After many years of organizing field trips, I have decided to retire. I will not be organizing any field trips for the 2014-2015 school year. I encourage you to make use of the vast number of excellent resources in our area. A few suggested venues are below.
Penn Presents: Student Discovery Series/Dance Celebration
This series of performances includes hour-long performances from world-class dance companies, and sometimes additional dance or musical treats! Ticket prices are very low, and even lower if you put together a small group. For more details on the series, see the Student Discovery web pages at Penn Presents and at Dance Affiliates.
- Most of the Student Discovery events are part of the Dance Celebration Series. Each show is an hour long, and the Dance Celebration performances usually include a “talkback” with the dancers after the show. All shows take place on the University of Pennsylvania campus, in the Annenberg Center, 3680 Walnut Street, Philadelphia.
- Tickets: To order tickets through the box office, call 215-898-3900. Prices vary based on the number of tickets you are purchasing. You can also put together a group order. You need to buy at least 10 tickets to be a group, the price goes down depending on how many different shows you see, and three shows gets you to the lowest rate. (I think I have that right, but you'll want to double-check.) Call group sales at 215-746-7997 for more info.
- These have been excellent in the past. The performances are intended for a "school field trip" audience. The performers sometimes do a shorter version of their normal evening performance, and sometimes do a completely different “school” program. There’s no way to really know in advance what they will be doing, so you should be open to whatever the company decides to present.
- This is contemporary dance - sometimes it is a bit modern/obscure. They don’t dumb it down and they don’t clean it up. Specifically, now and again there may be sensual dance moves, skimpy costumes, etc. Some performances are more "entertaining" than others; some are more abstract.
- Which to choose? Some families go to just one, some pick a few, and some go to the whole series. Keep in mind that the companies may do excerpts from their evening show in the daytime performance you will see, or they may do something completely different. Take a look at the descriptions in the Student Discovery Series brochure. The age suggestions are typically based on both content and whether younger kids are likely to be interested in the material.
If you have seen one of these companies in a previous year, please note that they may present the same performance, a similar one, or something completely different than they did in the past.
- If your student is a serious dancer, see also the master classes that accompany this series.
- Unskate: If you enjoy going to the UnSkate homeschool rollerskating in Christiana, DE, be sure to double-check the dates. For 10:30am performances, it is possible to do both in one day by driving directly from Philly to the rink (eating lunch in the car); however it is a long drive.
- Directions to the Annenberg: Directions are here, parking and public transport info is here. Sometimes you can find street parking, especially on 38th street. (Allow extra time for this.) Philly now typically has parking kiosks instead of meters; they take cash, credit cards, or the parking Smart Card available online). Typically, 25 cents = 10 minutes or so. If you park on the street, watch the time, and be sure you read all of the signs and comply with them; parking tickets can be expensive and it can sometimes be tricky to understand what is and is not allowed, and where to pay. I usually park in the garage at 38th and Walnut; garage parking can run about $16-$18, which isn't cheap, but avoids the risk of a ticket.
- Nearby the Annenberg: There are often traffic jams at this time of the day - allow extra time to get to Philadelphia. If you arrive early, you can browse the Penn Bookstore. After the show, you can eat your lunch in the Annenberg's adjacent courtyard. There are street vendors on 36th street; my favorite is Magic Carpet, which has a great selection of vegetarian food from a variety of world cultures. See if there's an interesting exhibit at one of Penn's libraries or at the Institute of Contemporary Art (both free). Consider a visit to the Penn Museum, which features artifacts from Egypt, Greece, and Rome - this is a "must see" museum if you are studying ancient history.
- Arrival Time: Plan to arrive a bit early (10:00-10:15 for the 10:30 shows) so you can use the facilities before the show. The show starts promptly. If you are late, or if you leave the theater mid-show, you may have to wait until an appropriate break in the performance to be seated.
- Very Young Children: If shows are chosen carefully, this can be a good venue to expose younger children to theater performances. Many of the dance shows are fine for most younger children; see the suggested ages in the Dance Celebration materials. Some performances may be scary or boring for younger children; check with Anne Marie at Dance Celebration if you have specific questions or concerns. These are school-oriented performances; the audience is mostly children and/or teens. There are often preschool children in the audience. Note that the theater requires each person to have a ticket, regardless of age, even lap children. Note that most performances are aimed at school-aged children, so the interest level of different performances may vary for younger kids.
Visit the rest room before the show; you may have trouble re-entering the theater during the show.
- Traditional Cheer: At each Dance Celebration show, they welcome visiting schools by name. It’s traditional to applaud/cheer loudly when they mention the "Homeschool Associations"!
