American Heritage Chocolate Company sent me on a chocolate history journey through Historic Philly last week and not only did I learn a ton, I also made memories that will last a life time! In the course of 2 days I took over 500 photos-there was so much to see and do, so I captured it all in photos! I can’t wait to share with you my experience in Historic Philadelphia, so let’s get rolling!
On the flight to Philly, I was trying to sneakily capture a photo of the cockpit to send to my children who would be thrilled to see the inside of the plane since they’ve never been in one. I apparently am not as sneaky as I thought and the pilot asked if I wanted to fly us to Philly, I said sure! I jumped in the co-pilot seat and even made a fake announcement! It was a fun way to start our trip! When I say “our”, my Mom in law came on the trip with me too. We have so much fun together and this trip just made me adore her even more!
Mom and I had a couple of hours that evening and about 6 hours the next morning to explore Philadelphia before we met up with the folks from American Heritage Chocolate, Betsy Ross House and Historic Philly. We enjoyed dinner at the Revolution House, it was pretty dim in there, so I used the candle on the table to read the map which made for a very authentic colonial experience. We enjoyed Reading Market, a round trip drive on the Phlash bus to get to the sites we wanted to see, the Independence Hall Visitors Center, the Coin Mint, saw the Rocky steps, the oldest street in America-Elfreth’s Alley, enjoyed not just 1, but 2 Philly Cheesesteaks (recommend Carmen’s Famous Steaks in Reading Market-get The Franklin cheesesteak), went to Penn’s Landing, walked the streets in the rain, went by the Constitution Center, saw Ben Franklin’s post office and print shop, and even met a street musician! This street musician was so excited about the dollar I dropped in his hat that he asked me what my name was, I said CJ, and he said, Maria? Okay Maria, I will play you the song Maria since it’s your name! Oh my, I barely held my laughter in, until the longest version of Maria finally ended, I thanked him and walked on. Our hotel was a block away from Independence Hall so everything was really close by and within walking distance! With the help of the free Historic Philadelphia Gazette we were able to maneuver our way around Historic Philly once we determined which way was actually North! At 4 pm we were in the square by Independence Hall when there was a reading of the Declaration of Independence. It wasn’t read by just anyone, but by History Makers. History Makers are dressed up in period clothing and have attended a specific school to become versed in their character. I’ve got to say each history maker I met was outstanding! They knew so much, could answer any question I asked and were always in character! It made the experience of Historic Philly very authentic! The Declaration reading made me a tad emotional thinking about how this really was the birthplace of my country and 240 years ago they were actually reading it for the public to hear in that very same area! The struggles these amazing people had to make so I could live in a free country really hit me at that moment!
I highly recommend doing a Tippler’s Tour offered by Historic Philadelphia when you go to visit. It is a guided tour and our tour guide was a History Maker name Trooper Hair. He led us through the Olde City and shared information along the way. I didn’t realize that there were multiple drafts of the Declaration of Independence, one of them is located in the Benjamin Franklin Lending Library right there in Philly written IN Thomas Jefferson’s handwriting! I also learned that people weren’t allowed to actually check the books out at that library, you had to read them in the library only!
Our guide spoke in the old English form, teaching us new words along the way! Our first stop was National Mechanics where we enjoyed a most delicious vegan mushroom empanada and drinks. We wound through some more streets, gaining historic knowledge and stopped at The Franklin Hotel. We enjoyed some sesame chicken there and more drinks. Even a person that doesn’t consume alcohol, like me, had a really great time on the Tippler’s Tour! In the late 1700’s it was common for our forefathers to jump from public house (pub) to public house and get riled up as they went. It often lead to singing and shouts of the enemy! I was laughing so hard when our Trooper started singing his tippler songs that my face hurt from smiling/laughing so much! Hip Hip Huzah!
Philadelphia is also known for it’s incredible food. We stopped by Cooperage for appetizers and dessert before heading off to Independence Hall After Hours! If you haven’t had a chance to ever eat a fried Oreo, you need to get one ASAP! Oh. My. Word. DIVINE! Independence Hall has a limited number of tickets/viewers each day. You need to visit the visitors center to get tickets to see it during the day. You will go inside with a large group of people and get to experience the historic hall. Fortunately for us, we had “tippler toured” with guy who had friends in high places and he was able to borrow a key from his friend Mr. Harry and let us in after hours!
