Family Fun In the City of Philadelphia Guide

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 Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools

 

Historical Sites & Attractions:

  • Wannabe sailors can visit the nation’s most decorated battleship, the Battleship New Jersey, and take tours of the ship, ride the 4-D flight simulator, climb into the onboard helicopter and sleep in the sailors’ bunks as part of its award-winning Overnight Encampment program. 62 Battleship Place, Camden, (856) 966-1652, battleshipnewjersey.org
  • America’s most famous flag maker greets guests in her interactive 18th-century upholstery shop at the Betsy Ross House. Visitors learn about Betsy’s life and legend from the lady herself. An audio tour caters to four-to-eight-year-olds, offering lessons in Colonial life and the opportunity to solve “history mysteries.” 239 Arch Street, (215) 686-1252, betsyrosshouse.org
  • Everyone handles money, but how does it arrive in people’s wallets? The hands-on Money in Motion exhibit at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia explains it all. Plus, games invite visitors to “Match Wits with Ben,” and an impressive collection of old and rare currency is on display. 6th & Arch Streets, (866) 574-3727, (215) 574-6000, philadelphiafed.org
  • The Liberty Bell Center, Independence Hall, Congress Hall, the Benjamin Franklin Museum and the Bishop White House are just some of the buildings that make up Independence National Historical Park in Historic Philadelphia. In the summer months, the park offers ranger-led walking tours, which have in recent years included Dr. Franklin’s Philadelphia, History Beneath Our Feet and Underground Railroad. (215) 965-2305, nps.gov/inde
  • Liberty 360 3D Show surrounds visitors as they take an immersive, 360° patriotic journey, led by none other than Benjamin Franklin, to discover our nation’s symbols of freedom—from the bald eagle to the Statue of Liberty. Inside the Historic Philadelphia Center’s customized, wraparound PECO Theater, the 15-minute indoor show uses the most modern technology of its kind to spotlight the most treasured American value—liberty. 6th & Chestnut Streets, (215) 629-4026, historicphiladelphia.org
  • The National Constitution Center is America’s first and only museum dedicated to the U.S. Constitution. Highlights include interactive exhibits; the powerful, multimedia Freedom Rising performance; Signers’ Hall, filled with life-sized statues of the signers of the U.S. Constitution; and nationally touring exhibitions. Special family-friendly programs take place throughout the year that celebrate civic holidays like Presidents’ Day, Veterans’ Day, Tax Day, Earth Day and more. 525 Arch Street, (215) 409-6600, constitutioncenter.org
  • Horses, deer, sheep and even a few peacocks roam the grounds of Pennsbury Manor, the recreated country estate of William Penn that’s situated on 43 scenic acres along the Delaware River. Craft demonstrations, costumed interpreters, interactive activities, gardens and animals whisk modern-day visitors back to the 17th century. 400 Pennsbury Memorial Road, Morrisville, (215) 946-0400, pennsburymanor.org
  • Visitors to Valley Forge National Historical Park’s 3,500 acres learn about the Continental Army’s intolerable winter encampment of 1777-1778. Highlights include nearly 30 miles of multi-use trails and historic structures, including Washington’s Headquarters, replica soldiers’ huts, monuments, statues and the Washington Memorial Chapel. Children can play-enlist in the Continental Army for a day. During the summer, visitors can stop at two free Once Upon A Nation storytelling benches to hear tales about the encampment, and kids can learn about 18th-century spy activities. 1400 N. Outer Line Drive, Valley Forge, (610) 783-1000, nps.gov/vafo

Museums:

