Ben Franklin and Cleopatra – Where Can You See Them Together?

One of the activities on our “Dream Summer” list was to visit the Cleopatra exhibit at the Franklin Institute.  A few months ago, I heard the exhibit was coming.  I was really excited to see it.  Although I don’t know much about Cleopatra, I expected to find out what an electrifying and powerful woman she was.  I expected to be motivated by her story and compelled to do something awe-inspiring with my life using her as a role model!  

Matthew expected to have a good time at the Franklin Institute because it’s a really cool hands-on museum.  You learn while participating and for anyone visiting Philadelphia, it’s a must-do for all ages.

So, off we went on the designated morning.  We had limited time since Matthew had to be home for baseball practice by 2PM.  We jumped on the train heading for Philadelphia and then started the ten-block or so walk to the museum. 

Travel Tip:  Don’t forget about local museums, attractions, and other “tourist traps” that are close to your home.  Even though you’ve been there before, they can still make for great mini family trips!

On the way, we stopped at a breakfast cart for an egg sandwich.  For those of you who are not familiar with city food carts, they are odd-looking metal carts that cook and sell food – imagine that…the food is usually local and tasty!

When I used to work downtown, my office mates and I would take turns going to the cart to get egg sandwiches for anyone who wanted them.  We’d bring back the little tinfoil wrapped steaming bundles and enjoy luscious egg and cheese on soft rolls…yummy!  Of course, I shared this story with my son and then we shared his first city cart egg sandwich.  He loved it.

Travel Tip:  Use travel opportunities to share your stories with your kids.  They might roll their eyes but they love it.  I bet you can remember your own parent’s childhood stories and now that you’re an adult you appreciate those memories.  Your kids will appreciate it too – don’t waste the small moments!

We arrived at the museum right after it opened.  This is the perfect time to go to a museum.  I’ve been to the Franklin Institute many, many times in my life; I’ve never seen it this empty.

Travel Tip:  Look for low traffic times to go to high traffic locations – early weekday mornings are often the best time to visit crowded attractions.


Our first stop was the gift shop.  Huh?  Yes, the gift shop.  I’m always looking for new ideas myself and had read an idea to visit the gift shop before you visit the museum.  The idea incorporates getting a feel for the best things the museum is offering and then you know to target those during your visit. 

It was tough to get a sense of anything at the gift shop though since we hadn’t seen the exhibits yet.  Also, I don’t think you could go to the gift shop first with a child under the age of seven without a meltdown.  Luckily, Matt is 12 so I didn’t have to worry about this episode occurring on our trip!

Note:  Since going, I was offered another suggestion for improving your museum visits.  Stop by the gift shop and let your little ones pick a post card.  They then have to find what is on the post card in the museum.  This will keep them interested in all of the exhibits so they can find their special picture.  Try it and let me know if it works – I’ll do the same for you! (Special thanks to: rzale)

We were off to the Cleopatra exhibit.  It started with a quick movie and then moved onto to visit the artifacts.  Audio headsets were included so you could listen to the simulated voice of Cleopatra telling her own story.  Matt liked the artifacts the best.  He thought they were quite interesting and therefore gave the exhibit an overall good rating.

I, on the other hand, did not find it as interesting.  My image of Cleopatra before visiting was as a temptress using her beauty to gain her power.  My image of her after the exhibit was much the same.  I was expecting to find out motivating information on her struggles and how she overcame them.  In her (and the exhibit’s) defense, almost all of her papers, writings, and general history were destroyed after her death so understanding who she was (as a person) is difficult.  But still, I was left wanting more.

It was good to know Matthew and I had different opinions.  Our debate after the tour, over the positives and negatives was…delightful. 

We then went onto the sports area of the museum.  Again empty, again first time I’ve ever seen that happen.  I’m telling you, go early!  Matt loves sports so he loved this part.  Next, we went downstairs to the space center.   We experienced a difference of opinion, once more.  I’ve seen this space center a number of times and just thought it was out-dated but Matt really liked it.  It was one of his favorite parts of the day.

Travel Tip:  Just because you don’t like something, doesn’t mean your kids aren’t going to like it.  Give them a chance to choose things too!


Our time limit was approaching.  On our way out, we stopped at the giant heart and the environmental exhibits.  We both loved the information about our carbon footprint in the environmental section.

We left the museum, stopped for a quick bite of lunch, jumped on the train home and had Matt on time and ready for baseball practice.  Our dream summer continues…


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