NYC Trip Day 3

For my final day in NYC I decided to finally go to the Tenement Museum, which has been on my list of things to do for a very long time. I’ve never made it before because everything is a timed tour, which always made me feel anxious about fitting it in around whatever else I might have planned during a trip. Since I had no other plans for Thursday and the weather was decent I decided it was finally time.

The Tenement Museum owns two old buildings on Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which has been home to many different groups of immigrants including Germans, Eastern European Jews, and more recently Chinese and Salvadorans and Colombians. They bought the building in the late 80s after it had been sitting vacant for decades. They restored most of the apartments to recreate what they would have been like for specific families that lived there during various times. They did a lot of research to find out about the lives of the people who lived there and you learn about their lives on the apartment tours.

I wanted the weather to be nice because I wanted to do both a walking tour and one of the apartment tours. There are a number of tours to choose from, so I will definitely have to go back again the future to do some of the other ones. It is a fairly expensive proposition though. Each tour is $30, though you do get a 40% discount on one of your tours if you combine a walking tour and an apartment tour.

I did the Outside the Home walking tour and the Sweatshop Workers apartment tour. The Outside the Home tour was great. We walked around the neighborhood and learned about how it had changed and looked at some very specific buildings that were built during specific times to learn about how people lived, shopped, and worked. It was really interesting and our tour guide was wonderful.

I unfortunately did not think the tour guide for the apartment tour was nearly as good. I suspect the quality of the tours depends both on your guide and the group of people you are with. I enjoyed the walking tour way more the apartment tour and I suspect the different guide and different participants had something to do with it. My apartment tour looked the apartments of a couple of different families who ran small sweatshops sewing garments in their houses. It was really fascinating to learn about the families and think about how so many people lived in such a small space made even smaller by running a business out of it.

I would definitely recommend the Tenement Museum if you have the time and money. I definitely look forward to doing some of the other tours in the future.

Here’s some photos of a few of the buildings we talked about on the walking tour. You’re not allowed to take photos inside the apartments, so I don’t have any pictures of those. The one that has ABC on the front of it was the old Loew’s Canal Street Theatre. Apparently the old theatre, which seats over 2,500 people is still back there in disrepair and the Loew’s corporation still owns the building. Our tour guide showed us a picture of the inside. It would be an awesome space if someone fixed it up.

I had a little bit of time to kill after my tour before I had to head to Penn Station to pick up my train. I had to go back downtown to the hotel to pick up my bag, so I just wandered around a little bit and wound up at Pier 17, which is the whole huge new development of restaurants and shops that are still being built. Gentrification central for sure. They do have some nice benches and chairs built on the water though, so I sat and enjoyed the beautiful sun on my face and watched the ships go by for awhile. I’m pretty sure I’m powered by the sun and the water, so this was a very rejuvenating end to my trip.


NYC Trip Day 2

My second day of this trip was my theatre day. Usually when I go up to NYC there are very specific shows that I want to see on Broadway. They are often the reason I’m traveling up there in the first place. Unfortunately Broadway has been full of jukebox musicals and musicals based on movies that I am just not interested in. Since there wasn’t anything I was dying to see I figured I would just get tickets for whatever I could get at the TKTS booth. I did figure out what my top choices were though and hoped that I could get tickets to them, which I did.

My top choice for the whole trip was to see The Ferryman. My friend Jenn who lives in the city is a TDF member and managed to snag me a cheap seat to the matinee. I wanted to do this show as the matinee because it’s 3 hours and 15 minutes. There are essentially three 1 hour acts with a 15 minute intermission between the first two acts and a three minute pause between the second two acts. I didn’t know a whole lot about the show going in other than it is about an Irish family. It takes place during the 1981 during “the troubles” when the actions of some family members a decade before come back to haunt them all. It is a sprawling cast of kids through seniors. Parts are very joyous and parts are super intense, especially the ending. I can’t imagine having to perform this show 8 times a week both to the length and the emotional toll I imagine it must take on the actors. I very much enjoyed it though and the three hours went by very quickly. It’s closing in July, but if you’re looking for a show to see in New York and are open to plays I would recommend it.