  • Highlights at The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, the oldest natural history museum in the Americas, include Dinosaur Hall, with a fossil preparation lab and hands-on fossil dig site; live butterflies in a tropical garden; a children’s hands-on nature center with live animals; and historic dioramas featuring animals from around the world. Numerous changing exhibits are featured throughout the year as well. 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 299-1000, ansp.org
  • The African American Museum in Philadelphia takes a fresh and bold look at the stories of African-Americans and their role in the founding of the nation through the core exhibit Audacious Freedom. Other exhibits explore contemporary issues through art and historic artifacts. The museum hosts weekend workshops and hands-on activities, including Macy’s Family Fun Days. 701 Arch Street, (215) 574-0380, aampmuseum.org
  • The American Helicopter Museum & Education Center’s collection includes more than
    35 helicopters, autogiros and convertiplanes—eight of which are fully accessible. Kids’ learning and toddler areas give children under six the chance to play with puzzles, games and other toys. Four times a year, guests of all ages can ride in a helicopter. 1220 American Boulevard, West Chester, (610) 436-9600, americanhelicopter.museum
  • Telling the story of Swedes in America, the American Swedish Historical Museum appeals to tiny visitors too thanks to its Do You Know Pippi Longstocking? exhibit, a temporary-turned-permanent display that features a dress-up trunk, a kitchen, a cabinet filled with treasures and more. The Pippi Gallery Hunt leads children beyond this space created just for them through the rest of the museum. And for the smallest of visitors, there’s Toddler Time every third Tuesday of the month. 1900 Pattison Avenue, (215) 389-1776, americanswedish.org
  • The Bucks County Children’s Museum combines hands-on learning with fun. Kids can play their way through six interactive exhibits, many of which offer insight into Bucks County’s history. Play area themes include: Town Square, Factory Works, Big Dig, Bucks County Country, Airways to Waterways and Hot Air Balloon Ride. 500 Union Square Drive, New Hope, (215) 693-1290, buckskids.org
  • Future firefighters get a head start at Fireman’s Hall Museum, a restored 1902 firehouse that houses some of the nation’s earliest firefighting equipment, including hand, steam and motor fire engines, as well as a 9/11 exhibit and an interactive kiosk that teaches kids about 9-1-1 emergency services. Visitors can try on fire coats and boots, man a bucket brigade and learn fire prevention tips. 147 N. 2nd Street, (215) 923-1438, firemanshallmuseum.org
  • The Franklin Institute, the region’s premier science museum, features a full city block of kid-friendly exhibitions, such as the walk-through Giant Heart, Space Command, Sports Challenge, Electricity, Train Factory, KidScience, Air Show and Changing Earth. In 2014, the museum opened the doors to its 53,000-square-foot Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion. The centerpiece of the dazzling three-story addition is the 8,500-square-foot exhibit Your Brain, featuring an unprecedented collection of interactive, high-tech exhibitions. The expansion also features a rain garden and a larger, climate-controlled traveling exhibition space for limited engagements. The Franklin also houses the Tuttleman IMAX Theater, the Fels Planetarium and a 3-D theater. 222 N. 20th Street, (215) 448-1200, fi.edu
  • After checking out the boat-building shop at the Independence Seaport Museum, kids can explore the Spanish-American War Cruiser Olympia and the World War II Submarine Becuna. Kids (and their parents) can also rent rowboats, built in the museum’s boat shop, or kayaks to explore the calm waters of the basin and get a close-up view of the historic ships. Every Saturday, kids can participate in Seafarin’ Saturdays with activities designed especially for them. 211 S. Columbus Boulevard at Walnut Street, (215) 413-8655, phillyseaport.org
  • Sunday is a big day for families at the Philadelphia Museum of Art with special tours created just for them, as well as drawing and craft activities for children of all ages. The museum also offers themed written guides for kids every day and special family programming throughout the year. Pay-what-you-wish admission on the first Sunday of every month and every Wednesday after 5:00 p.m. provides the opportunity for families to enjoy the museum at a lesser cost. Admission is always free for kids 12 and under. 26th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 763-8100, philamuseum.org
  • Housed in Fairmount Park’s Memorial Hall, the kid-centric Please Touch Museum® includes two full floors of interactive exhibit zones, plus a fully restored 100-year-old carousel. Kids can play and pretend amid Alice’s Wonderland, River Adventures and other hands-on fun. And on First Wednesdays, the museum stay opens 4:00-7:00 p.m. with $2 admission. 4231 Avenue of the Republic, (215) 581-3181, pleasetouchmuseum.org
  • In the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, Woodmere Art Museum tells the story of Philadelphia’s art and artists. The 19th-century stone Victorian mansion sits on a six-acre lawn that includes a treasure trove of sculptures fashioned by Philadelphia-area artists. On the grounds is a Children’s Garden that contains fanciful wooden creatures like birds, butterflies and a giant bird’s nest nestled within the flowerbeds. Come autumn, a straw maze doubles as an outdoor pop-up sculpture. 9201 Germantown Avenue, (215) 247-0476, woodmereartmuseum.org

Animals Above & Below The Sea:

