthermore, a "Community Voices" gallery invites guest organizations to curate their own exhibitions. 15 S. 7th Street, (215) 685-4830,

  • Debuting this summer, the re-imagined Lights of Libertyshow will be the first outdoor nighttime spectacle that includes 3-D technology. During the guided walking tour, visitors will witness the transformation of historic Philadelphia's most noteworthy buildings into dazzlingly lit recreations of their 18th-century selves while they absorb the fervent feelings that were engendered by Philadelphians as they processed the meaning of the newly inked Declaration of Independence. Profoundly stirring surround sound and imagery will aim to transport guests' imaginations to an earlier era as they marvel at the latest in 21st-century technology. 6th & Chestnut Streets, (215) 629-4026,


  • A new wing devoted to changing exhibits and education will open at the Mercer Museum this summer. A significant component of the National Historic Landmark's $12.5 million expansion, the wing is being constructed with a 3,500-square-foot climate-controlled gallery able to accommodate collections from lenders like the Smithsonian. Additional space will be designated for a 1,000-square-foot Multi-Flex Learning Center suitable for all-ages educational programs. The wing's inaugural exhibit, entitled "A World of Things: The Mercer Museum A to Z," will showcase rarely displayed objects from the museum's stockpile of early industrial artifacts. 84 S. Pine Street, Doylestown, (215) 345-0210,

  • Art lovers have until June to see Albert Barnes' world-renowned collection in its original state before the museum closes in preparation for its move to downtown Philadelphia. In its final months at the original location, visitors can take advantage of expanded hours Thursday through Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Part of the widely recognized allure of The Barnes Foundation collection, which comprises Matisses, Renoirs and Picassos, is the seemingly haphazard yet meticulous manner Barnes chose to display his priceless artwork throughout his suburban manor home. The new museum will recreate the layout when it opens in 2012. Advance tickets required. 300 N. Latch's Lane, Merion, (610) 667-0290,

  • Philly's all about big exhibitions, and 2011 is going to be a busy year with several shows focused on art, anthropology, history and science. First up: The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) will present "Anatomy/Academy," a show that explores the science of the body as visualized by artists such as Thomas Eakins, William Rush and Marcel Duchamp, until April 17. Next, "Secrets of the Silk Road" will make its only East Coast stop at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, until June 5. Among the hundreds objects on display,two mummies will wow museum-goers until March 28. From now until July 10, 2011, "Paris through the Window: Marc Chagall and His Circle" will be on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and focus on the paintings that Marc Chagall made between 1910 and 1920, including the masterpiece "Half Past Three (The Poet)." Finally, from July 1-Sept. 5, American hero George Washington will come to life at the National Constitution Center in "Discover the Real George Washington: New Views from Mount Vernon," featuring nearly 100 objects, including his famous dentures. PAFA, 128 N. Broad Street, (215) 972-7600,; Penn Museum, 3260 South Street, (215) 898-4000,; Art Museum, 26th Street & the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 763-8100,; Constitution Center, 525 Arch Street, (215) 409-6600,


  • The first-ever Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) will bring together 128 cultural organizations to stage a 25-day festival celebrating the formal and the fanciful in the worlds of classical and contemporary music, dance, theater, painting, circus acts and many other art forms. Inspired by the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and running in venues across the city from April 7 through May 1, the $10-million extravaganza is being funded by the Annenberg Foundation. Highlights from the festival's 31 commissioned collaborative works, plus bonus features, will range from a Parisian Street Fair along Broad Street to high-flying circus performances to the unveiling of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program's first digitally projected art wall. (215) 790-5800,

  • Another Philadelphia first kicks off on April 15: the Philadelphia Science Festival, a two-week (runs through April 28), community-wide celebration of all things science. The annual event will feature hundreds of mostly free events, exhibitions, hands-on fun, debates and other educational opportunities. Highlights include a Science Carnival on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a science scavenger hunt throughout the city, science nights at popular bars and more. (215) 448-1200,


  • The Philadelphia region hit the jackpot in September 2010 when it welcomed its third casino--this one close to downtown Philadelphia. SugarHouse Casino in the Fishtown section of the city joined Parx Casino® in Bensalem and Harrah's Chester to make Philadelphia the only major city to have casinos with both slots and table games. All easily accessible along the I-95 corridor, the shiny new gaming parlors boast thousands of slot machines, hundreds of table games, live racing, restaurants, lounges and more. Even better, all three casinos are raising the stakes over the next several years with major expansions--a move that will translate into more slots, games, restaurants, hotels, spas and many additional amenities. SugarHouse, 1010 N. Columbus Boulevard, (267) 232-2000,; Parx, 2999 Street Road, Bensalem, (888) 588-PARXS,; Harrah's, 777 Harrah's Boulevard, Chester, (800) 480-8020,

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