Between shows I met up for a quick dinner with my friend Jenn, who I hadn’t seen for pretty much exactly a year which I know because Facebook started popping up memories of my trip to New York last April when I went up to see Brandi Carlile in concert and to see Children of a Lesser God and stayed with her. Since we were meeting up after she got off work and we both had tickets to separate shows at 8 pm, we met up the Turnstyle which is a food hall/shopping place built inside the Columbus Circle subway station. It was conveniently equidistant from our theatres and made it so we weren’t stressing about getting in and out of a sit-down restaurant. I had some very tasty plantain tacos from some taco place in there. I would definitely eat there again.

My evening show was My Fair Lady, which I wanted to see solely because Laura Benanti was playing Eliza Doolittle. I very carefully made sure that she was not scheduled to be out during this performance because otherwise I did not care. She was very good in the role, and it was a good production, but this show pretty firmly falls into the all your problematic faves category at this point. I couldn’t stop thinking about the recent Crazy Ex-Girlfriend episode where she discovers that all her favorite musicals are all very problematic when looked at through today’s lens. They did try and make it a little better by returning to the original ending of the play where Eliza walks away from Professor Higgins, which was changed in the musical. I thought it was a little awkward since they see the script all the way through and she comes back to him only to turn right around and walk away. I appreciate the sentiment though I guess because he is really terrible to Eliza throughout the whole show and never really, truly comes around.


NYC Trip Day 1

My husband had to go up to NYC for work for a few days this past week. I needed to use up some vacation time, so I decided to make use of the free hotel room and join him. Since he had to be downtown for work we stayed down there in the Millennium Hilton, which is right across from the World Trade Center site. Our room had a fantastic view of the memorial.


We took the train up on Tuesday morning. He headed into work and I wandered around the city. I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money to get into a museum, so I decided to go up to the main building of the New York Public Library to see the exhibits they had up. On my way up to the library I walked past Macy’s and saw that they had some flower show up called Journey to Paradisos, which involved elaborate flower displays with spaceships and aliens in their windows and all over inside the main level. The subject matter was kind of weird, but the flowers were pretty. I didn’t get any good shots of the window displays because the sun was at a bad angle and the reflections of the buildings in the glass blocked out was actually inside the windows.

It’s been over a decade since I last went inside the library. The last time I was there they had really cool exhibits on illuminated manuscripts and maps. The exhibits up this time were not nearly as elaborate. They had a Stonewall 50 exhibit celebrating LGBTQ rights and 50 years since the Stonewall riots. There was also a Walt Whitman exhibit that I didn’t spend a lot of time in because I don’t care that much about Walt Whitman and the space felt really crowded and claustrophobic so I just kind of wanted to get out of it.

I hadn’t originally planned to see a show on Tuesday night, but I had looked at what else was going on around the city and didn’t see anything that struck my fancy. I noticed that the new play Burn This starring Keri Russell and Adam Driver was in previews, so I convinced my husband we should go see it. It’s a revival of a 1987 play and is still set in the 80s here although for the most part it could have been set today. There are a few references and one scene that revolves around an answering machine that would have had to be changed, but other than that it could have happened in modern times. It did allow us to joke about Keri Russell only wanting to play 80s characters and my husband wondering if she just brought over her wardrobe from The Americans.

It’s a 4 character play with Keri Russell playing a woman whose roommate and dance partner was recently killed in a boating accident with his gay lover. The other characters played by David Furr and Brandon Uranowitz are her boyfriend and her other roommate and Adam Driver who plays the brother of the dead roommate who comes in and sort of upends all of their lives. Adam Driver is perfectly cast in this role. I can’t imagine anyone else in the part. There is some wonderful humor with him and articles of clothing. I’m really glad we decided to go see it on somewhat of a whim as I really enjoyed it.

I also really wish I could have someone associated with the show make me a playlist of all the songs used in and around it. To get you in the mood for the 80s setting of the show they had a fantastic playlist of 80s songs playing while you were waiting for the play to start. Then there were some really great music cues throughout the play itself. They really all felt perfectly placed and meaningful and not just let’s throw some 80s songs into this. I don’t really know anything about the original run of the play, so I would be curious to know about the music used back then. I’m hoping once the play is fully running that maybe some equally nerdy music person will create a playlist from it or if nothing else tell me what the song used as the main music cue at the beginning and end of the first act is because while I totally know the song I can’t for the life of me remember what the name of it is or who it’s by and I couldn’t pick out enough lyrics to even try and Google it and it’s driving me crazy. So you know, someone else go see it and tell me what that song is.


