Your Complete Guide to the 2016 NFDA Convention: Part 1

September 28, 2016
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Guest article written by: Jessica Fowler and originally appeared on the Answering Service for Directors (ASD) blog.

Nearly a decade ago, the ASD team attended our company’s first funeral home convention—the 2006 NFDA Convention in Philadelphia. ASD is located approximately 25 miles from Philadelphia in the town of Media, a quaint and suburban neighborhood known as “everybody’s hometown.” We have always felt very fortunate to have the best of both worlds by being located so close to a major city filled with history and culture without having to separate from our small-town roots. Our first convention in 2006 gave us an opportunity to meet many of the directors we had been working with for years. After seeing the incredible work the NFDA did bringing so many funeral professionals together, ASD decided we would exhibit at the show every year.

“After receiving the NFDA Innovation award in both 2012 and 2015, it seems especially fitting that the world’s largest gathering of funeral professionals is returning to our area. It is truly incredible how things can come around full circle,” said ASD Vice President Kevin Czachor. “This year, we really wanted to help roll out the red carpet to welcome funeral directors back to Philadelphia.”

ASD’s blog is your go-to source for everything you need to know about the upcoming convention and all that Philadelphia has to offer. While working at ASD over the past 13 years, I had the opportunity to attend college in Philadelphia and intern at Where Magazine, a publication written for tourists visiting the city. This internship provided me with a great deal of knowledge about Philadelphia including where to find hidden gems and which tourist traps should be avoided. As ASD’s blog writer, I am excited to share this insider knowledge with you to help you plan a fun and memorable week in Philly.

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In the coming weeks, visit our blog to read our 2016 NFDA GUIDE blog series. Each part of our series will focus on a different aspect of the convention or of the city. In part one, we explain why the month of October and the city of Philadelphia are the ideal time and place for the largest gathering of funeral directors in the world.


PART ONE: 7 Reasons October is the Best Time For Funeral Directors to Visit Philadelphia

From rich history to delicious cuisine to cultural attractions, there is no shortage of good reasons why funeral directors should spend some time in the city of brotherly love. However, I can promise you that October is without a doubt the best time of year to visit Philly for a variety of reasons. If you’re a big fan of Halloween-related events and excursions, you’ll be happier than a grinning Jack-O-Lantern at the number of different attractions there are to check out. If you love Fall foliage and watching the leaves change color, we have a few recommendations on where to find the best views. Or, if your favorite thing about October is autumn flavors, we can tell you where to get your pumpkin-spice fix.

1. Eastern State Penitentiary

It once held the title as one of the most famous and expensive prisons in the world, but today,Eastern State Penitentiary’s sole purpose is to capture the imagination of history lovers and thrill-seekers alike. Constructed during the early 1800s, America’s most historical prison once held many of the nation’s most notorious criminals, including infamous mobster, Al Capone, and bank robber, “Slick Willie” Sutton.” It was known for its imposing architecture, strict discipline, and embrace of solitary confinement. The word “penitentiary” was actually created during the building of Eastern State as the creators wanted to construct an environment that would force inmates to contemplate their transgressions and repent.

Today, seeing Eastern State’s formidable walls and medieval façade appear in sharp contrast to the modern city streets around it is enough to make your heart skip a beat. For those who are fascinated by the complex history of the prison, daytime tours are offered every day with different themes such as an audio tour or the “Hands On History” tour that lets you open cell doors, unlock the gate and more. During the month of October, the prison transforms into a terrifying haunted attraction at night called Terror Behind the Walls. This event is not for the faint of heart, as it takes you into the darkened cellblocks of Eastern State through six hair-raising attractions. If you’re underwhelmed by the tame haunted hayrides and houses you’ve visited and wonder if there is anything that can legitimately scare you, visit Eastern State during your visit to Philadelphia. You can also purchase tickets for a specific timeslot in advance, so you won’t have to wait in a long line for hours like other haunted attractions usually require.

Even if you don’t care much for history or haunted attractions, a trip to Eastern State is worth it just to see the awe-inspiring architecture 

2. Mütter Museum

The Mütter Museum of The College of Physicans of Philadelphia (19 S 22nd Street) is a favorite destination for those with an appreciation for the bizarre and macabre. The museum houses an extensive collection of medical oddities and features a 19th century cabinet layout with exhibits of anatomical specimens, models and medical instruments beautifully preserved behind the wood and glass windows. According to the Mütter Museum website, “the goal of the Museum is to help visitors understand the mysteries and beauty of the human body and appreciate the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.”

From the Hyrtle Skull Collection to exhibits of early medical devices, we cannot think of a museum more captivating and intriguing to funeral professionals. For example, the Mütter is one of only two places in the world where you can see pieces of Albert Einstein’s brain. Other highlights include the remains of “The Soap Lady” – a woman whose body was exhumed in 1875 and was found to be encased by adipocere due to the time, location and method of her burial. If you’re still in Philly on October 30, stop by the Mütter Museaum for a family-friendlyDay of the Dead celebration from 10am-5pm.

You could spend hours expoloring all of the strange artifacts of medical history housed at the Mütter

3. Fall Foliage

Every year, we wait patiently for the humid temperatures of summer to fall, the air to turn crisp, and the leaves to start changing color. Taking in the shades of autumn is one of the most beautiful and simple pleasures of life. In Philadelphia, you’ll find one of the largest urban park systems in the world with no shortage of green space where you can take in the splendor of fall.