If you want something a little less crowded and personal, then Independence Hall After Hours is for you! I got to stand in the same spot Nicholas Cage stood when they filmed National Treasure, my camera was a different angle, but I was in the right spot! During the guided tour we got to see where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was held as well as the Assembly Room where both the Declaration and Constitution were signed. I was able to learn where specific delegates sat, who wrote what, and even over heard a conversation between 3 of our most famous founding fathers as they tried to decide the best way to word this “declaration” they had been working on. Being privy to this conversation really made me realize that these men and women of this time period had to make a hard choice and then be willing to put their lives on the line for it. Benjamin Franklin said, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” It really hit home as I saw these History Makers in action. It is a priceless memory that still gives me chills when I think about it! I highly recommend the Independence Hall After Hours activity to renew your awe for this great country we live in!
Kim, (pictured below) who works at the Betsy Ross House then took us to Franklin Square to see the fun options for families! Between the carousel, the Philly themed mini golf course, and the awesome playground Franklin Square is a must stop for families that are visiting Philadelphia! Franklin Square is rumored to be the place where Benjamin Franklin flew his kite, so I took a picture of the sky in the park, maybe just maybe he was looking up at the same spot! We also enjoyed a Tastycake Shake from Squareburger! Again, another delicious piece of Philly that I will always treasure the memory of!
In the 1600’s London burned down completely, so when Philadelphia was being laid out, there were “squares” of nature left between buildings to be used as fire breaks if Philly was to ever encounter the same fate. The buildings were brick which is more fire resistant than other building materials of those days. We visited Washington Square where I saw a tree that had been planted on the moon, memorials, fountains and more! We saw carriage rides, rent a bike stations, newspaper sales boys, street musicians, historic buildings, flowers and squirrels everywhere…Philadelphia is beautiful!
Exhaustion finally set in and we made our way back to our hotel. I enjoyed a relaxing sunset swim on the roof top pool!
I was really looking forward to our 2nd day in Philly because we had a fun full day planned for us! After breakfast we met Major Nicholas who took us to see Liberty Bell. He also shared bits of information as we went along as to why a Major would have a sword to use as a command tool and other fun facts!
Perhaps my favorite part of the entire trip was the time spent at the Betsy Ross House and the American Heritage Chocolate making demonstration we attended! We arrived at the Betsy Ross House just in time for a flag raising. The courtyard at the Betsy Ross House was tree covered and gave nice shade on a hot day! I had a chance to take a “portrait” with the Betsy Ross History Maker. Did you know Betsy had 7 daughters?
Chocolate in the 1700’s was very different than the chocolate that we are accustomed to today. Sugar was expensive and there was certainly no milk used in chocolate. Chocolate was made from scratch (with a whole lot of effort I might add) and then mixed with hot water for a thick chocolate drink! It was a great way to start the day, it gave them the umph to carry on with what lay ahead! I enjoyed watching a History Maker and Dave from American Heritage Chocolate do the demonstration. Follow these steps with the picture below and I’ll teach you how to make chocolate using a 1750’s recipe that our fore fathers would have drank!
Step 1: This is what the cacao plant actually looks like, I was surprised!
Step 2: This is the form that the colonial settlers would receive it in.
Step 3: They would roast the beans over an open flame until they were just perfect for shelling by relying on experience and senses.
Step 4 & 5: In a shelling basket they would toss the beans in the air and catch them multiple times causing the shell to fall off and create cacao nibs.
Step 6 & 7: Crush the nibs into a powder form.
Step 8: Pour the powder onto a Matate Stone and add spices! If your stomach was upset you’d add a certain spice. If you wanted some bite in your chocolate, you’d add cayenne pepper.
Step 9: With a pumice stone you mix the spices and cacao by rubbing them against each other.
Step 10: All that effort produced that amount of chocolate! Wow, right?
Step 11: After much work, you’d have a 1 lb chocolate bar that could be grated down, mixed with hot water and turned into a thick chocolate drink!
How the chocolate tastes depends on your taste buds. Our group had the same chocolate drink and I tasted nutmeg, cinnamon, and cayenne while the lady next to me tasted orange and cinnamon only. One History Maker told us that 1 lb of tea would make 145 servings. 1 lb of chocolate would make 3-5 servings! If you were invited to chocolate and didn’t like it, you went anyway! Despite all the effort it took to make chocolate, it was pretty common among the common folks and there were tools that made it a bit easier! I admire these people even more now that I’ve seen their work ethic!
