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Tailwater-Hilton Collaboration

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  • September 30, 2019
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Tailwater Lodge Exterior Photo

Tailwater Connie Award Winner

Success Rooted in Outstanding Customer Service

Altmar, NY – Hilton honors the Tailwater Lodge with the Connie Award, the highest award for customer service.

A Tailwater-Hilton collaboration means guests will find even more services and amenities at the upscale Tailwater Lodge, a popular Altmar, NY, lodge known to fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. Consequently, the partnership is a win-win for long-time customers of both hoteliers.

The word lodge often denotes rustic but at the Tailwater, expect Connie Award-Winning unparalleled attention to details and unrivaled customer service.

A fellow angler recently told me, “I’m done with scaled-down fishing lodges. I stay at the Tailwater because I want comfort and great food.”

About the Connie Award

Jenna Hackett – Tapestry Collection by Hilton global head

“The Connie Award is the highest hotel award for all brands across Hilton. The winning hotels are the perfect balance of product and outstanding service scores. There are only a few Connie Awards per brand awarded annually, making it extremely competitive to win,” says Jenna Hackett, Tapestry Collection by Hilton global head. “These hotels embody founder Conrad Hilton’s dream of spreading the light and warmth of hospitality and living his shared values each and every day. This distinguished award is presented to properties who have excelled in customer satisfaction and loyalty based on guest feedback and quality assurance standards.”







Before my arrival at the Tailwater two weeks ago, after four previous visits to the lodge in less than five years, I was curious how the Tailwater-Hilton collaboration affects the lodge’s overall theme. I reached out to Tom Fernandez, Woodbine Group representative, for answers.

Scroll down to read my interview with Tom Fernandez, Woodbine Group representative.

How do you describe your company’s relationship with the Hilton?

We are part of the Hilton Tapestry Collection. Tapestry is a Hilton Soft Brand meaning that the hotel maintains it’s ownership, branding, original fit, and finish. We are still owned by the Woodbine Hospitality Group and we continue to be an Orvis Endorsed Lodge.

What’s the significance of the Tapestry Collection and how does the Tailwater fit into that category?

Tapestry is a grouping of hotels that are very similar to independent properties. The focus of the brand is creating a high level of guest experience in nontraditional properties. Tailwater Lodge is a perfect example of the Tapestry collection – adaptive re-use of an elementary school re-purposed into a high-end lodge. We are the epitome of the brand. 

How did the relationship evolve?

Tailwater Lodge’s sister property Hotel Skyler was asked to be the first hotel for Hilton’s Tapestry Collection. In conversations, both Hilton and Tailwater believed the brand would be mutually beneficial for Tailwater.  So… Tailwater was Hilton’s third Tapestry hotel and we were awarded the Connie Award, the highest award Hilton gives for Customer Service. We have had a wonderful time being part of the Hilton Family and helping to grow the Tapestry Brand.

What Tailwater qualities have you retained and where will your longtime guests notice the changes?

I would say all qualities were retained. The only customer-facing differences are the online booking engine and the ability to be part of Hilton’s Honor Program.

How did your designers incorporate the new addition, spa, and pool design, so it remains consistent with the Tailwater’s lodge-like atmosphere and the antiquity of the original building?

The Tailwater Lodge spa
A full-service spa is one of the most recent additions at the Tailwater Lodge. Eforea is a Hilton Spa found all over the world but the inspiration and design are attributed to the Tailwater team.

The Third Phase of Tailwater focused on bringing additional amenities and guest rooms. We wanted to make sure that the addition was of the same feeling as the original space but highlighted some new aspects. Guests will find similar finishes, but some different tones throughout the space.  We also wanted to make sure that our amenities and common areas worked well, for families, fishermen and women, bridal parties, and corporate guests. 

How do the original rooms in the Altmar school differ from the new guest rooms?

I would say they are very similar. We were no longer working within the confines of the school building so we were able to have some fun with the space. The biggest change to the guest rooms was the addition of desks and desk chairs for either some business or maybe some fly tying. We also were able to create two suites that are truly standouts at the property.

There’s so much discussion about branding. How did the change affect the Tailwater brand or is your brand a work in progress?

