Winter can present parents with the following challenging question: What are we going to do today? Outdoor playgrounds are icy and movies are expensive. Last week, I was faced with the choice of practicing paper-cutting skills with my daughter or having all of our senses stirred by taking her to the Reading Terminal Market at 12th and Market Streets in downtown Philadelphia. Guess what I chose?
This was our third visit together to the old market. In my BK (before kids) days, I might have shopped here for lobster-stuffed ravioli and Thai food, but children open up novel perspectives on this Philadelphia treasure. To begin with, we took the #9 bus from Roxborough. Children under 42 inches ride free and mine enjoys the great view, people-watching, and getting to ride without a booster seat! I enjoy the same two things, plus not having to drive!
Once we arrived inside the market, the first spectacle we visited was the seated brass pig, which accepts all forms of currency by mouth and then excretes them out the other end into the collection bin – fun to watch for scatologically-minded kids! Other treats for the eyes can be found at Chocolate by Mueller, who sells chocolate noses, liberty bells, and handcuffs in addition to more mundane truffles. You can also watch the experts making their chocolate novelties. For my child, it was thrilling to look at the whole red snappers on ice at the fish stand and the roasted whole ducks hanging at the Chinese stand. She was fascinated that the animals were not alive – although the fish looked that way!
We capped off our visit with my child’s new favorite activity: sitting on the spinning stools at Bassett’s while practicing her ice-cream-cone-licking skills. Request a cup for the point at which your child has finished licking and is ready to use a spoon. My new favorite activity is sitting next to her while I enjoy my falafel sandwich or Pakistani meal from Nanee’s Kitchen (Bassett’s doesn’t seem to mind.).
Details: The brass pig is located just outside of the Spice Terminal store. As an alternative to a Septa bus or train, driving is also an option, with $3 parking available in exchange for a stamped ticket, which you get with a purchase at the market. I recommend going on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, in order to visit the Amish stands, where you can watch pretzels being hand-twisted and pick up a whoopee pie!