When Looking at Colleges, Take in Local Sights

By Eleanor Foa Dienstag

When taking your high school senior on a college tour, add a bit of local color to the trip. Most cities have good museums and interesting places to visit which provide a glimpse of the area’s non-campus cultural life. Here are a few suggestions for those on the college campus trail.

New Haven. Don’t miss Yale’s University Art Gallery, recently rehabilitated, designed by the renowned American architect, Louis Kahn. Across the street is another Kahn masterpiece, the Yale Center for British Art, donated by Paul Mellon. Both are free of charge.

If you are looking for good restaurants and local art galleries, head to Ninth Square, a section of downtown in the midst of gentrification. New Haven is particularly renowned for its pizza. Two venerable institutions are Pepe’s (famous for its white clam pizza) and Sally’s. There is a long-standing argument about which is better. You and your kids can decide. Two newer upstarts are Bar and Modern Apizza. Finally, it is said that the hamburger was invented at Louis’ Lunch, established in 1895 in New Haven. Located in a tiny, cottage-like building, It still turns out great, vertically grilled hamburgers, and remains a New Haven landmark not to be missed.

Philadelphia. There is an expensive and inexpensive way to get to Philly, home to so many institutions of higher learning. You can take Amtrak, which ranges between $100 to $200 round trip, or  New Jersey Transit to Trenton then change for a Septa  train to 30th Street Station for between $20 to $40. (It takes an hour longer.)

Philadelphia is rich in history. The new Constitution Center has permanent and rotating exhibits for people of all ages. In the Independence Hall area, in addition to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, you can see the reconstructed home in which Jefferson lived while writing the Declaration of Independence, a major African-American History Museum, the U.S. Mint (which has tours of its coin-making facility), a Jewish Museum and synagogue (with exhibits on colonial Jewry), the Betsy Ross House, and the house where Edgar Allen Poe wrote “The Tell-Tale Heart.”  Also, of course, there is the impressive Philadelphia Museum of Art (made famous by Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky,”), and the less well known Rodin Museum, the Academy of Art, the Franklin Institute, which is running a King Tut exhibit, and the world-renowned Barnes Collection.

For foodies, there is the famous Reading Terminal, a huge, indoor food market with everything from Amish produce to  Italian sausages to Bassett’s ice-cream. And no trip to Philly would be complete without savoring its famous cheesesteak. You can choose between Pat’s King of Steaks (the birthplace of cheesesteak) or Gino’s, on opposite sides of the street at 9th and Passyunk. For dining in West Philadelphia, near the U. of Pennsylvania, there is the White Dog Café and a trendy spot, POD. And in hip, gentrifying Old City (adjacent to downtown), there is a First Friday, during which art galleries are open and often serve wine and cheese.  For more information, check out www.gophila.com

About Eleanor Foa Dienstag (112 Articles)
Eleanor Foa Dienstag is a journalist and photojournalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Harper's, the New Republic, the New York Observer, Ms., McCall's,Travel & Leisure, Frequent Flyer, and many other websites and publications. Eleanor is the author of two nonfiction books: a memoir, "Whither Thou Goest: The Story of An Uprooted Wife," acclaimed by Business Week for its insights into corporate life; and "In Good Company: 125 Years At The Heinz Table," a unique view of a quintessential American company. Both books were promoted with national radio and television appearances. Eleanor served as staff speechwriter to the Chairman and CEO of American Express. In 1983, she founded Eleanor Foa Associates (www.eleanorfoa.com). It provides a wide variety of corporate services, including annual reports, executive speeches, corporate histories and marketing materials for profit and not-for-profit organizations. Eleanor is past president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), received speechwriting awards from IABC, and was awarded literary residencies at Yaddo, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA). She resides in Manhattan.