National Constitution Center Philadelphia, Pa. Visited: March 24, 2004 NPS Park Site: Not an NPS Site Local Website
WHAT IS IT? Brand new museum (opened July 4, 2003) dedicated to an explanation and education of the United States through its founding document, the Constitution.
BEAUTY (5/10) A sleek white modern building, with part of the Constitutionís Preamble etched on the outside, the Center itself is more aesthetically appealing than the boxy brick Visitor Center across the street, but not appealing enough to merit much more than a five.
HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (10/10) One could argue that the Constitution of the United States is the piece of paper that has held our country together for over 200 years. It deserves the honor and recognition bestowed upon it by this Center, which is independent of the National Parks Service.
CROWDS (7/10) When we arrived late in the afternoon, we were the youngest people in the audience but Iím sure school groups and student tours packed the place before 3 p.m. There was ample room in the amphitheater, but we did have to wait our turn to get to some of the popular interactive displays.
EASE OF USE/ACCESS (4/5) Located right behind the ugly Visitor Center and lacking the security hassle, the Constitution Center by comparison, is quite accessible. The building is new so it is accessible to individuals with disabilities, more so than other sites in the area. Parking could be a problem.
CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (4/5) The First Lady bobble head dolls on prominent display get a big thumbs up. Also a large selection of books and other Constitution memorabilia. What better way to celebrate our nationís core document than with a shot glass?
COSTS (3/5) The multimedia presentation which is the showcase of the Center cost $6.00 for adults. If you purchased over $100 at the Bookstore, you were given a free admission to the show. Since we took the bus, we donít know what costs were involved for parking.
RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (1/5) The site is independent of the National Parks Service so there are no NPS Rangers. When we entered early in the morning to get a basic idea about times and costs, there were several helpful staff at the Information Desk who supplied us with the maps we used for the rest of the day and gave us suggestions for other area attractions we might like to see while we waited for our turn to see Independence Hall. However, when we went later in the afternoon, few staff were present, other than the large gentleman who ushered us out of the amphitheater and pointed us in the direction of the interactive displays.
TOURS/CLASSES (9/10) No doubt about it, the multimedia presentation with an actor delivering a monologue surrounded by images and film projected on the walls, floor and later a hexagonal screen which drops from the ceiling and engulfs him is impressive. It is Hollywood. We canít stop thinking about how much it must have cost to put together this sleek production. That being said, it was effective and we were moved.
The interactive displays were not lacking in historical content and often went deeper than a surface summary. The Constitution Center does not shy away from the subject of slavery and its omission in the founding fathersí document and contains displays where visitors can voice their opinions about current Constitutional questions, such as gay marriage and whether a foreign citizen should be able to become president of the United States, by way of Post It-notes.
FUN (8/10) A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Like we said, we were the youngest two people in the building when we went and everyone was having a good time Ė pressing buttons and touch sensitive computer screens, voting for the best president of all time, trying on Supreme Court Justice Robes and swearing themselves in as president of the United States. Kids will have a blast. We did.
WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (8/10) Every person we met this week, when told we were going to Philadelphia, strongly recommended the Constitution Center to us. Above and beyond all other attractions and sites, this was the first place that came to their minds. The Constitution Center lived up to our expectations and kept us entertained and informed even after a very long and tiring morning.
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