Tag Archives: Philadelphia

Sydney Opera House New Years Fireworks

A Holiday Deal for Our Readers: See These Cities for Less

Everyone loves presents, so here’s one for all you urban explorers out there. If you’re headed to one of the following cities during your holiday getaway, Context Travel is offering a discount to all WendyPerrin.com readers. Context has smart docents leading behind-the-scenes food, art, history, and architecture tours in urban hot spots all over the world. The company’s distinctive approach to in-depth, sophisticated walking tours has earned its founder, Paul Bennett, a spot on Wendy’s WOW List (and her Condé Nast Traveler list for years before that).

As a special gift for WendyPerrin.com readers, Context is offering a 15% discount until January 1 on tours in Paul’s favorite holiday-time cities. Be sure to use the links below to get the discounts, and come back and leave reviews of your experiences after your tours!


“We think Paris is tops at Christmas,” Paul says. “Colorful lights line the city’s wide boulevards; the department stores unveil elaborate Christmas-themed windows; and it’s the season for special treats like oysters, bûche de noël, pain d’épices, and foie gras. (Yum.) Paris over Christmas is busy, but not inundated with tourists like in the summer months. In fact, the increased crowds add something festive to the period. Shoppers will want to stay over into the New Year to experience the biannual store sales (in 2017 these run Jan 11­Feb 8).”

Use this link to get 15% off Context’s holiday food tour in Paris, for bookings placed before Jan 1.


“Rome is also a favorite spot of mine for Christmas. Food dominates, as it often does: torrone, or nougat candy, a mouth-watering concoction of honey, egg whites and toasted nuts; or the panettone, a sweet bread rich in butter, candied fruit and raisins. We run a holiday food tour in Rome; also, during this time, most churches display elaborate nativities for veneration. You can learn more on our Rome Holiday Walk: The Tradition of Italian Nativities.”

Use these links to get 15% off Context’s holiday food tour and Rome Holiday Walk: The Tradition of Italian Nativities.

Christmas tree in Love Park, Philadelphia

A Christmas tree in Love Park, Philadelphia. Photo: J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia


“We also love Philadelphia around the holidays. The city is decked out with lights along Broad Street and throughout Rittenhouse Square, and hosts multiple tree lighting ceremonies, including one at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We usually take a break for some ice-skating in Dilworth Park at City Hall, or visit the annual WinterFest along the Delaware River that features rustic cabins, wool blankets, and fire pits to roast marshmallows, in the shadow of the Ben Franklin Bridge. The Mummers Parade on New Year’s Day is a quirky, colorful spectacle and hallmark event in Philadelphia, with roots that date to the 18th century. The city is less crowded in the winter than in summer, making sites enjoyable to visit.”

Use this link to get 15% off Context’s Philadelphia tours for bookings placed before Jan 1.


“Okay, my personal favorite? Sydney or Melbourne. Sun-drenched days, balmy long nights and a vibrant atmosphere is what’s on offer over Christmas and New Year’s down under. The cultural capital of Melbourne has a rich array of Christmas celebrations, from Carols by Candlelight on Christmas Eve, a Boxing Day Test cricket match, and an abundance of locally sourced delicious treats at Queen Victoria Market. The beach capital of Sydney has endless stretches of stunning coastline, all offering the perfect (and slightly unusual) venue for a Christmas Day picnic. It goes without saying that Sydney is the place to be for the most epic fireworks spectacle around at New Year. Other than at this theatrical performance (when careful planning is necessary to gain the best viewing spot on The Rocks), summer in both cities is a relatively stress-free time to visit.”

Use these links to get 15% off Context’s Melbourne tours and Sydney tours for bookings placed before Jan 1.

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Independence Hall, Philadelphia

Philadelphia Airport Layovers: The Best Way to Spend Them

An airport layover doesn’t have to mean that you’re stuck in the airport. In this series, local experts in the world’s most popular hub cities recommend sightseeing itineraries for every time frame.

With a name that’s Greek for brotherly love, Philadelphia is just waiting to welcome you for a few hours between flights. Philly has Colonial history, Revolutionary-era artifacts, and world-class art. Plus, it’s home to the main office of Context Travel, a company on Wendy’s WOW List that runs cultural walking tours in cities worldwide. So we asked them: How would you spend a layover in your own city? Here’s their advice:

The Basics

How to get out of the airport:

Taxi: Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is only a 20-minute cab ride from Center City Philadelphia. Line up at the taxi rank outside the ground transportation exit after baggage claim. The taxis have a flat rate of $28.50 (excluding tip) into Center City, and a $10 minimum for destinations closer to the airport.

There is rarely a lot of traffic between the airport and Center City. The exception is when a Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, or Sixers game is beginning or ending. Just ask a security guard or information desk attendant at the airport if any of these teams are playing at home when you arrive. If the answer is yes, opt for the train.