Be More Chill

This past weekend I went up to New York with a couple of my friends in what has unintentionally apparently become our annual March Broadway trip since this is our third year running. I went into the show fairly cold. I had a general idea of what the story was about, but I hadn’t heard any of the music yet. I knew the backstory behind its run in New Jersey several years ago followed by a cult online following of the album recorded for that production that then propelled the show to off-Broadway and now onto Broadway. It just opened on Broadway this week, so it’s been pretty easy to avoid unless I guess you’re a theatre obsessed teenager on Tumblr or wherever the teenage fandom hangs out online these days. Most people I know have never even heard of this show before.

In my mind the show is a cross between the tv show Chuck (guy gets computer implanted in his head that makes him cooler, but then it causes mental problems), the movie Can’t Buy Me Love (teenage dork does something to try and make himself popular, but winds up blowing off his good old friend in the process), and the movie Labyrinth (because the representation of the super computer in the boy’s head reminded me of David Bowie’s character in Labyrinth even though it was supposed to evoke Keanu Reeves’ character in The Matrix). In non-pop culture references the show is about a nerdy teenage boy who wants to be more popular and finds out about some super secret super computers “from Japan” the size of a pill called squips that you can drink and they will implant in your brain and tell you what you should do to “be more chill”. Then of course all the lessons about learning how to like and be liked for yourself that teenage stuff like this likes to teach you.

I waited to read the New York Times review of the show until we were driving home last night because I didn’t want their critic’s view of the show coloring mine. I’m glad I did because his basic assessment of the show was teenagers get off my lawn. I guess he felt like he just couldn’t completely outright pan the show because it already has such a large following and it broke the Lyceum Theatre’s box office record for weekly ticket sales. So instead he basically just said it’s a terrible show by theat-ah standards, but I guess it’s okay for you teenagers. No one over 21 should bother.

Well, I’m 40 and I thoroughly enjoyed the show as did the other three over 40 adults and yes two 13 year-olds I was with. The other adults sitting around me all seemed to really like it too. I heard multiple people around me during intermission talking about how much they were enjoying it. So sorry it wasn’t up to your exacting standards Mr. NYT Critic. Sometimes you just want to go to the theatre to have fun. Is it the best show I’ve ever seen? No, but was I thoroughly entertained for 2 and half hours? Yes, I was. Plus I’ve had the song “Michael in the Bathroom” stuck in my head since the show. Also that song leads to perhaps one of my favorite theatre callbacks ever which I won’t spoil here. That’s pretty much all I’m asking for in Broadway show, and Be More Chill delivers it.

I will agree with him on one thing though. The show is needlessly loud. They definitely can and should take the sound down a notch or two. There’s no need anyone needs to risk hearing damage at a Broadway show. Yes, the music is more rock based, but that doesn’t mean the show needs to be rock concert loud. Concerts themselves are out of control with the sound levels, but at least there they can make the excuse that they have to overpower the ambient noise of the crowd and the bar, which is not an issue in Broadway theaters.

Is this a show I’m going to recommend to my 70 year old mother? Probably not, but if you still have a soft spot for teenage related pop culture like I do then this show is well worth your time. And obviously if you have some teenage theatre lovers in your life then apparently this show was made for them.


Trip to Universal and Disney Part 2

Since we were already going to be in Orlando to go to Harry Potter World I figured we should also add on some days at Disney. I was around 10 the last time I was at Disney World and I was a sophomore in college the last time I was in DisneyLand, so it had been awhile. We did one day in the Magic Kingdom and one day at Animal Kingdom.

