Home to the Liberty Bell, the site of Rocky's epic stair-climb, and the original LOVE sculpture, Philadelphia is a great destination for families. Here are some Philadelphia travel tips on where to find the best in fun and family time.
Please Touch Museum
On a recent trip to Philadelphia, a tour guide joked that if you wanted to ruin your kids for all museums forever, take them here. That's because this is the ultimate in kid destinations. Philadelphia’s Please Touch Museum is a completely hands-on experience where kids can get their hands wet in a water play area, make music in an instruments garden, get twisted around in an Alice in Wonderland themed area, and make smart shopping decisions in a pretend supermarket. There are also trains, buses, and more to play with. And don’t forget to take a ride on the carousel. This stop is best for kids age seven and under, but my eight year old had fun too.
Drop by the Independence Visitors Center
If you’re planning to spend time in the Historic District, first head to the National Park Rangers desk and ask for the Junior Ranger Activity Book for your kids. The booklets are filled with questions and activities to keep kids actively engaged in what they are seeing and learning—but it really is key that you get these first. When they've filled out the booklets, return to the Independence Visitors Center to turn them in for special Junior Park Ranger badges. The program is absolutely free, and is a great way to turn interesting sights into a fun learning experience. Also, while you are at the Visitors Center you can also pick up free tickets to see Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were drafted.
Benjamin Franklin Museum
Up a few blocks from the Independence Visitors Center is the newly reopened Benjamin Franklin Museum. Enter at Franklin Court—the museum is actually located underground near where Ben Franklin lived in Philadelphia. Filled with artifacts, interactive activities, and more, this is a great stop for families since it includes so much hands-on experience. Kids will love trying out the glass armonica computer interactive display where they can try playing different songs. Also, when you leave the museum be sure to look into the big stone structures around the courtyard—you can look through glass at actual parts of Ben Franklin’s home. Pretty cool. Also, drop by the Franklin Post Office there to mail postcards—the clerk will stamp it with the special B. Free Franklin postmark.
The Liberty Bell
You don’t need a ticket to see the Liberty Bell, and it’s absolutely free to get in. There’s often a line, but if you time it right (hint: we found a lunchtime sweet spot without lines!) you can get in, learn about the history, and snap a few family selfies with the bell quickly. It’s definitely worth a stop. (Actually, ask someone to take your photo. I found it was really challenging to get my kids, myself, and the bell into the same selfie.)
The Philadelphia Zoo is the oldest in America and located on 42 acres with more than 1,300 animals. Among them are some unique finds: kangaroos, zebras, giraffes, and more. There's also snacks, barnyard animals, bears…you name it. But the kangaroos? They were the animals that sent my kid and me running to check them out. Beyond the extensive collection of animals, kids can brush some barn animals and feed others (don't worry—there are washing stations to use outside the pens!). There's also horse and camel rides, a train, swan boats, and more. As you can imagine, this zoo is huge, so wear walking shoes and plan to spend two to three hours there.
Take a Tour
Double-decker buses, a trolley, and even a duck boat on wheels—these are some of your options for touring Philadelphia on wheels, and they will allow you to see Love Park (the one with the famous Love sculpture), the famous steps from Rocky, and other sites. If walking is more your thing, there are also a number of walking tours too. The stories, tidbits, and minifacts (like pointing out the block where The Sixth Sense was filmed!) make it well worth it. But two tips: Don’t do a tour in the rain—even in a covered bus. It won’t be as fun, especially when the windows fog up (trust me on that one!). And also, be sure to choose a tour that’s an appropriate length for your kids. The younger your kids, the shorter your tour should be. My six-year-old daughter was totally done with our bus tour after about 30 minutes (it was a 90-minute tour), so a shorter, punchier one would have been better for us.
Reading Terminal Market
Last but not least, do find your way to Reading Terminal Market. This food mecca is home to bakeries, sandwich makers, and more. Be sure to drop in to Beiler’s Donuts for a treat. Their hand-rolled doughnuts are unforgettable. The maple bacon donut is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside with a sweet cream, and then topped with maple frosting and bacon. And the kids will dig the Fruity Pebbles–covered donuts. Also, everyone raves about the roast pork sandwich at DiNic’s—though we didn’t get to try it while we were there. For a sit-down experience, the staff at Molly Malloy's is sweet as can be, and the setback eating area is a nice break from the busy market.
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