Train: The regional rail (SEPTA) runs every 30 minutes directly from all terminals of the airport into the city. The ride takes between 25 and 35 minutes, depending on which stop you get on/off, and costs $8 one way, $16 round-trip if you buy your tickets on the train, or $6.50/$13 if purchased at a ticket kiosk or window in advance.

If you only have a couple of hours and want to squeeze in more than a few stops in the city, opt for the more expensive cab ride. Not only will save you time getting into the city, but the taxi can drop you right at the doorstep of your first stop.

What to do with your luggage:

If you have luggage, you should make sure it gets checked through to your next flight before you leave the airport, or be prepared to carry it with you; PHL does not provide luggage storage facilities.

If you have a 4-hour layover

If you want to hit Colonial- and Revolutionary-era Philadelphia, we recommend taking a taxi directly to Independence National Park. From here you can get a close look at the Liberty Bell (but don’t wait in the insanely long line; its new home has huge glass walls, so you can see the American icon without wasting time) and Independence Hall, home to the signings of both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. While you won’t have time for the full interior tour of Independence Hall, National Park Service rangers are always stationed outside to answer questions and give a brief history of the building. From here, wander south along 5th Street into the heart of the Society Hill neighborhood, past the American Philosophical Society, where many of the nation’s earliest intellects—think Ben Franklin and John Adams—established the country’s first “think tank.” The APS Museum’s galleries are free and open to the public, and rotating exhibitions display some of the most fascinating objects in American history, including Thomas Jefferson’s hand-written draft of the Declaration of Independence, and a notebook from Lewis and Clark’s exploratory journey. Cut east down Walnut Street, south down 4th Street, and duck into Willings Alley, one of the few remaining Colonial alleyways in the city. When you emerge on the other side, you will find Powel House half a block south (244 S 3rd Street), home to one of the most influential power couples of Colonial Philadelphia: Samuel Powel, the last mayor of the city under British rule, and his wife Elizabeth Willing.

If you have a 6-hour layover

Consider a 3-hour tour, with starting points just minutes from city train stations. You may want to pre-book an immersive exploration of the political, economic, and social strata of early Philadelphia with an expert on 18th century history, to find out what really brought about the first rumblings of the Revolution. Or experience the city’s world-class public art collection—second only to Paris!—through sculpture (think Calder, di Suvero, and Rodin), murals (more than 8,000), and mosaics with a contemporary artist on a brisk stroll from City Hall, at the very heart of Philadelphia, and up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. More art can be found in Albert C. Barnes’s whimsically assembled and displayed collection.

If you don’t have time to leave the airport

Head to Chickie’s & Pete’s (Terminals A-West, C, D, and E), a South Philadelphia favorite, for a beer and to catch a Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, or Sixers game with local fans. Or take a brisk walk across all of the terminals to see the Art at the Airport installations, featuring works by local contemporary artists.

More Layover Solutions:

Istanbul Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them
Tokyo Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them
Amsterdam Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them
Beijing Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them
Barcelona Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them
Great Paris Hotels for an Airport Layover at Charles de Gaulle
London Heathrow Layover: Great Hotels for a Stopover at LHR
Madrid Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Two lions at the Smithsonian National Zoo.

Sleep With the Fishes (and Lions) at These Zoo and Aquarium Sleepovers

Note from Wendy: When my sons got the chance to spend the night at New York’s American Museum of Natural History my youngest, Doug, was so impressed that he wrote a blog post detailing the reasons why everyone should sign up for a museum sleepover. So when I saw that our friends at Yahoo! Travel had rounded up zoos that offer similar slumber-party programs, I immediately wanted to share the info. See their article below. For help planning memorable family vacations, take a look at my WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts. For more specific recommendations, email me at questions@wendyperrin.com and I can connect you with the right travel specialist for your family.

This article originally ran on Yahoo! Travel


By Jordi Lippe of Yahoo! Travel

Going to the zoo and aquarium can be a magical experience. You get to see animals you’ve only ever read about in real life—monkeys, penguins, sharks, whales, etc.—up close. But have you ever wondered what happens at these parks after all the tourists leave and the lights go out? Now kids of all ages can find out. Some of your favorite attractions offer overnight stays, so you can literally sleep with the fishes—and other wild animals. Here are 10 zoos and aquariums where you can actually spend the night.

Resident Camp at SeaWorld, various U.S. locations

SeaWorld in Orlando

SeaWorld in Orlando. (Photo: SeaWorld/Facebook)

What do dolphins look like when they sleep? That’s a question you can have answered by attending one of SeaWorld’s Summer Resident Camps, where students grades four through college can spend a few nights sleeping next to beluga whales, manatees, and dolphins. When the sun comes up, participants also get to do cool stuff like follow zoological professionals as they handle penguins, take a swim in the dolphin stadium show pool, and prepare educational presentations to share with park guests. Bonus: This program is offered at SeaWorlds across the country.

Snore and Roar at Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Washington, D.C.

Two lions at the Smithsonian National Zoo.