Y’all I have no idea why anyone would ever want to subject themselves to the Magic Kingdom. I have several friends even those without kids who really love Disney and go on a regular basis. Now having gone as an adult I am at a loss as to why. Even with being there on supposedly one of the slowest weeks of the year it seemed really crowded. I felt like all I did all day was stand in lines surrounded by screaming children. Since it’s geared at little kids there were a lot more rides that I could go on than at Universal, which was a plus, but all the animatronics seemed super outdated in this day and age. We also had several rides break down on us. We were in the Aladdin flying carpets and the ride just stopped with us up in the air. Luckily they were able to get it started and bring us back down, but they made us get off and then they ran the ride through once empty to make sure it was working before letting us back on to do the ride. The Buzz Lightyear ride also stopped on us twice while we were riding through. The park in general just seemed old to me. I was particularly annoyed by the lack of food options. Apparently if you haven’t made reservations for one of their insanely expensive experience restaurants you don’t get to eat unless you want a hotdog or hamburger. We finally after much searching around the park found some really mediocre pizza, which they billed as flatbread to make it sound fancy. I’ve had better school cafeteria pizza. While Paul used a Fast Pass to go on Space Mountain, I went to get myself a Dole Whip. Everyone always raves about them, but I didn’t even like that. I thought it was cloyingly sweet. I was also shocked at how poorly the parking lots were signed. I have no idea how I was supposed to know I was parked in the Aladdin parking lot because there certainly weren’t any signs telling me. I just had to figure it out staring at a map at the transit center. My favorite parts of the Magic Kingdom were the shows like the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor and Mickey’s Philharmagic.

When we left the Magic Kingdom we actually attempted to go eat somewhere that wasn’t a chain restaurant. We went to some local Italian place where everyone seemed to know everyone. The hostess told us it would be a 15-20 minute wait so we decided to stick around, but it quickly became clear that was a lie. It was super loud and then a live musician started making it even louder. After being overly stimulated by screaming kids all day I told my husband I needed to leave. We wound up getting prepackaged sushi from Whole Foods and eating it in our hotel room.

Animal Kingdom was a good way to the end the trip. It was much more chill than any of the other parks. There are far fewer rides in Animal Kingdom than any of the other parks we were at. That did mean that the lines there were a lot longer. Luckily we had snagged Fast Passes for the Safari and for Dinosaur. We did not wind up going on the Avatar ride that everyone says is amazing because we got there when the park opened and the line was never shorter than two and half hours and most of the time well over three hours. There is nothing I want to stand in line for that long. We did go on the Na’vi River ride first thing and got through really quick. For some reason the sign said it was a 60 minute wait, but we got through in 15. I was not complaining. We went to all the shows. The Lion King one was the best. It featured lots of acrobatics and fire spinning. The UP bird show was okay, but I like the Animal Actors show at Universal better. Finding Nemo the Musical was not great. At least as my husband said its existence is saving us from the much expanded Broadway version of it. There were large parts of the Africa and Asia parts of the park that were like nature trails and you could wander through and look at animals. Those were the best because they seemed more secluded and nature like without the hordes of people that were in the park in general. Plus there was no standing in line to do them. The coolest part of the park was the Safari ride though. I generally don’t like zoos because I always feel sad for the animals, but this seems like a really well put together preserve. Plus viewing the animals by driving through it in a safari truck made it feel more real. It’s the closest I’m ever going to get to a real safari because if I’m paying that kind of money to go see animals in the wild it’s going to be to go see polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba.

Animal Kingdom was also way better than Magic Kingdom in the food department. It was the reverse in that there were only a couple of restaurants you had to make a reservation to eat at and most of them were just walk up and order. There were also a lot more food choices including healthy ones. There is also alcohol available in the park including a couple of bars, which I thought was a little weird, but it worked out because we had some time to kill after finishing everything in the park except the Avatar ride before the River Lights show so we hung out at a bar in Africa and had some drinks. Well my husband had a beer and I ate a Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream sandwich.

Apparently one of the themes of my vacation was waiting around in theme parks for hours so I could see a 15 minute light show. It was very cool though and I’m glad I did it. Plus waiting around outside was not really a hardship because the weather was great the whole time we were there other than that one quick thunderstorm our first day. It was basically in the low-80s with low humidity. I really did not want to come back to the gross Baltimore winter weather. It made me even more anxious for spring to get here.

All in all I’m not sorry I did this trip, but I have no desire to ever go back to Orlando ever again. Theme parks in general and the Magic Kingdom very specifically are lost on me. I don’t get the attraction. I can’t even imagine doing this trip at a more crowded and hot time of year. I definitely wouldn’t have made it through if we tried this in the summer. The butterbeers and the beautiful weather were really what made the vacation for me. Since those were ultimately the two things that made us book this trip I guess mission accomplished. I’ll leave theme parks for the rest of y’all in the future.



