Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Philadelphia Water Works after its restoration

One of the most beautiful views in Philadelphia is of the Art Museum (of "Rocky" fame) overlooking the Schuylkill River, with the Water Works building, a product of the 19th century and a mainstay of the city's architecture, appearing underneath. This building has to be on any Philadelphian's bucket list, but though I am a resident of this area, finding it always eluded me, even though I have visited the neighboring Art Museum frequently. Finally, I righted this wrong by finding the correct traffic light on Kelly Drive, made my left turn (I had to act as if I wanted to overshoot the Art Museum completely), and found the parking lot that led to the back stairs to the Art Museum, various footpaths and the Water Works in view. Some time ago I had heard that the Water Works was in the process of being renovated, and when I finally arrived there, I saw that there were two parts to this restoration. One part of the complex had been converted into a restaurant, officially called the Water Works Restaurant and Lounge. Nearby is the second part of the restoration, a small museum called the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center, which deals with the history of the structure and its role in supplying water to the city. In this area, you will often see bridal parties pose in front of the gazebo and other structures adjoining the river for pictures. Not far from there, you can also rent bicycles or walk toward the rowing club buildings on Boat House Row.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Valley Forge Park in autumn and a notable covered bridge

A few weeks before most of the United States went into its deep freeze, we in the Philadelphia area were blessed with a nice day in November. I took advantage of the opportunity to take a short foray into Valley Forge Park, which I'm convinced has some of the best views in the entire region. Autumn in particular is a great time to visit with the foliage, if you can time it right. By the time I had arrived, some of the trees had already shed their leaves, but in this case it became an advantage because it cleared the view of the covered bridge in the background. The bridge sits at an odd spot which makes taking a good picture a challenge (unless you want to play chicken with the cars).

A few details about Valley Forge park: the visitors' center is excellent and indispensable in my view to get the most out of a visit, because attractions such as the soldiers' log cabins and Washington's headquarters are scattered in different locations and easy to miss if you don't have the map handy. The park is a fantastic place to take advantage of walking trails or see the local flora and fauna, but the downside is that there is a severe overpopulation of deer, who spill out into neighbors' yards and eat the foliage, or fall victim to the nearby highways. Efforts to control the deer population with either hunting or sterilization have met with controversy.

If you are from out of town and plan to spend time in Philadelphia, be sure not to miss the park!