  • Featuring more than two million gallons of water and 8,500 animals, Adventure Aquarium offers hands-on activities, animals, exhibits and unforgettable moments on the Camden Waterfront. Visitors can walk through a suspended Shark Tunnel; explore KidZone, a virtual playground under the sea aimed at ages six and under; and get nose-to-nose with a pair of underwater hippos in Hippo Haven. The 760,000-gallon Ocean Realm is home to sea turtles, stingrays, schooling fish and sharks, including the only Great Hammerhead on exhibit in the country. Adventurous types can roll up their sleeves to pet and feed stingrays, or touch horseshoe crabs, starfish and sharks. 1 Aquarium Drive, Camden, NJ, (856) 365-3300, adventureaquarium.com
  • Opened in 1924, the 16-acre Elmwood Park Zoo showcases an animal collection of more than 100 species indigenous to the Americas, along with African fruit bats, and, as of 2015, Asian red pandas. Many of the animals—the American bison, peregrine falcon, bald eagle, timber wolf and American alligator—represent significant wildlife conservation success stories. The zoo also includes a spacious playground featuring interactive animal sculptures. Daily in the summer months, guests can feed the world’s tallest mammal at the Independence Blue Cross Giraffe Exhibit. 1661 Harding Boulevard, Norristown, (610) 277-3825, elmwoodparkzoo.org
  • Philadelphia’s only all-bug museum and the largest insect museum in the Northeast is the Insectarium, exhibiting thousands of live and mounted insects from Africa, Tanzania and other exotic locations, as well as interactive displays (walking sticks, roach kitchen), a movie room, and, planned for spring 2015, a 5,000-square-foot butterfly pavilion. 8046 Frankford Avenue, (215) 335-9500, myinsectarium.com
  • America’s first zoo and one of the region’s foremost conservation organizations, the Philadelphia Zoo is home to nearly 1,300 animals, many rare and endangered. The zoo offers a first-in-the-world animal travel and exploration train system—called Zoo360—that enables primates and big cats to move above and across the main visitor pathway. Award-winning exhibits include First Niagara Big Cat Falls, the McNeil Avian Center, the PECO Primate Reserve and KidZooU: Hamilton Family Children’s Zoo & Faris Family Education Center. 3400 W. Girard Avenue, (215) 243-1100, philadelphiazoo.org

Gardens, Tours & A Whole Lot More:

  • From April through December, the Butterfly, CityScapes, Picnic, Fitness, Dinosaur and Storybook Gardens at the four-acre Camden Children’s Garden provides horticultural experiences for creative and imaginative play. The garden also includes three indoor attractions: the popular Philadelphia Eagles Four Seasons Butterfly House, the tropical exhibit Plaza de Aibonito and Ben Franklin’s Workshop, as well as more outdoor attractions such as a Tree House, Garden Carousel, Arrow River Train and the Spring Butterfly Ride. 3 Riverside Drive, Camden, NJ, (856) 365-8733, camdenchildrensgarden.org
  • During the Herr’s Snack Factory Tour, children see how the company makes their favorite snacks, including potato chips, pretzels and popcorn. Tours are by-reservation. On the factory’s annual summertime Zoo Day, kids can also get up close and personal with animals. Route 272 & Herr Drive, Nottingham, (610) 932-6400, herrs.com
  • At Linvilla Orchards, a 300-acre family farm dedicated to agriculture, education and entertainment, families can explore the Garden Center, pick their own seasonal fruit, hop on a hayride and buy freshly baked pies to take home. 137 W. Knowlton Road, Media, (610) 876-7116, linvilla.com
  • Indoors at Longwood Gardens, children can hide in a Bamboo Maze, scamper into the Secret Room and dodge the Drooling Dragon, all part of the Indoor Children’s Garden in the Conservatory. Outside, a Children’s Corner offers a Flower Fountain for splashing, and plenty of seating for the adults. In October, Longwood makes room for a Pumpkin Playground. U.S. Route 1, Kennett Square, (610) 388-1000, longwoodgardens.org
  • At Giggleberry Fair in Peddler’s Village, kids can ride a restored 1922 Philadelphia Toboggan Company Grand Carousel; conquer Giggleberry Mountain, the area’s largest indoor obstacle course; get active in Giggles Discovers, an interactive exploration environment; play in the Game Room; and enjoy a snack in the Painted Pony Café. Routes 202 & 263, Lahaska, (215) 794-4047, peddlersvillage.com
  • Those who Ride The Ducks, an amphibious vehicle that goes from land (Philadelphia Museum of Art to the Liberty Bell Center) to sea (Delaware River), can look forward to 80 minutes of entertainment, city history, fun facts and lots of kid-approved quacking. 6th & Chestnut Streets, (887) 887-8225, phillyducks.com
  • Big Bird, Elmo and the other stars of Sesame Street come out and play at Sesame Place, the only theme park in the nation featuring the popular TV show’s most lovable characters. A water park, rides, interactive activities, parades, fireworks and shows add to the fun. 100 Sesame Road, Langhorne, (866) GO-4-ELMO, sesameplace.com
  • Featuring the iconic Ann Newman Giant Wooden Slide, Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse—one of the oldest playgrounds in America dating back to 1899—offers children (ages 10 and under) a free, safe place to play, jump, swing and climb. For children five and under, tot lot features more than 20 pieces of age-appropriate play equipment, and at the 16,000-square-foot Playhouse, kids run the show. 3500 Reservoir Drive (near 33rd & Oxford Streets), (215) 765-4325, smithplayground.org

