January 31, 2014 will ring in the Chinese New Year. To celebrate and learn more about this holiday, take a stroll through one of America’s oldest cities- Philadelphia! Why Philly? It’s a great city, with one of the largest and most active Chinese communities in the USA, as well as one of the biggest Chinatowns, making it the perfect place to steep yourself in the culture, while staying on American soil.
Recently, on January 12th, The Philadelphia Museum of Art (also home to the famous “Rocky Steps”) gave local schoolchildren the chance to show their stuff, with a traditional Lion Dance by the Philadelphia Suns to open the day’s activities. 3 “Lions” made their way up and down the steps and into the main hall, interacting with audience members the whole time, as Chinese drums pounded rhythmically. As the drums were beaten, the lions danced, jumped, and even went to sleep- much to the amusement of the children watching- waking up as the music got louder, to scratch themselves awake and exit with a flourish.
There were also guqin performances (a guqin is stringed instrument that lays in one’s lap and plucked with his or her fingers) and folk dances, all performed by the Cultural Treasures Charter School kids. Families and children were also offered activities, such as making origami red paper envelopes (in honor of the new year) with stamp art, creating clay horses (and then going on a “treasure hunt” in the museum to find the horse that matches your creation, complete with map and directions), visiting a Chinese paper cutter artist and seeing his work, and he would even create a special work of art just for you!
Children were also given colored pencils, stools, and rice paper to draw items they saw in the Asian wing of the museum.
When your cultural activities were over and you have toured the museum, why not hop on a bus or trolley and head over to Philly’s famous Chinatown for some lunch or dinner and shopping? The restaurants and bakeries are endless in variety, with everything from noodle houses to 4 star restaurants.
Try a local specialty, and if you have never had a Boba or Bubble Tea before, make sure to give that a whirl as well. This dessert-like beverage is a favorite in many Asian countries, and is becoming one in the USA. Make sure to stop into some of the stores as well – you never know what treasures you will find to remember your trip by. This time of year is a great time to visit, there are some fun, funny, and unique items you will likely never see again.
Adult admission is $20, kids 13-18 are $14. Children are always free. All programs are free after admission prices.
To head to Chinatown after your visit, there are bus and trolley stops right at the bottom of the museum steps. Choose the line you prefer, and make sure you know when the last pickup for the day is so you don’t get left behind! To make a day tour (or more) out of it, Philadelphia Trolley Works and the Big Bus Tours Company both offer guided tours of the whole city, with many on-again-off-again stops you can take at your leisure and convenience. In my opinion, it is the easiest way to get around the city, and you learn about the area you are visiting, as well. The tour guides are always very knowledgeable and willing to help you find where you are looking to go.
A travel and parenting expert, writer, mother, and teacher, Samantha has dedicated her life to children and education. She feels that travel and culture should play an important part in a child’s development and exposure to their environment. Samantha is a columnist and freelance writer who has been featured on various websites, magazines, and newspapers, as well as weekly radio show co-host. She has several regular columns on travel, products, and parenting. She also writes a multi-award winning blog, Have Sippy Will Travel, and is a Top Ten Ranked Social Media Expert.