Two lions at the Smithsonian National Zoo. (Photo: Smithsonian’s National Zoo/Facebook)

Typically, when spending the night in D.C., you hear city sounds like cars honking and people yelling. How about trading those in for wolves howling and sea lions barking? Just head to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo for its overnight program. You can pitch a tent on Lion/Tiger Hill before taking an exclusive animal-keeper-led tour through the exhibits and animal territories. With both family and adult-only versions available from June through September, it will be the wildest experience you’ve never had in our nation’s capital.

 Also from Yahoo! Travel: Nearly-Extinct Turtle Is Coming Back With Help From Zoo

Overnight Safari at the Bronx Zoo, Bronx, New York

Two sea lions at sunrise at the Bronx Zoo. (Photo: Joey/Flickr)

Two sea lions at sunrise at the Bronx Zoo. (Photo: Joey/Flickr)

Trade your zebra-print skirt for an actual zebra on your next night out in New York City. The Bronx Zoo hosts Family Overnight Safaris to which you can bring a tent, sleeping bags, and a picnic dinner and enjoy an evening of animal-themed activities and classic camping rituals like roasting marshmallows. Be sure to stay up late to hear the wild calls from the various species on the grounds. But no need for an alarm clock—zoo officials say the sea lions provide a natural wake-up call.

Sleepover With the Sharks at National Aquarium, Baltimore

Blacktip shark at the National Aquarium.

Blacktip shark at the National Aquarium. (Photo: JJ Jackson/Flickr)

Total darkness + sharks isn’t usually an equation you want to find yourself in the middle of. But when you participate in Sleepover With the Sharks at the National Aquarium, you get to see these beautiful creatures sans the sheer terror. Overnight guests set up sleeping bags in the underwater viewing area as the kings of fish swim overhead. Included in the program is a behind-the-scenes tour, reserved seating in the dolphin amphitheater, a 4D immersion film, dinner, and breakfast.

Big Cat-Nap Campout at Zoo Miami

A leopard at the Miami Zoo.

A leopard at the Miami Zoo. (Photo: Zoo Miami/Facebook)

Each year during the Big Cat-Nap Campout, families are invited to pitch their own tents for the night in the zoo’s “grasslands” before heading off on a behind-the-scenes tour and enjoying a campfire complete with s’mores. Participants also get breakfast and free admission to the park the next day and, of course, a T-shirt to commemorate the totally awesome experience.

 Also from Yahoo! Travel: You Have to See It to Believe It — Lion Shocks Tourists by Opening Car Door on Safari

Adult Overnights at the Philadelphia Zoo

A red panda at the Philadelphia Zoo.

A red panda at the Philadelphia Zoo. (Photo: National Geographic Image Collection/Alamy)

While there are overnight programs for children and teens throughout the year, the Philadelphia Zoo sometimes lets adults in on the fun, too. Go behind the scenes at the attractions, have up-close encounters with live animals, tour the park after dark, and have a light dinner. And what’s a night out without some cocktails? Enjoy a happy hour surrounded by exotic species.

Harbor Discoveries Camps at the New England Aquarium, Boston

Flame jellies at the New England Aquarium.

Flame jellies at the New England Aquarium. (Photo: New England Aquarium/Facebook)

This Boston aquarium is already pretty cool, what with animals like penguins and jellyfish. So why not take it up a notch and slumber alongside some of these sea creatures? Families sleep in the west wing and get a tour of the main aquarium, admission to an IMAX movie, and breakfast, all while learning about life in the ocean.

 Also from Yahoo! Travel: With its Aquarium and Miniature Forest, Vancouver Is Canada’s Coolest Airport

Zzzoofari Slumber at the Nashville Zoo

Two barn owls at the Nashville Zoo.

Two barn owls at the Nashville Zoo. (Photo: Art Directors & TRIP/Alamy)

It’s as if you’re going on a camping trip, only this one has giraffes, red pandas, and kangaroos. During a night under the stars at the Nashville Zoo, families are treated to a tour of the zoo, play games and do crafts, have a marshmallow roast, and enjoy hayrides before falling asleep to the sounds of apes and exotic birdcalls. Plus, there’s breakfast the next morning.

Seashore Sleepovers at Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey Bay, California

Photo: Monterey Bay Aquarium

Photo: Monterey Bay Aquarium

Enjoy an evening with live music, a wine tasting, and … stingrays. Guests participating in one of the aquarium’s Summer Nights Seashore Sleepovers get to explore the property after the doors close to the public at 8 p.m. There’s also a bedtime snack and a late-night nature movie before you go to bed in front of your favorite exhibit. Wake up with the fishes and enjoy a continental breakfast in the café.

Zookeeping 101 at Busch Gardens Tampa

Busch Gardens Tampa

Busch Gardens Tampa

If exotic land animals are your thing, you’ll love the Zookeeping 101 overnight summer program at Busch Gardens Tampa. Created for high school and college kids, campers assist zookeepers with their daily routines, including preparing diets, training animals, and providing veterinary care for a variety of animals from giraffes to hippos to lemurs. Of course, they also get to try out all the fun rides after the crowds leave. Camper lodging is in dormitories inside the park.