Hilton doesn’t really change our branding, we are still Tailwater Lodge and we are continuously adding to our brand.

Relax in comfort throughout the lodge. The new addition makes it easy for you to satisfy your need for more space to move around, as shown in the King Suite.

How did the spa’s name evolve and who would you say is your target audience? Bridal parties? Fishermen? Do you have any anglers’ specials or deals my readers should be aware of?

Our Spa is a Hilton Spa. Eforea can be found all over the world. Again, it was inspired and designed by our team, especially the small touches like the steelhead tiles throughout the cobblestone floor in the space. We are part of a global brand but designed and operated by Woodbine Hospitality Group. Our clientele ranges from day-use, overnight leisure guests, bridal parties, and our fisherman specials will actually begin next week.

The Connie Award-Winning Tailwater Lodge is a featured Tapestry Collection Hilton Brand.
Arrange your day so you can make time for a massage or treatment.

Overall, I’m curious how your teams – Tailwater and the Hilton – agreed upon the upscale fishing lodge idea? Does the Hilton partner with other lodges?

Tapestry is an interesting brand. I do believe we are the only lodge as part of the Hilton Collection but that’s not say there may not be more in the future.

The Tailwater Lodge Pool is housed in the most recent addition.

Don’t forget to pack your bathing suit. The Tailwater Lodge pool is a wonderful way to wind down after a long day outdoors.

Want to Learn More About The Lodge?

Jenna noted properties in both the Curio and Tapestry Collection portfolios must feature a unique story and honor that story by weaving extraordinary elements, not limited to design components and an array of top-notch on-property amenities throughout the hotel. She explained,

“Properties in both the Curio and Tapestry Collection portfolios must feature a unique story and honor that story by weaving it into elements throughout the hotel – from design components to on-property amenities. As a result, we have been able to provide guests with one-of-a-kind experiences at over 100 unique destinations, like those available at Tailwater Lodge Altmar. This off-the-beaten-path location is ideal for the Tapestry Collection guest, who we know is an adventure-seeker that wants to experience and explore a destination to its fullest. After a long day of fishing on the Salmon River, explorers can wind down with a craft beer at The Tasting Room or treat themselves to a massage at eforea spa.”

Jenna Hackett

As the seasons evolve from fall to winter, plan a weekend of salmon or steelhead fishing or map out a hike in Altmar. Contact the Tailwater to book your weekend getaway and inquire about upcoming events at and around the lodge.

Take a few minutes to read my Tailwater companion stories.

Additional Tailwater Coverage…
https://joanmatsuitravelwriter.com/tailwater-lodge/
https://joanmatsuitravelwriter.com/fishing-salmon-river/
https://joanmatsuitravelwriter.com/stylish-traditional-fishing-lodge/
https://joanmatsuitravelwriter.com/fishing-family-fun-upstate-ny/

Disclaimer:

My accommodations at the Tailwater were comped but my opinions are my own and based on my experiences.

Bio

Joan Mead-Matsui is a five-time award-winning freelance journalist; travel writer and photographer. She covers news and features’ stories that range from unique travel accessories and products to destinations and attractions. Prior to launching her websites, https://joanmatsuitravelwriter.com and https://chigirie.com, Joan was a full-time freelance content and features writer for print and digital news sources and magazines.

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The Sayre Mansion

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  • March 13, 2019
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Timothy Bobb Sayre Mansion Innkeeper

Settlers Hospitality Group

Personalized Service The Common Thread

One common thread that ties the Settlers Hospitality Group’s properties together is they’re all distinctive. But there’s more to Settlers’ success than the individualized decor, superbly comfortable accommodations, and the outstanding food served in the on-site restaurants. It’s the personalized service each guest receives.

The Sayre Mansion, 250 Wyandotte St., Bethlehem, PA, features 22 guest rooms and is one of five properties owned and managed by Settlers Hospitality Group, a Hawley, Pennsylvania-based company. Settlers is well known for transforming historic properties into luxury boutique hotels with the authentic style and details very much intact. Four of those properties are located in Northeastern Pennsylvania but Sayre mansion has its home in Bethlehem. The grounds and many of the guest rooms offer a sweeping view of the downtown that’s an invitation to explore the restaurants, shops, and university life. Robert Sayre, a town entrepreneur, raised his family in the mansion until the early 1900s. In the years that followed, the building was used for a variety of purposes, from boarding to a fraternity house.

