Visiting Independence Seaport Museum: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

by edVAcationMama

I am not a boy. I always thought that I would make a terrible mother to the male species. Every once in a while, I surprise myself by actually sharing an interest in what my kids are learning. It’s almost like for a fleeting moment, I actually feel like “I’ve got this!” (Usually this is preceded by a brother to brother squabble). That moment of common victory often floats away too quickly like a low tide that flows away wave by wave.

Speaking of water, that blissful mom- victory moment was recently experienced. I savored every bit as we visited the (check) Independence Seaport Museum. I must say, hands down, this was the best stop of all on our Philly trip. I was delighted, and so were the kids.20120307-150323.jpg

What could possibly be better?

The answer: An inside tour of a real life submarine and historical boat!

Yup, could a mom get any cooler than climbing under the water and into a submarine? Perhaps she could, when after the submarine tour the boys took onto the deck of the Cruiser Olympia! Learning what life was like on a boat, visiting the operating room on the boat, the dentist’s office that also doubled as a barbershop (haircut, shave and a root canal anyone?), and hammocks to sleep on.

(Note to self: remove all beds and install space saver hammocks; you think my boys would mind?)


The museum itself was filled with interesting facts including weather technology (new and old), how the slinky toy was actually invented by an engineer working on the ship, and sayings that stemmed from ship such as “spic and span”!

Some interesting facts we learned, just about Olympia alone were:

a) Olympia is the world’s oldest floating steel warship and the sole surviving naval ship of the Spanish-American War!

b) Olympia is just 16ft. short of being as long as an NFL field, which is 120yds (Try and find out how long Olympia is! Didn’t think you’d find math at a Seaport museum, did you?)

c) This ship was first launched in San Francisco in 1892.

d) Olympia has managed to survive through the efforts of many individuals and organizations. From 1996 until 2010, the task was the responsibility of Philly’s Independence Seaport Museum, but they are no longer able to carry the burden. The ship has many problems, “including a hull than is only 1/8″ thick in places, and peppered with small penetrations.” If major funding is not raised soon, Olympia is in danger of being sunk as an underwater reef off of Cape May.


So, perhaps my moments as a “cool” mom aren’t discovered that often, but with the Independence Seaport Museum in Philly my moment lasted a good 2½ hours or so. As these boys grow older, I will take what I can get!


I honestly think that the Independence Seaport Museum is a hidden treasure in the Philadelphia Vacation options. We visited 5 museums and out of all of them, this was the one that rated the highest on the cool factor. Do yourself a favor, when visiting Philadelphia do NOT miss out on the fun that the Independence Seaport Museum has to offer.

Elizabeth Norton is a home educating mom of 2 boys. All three love to learn and adventure. You can follow their journey on edVAcation. Elizabeth truly believes "Life is a lesson as much as it is a story! Live it. Learn from it. Share your findings."

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1 Mark H March 13, 2012 at

I visited a submarine at the Maritime Museum in Sydney. I think I must be slightly claustrophobic – I have no idea how all these folks can live inside one of these vessels and their cramped conditions for weeks or months at a time.

2 Elizabeth Norton (@edvacation) March 24, 2012 at

I agree Mark. I don’t know how they do it. My husband is a pretty big guy. I think it must really take the right person to do this for a living! :)

3 ginabad March 27, 2012 at

Oh cool! I’m always looking for nearby things that we can bring the kids to, I had NO idea about this. Thank you for sharing. :)

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