Anyone passing by the Roanoke Amtrak station at five-thirty in the morning on June 6th would have seen a swarm of parents, children, teachers, and staff saying their goodbyes and waiting to board a train to Philadelphia. After settling down in our seats, we were off! Seven hours later, we arrived at the 30th Street train station. Our luggage was sent ahead of us in an extra-large Uber. On the way, we stopped to see the Liberty Bell, had some dinner, and walked the remaining distance to rest up for the day ahead. Our AirBnb was a three-story townhouse with plenty of room to relax and socialize, although most days we were too tired to do anything but sleep.

To kick off our second day, we started with breakfast at Wawa! We were impressed by our students’ choices, many opting for healthy options such as fruit, yogurt, and juice, though there may have been a donut or two somewhere in the mix. We spent most of our second day exploring the Franklin Institute, a massive science museum with tons of interactive exhibits dedicated to experiential learning. We visited Your Brain, Changing Earth, The Giant Heart, Electricity, the Tesla electric car at Now/Next, the Tech Studio, and Space Command. Our kids really enjoyed walking through the atriums and ventricles of the Giant Heart and being spooked by a giant T-Rex while gazing through a pair of Oculus Rift goggles at the virtual reality station.

After we wrapped up at the Franklin Institute, we stopped by Logan Square Fountain and viewed the city from the top at the One Liberty Observation Deck. After that, we rode the subway to Citizens Bank Park. For a lot of our kids (and some adults!) in our group, this was their first time going to see a professional baseball game AND their first time taking the subway. Our kids learned how to use a turnstile, how to be courteous on the subway, and hold on to avoid falling down. We had a great time hanging out in the stands, eating stadium food, and rooting for the home team. We even got the chance to see ourselves on the big screen! Go Phillies!

Because we got home a little later than usual after the game, the third day of our trip started a little later than usual. We ate a quick lunch and headed back towards Independence Hall, this time to listen to live storytellers and reenactors teach us a thing or two about life during the Revolutionary War. We even ended up getting drafted into the Continental Army!

At the Liberty Museum, we explored multimedia presentations throughout the exhibits, starting with the Museum’s Flame Gallery, which features Dale Chihuly’s Flame of Liberty, a massive glass sculpture that lights up when visitors touch the ring at its base, symbolizing the spark of liberty that resides within us all. On the other floors, we learned about heroes in our military and around the world. Our kids especially loved looking at examples of White House China in Liberty Hall. Our final stop was the Independence Visitor Center where we visited the gift shop, played on the grass, drank slushies, and listened to joyful music of a revival happening on the other side of the lawn.

Sunday was another day of firsts for many of our kids. To start, we crossed the Delaware River by boat! As we enjoyed the view of the Benjamin Franklin bridge and the Philadelphia skyline from the water, we reminded our kids that we were crossing over into New Jersey, a whole different state. We spent the next few hours at the Adventure Aquarium. Needless to say, our kids had a great time.  We witnessed a rainstorm over a tank of piranhas, watched a 3D movie about the Galapagos Islands, and learned about the importance of keeping our oceans clean. We saw huge hippos, tiny penguins, loads of fish, and even some sharks and sea turtles. The four different touch tanks throughout the aquariums were a favorite for some of our kids, as were the special tanks that allowed them to view the fish from an insider’s perspective. What better way to wrap up the weekend then with a spooky ghost tour? Our kids listened intently to our guide as she spun tales of colonial ghosts with unfinished business in some of Philadelphia’s oldest buildings.

With our trip coming to an end, we made sure to pack up all our things and do our best to leave the Airbnb the way we found it. On Monday we bought a few last-minute souvenirs at FiveBelow and made our way back to the train station. We managed to grab some snacks and drinks for everyone before boarding the train which made the trip a little more bearable. It rained for most of the way home but the rain on the windows made for a relaxing journey.

Brazilian author Paulo Coelho once said that “Travel is never a matter of money but of courage.” Although it’s easy to agree with the sentiment of those words, the reality is that it takes a certain amount of funding to make a trip like this happen. We are so very grateful for the support we receive from donors within our community as well as the foundations and organizations that support our mission nationwide. Without your ongoing support, an educational experience of this caliber would be out of reach for our kids. With the help of parents, teachers and staff that planned and accompanied us on this trip, we can ensure that journeys like this one become a permanent part of our offerings at Kids Soar. Thank you all for helping our kids learn and soar!

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