The Sayre Mansion is a member of the Historic Hotels of America (National Trust for Historic Preservation).

Inside the mansion, you’ll meet the innkeeper, Timothy Bobb, and his attentive staff who elevate hospitality to a new level above and beyond what you might expect. Timothy, a quintessential conversationalist, is eager to learn more about each of his guests and does so in a non-intrusive manner.

Timothy assures, “You will be greeted by a person and not an automated check-in.” He or a member of his staff is always on hand to help guests settle into their rooms and they’ve all mastered the art of making guests feel at home.

Sayre Mansion innkeepers
Sayre Mansion innkeeper, Timothy Bobb and his sidekick, a French Bulldog named “Bradford.”

“If there’s bad weather and guests are traveling (by plane), more than likely, I know there was a delay. When they finally arrive, they probably want to find a restaurant or they need a moment to refresh,” Timothy said. “I’ll be sure to ask, ‘Do you need a glass of water? Would you like a cup of coffee? Can I suggest a local restaurant?”

Timothy Bobb, Innkeeper

Customer Care: A Rewarding Experience

The reward, he said is to watch that person evolve from the harried, aggravated traveler to a very comfortable relaxed guest in a short amount of time. The Sayre Mansion, a boutique bed & breakfast, is the only Settlers’ property that currently, does not have an on-site restaurant but you will be treated to an outstanding breakfast each morning in the hotel’s dining room during your stay.

Bradford the French Bulldog
Bradford is a hit at The Sayre Mansion. His responsibilities include meeting and greeting guests.

PET ALERT: Canine friends are welcome at this pet-friendly bed & breakfast but be sure to contact the inn before you book your reservation.

What makes Timothy particularly well suited for his position as The Sayre Mansion innkeeper?

He began his career in interior design, held similar innkeeper positions, and also owned and operated a catering business before joining Settlers Hospitality Group at Silver Birches Resort, a sister property in the Lake Wallenpaupack region of Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains

The Sayre Mansion Conservatory

The “Conservatory” is a favorite with guests who yearn to sleep under the stars and city lights. Photo courtesy of Settlers Hospitality Group.

BETHLEHEM TRAVEL AND DINING FACT: Finding the perfect restaurant will not be a problem. Bethlehem is home to a variety of restaurants and many are within walking distance from The Sayre Mansion ranging from Asian, Italian, and pub to diners. You name it and you’ll likely find a palate-pleaser meal along the streets of historic Bethlehem. My dining experience at Bolete is a “10-plus.” (more details forthcoming).

The Robert Sayre Library was my home during my stay. My recently renovated suite featured two rooms: a spacious bedroom and library decorated with turn-of-the-century furnishings with a plush chaise-style lounge chair that became my second all-time favorite piece of furniture. The queen-sized bed dressed in lavishly comfortable linens is at the top of my list.

Accommodations: The Mansion and The Carriage House offer a variety of lodging options and depending on if you’re traveling alone on business or you have your family in tow, there’s a room for you. I toured every guest room in the mansion and they’re all furnished with comfort and elegance in mind.

Breakfast at The Sayre Mansion
The breakfast buffet features fresh fruit, home-baked muffins, breads, pastries and a heartier breakfast that’s made to order.
The Sayre Mansion Robert Sayre Library Guest Room

You can count on extreme comfort in every guest room managed by Settlers Hospitality Group.

The Sayre Mansion Robert Sayre Library Sitting Area
The voracious reader will have no problem finding a comfortable chair by the fireplace to read a book, work, or watch TV in the library.
Sayre Mansion Living Room

Relax by the fireplace as you sip your favorite tea or coffee. The inn is decorated with antiques and period-style furniture.

Sayre Mansion Decor
The decor is elegant and thoughtfully accented with art and antiques. You’ll feel at home without the “overwhelmed” feeling.

When the opportunity to travel to Bethlehem unfolds, The Sayre Mansion is a model bed & breakfast, with exemplary service and amenities for the consummate traveler or anyone who wants to experience a bed & breakfast at its finest. Robert Sayre found the location to his liking only steps away from city life in historic Bethlehem.

