sleep over at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA. I have been to the Franklin several times, and each time I've enjoyed it. I always think I should go more often, but the thing that always stops me is driving around Philly. I hate driving in most cities, but Philly always seems to get me lost somehow. This time was no exception. After spending 45 minutes sitting in traffic coming into the city, I managed to be in the wrong lane at the wrong time and wound up in a twisty maze of little streets, all alike. With no place to pull over we had no choice but to continue as the GPS tried frantically to recalculate fast enough to beat the next corner. It failed, and an endless "recalculating" loop began until we got out of that section of the city.
Having finally arrived we stowed our gear and started exploring the place. Everywhere we turned we were confronted by giant sized posters of Gunter von Hagen's "Body Worlds" ("extended by popular demand"). Now I'm not excessively squeamish when it comes to anatomy, but I really don't want to be confronted with this stuff when I'm getting food or eating, and after the 50th poster you have to think "what kind of idiot needs 50 posters to tell them what's in the museum, when they can just read one of the 50 maps around?". Because of this insensitivity towards visitors, its obvious aim at desensitizing people, the fact that there's no "science" involved (these are "art" display of corpses) and my disdain for Gunter von Hagen's disrespect for humanity (especially in some of his "shows") I would not go to the exhibit even if there weren't a separate admission price for it. Fortunately, none of the kids were the slightest bit interested either.
What I was looking forward to was the promise of "Star Gazing with giant professional telescopes in the Joel N. Bloom Observatory (weather permitting)". Since it was a beautiful clear night, and I am an amateur astronomer, this was going to be fun. Sadly, when we got there and got our schedules, there was no mention of observing nor any time planned for potential observing, nor any explanation of why the activity had been left out. What we did have was a schedule that had the children (some of whom were tiger scouts as young as 6 years old) up until midnight, and then up again at 6:45 AM.
The evening went fairly well except for three things. First off, the "Special reward", which was ice cream made with liquid nitrogen, consisted of about 1 tablespoon per kid. Come on! Secondly, everywhere we went we were hampered by sleeping bags and other gear around the exhibits, set up for other groups (and of course "Body Worlds" posters). Lastly, the IMAX movie was a film called "Under the Sea" which spent an inordinate amount of effort to associate three cuttlefish mating with human sexuality in a manner which was sophomoric for adults, and inappropriate for the kids. It all ended with dire warnings about anthropogenic climate change.
After that we set up our sleeping bags and tried to get some sleep. The area they put us in had us packed in shoulder to shoulder, and the kids were all wound up from the sexy movie, so very little sleep was had. By morning, several of the scouts were throwing up and we were all cranky. Time for breakfast! After some delicious cold cereal (they apparently didn't stock any yogurt that did not have artificial sweeteners) we trekked to the planetarium where we watched yet another movie (in lieu of an actual planetarium show). This one was a film by the NSF called "Two Small Pieces of Glass" which was a history of the telescope. Being an amateur telescope maker and a fan of the history of the telescope I was dreading the low level of research and high level of misinformation to ensue. Let's just say I was not disappointed.
It wasn't all bad. We all enjoyed the "standard" exhibits. The giant heart is always a hit, and the train exhibit was fascinating. Likewise the aerospace place and newton's loft. The "rotating" exhibits were the main problem.
After leaving the museum, we decided to have lunch and do a little bit of sightseeing before we left Philly, which gave me ample opportunities to get lost again, which I took advantage of. Then we headed home. The kids had fun. Me, not so much. Perhaps I am just an old curmudgeon, but next time I think I'll stick to the Liberty Science Center.