Inside the Betsy Ross House was amazing to see where Betsy met with George Washington and others to determine what the flag should look like. It is rumored that Washington wanted 6 point stars on the flag, but Betsy folded a piece of paper and with one snip made a 5 point star! The 5 point star was added onto the design! Betsy took me on as an apprentice that day, she taught me how to hand sew and back stitch so knots wouldn’t appear on one side of your flag! I also learned the neat trick to cutting a perfect star with one snip! Betsy was nearly blind when she died, I’m guessing from all that by hand needlework via candle light! Her family had donated her eye glasses for the museum among other personal items.
Fabric was hard to come by in America, so all fabric was imported from Britain, EVEN the material used to sew the first flag! Isn’t that a fun fact? Do you know how many stars were on the first flag? if you said 13, you said what I said, but actually, there were 26! 13 on the front side and 13 on the back side! Cool, right? You’re welcome…go impress your friends with that one! It was considered treason to make a flag, Betsy put her life at risk and would sew by candle light late at night in her room.
The Betsy Ross House is $5 to go through and totally worth it, in my opinion! In the cellar of the house you can meet Phillis the Laundress. She would travel from home to home offering to wash laundry for families. If they accepted, she would go to their cellar, boil water and soak their clothes in her own urine! Yes, I did just say urine. It was the cleaning agent of their day! (I’m glad I live in this day!) It would take 3 days to do 1 load of laundry-I vowed to never complain about laundry again after meeting the History Maker Phillis. She had it way tougher than I did! Also in the cellar of the house, there is a play area for kids, which was adorable. It is hands on and fun to let them cook a pretend meal in the pretend kitchen!
The house tour finishes off in the kitchen of the house where when you walk in the room a light scent of chocolate is noticeable. There was a History Maker named Hannah there the day we went and there are interactive quizzes and info for visitors to look through! If you come to the Betsy Ross House, be sure to try some of the American Heritage Chocolate items available in the gift shop!
There are so many fun free opportunities while visiting Philly! Be sure to check out Kids Quest, Military Muster, and Once Upon A Nation Benches! The Once Upon Nation benches are so fun. There are 13 clearly marked benches all throughout Historic Philadelphia Olde City, where you can sit and listen to a trained story teller share real stories from the past about regular people just like you and me! You know a story is about to start when the story teller rings the bell and hollars, free stories, come listen to a free story! You can enjoy the shade and sit on a bench while they go in and out of different characters making an entertaining learning event for any age! Each story always ends with the phrase…Once Upon A Nation. Clever! At your first stop, your story teller will give you a flag that has 13 blank stars on it. For each bench you visit and listen to the story you earn another sticker. If you get 10 or more stickers you get a free carousel ride at Franklin Square! I heard a great story while sitting on the bench at Christ’s Church about a woman named Fannie and how she helped to free slaves!
We finished off our day Philadelphia with a stop at the famous Chef Staib’s City Tavern! This was established in 1773! I was able to try Thomas Jeffersons favorite sweet potato and pecan bread, as well as a spring salad, a traditional turkey pot pie, and a delicious American Heritage Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie! To our surprise, Benjamin Franklin wandered into our dining room! He was on his way to go visit some children completing the Kid’s Quest, so he didn’t stay long, but he answered a few questions for us. Did you know that Philadelphia was the capital for just 10 years? It moved to Washington DC because it was a more central location!
This is just the tip of the iceberg of my fun filled 2 days in Philadelphia, I could talk all day about this trip and still not cover every detail. I wish I could convey the sense of American pride and honor that washed over me as I saw these places, talked to the History Makers, and meet the women & men currently behind the operations in Historic Philly. They genuinely want you to have an amazing time when you visit and are always looking for ways to improve. I plan to do “Must See while in Philly” guide later this month in case you are planning a trip to the area, be sure to check back soon! I’d say Philadelphia is not only a family friendly place to vacation but also a great place to deepen your appreciation for our free country that we live in! Next week I’m going to posting a recipe using some American Heritage Chocolate and host a giveaway so one of you can try it too!
I want to hear from you! Leave me a comment below telling me of the places I mentioned above, what would be your number 1 stop?
Disclosure: I went to Philly via American Heritage Chocolate’s request. I was compensated for this trip in the form of not having to pay for any of my travel, lodging, and most meals. Regardless of the arrangement I was not required to have an awesome time or post a positive review of any of the sites or products I tried. All opinions expressed above are my own. Thanks for reading I Love My Kids Blog!