Dine alfresco at one of the many delicious restaurants surrounding Rittenhouse Square (18th and Walnut Streets) or have a picnic inside this lush oasis to enjoy the colors of fall as well as stunning sculptures and vibrant flowerbeds located throughout the park. If you’re in the Old City area of the city (near the Liberty Bell), you might prefer to check out Washington Square (6th and Walnut Streets) which is a less bustling but equally picturesque park where you can visit the eternal flame and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument to those killed during the War of Independence.

If you’re up for a longer walk, head to Fairmount Park (1 Boathouse Row) where you’ll find 8,900 acres of beautifully preserved green space with miles of walking, biking and horseback riding trails. Take a hike through the shaded woodland areas, cast a line from the fishing pier, or put out a picnic blanket on one of the many rolling hills to enjoy some people-watching. The scenic landscape at Fairmount Park is a true haven for nature lovers and you won’t find a better place to witness the changing colors of autumn.

Visit Philadelphia’s parks to witness the beauty of the Fall season

4. Franklin Square

If you have any children with you during your visit to Philadelphia, your trip will not be complete without a stop at Franklin Square. Featuring Center City’s only carousel, the gorgeous Franklin Square fountain, a playground and mini golf course, Franklin Square is known as a “playtime oasis.” If you’re in town early for the convention, visit the square on Saturday, October 22nd from noon to 2pm to pick out a free pumpkin and decorate it at the park. Be sure to grab some pumpkin ice cream while you’re there. During weekend evenings in October, you can also stop by Franklin Square after dark to play a round of “Spooky Mini Golf.”

Your little ones will love painting pumpkins, enjoying delicious icecream or playing a round of mini golf at Franklin Square. 

5. Pumpkin-Flavored Everything

We challenge you to find a city that loves pumpkin more than Philadelphia. Throughout the fall season, breweries, coffee shops and restaurants offer everything from pumpkin spiced beer to pumpkin bisque soup. Established in 1860, McGillins Olde Ale House (1310 Drury Street, just a few blocks from the convention center) is the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philadelphia. It’s also the first stop on your official Philadelphia pumpkin tour, with a full fall menu featuring pumpkin martinis, pumpkin mac & cheese, pumpkin beer and more.

Hungry for something sweet? Visit Federal Donuts (1632 Sansom Street) where fans line up down the block for a pumpkin spice latte donut. Want something less filling? Try some delicious pumpkin spice gelato at Capogiro Gelato Artisans (119 S 13th St & 233 Chesnut Street). If you’re craving a pumpkin spice latte, visit OCF Coffee House ( 135 South Street and 1745 South Street) where you’ll be treated to a delectable AND healthy beverage. The coffee shop uses only natural ingredients like pumpkin puree, ginger, allspice and nutmeg rather than unsavory additives. And if you love pumpkin but aren’t feeling hungry or thirsty, why not pamper yourself with a Smashing Pumpkin Facial at Moko Organic Beauty Studio (55 North 3rd Street in Old City)? These are just a few of the many ways to enjoy everyone’s favorite fall flavor in Pumpkinadelphia.

Philadelphia may be known for the cheesesteak, but during the fall it’s all about the pumpkin

6. Laurel Hill Cemetery

Just outside of the city of Philadelphia, you’ll find one of our nation’s most picturesque final resting grounds—Laurel Hill Cemetery (3822 Ridge Ave). Laurel Hill is more than just a cemetery, it is a horticultural haven filled with striking sculptures, lush gardens, magnificent architecture, tranquil fountains and one-of-a-kind river vistas. Laurel Hill is one of the few cemeteries in the United States that is honored with the designation of a National Landmark.

A trip to Philadelphia is not complete without a visit to Laurel Hill, and fall is the best time to visit the grounds and see the leaves changing color over the serene landscape. If you’re planning to stay in Philadelphia a few days after the convention ends, be sure to check out the True Tales from the Tomb tour on Friday, October 28th at 7pm. This candlelit tour features stories of the cemetery’s most provocative and well-known permanent residents. Afterward, you can enjoy some fall-inspired refreshments and cocktails by the fire pit.

Laurel Hill Cemetery in Autmn

7. Ghost Tour of Historic Haunted Philadelphia

These days it seems like every city offers its own haunted walking tour, but we think you’ll find Philadelphia’s to be especially spooky and enlightening because of the city’s long history and storied past. The Ghost Tour of Historic Haunted Philadelphia takes you through the back streets and secret gardens of Independence Hall, Society Hill and Old City—the birthplace of America. Rather than using cheap tricks to scare you, the tour uses dramatic storytelling to make the past come to life. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, this candlelight stroll appeals to both thrill and history lovers alike because all of the stories are based on documented accounts. In addition to the Historic Haunted Walking Tour of Philadelphia, there are also several other great haunted attractions in Philadelphia worth checking out, including Terror Behind the Walls(which we already mentioned), Fright Factory, the Ghost Ship Tou(a tour of the USS Olympia) and the Haunted Trolley Tour.

A tour group learns about the spirits near Independence Hall 


What events, attractions and sights are hoping to check out during the 2016 NFDA Convention? Leave us a comment and let us know what you would like us to cover in our 2016 NFDA GUIDE blog series.
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