Trip to Universal and Disney Part 1

A couple of years ago my husband I both had conferences in Orlando on opposite ends of the same week. I suggested we meet in the middle and spend a day at Harry Potter World. He said no to that, but when I was looking for somewhere for us to go on vacation he suggested we go to Orlando to do that and get out of the cold weather. I figured since we were making a vacation of it we should also do some Disney stuff. I hadn’t been to Magic Kingdom since I was around 10 and Animal Kingdom didn’t exist the last time I was there, so I thought it would be fun to do those too. So this post doesn’t get unreasonably long I think I will split this up into a post about Universal and a post about Disney.

We stayed at the Hyatt Place across from Universal Studios. On the map it looked like it was basically across the street from the parking and thus something walkable. Technically it’s true you could walk if need be, but because of the way the roads were it was more like a mile as opposed to walking across the street. The hotel had a free shuttle, but it had very prescribed trips in the morning and afternoon and was only really usable if you were planning on spending the entire day at the park. We took it over the first day, but wound up driving and paying for parking the second day because we didn’t go over until the afternoon. The actual physical hotel was great, but there were a few service issues that didn’t make the overall experience great. I really liked the room. It had a nice big sitting area with a sectional in it plus a desk and a little wet bar. The room was nice and quiet. I never heard stuff from the hall or other rooms once we were inside our room, which is often not the case in hotels.

We did have a couple of problems though. First by the time we got there late on Tuesday night they did not have any king rooms available even though that is what we reserved. We spent the first night in a room with two double beds. We sleep in a king bed a home, so sharing a double bed is not something I find a tenable sleeping solution if I actually want to sleep, so we each took one bed. I asked the next morning and they were able to move us into a king room that had opened up. To their credit they did relocate all our stuff for us once the room was ready while were gone at Universal for the day. We just had to stop and get our new key when we got back. However for the next two days we for some reason could not get the wifi to work in our new room. The front desk’s only response was we’ll report it to our tech team and someone will call you. We never received a call. Although weirdly days later we had a message on our room phone from them that would have come while we were in the room, but the phone never rang. We finally got wifi for our last two nights.

In order to go to all of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter you have to buy tickets for both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks plus the park-to-park add-on so that you can move between the two parks on the same day. It really is a giant racket. I figured since we were going to two parks we needed two days. That was an incorrect assumption, especially since I don’t do roller coasters. I don’t like anything with big drops and with the back issues I’ve had the last couple of years I didn’t want to aggravate anything by doing even the smaller coasters. We pretty much stuck to the kid rides and shows, so we were able to do pretty much everything we wanted to do in one day. Even if we had ridden every ride in the park we probably still could have done everything in one day. We apparently were there on one of the least busy weeks of the year and there wasn’t really much of a line for most things. It did wind up thunderstorming at the very end of our first day so we left before the Hogwart’s Lights, which did give us an incentive to return for a second day.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is very well done. The Diagon Alley, which is the original part of Harry Potter, is the far better part of the park. You really do feel like you’re in some hidden old time London type place. There are a lot more stores in Diagon Alley than Hogsmeade as well. Hogsmeade, which is the newer part of the park built in Islands of Adventure was not nearly as cool to me. It does have the Hogwarts’ castle and the night time lights, which were very impressive and worth the stupid amount of time we spent just hanging around waiting for them. It also has the two roller coasters that exist currently if you’re into that. Since I didn’t go on the one that goes inside the castle and presumably has the special effects I can’t say if it’s worth it or not, but if you don’t care about roller coasters and can only afford to do one park I would definitely say pay for Universal Studios and go to Diagon Alley. The train ride between the two parks is well done as well. There is a slightly different story in each direction, so it if you’re going to pay for the park-to-park option it does make sense to take the Hogwart’s Express in both directions.

I’m not going to lie one of the top reasons I wanted to go to Harry Potter World was to try the butterbeer. It was totally worth it. I tried it in multiple forms. I started with the original, which is kind of like a cream soda with a buttery flavored foam on top. For an afternoon snack I got some of the butterbeer ice cream. It was a disappointment. It didn’t really have much buttery flavor at all. It mostly just tasted like vanilla to me. On our second day I had the frozen butterbeer. It was definitely the best version I had. The problem with the original version is that the foam mostly stays on top while you’re drinking it and then you’re left with a big pile of buttery foam at the end. With the frozen drink the foam seemed to sink and mix in which gave you a nice buttery flavor throughout the whole drink. I don’t know if it was due the consistence or because you get a straw spoon thing with the frozen version and not the original and where the straw was stuck in was where the foam seemed to sink. The internet tells me that the best version is actually the hot version, but that apparently is at the California park and not the Florida one or it least it wasn’t when we were there.