Points of Interest: Lehigh University, St. Luke’s Hospital, and most historic attractions are within walking distance. Tourism information can be found here.

Book a reservation at The Sayre Mansion online or call
610.882.2100 for more information.

Additional properties owned and managed by Settlers Hospitality Group:

The Hotel Anthracite, Carbondale, PA

Settlers Inn, Hawley, PA

Ledges Hotel, Hawley, PA

Silver Birches, Hawley, PA (adjacent to Lake Wallenpaupack)

Disclaimer:

My lodging was comped by Settlers Hospitality Group but my opinions are my own and based on my own experience.

Partner: Transcription of my interview was provided by Transcribe.

About us: Transcribe has been around for 8 years. We began as a simple do-it-yourself transcription tool but evolved as the overall speech recognition technology matured. We introduced a dictation (voice typing) feature a few years ago when it became reliable enough. Last year we introduced a state-of-the-art automatic machine transcription for pre-recorded audio and video. We support a wide set of languages.

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Pennsylvania Farm Show Rooted in History

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  • January 17, 2019
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Pennsylvania Farm Show Exhibits

A State Fair You Shouldn’t Miss

What are Pennsylvania’s key crops?

PA AG FACT: Kennett Square, a Chester County borough (United States), is known as the “Mushroom Capital of the World.”

More than one million mushrooms a day are harvested in Kennett Square and that number is half of the United States’ mushroom crop. Yes, the delightful, flavorful fungi you add to your omelets, soups, and favorite dishes could have its origins in Pennsylvania. That’s one of the PA AG FACTS I learned during the 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center, Harrisburg, Jan. 5 to 12.

I covered two days of the event on behalf of Visit Hershey & Harrisburg and I returned home knowing so much more about my home state’s agricultural history. The story is fascinating and the farm show has been a vehicle for the Department of Agriculture to showcase Pennsylvania’s abundant agricultural accomplishments through exhibits and demonstrations.

I hope you enjoy the “PA AG FACTS” and videos I’ve shared in this article.

PA AG FACT: Pennsylvania’s prime vegetable crops are sweet corn, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, and beans.

Did you miss the 2019 show?

Take a moment to watch highlights and don’t forget to subscribe to my new YouTube Travel Channel.

If you couldn’t attend the 2019 PA Farm Show, watch this video to see highlights.

PA AG FACT: Other important crops are wheat, tobacco, and oats.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture is appointed by the Governor of Pennsylvania and oversees the department of agriculture. The department has hosted the farm show for 103 years and during my video interview with Secretary Russell Redding in the farmers’ market area of the farm show, he described how agriculture shows up in our lives. Take a moment to watch this brief clip with photo highlights from the show.

Photos by Joan Mead-Matsui and Kento Matsui

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding describes why the Pennsylvania Farm Show is a must-see.
Video by Joan Mead-Matsui/Travel With Me Productions

PA AG FACT: Apples, grapes, peaches, and strawberries are important fruit crops grown in Pennsylvania.

The state’s many agricultural achievements are showcased at the farm show during seven days of exhibits and events featuring livestock, products, and food, and combined with a variety of vendors; demonstrations; a farmers’ market and information booths. It’s both educational, entertaining, and all-encompassing for your entire family.

TIP: Wear comfortable shoes and plan to spend a full day exploring the farm show. Bring your entire family and a stroller for younger children. The arena consists of more than one million square feet, with 11 halls, three arenas, and parking for 9,000 vehicles.

103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show
This horse and his owner graciously greeted children at the 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Do you love an old-fashioned state fair?

What makes the farm show a sensational state-wide event?

FOOD – I can’t say enough about the selection of food at the show. Attendees could satisfy their tastebuds with AG products ranging from OUTSTANDING mushroom BURGERS to the FAMOUS MILKSHAKE. Did you sample The Cyclone, a cone made with PA Preferred® brioche bread (using organic flour) and filled with a choice of organic chicken, or pasture-raised pork smoked on-site, topped with chow-chow, a North American pickled relish. Expect to satisfy your hunger and reap your share of vegetables from the condiment. Read more about other culinary adventures online at PENN LIVE.

