I’ve been an unapologetic history geek ever since my father took me on a tour of all things Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia for a fourth grade school report, so I’m happy to review the 2015 guidebook, Philadelphia Liberty Trail by baby boomer travel writers and bloggers, Larissa and Michael Milne.
The Milnes are long time Philadelphia residents who left to travel the world in 2011 with a little statue of Philadelphia’s favorite fictional native son, Rocky, in tow. Their guidebook reflects their affection for the “green country towne” William Penn laid out in 1683. Although Philadelphia Liberty Trail is designed as a guidebook for five different walking tours of the colonial area, radiating from Independence Mall, I enjoyed reading it cover to cover, almost as a kind of biography of my hometown.
Philadelphia Liberty Trail has inspired me to rediscover the streets trod by our founding fathers at the end of the 18th century, during the momentous times when Philadelphia was ground zero for the establishment of the United States of America. The Milnes explain that while their Philadelphia Liberty Trail encompasses about four miles of walking altogether, each section is a two to four hour loop that can be done independently, starting and finishing at or near Independence Mall, the location of the National Park Service’s Visitor Center for Independence National Park.
Although I have certainly enjoyed many live guided tours during my travels, one benefit of using this interesting guidebook, instead of a live tour guide, is that visitors can set their own pace depending on their particular interests. As a recovering lawyer, I know I can easily spend two hours just in the National Constitution Center (one stop on the Independence Mall North loop). Many of the recommended stops have on site guides, so visitors can enjoy the best of both the guided and unguided worlds.
This book is considerably more than a “go here, go there” book. Although this is a meaty guidebook, the Milnes have a light and engaging writing style somewhat reminiscent of that of travelguide rock star, Rick Steves. In addition to the main narrative, they have sprinkled their book with text boxes, providing interesting stories and factoids, many of which were new to me. One of these boxes even provides the essentials of “Cheesesteak Ettiquette”, so you can confidently order Philadelphia’s signature sandwich without producing eye rolls from the ever tolerant 😉 locals.
In addition to maps, photos and the main itinerary of stops for each tour, the Milnes also describe “Side Trips” a little off the main route and suggest “Pit Stops” for a rest, eating or shopping. Many people bring their children to visit the birthplace of the United States. Philadelphia History Trail uses a kite icon to identify places the younger set are likely to particularly enjoy. For each specific recommended venue along the Philadelphia Liberty Trail, the book provides important information about opening times and cost along with contact information and the official website URL. As with all print travel books, readers are urged to check for up to date information on line as they are making their final travel plans. (For example, even since the recent publication of Philadelphia History Trail, the regional rail system has changed the name of the closest station to colonial Philadelphia from Market East to Jefferson.)
The Milnes included a short “Farther Afield” chapter, suggesting visit-worthy historical venues beyond what was the colonial section of Philadelphia. Some of these are within the city limits of modern day Philadelphia while others, such as Valley Forge National Historical Park, are in the surrounding counties. Philadelphia Liberty Trail ends with a fairly comprehensive “General Travel Information” section, containing news you can use for transportation and parking, where to stay, and where to eat.
For those who want to delve deeper, the Milnes included a “Suggested Reading” list sure to please my fellow history nerds. For budding history geeks, there is also a “Books to Inspire Young Historians” list.
With its photos and maps, Philadelphia Liberty Trail would be a good read for armchair travelers and is a must read (bring along) for those visiting the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection). The 239 page paperback is available for order at your local book store and on Amazon.com.nIf you purchase the book using the link below, Boomeresque will receive a
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If you have been to Philadelphia, did you enjoy your visit? If you have never been to Philly, would you consider planning a visit? Do you ever consult guidebooks when you travel?