As I mentioned previously we really didn’t need two days at the Universal parks, so we definitely didn’t need to spend another full day there. I wanted to go over in the afternoon so we could see a couple of the shows we didn’t see the first day and so we could see the Hogwart’s lights. So in the morning we decided to go mini golfing. I am terrible at mini golfing, but I love it. We went to a place that had two different courses so we played both of them. I actually got 1 hole in one on the first course and 2 on the second one. It was an excellent way to spend the morning as opposed to wandering around Universal again.

The Hogwart’s lights didn’t end until the park closed, so to make finding dinner easy and to wait for some of the traffic to die down we decided to eat at the Mexican restaurant inside Universal CityWalk. CityWalk is an area with lots of restaurants, shops, and a movie theater that sits between the two parks. You can go there without having tickets to the Universal parks. You just have to go through the Universal security (metal detectors and bag scanners) before you go in. It was a good choice because I felt like dining around Orlando was an ordeal. Everything is chain restaurants, which I’m not the biggest fan of. Stuff is all super crowded and traffic is terrible. I can’t even imagine being there when it’s peak season. This just meant it was easy and not the ordeal dinner was every other night we were there.

Stay tuned for part two of our trip tomorrow.





Philly Trip

My husband and I took an overnight trip to Philly a couple days ago. While I look for concerts I want to go to in the DC-Philly corridor, he looks for computer security conferences. In this case our desires aligned. He told me he planned to go up to Philly for a conference and it just so happened to coincide with the night Dawes was playing in Philly. I had seen them at Wolf Trap last summer, but had left wanting much more as I felt like their set got cut short because of Wolf Trap’s curfew and Shovels & Rope playing longer than I think they should have as one of the openers. So I was eager to see them again and when I realized that I could ride up with my husband and drag him to the show I put that plan into motion.

We drove up early Friday morning and I dropped him off at his conference and then went to see if I could check into our hotel super early. They didn’t have any rooms available so I just dropped off the car and my stuff and wandered around for awhile. It was cold and snowing the whole day, so it wasn’t the best weather to walk around in but the wind wasn’t blowing so it wasn’t completely terrible either. I wound up sitting in Barnes & Noble for awhile reading to kill time before my first plans for the day.

It eventually dawned on me after I made these plans that I was going to be in Philly on a Friday afternoon. I have mentioned here on more than one occasion my love for WXPN, the University of Pennsylvania radio station. It’s what I listen to at work all the time, and every Friday they do a Free at Noon concert. I have obviously never been able to go in person, but as soon as I put two and two together I put this concert on my schedule for the day. They only announce who’s playing about a week beforehand and then open up the site for claiming your free tickets to it. I would have gone no matter who was playing, but I was pleased that it wound being Amy Helm who I like. She’s the daughter of the drummer from The Band, Levon Helm. She sang a lot with him and did a lot of backup singing, but now has two albums of her own out. My favorite song off the new album is actually a cover a Milk Carton Kid’s song “Michigan”. I was hoping she would play it and it was by far the best song of the performance. The whole thing was great though. She went from playing the mandolin to the keyboards and then just singing sweet harmonies in an acapella hymn with one of her band mates.

It was great to actually be in the room for a change instead of just streaming it from my office. I felt weirdly overly surrounded by old, white guys though. I finally decided it was because that’s who has time to be at a concert in the middle of the day, a bunch of old retired white guys. Some day I’d like to be able to do it again, but that’s obviously not going to happen any time soon.

After grabbing some lunch I headed to the Mutter Museum. It had been on my list for a long time, but was just something I had never gotten around to doing any of the other times I’ve been in Philly. My husband was mad that I was going without him, but I told him afterwards that I’m glad I wasn’t with him. I read most of what’s on museum placards, but I’m also a fast reader and do skim some of the finer details. He will literally read every single word on every single item on a display case. I probably would have been done an hour before him if we were together. If you’re not familiar with the Mutter Museum, it’s located at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and is a collection of medical specimens, equipment, and models collected by Dr. Thomas Dent Mutter. It was an interesting collection and I’m glad I went, but I don’t feel the need to ever go again.

