The Phillips Collection in D.C.

by Bob Hoelscher 4. April 2012 20:36

As readers are likely aware, Washington is a fascinating city, filled with a huge variety of things to see and do, including the varied museums of the great Smithsonian Institution.  However, there are also a large number of very significant attractions that are frequently omitted from a standard tour itinerary simply because there is inadequate time to include everything. 

In the scores of times that I have been to our nation’s capital since my first visit back in 1966, I have been fortunate to be able to explore many of these gems that may not immediately come to mind when planning a group’s itinerary. One is The Phillips Collection, just a short walk from centrally-located Dupont Circle, and which bills itself as “America’s First Museum of Modern Art.” What a fine place it was to spend a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon during my most recent trip to D.C.!      

Similarly, any artistic or educationally oriented visitors to the city are sure to enjoy The Phillips Collection. First, this is a human-sized venue, housed in the boyhood home of the founder with two connected buildings and the adjacent Carriage House, so it does not require nearly the time nor the stamina to discover the riches within, as is the case with some of Washington’s popular but sprawling museums. When it was opened in 1921 by Duncan Phillips (1886-1966), heir to a Pittsburgh steel fortune, the entire collection of 237 paintings was displayed in just one room. Today, the complex holds a growing, world-class collection of nearly 3,000 works of modern and contemporary art, hosts internationally-acclaimed temporary exhibitions, and offers a wide variety of programs for adults and students. An extensive Sunday chamber concert series is also presented in the intimate setting of the Music Room, located in the original 1897 Phillips House.    

The collection itself features 19th, 20th and 21st-century European and American Art. It is noted particularly for important works by such impressionists as Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, van Gogh and Degas, as well as others by Picasso, Bonnard, Braque and Klee. Such Americans artists as Milton Avery, Alexander Calder, Arthur Dove, John Marin and Georgia O’Keeffe are represented, as well as photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz and Brett Weston. On display until early May, the featured (and fascinating) temporary exhibit I explored was Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard.

Antique grandfather clock and staircase

Paintings from The Migration Series (1940-41) by Jacob Lawrence

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Adding on to an East Coast Itinerary

A walk through historic Philadelphia

by Bob Hoelscher 4. April 2012 20:34

As an individual who thoroughly enjoys exploring the places I visit on foot, and enthusiastically recommends the same even for tour groups, I have written an article on group day hikes for groups in The Group Travel Leader that will appear later this year. However, on my recent East Coast trip, I was again reminded what a great opportunity is available to everyone visiting the “City of Brotherly Love” by simply heading out to spend a few hours wandering the streets of the historic downtown area. This allows you to take in some of the numerous impressive sights that simply cannot be seen (adequately or at all) from the windows of a motorcoach. 

First, it is important to note that walking in the historic district is safe, there are no hills to climb as it is quite flat and the entire area is very compact. A tour group visiting Philadelphia is likely to include a standard city tour with a “step-on” guide in its itinerary, so the walk I am suggesting as a supplement can easily be accomplished independently within a couple hours of free time, although it could easily consume up to a full day if the visitor pauses to see virtually everything along the way.

Maps of the area are readily available, as are walking tour guides to create a more formalized experience, but I’d recommend just setting out individually and pausing to explore the points of interest that particularly grab the attention of the traveler. Using the impressive and impossible to miss City Hall as a starting and reference point, I’d suggest heading east towards the Delaware River and making a “loop” to arrive back at or near where one began the walk. 

Just a few of the things to be seen en route will include:
• The famed Wanamaker Organ, the world’s largest pipe organ, in Macy’s Department Store
• All types of fresh and prepared foods, as well as gifts, in the historic Reading Terminal Market
• Philadelphia’s colorful Chinatown, another attractive alternative for a tasty lunch
• The National Constitution Center, U.S. Mint and African American Museum
• The site of Benjamin Franklin’s home, his final resting place, and the nearby Betsy Ross House
• Such historic houses of worship as the Free Quaker Meeting House and Christ Church
• Elfreth’s Alley, a particularly charming Colonial-era residential street
• City Tavern, Carpenters Hall and the First and Second Banks of the United States
• Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, “mother” church of the African Methodist Episcopal denomination
• The Liberty Bell, storied Independence Hall, and adjacent Congress Hall
• The Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldiers in Washington Square

Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers of the Revolutionary War, Washington Square

Historic Wanamaker Organ, the world's largest pipe organ, and atrium in Macy's Department Store

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Adding on to an East Coast Itinerary

Museum of the City of New York

by Bob Hoelscher 4. April 2012 20:27

Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York City are typically seen on group itineraries of the East Coast. However, each of these cities has amazing attractions that don’t always get as much attention.

New York City has far more to offer the visitor than can easily be accommodated in a relatively brief tour stay. Among the lesser-known but still very worthwhile and uniquely “Big Apple” attractions is the Museum of the City of New York, across from Central Park on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, north of both the great Metropolitan Museum of Art and the unique profile of the Guggenheim Museum. 

The traveler is sure to find the ongoing exhibitions to be of interest, including the six furnished rooms of New York Interiors (1690-1906), a 25-minute Timescapes multimedia portrait of the city, displays of antique transportation toys and an exquisitely crafted dollhouse. However, the real focus of the museum is on presenting ever-changing temporary exhibitions, frequent lectures by a variety of experts on life in the city and student/family programs.

During my visit, one featured exhibition was Police Work, a collection of Leonard Freed’s stark black-and-white photographs of life on the city’s streets during the 1970’s. They depict the time when the city was not only nearly bankrupt, but beset by high crime rates and social disorder.

A second major exhibit, Cecil Beaton, the New York Years, illustrated the life and New York career of the famed British fashion photographer.  However, the primary attraction is currently is The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan 1811-2011, which celebrates the 200th anniversary of Manhattan’s renowned street grid and how it has been implemented over the past two centuries. A related exhibit, The Unfinished Grid: Design Speculations for Manhattan, presents eight proposed (and fantastic) designs for the future. Without question, the Museum of the City of New York is the place to whet the appetite of anyone with a particular interest in America’s largest and most storied city.

Bob Hoelscher, CTC, CTP, MCC, CTIE, is a longtime travel industry executive who has sold his tour company, bought a motorhome and is traveling the highways and byways of America.  He is a former chairman of NTA, and was a founding member of Travel Alliance Partners (TAP).

Well-known in the industry as both a baseball and symphony aficionado, Bob is also one of the country’s biggest fans of our national parks, both large and small.  He has already visited more than 325 NPS sites and has several dozen yet to see.  He is currently traveling the country to visit as many of those parks as possible.  His blog, “Travels with Bob,” appears periodically on The Group Travel Leader’s blogsite, “Are We There Yet”.  

Bob is available for contractual work in the industry and may be reached at or by calling (435) 590-1553.

Room setting re-creation in New York Interiors (1690-1906)

Police Work...Photographs by Leonard Freed 1972-79, and entrance to Timescapes, a 25-minute multimedia portrait of New York

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Adding on to an East Coast Itinerary

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