- SNOW NOTE: In case of bad weather, including a serious snowstorm, you can assume the show will go on regardless. Contact the theater to verify. Please use your own judgment in deciding to attend. Take this into account when purchasing tickets, as there are no refunds!
FREE! Dance Celebration Master Classes
If your child is serious about dance, they may enjoy taking a free Master Class with one of the visiting Dance Celebration Series companies. These are usually held just after the company's Student Discovery Series performance. I know of two homeschooled teens who have attended these classes – they both found it to be very inspiring, and both went on to dance professionally. (Actual Teen Quote: “That was the best thing I’ve ever done in my whole life.”)
Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater
What a treasure we have in Philadelphia! The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater typically presents two plays each spring, with special inexpensive student-oriented performances during the day. These plays are consistently excellent. See here for details.
- Even though they are not until the spring, these shows sell out early in the fall, so plan ahead, especially if you have a larger group. I have provided some info below, from previous years' trips, to give you an idea of what to expect.
- Read a summary of the play. Before you go, be sure to read a summary of the play with your kids, or you will be hopelessly lost, as they use Shakespeare's original language. We like Lambs' Tales From Shakespeare because they use a lot of the actual play's text. The theater also develops EXCELLENT study guides, which you can find on their web site here. One past year's study guide included a summary of the play, background on Shakespeare and theaters of his time, questions to discuss after seeing the play, and even a short version to put on yourself! Even if your kids are younger, you'll find something useful in this guide.
- Arrive early. Plan to arrive 15-30 minutes before the show starts, so you can be in your seat and settled in time. The play will begin promptly. If you anticipate that you will be late please call the office at 215-496-9722. If you are late, they will do their best to seat you at an appropriate interval in the play; however you may have to wait until intermission, therefore allow plenty of time for driving and parking. Remember that there are often traffic jams on the way into Philly. (Many families who are coming from a distance allow a lot of extra time, then go for a walk, perhaps to the nearby Rittenhouse Square park, if they arrive very early. In the past, some families have missed part of the show due to traffic problems. Plan ahead.)
- Duration: Typically, performances last approximately two and a half to three hours with one 15-minute intermission. Afterwards, there is usually an optional “talkback” question-and-answer session with the actors, who are quite knowledgable about the play and their characters, as well as acting in general. This is usually an excellent part of the experience, so allow time for it if you can.
- Younger kids: Please read Are your kids ready for Shakespeare? to help you decide if this event is appropriate for your younger children. This theater is quite small – it seats only about 120 people, and the actors are only a few feet away - so children will need to sit very quietly for as much as three hours. It is not always easy to slip out of the theater without interrupting the show, as for most seats you'd have to walk across the stage to get to the exit, plus the exits are used by the actors during the show to enter and leave the stage.
Interested, well-behaved younger children who are used to the theater and have some preparation for the particular play may be OK. We've had children as young as 4 or 5, but for most children I'd wait until 8ish for comedies, 10ish for tragedies (or older if they are particularly sensitive). Depending on the play, there might be romance, though nothing too demonstrative, and there is usually well-choreographed swordplay.
- Directions: 2111 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103. The theater is in a church. They usually have a sandwich-style sign or a flag out front. There is a parking garage next door, and one across the street. I've been told there is a cheaper one down the street, but I'm not sure where. Parking details and directions are at the theater's web site - see "plan your visit" in the upper right corner.
UnSkate Roller Skating --
For over 15 years, the UnSkate has been hosted by Unschoolers & Others. U&O is an inclusive group of parents, who welcome all styles of homeschooling and unschooling methods. All are invited to join in the monthly Unskate.
You do not need to be a member of the group in order to skate. So feel free to come out, bring a friend or two and have fun.
- In the past, the UnSkate has been from 1-3 pm on the 3rd Friday of each month. (The date varies sometimes around Easter, Christmas, President's Day, and other holidays, so be sure to check before you go.) It's at the Christiana Skating Center,
801 Christiana Road,
Newark, De 19713.
- In '12-'13, the cost was $3.50 per skating child, which included rental of traditional roller skates; with inline-skates available for an additional $3 charge (or bring your own skates) and no charge for parents and non-skating children.
- No outside food or drinks please (except for bottles for babies and toddlers). (Skate Center policy.)
Soda, water, and snacks are available in vending machines.
There is also a water fountain. Snack bar and video game areas are closed during this skating session. Please enjoy your snacks in the car before or after skating.
- This is a very casual event, with kids from tots to teens. If your kids can't skate, don't worry - this is a good place to learn, and most kids catch on after a few visits. There is a large carpeted area for kids who are new to skating to wander around. Moms enjoy skating and/or chatting in the seating area; it's a great place to meet experienced homeschoolers. Babies and toddlers abound.