Furry Friends on the bunny trail – Angorapalooza and a Celebrity Rabbit Hop featured seven new bunny varieties at the 2019 Perennial Farm Show favorite Rabbit Competition. I guarantee your entire family will adore all the animals from the chickens to goats .

PA Farm Show
Was this bunny the “unofficial” emcee of the rabbit competition? Your guess is as good as mine but nonetheless, he/she was a hit with children and adults. Photo by Kento Matsui.

Beverage Tasting – Did you have a chance to sample the fruity hard cider at Pennsylvania’s Cider Guild’s booth? The Cider Sippin’ Story made a return to the show with a Cider Competition.

Beer, Beer, who’s got craft beer?

Craft Beer Lovers’ Delight: The first-ever state-wide Craft Beer Competition brought craft brewers from Philadelphia and Allegheny Counties and beyond with more than 150 varieties ranging from Hefeweizens to Schwarzbiers. Awards were given to the Best in Class, Best of Show and the PA Preferred® Legacy Award.

World champion robotics and STEM agricultural demonstrations are examples of mobile classrooms The Lancaster Farming Stage organizers presented to show how Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) applied in agriculture improves our lives with better food; healthier animals, plants and soil, and even climate challenges.

Ware’s the AG?

At the show’s Farmers’ Market – Were you one of the shoppers who bought wares like cheese, honey, maple products (sinfully delicious maple syrup), vegetables, apples, and potatoes at the Farmers Market?

Artisan’s Alley was a new addition to the 2019 farm show. Crafters and fine artists demonstrated their artistry and sold their hand-crafted goods. Horse-hair braiders, lace and bead makers, spinners, wheat weavers, potters, chair caners, and painters were among the craftspeople who entertained the crowds.

What Makes a Great Egg? ─ Even the white and brown eggs competed in a farm show competition.

Grow your own crops! Not sure how to get started? The information booths were manned by experts from local universities and organizations who ARE happy to extend their expertise to YOU.

Experts from The Penn State Extension offered practical advice for gardeners who had A to Z farming questions?

Hop on the organic wagon. The Organic Boom was a new feature at the 2019 show. If you were in the Expo Hall, chances are you discovered the latest news in composting, vermiculture,  and conservation.

Where are the photos you took at the show? Follow farm show coverage
@PAFarmShow and upload your images on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture encourages you to be a social media star.

PA AG FACT: How BIG is Pennsylvania farming? Learn state-wide county AG history at http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/portal/communities/agriculture/history/index.html

The farm show complex is the “place to be” throughout the year for a variety of events. Promoters and meeting and event planners utilize the complex for livestock and trade shows, corporate meetings, trade shows, and black-tie events.

Additional coverage is available on my YouTube travel channel, where you’ll find videos with in-depth comments from Sharon S. Altland, Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center executive director, Mary Klaus, farm show historian, and Gerald Reichart, farm show floor manager.

Disclaimer: I covered the event on behalf of Visit Hershey & Harrisburg but my views are my own and based on my experience. Click on this link to following happenings in Harrisburg, Hershey, and surrounding towns.

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A French Bakery and The Barnes

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  • December 17, 2018
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The Barnes Foundation

CLASSIC PHILADELPHIA ART AND CULTURE

PHILADELPHIA MEDIA TRIP NOVEMBER 2018

Philadelphia Art Culture The Barnes Foundation
Begin your Philadelphia art and culture tour at Le Pain Quotidien, (translated from French to English, “the daily bread”), a Belgium bakery and restaurant close by to The Barnes Foundation. Photos by Joan Mead-Matsui unless otherwise noted. 

My most recent Philadelphia media trip began at Le Pain Quotidien, (translated from French to English, “the daily bread”), a Belgium bakery and restaurant at The Granary, 1937 Callowhill St., Philadelphia, PA. Le Pain Quotidien is a franchised eatery founded by Alain Coumont. I chose Le Pain because I was in Philadelphia to cover The Barnes Foundation and the online menu reflected my hankerings that day. 