Friday night we obviously went to the Dawes concert, which is what I went to Philly for. Every so often Dawes likes to do tours where they do a bunch of An Evening with Dawes shows, meaning that there’s no opening act and you just get them playing for 2 and half to 3 hours. It was my first time at the Fillmore Philly. If I ever go again I might pay extra money to get premium seats in the balcony. It’s a 2, 500 standing room only venue aside from a few elevated seats in the back of the main level and the seats in the balcony. I pretty much can’t see much at SRO shows unless I’m all the way up front, which doesn’t happen often. I’ve generally found if I can get far enough the back if it’s not a completely sold out show then I can see over the crowd, but if this wasn’t sold out it was close to it so even though I did stand as far back as I could I couldn’t get enough distance between me and people in front of me. I wasn’t completely out of luck, but I could pretty much never see more than one band member at a time depending on how the crowd moved and how I was craning my neck. Dawes was great as usual. I was happy to get to hear them play or a good long time. I was hoping that they would play my favorite song off of their new album, Passwords, but I figured it was a long shot and sadly they didn’t. That was my only real disappointment with the night. It seems like they’ve decided on the three songs their going to play from that album, and “Mistakes We Should Have Made” isn’t one of them. I always hate when I fall hard for a song that’s deep into an album that I know a band is never going to play live unless somewhere down the line they do a show where they play all the way through an album. Overall it was a good night though and worth going up to Philly for.

Saturday morning we met up with my friend Erin and her family for brunch at a place in Logan Square called Urban Farmer. If you’re ever in Philly and looking for some place to eat near the Franklin Institute, The Barnes Foundation, or even the Philadelphia Museum of Art I would recommend this place. The brunch food was great, so I’ll go ahead and assume their other meals are as well. I had brioche French toast with hazelnut butter and cranberry compote and some of the best breakfast sausage I can remember eating any time recently. It was of course great to catch up with my friends too. I’m glad we get to see each other generally at least once a year and sometimes more since Philly isn’t that far away. Who knew when we met in 8th grade and only living in the same city for 2 years that we’d still be friends and hanging out when we were 40.

Our final stop before heading back to Baltimore was the The Barnes Foundation. We wound up getting some hotel deal that was a partnership with the Visit Philly tourist bureau whereby participating hotels offered guests free parking, 2 tickets to the Barnes, a Lyft credit, a coupon for $20 off at some restaurant and 2 free ice skating coupons. We were mostly in it for the free parking because parking in downtown Philly is super expensive and most places don’t give you in and out privileges with your car which makes the parking rates rack up even more if you go in and out of the garage. We actually wound up picking our hotel partly based on the fact that the hotel had valet parking that gave you in and out privileges since we knew we wanted to drive to the concert. The valet experience was kind of annoying since it wasn’t run by the hotel and I wound up dealing with trying to drop the car off and get it back out again right at morning and evening rush hour with people parking their for work. At any rate the deal save us $50 in parking. The bonus for us was the 2 free tickets to The Barnes. I had just gone back in August, so I wouldn’t have bothered to go again this soon but I figured we shouldn’t pass up the free tickets. It was actually interesting to go back because even in these few short months since I had been there they had rolled out a whole new digital experience that was very cool. The museum is laid out so that everything is hung as it was in Albert Barnes’ original home, so there are no labels on anything on the wall. There are paper booklets in each room that will give you the title and artist of everything, but they have now created a digital site you can use on your phone. You just pull up the site and then take photos of the art and it will pull up information about it on your phone. Sometimes it’s just the bare facts about the piece, but other times there is a lot more context about the artist, art, or it’s place in the collection. I did have to catch myself to make sure I was actually looking at the art too and not just staring at my screen, but for the most part I thought it was great and really added to the experience. As my husband said it has now ruined him for all other museums. He of course also wanted to be able to dig into the code and find out how everything worked.

It was an excellent couple of days in Philly, and I’m glad I turned my husband’s one day conference into a fun overnight trip for us.