- If you go to the Unskate a few times, you might want to join U&O. They are a loose-knit group of families from the Maryland/Delaware/PA area. They also hold a well-attended weekly Park Day. Contact:
Carol-from-U&O or join the U&O Yahoo group for current details.
- Directions: Christiana Skating Center, 302-366-0473, 801 Christiana Rd. (Route 273), Newark, DE 19713 The rink is very easy to find, since it’s just off I-95. From PA, take I-95 South to the Route 273 exit. Stay in the right lane of the exit ramp – you’ll curve to the right onto Rt. 273 West. Once you're on the actual road, you'll want to move into the left lane. Go West on Rt. 273 about 2 blocks and turn left into the Pizza Hut parking lot. (You probably won’t see the skating center before you turn – have faith!) The skating center is just beyond the Pizza Hut; drive through the parking lots to get there.
FREE! Pennsylvania Ballet Dress Rehearsals
The Pennsylvania Ballet allows student groups to see their dress rehearsals. It is an excellent inexpensive way to introduce students to dance; students with more dance experience will appreciate seeing the dancers work on their performance.
- If you are interested in this program, I encourage you to contact the Ballet and ask to be put on their mailing list. There is a deadline, usually in September, to apply for tickets. See here for details. Consider putting together your own small group! (It's easy.)
- Typically, you will see the dancers rehearse half of the show, often with live music. This is a working dress rehearsal, so there may be stops and starts, dancers may not dance full out, etc. In rare cases (injury, etc.), they may end up doing something different than advertised.
- Kids of any age who attend should be the kind of kid who will sit very still and quiet during these working dress rehearsals. If you are not sure that your child will be able to sit still and quiet during the performance, please consider the Dance Celebration series as a better first introduction to dance. The DC performances are a bit more accessible to those who are new to dance, and there is a bit more leeway as to noise & movement during the performance.
- The shows are at the Academy of Music or the Merriam Theater on the Avenue of the Arts in Philadelphia. You may find street parking, but you will probably end up in a parking garage ($). There is one in the hotel directly across from the theaters. Expect to pay around $15-$18 for parking. (Consider carpooling to minimize the expense.) Allow extra time for parking!
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology
If you are studying Ancient History, a trip to the Penn Museum is well worth it. They have a significant number of artifacts from the ancient world, especially Ur (Mesopotamia), Egypt, and the Etruscan/Roman world. Visit on your own, or organize a tour for a small group of friends.
- Tours include a docent-led visit to a particular gallery, as well as time to explore on your own. If your tour is in the afternoon, you can arrange to enter the museum galleries earlier so you can look around yourselves before (and/or after) the tour.
- There is a nice lunchroom you can usually use; you will likely share it with visiting schools. There is a coatroom area where coats and lunchboxes may be stored while you tour the museum.
- For directions, see here. The Penn Museum is on the corner of 33rd and South Streets in Philadelphia. It is across from Franklin Field and the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. It is easily accessible by public transportation, including the Regional Rail SEPTA trains - the University City station is very close to the museum.
Hay Creek Valley Fall Festival
"The Hay Creek Festival prides itself on the recreating and interpreting the 18th and 19th century living and working lifestyles on the Joanna Furnace Iron Plantation. Throughout all three days of the event almost 1200 craftsmen, interpreters, and volunteers bring this significant iron producing community back to life."
- Friday – Sunday, September 11 – 13, 2015
- Definitely worth the trip. Bring a camera and fill that portfolio – you can knock off history, science, music, and have a great day out! See their web site for details.
- They usually offer significantly discounted admission to homeschool families on Friday (2012 prices: teachers $7, students free), but you need to fill out a form from their website and bring it with you. (You can also check the website for a discount coupon for weekend days.) You're sure to see someone you know; there are always a lot of homeschoolers there on Friday.
- Activities usually include archaelogy, rubber stamp and rubbing stations, mechanical technology (vintage working equipment such as antique cars and tractors, engines, pumps, grain threshers, lathes, cord weavers, and washing machines), early American crafts (spinning, weaving, papermaking, blacksmithing, broom making, glassblowing, and many more), musical performances, a Civil War encampment, and a craft market. The festival usually features excellent food, usually including soups, Schnitz Un Knepp (apples & ham), farmhouse sandwiches, mac-and-cheese, chicken pot pie, ice cream, pie, fresh fruit, delicious cookies, and apple cider. One of the fun parts for many young homeschoolers is riding a school bus from the parking area to the festival grounds.