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Seniors in Motion: Three Days in Philadelphia

Day Two
Make your way to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where you'll find some of Philadelphia's finest museums, including the neo-Classical Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Tip: Both the trolleys and the Phlash buses stop here.) Don't worry -- you don't need to run up the steps like Rocky in order to get in; there's a handicap-accessible entrance around to the left if you need it. Exhibits particularly worth tracking down include a recreated 18th-century Japanese tea house; a peaceful 13th-century medieval cloister; and a pillared Indian Temple Hall, the only one of its kind in America. Otherwise, let your interests guide your visit; though European art is well represented, there are collections from all around the world. If you can, visit on the first Sunday of the month, when admission is "pay what you wish" all day.

After your visit to the Art Museum, it's time to pick and choose what you'd like to do for the rest of the afternoon. One alternative is to head along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Franklin Institute or the Academy of Natural Sciences, two excellent science museums. Both are popular with kids of all ages; see day two of Taking the Kids: Three Days in Philadelphia for details.

Also nearby is the 19th-century Eastern State Penitentiary, the first of its kind. (The museum and gift shop are only accessible via steps, but the rest of the property is fully ADA-compliant.) This castle-like edifice was built in the early 1800's as a revolutionary new kind of prison. Rather than housing all its prisoners together, the penitentiary's Quaker founders gave each inmate a private cell and a small yard for exercise, and did not allow any contact with other human beings. This solitude was supposed to make the prisoners consider their crimes and perhaps arrive at true penitence (hence the name of the building). The prison is no longer in use, and its crumbling, empty cell blocks and high vaulted ceilings now hold a haunting beauty.

Finally, the Rosenbach Museum and Library, while not close enough to walk to, is worth a special trip for folks interested in literature and history. Here you'll find an original draft of the Declaration of Independence, Joyce's manuscript for the novel "Ulysses," samples of George Washington's personal correspondence, and the papers of poet Marianne Moore. The museum is located in a 19th-century townhouse in Rittenhouse Square, one of Philadelphia's most charming residential neighborhoods. The trolley stops about eight blocks away from the museum, so the most direct way to get there is to take a cab.

Where you eat lunch depends on where you are when you get hungry! The Art Museum has a surprisingly good restaurant, and a cafe that's ideal for a quick bite before you head off to your next stop. If you're up near the Eastern State Penitentiary, enjoy a laid-back meal at Jack's Firehouse, serving up "downhome" American cuisine made with fresh, locally grown ingredients. Options on Rittenhouse Square near the Rosenbach are pricier, including Smith & Wollensky (for steaks) and Rouge (for Parisian-influenced American cuisine).

Head back to your hotel to gussy up for an evening at one of Philadelphia's most elegant restaurants. Located in the posh Rittenhouse Hotel, Lacroix at the Rittenhouse offers inventive French-American dishes in a setting that's lovely inside and out; each table has a view of verdant Rittenhouse Square, and the dining room is accented by creamy tablecloths, high-back chairs, fresh flowers and flickering candles. Servers are attentive and happy to explain any unfamiliar French terms on the menu.

Day Three
Today is the day to rent a car and see the sights of the greater Philadelphia region. The place where Philadelphians go to play is Atlantic City, New Jersey, about an hour and a half away by car. (Beware the Philadelphia rush hour -- leave around 9:30 or so on weekdays to miss the worst.) For those who'd rather not rent a car, Greyhound bus service is also available from Philadelphia to Atlantic City. This popular seaside resort combines the historic charm of its famous boardwalk with the modern-day glitz and glamour of its casinos. To learn more about the history of the town, stop in at the Atlantic City Historical Museum, where you'll find vintage photos and plenty of Miss America memorabilia.

The museum is right on the Boardwalk, a fabulous place for strolling, shopping and people-watching -- not to mention enjoying views of the beach and the ocean. There are plenty of places to grab a casual lunch.

The main attractions on the Boardwalk are the casinos, and it's well worth wandering into several before choosing a spot to hedge your bets. One of the newer kids on the block is the elegant, Italian-style Borgata, featuring a landscaped pool and gardens; it's been compared to the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Older favorites include the delightfully tacky Caesars and the exotic Trump Taj Mahal. In any of the casinos you'll find dining options to meet all tastes and budgets, and widely varied entertainment in their theaters and lounges. Check the Atlantic City visitors' Web site to see who's playing when you're in town.

If you're not up for the bright lights of Atlantic City, you might enjoy Pennsylvania's serene Brandywine Valley, where major sights include the spectacular Longwood Gardens (wheelchairs and motorized scooters are available at the Visitor Center), Winterthur (a country estate in nearby Delaware) and the Brandywine River Museum. See day three of Love Is in the Air: Three Days in Philadelphia for more details on these attractions.

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    --written by Sarah Schlichter

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