An eatery that features gluten-free, vegetarian-style fare is consistently my first choice for lunch and Le Pain Quotidien Zucchini Noodle Pad Thai was outstanding. The menu and decor are ideal for the diner who is looking for French-inspired pastries, soups, and savory lunch options and an assortment of healthy, plant-based selections. 

Le Pain emanates European culture with the comforting aroma of bread baking in the kitchen and a casual French-country charm. It’s a perfect prelude to an afternoon at The Barnes. 

Call ahead to be sure seating is available during peak times.1 215 789 9870

Philadelphia Art and Culture The Barnes Foundation and Le Pain Quotidien
Are you feeling “cultural” and hungry for artisan food? If you’re looking for a French-inspired meal that will set the stage for your visit to The Barnes Foundation, Le Pain Quotidien is close by and the aroma of bread baking is only the beginning of your romance with European culture in Philadelphia. 

AFTERNOON WITH THE MASTERS

Why are we so fascinated with museums? 

I’ll tell you why I can’t stay away from them or better yet, I’ll show you why you should set aside time to visit The Barnes Foundation. (See my gallery below). Photos by Joan Mead-Matsui unless otherwise noted. 

Museums are my go-to place for inspiration for my own art (https://chigirie.com) and an opportunity to tune into my creative side and tune out the noise and chatter around me. Too much time had passed since my last visit to a metropolitan museum and upon reading more about The Barnes (as it’s often called), I knew I had to set aside an afternoon to experience this Philadelphia treasure. The Barnes Foundation houses a must-see collection of art by the world’s greatest master painters, sculptors, and designers. 

As I made my way around the first-floor galleries, I came across paintings by my all-time favorite Impressionist painters: Renoir and Monet. And then, gallery upon gallery, the genre expanded to Matisse, Van Gogh, Picasso, Cezanne, Seurat, and Modigliani. 

I was so enthralled by the selection of paintings that I didn’t allow enough time to visit the second-floor exhibits but that’s all the reason I’ll need to plan a follow-up trip to Philadelphia. 

The Barnes, (as it’s known to many) is a non-profit Philadelphia cultural and educational institution recognized for its exceptional art collections, programming, and special exhibitions.    

Thanks to Dr. Albert C. Barnes for his vision and the foundation that honors his name for maintaining this collection of priceless treasures by impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modernist artists. 


Dr. Albert C. Barnes assembled a collection of African art, Native American pottery and jewelry, Pennsylvania German furniture, American avant-garde painting, and wrought-iron metalwork that are interspersed with the paintings throughout the galleries. Image courtesy of The Barnes Foundation

TIP: Allow ample time (three to four hours) to explore the galleries. 
African art, Native American pottery and jewelry, Pennsylvania German furniture, American avant-garde painting, and wrought-iron metalwork are arranged throughout the galleries in a manner that encourages time to view, study, and reflect on each object in the ensembles. 

Watch this video clip and visit https://chigirie.com for additional insights. 

Learn how to plan a solo media trip here

FROM THE BARNES FOUNDATION: 

The ensembles, each one meticulously crafted by Dr. Barnes himself, are meant to draw out visual similarities between objects we don’t normally think of together. Created as teaching tools, they were essential to the educational program Dr. Barnes developed back in the 1920s.

Directions: The Barnes Foundation is conveniently located along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA. No need to worry about parking. Visitors are invited to park in the lot adjacent to the foundation. 

For additional information, call 215.278.7000. 

Disclaimer: 

My visit to The Barnes Foundation was comped but my opinions are my own. 

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Artistic Treasure: PA State Capitol Complex

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  • December 3, 2018
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Rotunda Exterior Image PA State Capitol Complex
The Pennsylvania State Capitol Building complex, Harrisburg, PA.The 272-foot, 52 million-pound capitol dome glistens with Vermont granite and is topped with a green-glazed terra cotta tile roof and inspired by Michelangelo’s design for St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Photo courtesy of Visit Hershey-Harrisburg

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building

An Architectural Masterpiece

Plan a visit to Harrisburg and add this National Historic Landmark to your itinerary.

Imagine you’re standing in front of the Pennsylvania State Capitol building around the time of its dedication on Oct. 4, 1906. Close your eyes and envision you’re looking skyward at what was considered to be the tallest structure between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The capitol building held that record for 80 years. That must have been quite a sight to behold.

