The biggest challenge for parents traveling to Philadelphia with the kids won’t be finding enough things to do. The city is so family-friendly, it would take weeks just to scratch the surface of fun activities, attractions and dining. But, here are some highlights for families who want to make the most of their vacation time with their children.
The African American Museum in Philadelphia, celebrating its 41st anniversary this year, tells engaging stories of notable early African Americans through its video exhibit “Audacious Freedom.” The Children’s Corner, an interactive installment for kids aged 3 through 8, lets kids explore the daily lives of youth in Philadelphia 1776–1876. Other exhibits examine contemporary issues through art and historic artifacts, and weekend family workshops and special events take place throughout the year.
The Betsy Ross House introduces children to America’s most famous flag maker as they meet costumed actors in an interactive replica of Ross’ 18th-century upholstery shop. Here young visitors can learn about Betsy’s life, work and legend from the upholsterer herself. An audio tour, just right for visitors aged 4 to 8, offers lessons in Colonial life and challenges kids to solve history mysteries with a series of clues.
Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia is cooler than it sounds, thanks to a hands-on “Money in Motion” exhibit that educates visitors on where money comes from and how it ends up in our wallets. A “Match Wits with Ben” game engages kids in the history of our currency, and a wide collection of old and rare currency rounds out the exhibition.
Fireman’s Hall Museum is the perfect attraction to please little wannabe firefighters. The restored 1902 firehouse showcases some of the nation’s earliest firefighting equipment, including hand, steam and motor fire engines. An interactive kiosk teaches kids about 9-1-1 services, and visitors can try on fire coats and boots and learn about fire prevention.
Sometimes kids just want to play and Franklin Square, one of William Penn’s five original city squares, is a modern fun park with a Philly-themed miniature golf course, restored marble fountain, large playground and a carousel. The park also offers a seasonal SquareBurger outlet for child-friendly burgers, fries and Cake Shakes.
Of course, no visit to Philly would be complete without a day at Independence National Historical Park to see The Liberty Bell Center, Independence Hall, Congress Hall, the Benjamin Franklin Museum and the Bishop White House. Known as America’s most historic square mile, the park offers ranger-led walking tours with such themes as Dr. Franklin’s Philadelphia, History Beneath Our Feet and Underground Railroad, all available from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
The Independence Seaport Museum, located on the edge of the Delaware River, allows young guests to explore the Spanish-American War cruiser Olympia and the World War II submarine Becuna docked outside. Kids can also climb through a full-sized reconstruction of the 1707 schooner Diligence. Families can rent kayaks or museum-built rowboats to explore the calm waters of the basin, and every Saturday is Seafarin’ Saturday, featuring activities designed especially for children.
Even when just walking around the Historic District, parents and kids can enjoy the 13 Once Upon a Nation Storytelling benches that give free, five-minute tales of Philadelphia’s history and even some forgotten secrets told by professional storytellers. Children who collect star stamps at all of the benches earn a free carousel ride at Franklin Square.
For more information on these and the wealth of family-friendly attractions not listed here, go to Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com, respectively.