William Penn, an English Quaker seeking religious freedom, founded Philadelphia, which translated from Greek means “City of Brotherly Love,” in 1682 on a 1,280 acres parcel of land stretching between the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers granted to him by King Charles II of England. Penn's chief surveyor, Captain Thomas Holmes, devised a grid system based around five public squares, all of which remain, that was to provide the pattern for most American cities. Philadelphia was envisaged as a "green country town,” and today, for all its historical and cultural significance, it still manages to retain a certain quaintness. Just a few blocks away from the noise and crowds of downtown, shady cobbled alleys stand lined with red-brick colonial houses, while the peace and quiet of huge Fairmount Park (America’s largest urban park and home to America’s first Zoo and famous Boathouse Row) make it easy to forget you are in a major metropolis.
Philadelphia prospered swiftly on the back of trade and commerce. Economic power fueled strong revolutionary feeling, and the city was the capital during the War of Independence. It also served as the US capital until 1800, while Washington DC was being built. The Declaration of Independence was written, signed and first publicly read in Philadelphia in 1776, as was the US Constitution ten years later. In Independence National Historical Park, "America's most historic square mile," visitors can see two of the nation's most precious monuments to freedom - the Liberty Bell, and Independence Hall.
Philadelphia was also a hotbed of new ideas in the arts and sciences, as epitomized by the scientist, philosopher, statesman, inventor and printer Benjamin Franklin (If time permits, visit the Franklin Institute). Benjamin Franklin also founded the first fire department in the new world. Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital is also nearby at Eighth and Spruce Streets – Benjamin Franklin was involved in its founding as well – What can we say, the man is a Philadelphia superstar, but no, it is not Dr. Franklin on the top of City Hall, rather William Penn. Did you know that until the 1980’s no building in Philadelphia was allowed to be taller then the hat on William Penn’s head? The law was amended to allow for the construction of Liberty Place I and II, which have dramatically changed the city skyline. Today, Philadelphia’s tallest building is The Comcast Center - it is also the country’s tallest green building - visit and check out the HD wall in the lobby (17th St. and JFK Blvd.)
Today, with a population of approximately 1.55 million, Philadelphia is the fifth-largest city in the United States and the second-largest on the East Coast. The city's remarkable resurgence preparing for the nation's bicentennial celebrations in 1976 and more recent renaissance in the last decade has brought national attention. In recent years, Philadelphia has been named the "number one restaurant city," and "America's friendliest city.” Philadelphia's strength today is still its great energy – fueled by history, and strong cultural institutions – grounded in its many staunchly traditional neighborhoods.
To learn more about Philadelphia, check out www.visitphilly.com.
Information in this section was compiled from the host facility's website as well as the websites of the various attractions.
Located just a quarter mile from the hotel, the Franklin Institute is Pennsylvania's most visited museum. Originally opened in 1824 and named for Benjamin Franklin, the museum focuses on science. It features exhibits on trains, space, and meteorology as well as an IMAX theater. The museum also has a variety of traveling and special exhibits, so be sure to check out their website for what will be on display during the Conference weekend. The museum is located at the intersection of 20th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and is open daily from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm, though some exhibits may stay open later. To find exact hours, as well as to purchase tickets in advance, visit their website at www.fi.edu.
Reading Terminal Market
Three quarters of a mile from the host facility, you will find America's oldest continually-operating farmer's market. Reading Terminal Market offers a wide variety of prepared food, including local delicacies, artisan food products, and cuisines of Philadelphia's many ethnic communities. The market is located at the corner of 12th and Arch, and is open Monday through Saturday, 8 am - 6 pm, and 9 am - 5 pm on Sunday. www.readingterminalmarket.org.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
See over 300,000 works of art stretching back two millennia at the Philadelphia Museum of Art's ten-acre campus. Because the various exhibits and buildings have different hours, you are encouraged to check out the museum's website at www.philamuseum.org prior to visiting. The museum is located 1.3 miles from the hotel, at 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Independence Visitor Center
This free visitor center will help you navigate the rich history of Philadelphia and America. The visitor center can also provide information on other attractions in the area. Visit the center at 599 Market St from 8:30 am to 6 pm daily, or see their website at www.phlvisitorcenter.com.
Come see a part of America's history and learn about the facts and myths surrounding this artifact. Part of the larger Independence National Historical Park, the Liberty Bell exhibit is free, but visitors will be subject to a security screening, so leave all knives and multi-tools at the hotel. Open daily from 9 am to 5 pm and located just 1.5 miles from the hotel near 6th and Market.
The Betsy Ross House
Visit the home of our flag. Self-guided and audio tours are available, and students receive a discount. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am - 5 pm, at 239 Arch Street. Learn more at their website.
The Philadelphia Zoo
America's first zoo opened in 1874. Come see over 1300 animals on the zoo's 42-acre campus, located at 3400 W Girad Avenue. The zoo is open daily from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm. To purchase tickets and see a daily schedule of events, visit the zoo's website at www.philadelphiazoo.org.