As a life-long Pennsylvania resident, I’m sorry to note I had only seen my state’s capitol building from a distance until earlier this year on a sunny late September day. As the traffic whizzed by me, I took a moment to admire the dome from the sidewalk in front of the complex. I realized I had no idea what entrance to use. As I walked up and down two flights of exterior steps twice, I checked my watch and realized I was five minutes late for my scheduled tour. I stopped briefly to ask a bystander to point to the main entrance that would lead me to the main lobby and the man directed me to two sets of double doors. A security guard mapped out my trek to the lobby where I found the information desk surrounded by several large groups of visitors who were ready to embark on their tours. There, I met my tour guide.

Visit Hershey-Harrisburg arranged my tour as part of a three-day media trip to Hershey and Harrisburg. I left Central Pennsylvania with a significantly greater understanding of why Harrisburg has remained Pennsylvania’s capital since October 1812 thanks to my tour guide, Jill Fetter. She’s the Capitol Visitor Services director and The Pennsylvania Capitol Shop manager in the Main Rotunda and an expert in both the building’s history and design.

Philadelphia architect Joseph Huston (1866-1940), designed the massive capital structure based on his vision of a “Palace of Art” and that’s exactly what you’ll find. The building and furnishings cost $13 billion.

Aside from its obvious grandeur and size, the exterior of the building is a gateway to the splendor you’ll find inside – classic American Renaissance style architecture that’s combined with artistic details that are unspeakably magnificent and illuminated by approximately 4,000 lights and 48 portholes in the dome.

Suffice to say, the building lives up to its reputation as the most beautiful capitol building in our nation. In fact, history has it that President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the capital as “the handsomest building” he ever saw when he attended the dedication of the building.

PA State Capitol Building Architecture Art
A visitor stops for a moment to gaze at the statues and ornamentation as he descended the grand staircase in the main building. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

The interior focal point is the grand staircase – an ideal vantage point for visitors to view eight large murals by Philadelphia artists, Edwin Austin Abbey, and the famous Barnard  Statues by George Grey Barnard, and 17-foot bronze doors that each weighs a ton. Keeping your eyes fixed on one element at a time might be difficult for even the most disciplined spectator as your tour guide describes each of the massive installations of stained glass, murals, and paintings crafted by the most talented artisans of that era.

Pennsylvania historical exhibits
Love art? The capitol building is as much a series of exhibits as it is a hub for lawmakers and lobbyists. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

Some of the largest rooms feature a European influence with distinctive Renaissance elements – Italian in the House Chamber, French in the Senate Chamber, and English in the Governor’s Reception Room. Add to that mix Greek, Roman and Victorian installations of exquisite art and ornamentation displayed throughout the building.

PA Senate and House Chambers Tours
When the legislature is not in session, you’ll have a chance to gaze at the murals, gold embellishments, custom-crafted lighting fixtures, and exquisite woodwork in the chambers. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex Tours
What will you learn during a tour of the PA State Capitol Complex? This massive structure is an ideal opportunity for students of all ages to learn local, state, and national histories, law and politics, and art and architecture. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

Historians, politicians, teachers, students, architects, travelers, and anyone with an appreciation for history and art and a fascination with politics and lawmaking, should visit the Pennsylvania State Capitol complex. Architectural students will want to study how Huston, the architect-of-record, incorporated motifs that embody Pennsylvania’s achievements in history, animals, industries, occupations, and modes of transportation into his design. Whether your glance is towards the dome, straight ahead, or under your feet, you’ll find examples of Huston’s affinity for art. One example is the Moravian tiles you’ll see intermingled on the lobby floor. They were designed and manufactured by Henry Chapman Mercer of Doylestown, PA as a way to illustrate and incorporate the talents and wares of local craftsman.

Henry Chapman Mercer Moravian Tiles
As many as 400 tile mosaics by Henry Chapman Mercer, a Doylestown, PA craftsman, are interspersed throughout the first floor of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building Rotunda and nearby corridors. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

William B. Van Ingen 24 Stained Glass windows
The “Militia” is one of 24 stained glass windows in the Senate and House Chambers crafted by Philadelphia native William B. Van Ingen. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

There’s so much to see and take in at the State Capitol Building.  Take the time to download the PA Capitol Self-Guided Tour Mobile app to learn about the self-guided tour stops, how a bill becomes law in PA, and research additional information in five languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian, and German.

