The riches of history contrast with the institutions of modern life everywhere in Philadelphia. Here you can see artifacts of our nation's birth and avant-garde artworks nearly side by side. Eighteenth-century buildings sit next to 20th-century mural art. Even food gets in on the act: Restaurants serving Colonial recipes vie with restaurants serving contemporary Cuban cuisine.
Philadelphia's City Hall (Broad and Market streets, 215-574-0380) is a great place to see this contrast. At this popular attraction and predominant symbol of the city, visitors can tour the 100-year-old building and its soaring tower, and view changing exhibits of contemporary artworks in gallery space as well.
You can feel the contrast between the centuries just by walking around the city. But if you really want to explore the old and the new, consider taking one of the many cultural walks offered. You can see Colonial Philadelphia one day and the next day take a Murals of Philadelphia Tour (215-568-5245).
Adults may want to take the Historic Tippler's Tour, a 90-minute walk through Old City that stops at three Colonial drinking establishments (215-629-5801). For the family, there are Ghost Tours (215-413-1997) that entertain with tales of ghosts and goblins.
In a unique match-up of history and high-tech, the Lights of Liberty show (215-LIBERTY or 1-877-GO-2-1776) uses modern-day production methods to bring Philadelphia's Colonial history to life. Visitors immerse themselves in the drama of the American Revolution on a walking tour to five sites, at each of which an act in the Revolution is played out. Sound, images and graphic projections combine to help tell the story.
Five-story-high images are projected onto some of the country's most historic buildings, and narration is provided by a galaxy of stars. The production is billed as the first sound-and-light show of its kind in the world.
There are also living-history interpreters throughout Independence National Historical Park (Visitors Center, Third and Chestnut streets, 215-597-8787). There you can visit Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell Pavilion, Congress Hall and Franklin Court. You may encounter one of the heroes of American history strolling around, or perhaps one of the ordinary citizens from Colonial times.
If you want to encounter some heroes of more recent times, visit the National Liberty Museum (321 Chestnut St., 215-925-2800), where fighters for civil liberty are honored.
For a jolt into the 21st century, visit the Institute of Contemporary Art (36th and Sansom streets, 215-898-7108) or the Painted Bride Art Center (230 Vine St., 215-925-9929). You'll get a big dose of modern art and performance art.
You won't have to work hard to enjoy the contrasts of the old and the new in Philadelphia. The city is constantly evolving, with old buildings being reused and adapted for modern needs and history being preserved and celebrated.
Philadelphia provides a unique glimpse of where our country came from, and where it is going.