Tours are free and offered every half hour Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. or on weekends and most holidays at 9 and 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. You won’t be able to tour the capitol building on New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving and Christmas day but you’ll have plenty of other options before or after those holidays. I encourage you to register for a tour so won’t miss a detail along the way. A Capitol Tour Guide will fill your head with architectural, artistic, and political highlights that will make this building’s incomparable beauty come alive for you. If you decide to wait to schedule your tour until you arrive in Harrisburg, be sure to check the schedule before arriving at the capitol complex.

PA State Capitol Complex Tour Guides
Allow Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex tour guides, Jill Fetter and her staff, to show you around one of Pennsylvania’s most extraordinary buildings.

For help planning your trip to Pennsylvania, visit www.VisitHersheyHarrisburg.org.

My trip was hosted and comped by Visit Hershey & Harrisburg but my opinions are my own and are based on my personal experiences. 

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99 Epic Guidebook Series America travel destinations Lifestyle Places to visit in St. Augustine St. Augustine Guidebook What is America's oldest continually occupied town?

St. Augustine: Epic Adventures

  • By
  • July 16, 2018
ST. AUGUSTINE TRAVEL BOOKS

ST. AUGUSTINE TRAVEL BOOKS
99 EPIC THINGS TO DO: ST. AUGUSTINE, FL is a complete guide to this historic city. Photos courtesy of Christina and Philip Benjamin

TRAVEL WITH PASSION

ST. AUGUSTINE: IMPRESSIVELY AWESOME

Christina Benjamin is a bestselling and award-winning author of the Young Adult fantasy series, “The Geneva Project.”

“99 EPIC THINGS TO DO: ST. AUGUSTINE, FL” was published in 2016 and is the first in a series of “99 EPIC” travel guides Benjamin and her husband, Philip Benjamin, a graphic designer, plan to co-publish.

So why did Christina decide to jump into travel writing? Because the couple wants to help you enjoy your travels and make each adventure EPIC.  They’re Florida residents and helping you, the traveler, see the best of the best in St. Augustine is part of their life’s mission. Most of the couple’s spare time is spent traveling to destinations where they can spend time on the water.

Their motto is “So wherever you are, go out and be EPIC,” and they’ve selected their extreme favorites from among St. Augustine’s incredible array of eateries, shops, arts, entertainment options, and places to worship. St. Augustine is America’s oldest continually occupied town (in the nation) and it’s also where they began their journeys as college students.

Throughout the guide, you’ll find a brief history, a noteworthy quote to inspire you, and a local tip. Fort Castillo de San Marcos, for example, is one of the best places to view the sunrise and the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States.  They refer to Creekside Dinery as a hidden gem nestled among beautiful magnolia trees on Gonzales Creek. Take the time to read this well-thought-out and innovative guide and you won’t be at a loss for information when you plan your St. Augustine adventure.

St. Augustine Florida Travel Guide
Christina and Philip Benjamin want to make your trip to St. Augustine EPIC. Photos courtesy of Christina and Philip Benjamin

“Give Back” is a section of the book where Christina and Philip offer readers an opportunity to give back. “If you’re looking for a way to give back in St. Augustine, donate to the St. Francis House, a shelter for the homeless, on Washington Street,” they point out.  In fact, they cite a quote from Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,” to drive home the point.

99 Epic Things to Do: St. Augustine, FL is indeed a top-notch guide and customizable with space for you to jot down notes about each location you visit.

What’s on the horizon for Christina and Philip?

99 EPIC NEW ORLEANS is in the works as Chrissy makes her way through “The Big Easy.” Visit 99EPIC.COM to keep up with  Christina and Philip’s travels.

Shopping for this book is easy. Click on the link below to buy your copy.

DISCLOSURE:

One or more of the links on this page are affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase but at no additional cost to you. I have experience with all of these companies and by linking to their product or a party that sells their products, I recommend the product based on their helpful and useful nature, and definitely not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something.

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