Hotels:

  • Those who want to stay in the middle of the action check into the DoubleTree by Hilton Philadelphia Center City, located on the Avenue of the Arts (Broad Street) just steps from performing arts venues, great restaurants and fashionable shops. Guests receive warm chocolate chip cookies at check-in. 237 S. Broad Street, (215) 893-1600, philadelphia.doubletree.com
  • Every Saturday from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., the Hotel Monaco Philadelphia hosts a Kids’ Table in its living room lobby. Youngsters enjoy kid-friendly snacks and beverages, an assortment of board games and take-home goodies. 433 Chestnut Street, (215) 925-2111,
    monaco-philadelphia.com
  • The Rittenhouse Square-based Hotel Palomar Philadelphia provides several kid-friendly amenities perfect for families travelling together. The Palomar’s fleet of PUBLIC bicycles is available for complimentary guest use. And the hotel’s popular Guppy Love program offers an in-room goldfish companion for kids to bond with during their stay. 117 S. 17th Street, (215) 563-5006, hotelpalomar-philadelphia.com
  • Loews Philadelphia Hotel offers special kid-friendly menus, welcome gifts and music downloads for teens, and family members of all ages can enjoy the indoor pool. If the family pet comes along, the Loews Loves Pets program keeps Fido happy. Children under 18 stay for free. 1200 Market Street, (215) 627-1200, loewshotels.com
  • Kids get a free backpack filled with goodies when they check in at the Omni Hotel at Independence Park, and they receive milk and cookies in their guest room on the first night. Children can also borrow a rolling backpack filled with toys, books and games, or keep occupied with activities on Omni’s kid-centric website omnikidsrule.com. 401 Chestnut Street, (215) 925-0000, omnihotels.com
  • In addition to the indoor pool, outdoor picnic area and complimentary hot breakfast, the Residence Inn offers a Sesame Place package featuring tickets and free shuttle service to the park. 15 Cabot Boulevard East, Langhorne, (215) 946-6500, marriott.com
  • At The Rittenhouse Hotel, kids can choose a gift from the Rittenhouse Treasure Chest or a movie and popcorn, and they get bathrobes at turndown, along with a copy of Goodnight Philadelphia. In addition, families can ask the concierge about discount tickets for the Philadelphia Zoo, Please Touch Museum® and Adventure Aquarium. 210 W. Rittenhouse Square, (215) 546-9000, rittenhousehotel.com
  • After visiting the historic sites that are just steps away, kids can continue the fun by splashing in a rooftop pool overlooking the city at the Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District. 400 Arch Street, (215) 923-8660, wyndham.com

Restaurants & Sweets:

  • Chic South Philly corner spot Bing Bing Dim Sum wasn’t designed with kids in mind (cocktails come by the pitcher), but funky-figured wallpaper, family-style booths and delightful dumplings just so happen to be exactly the break from the grilled cheese scene that modern families crave. 1648 E. Passyunk Avenue, (215) 279-7702, bingbingdimsum.com
  • Campo’s, a casual eatery in Old City, is known for making some of the best Philly sandwiches, including hoagies, cheesesteaks and homemade meatball and pork sandwiches. Plus, it’s just blocks away from the city’s most famous historic attractions. There are additional Campo’s locations inside Citizens Bank Park (home of the Phillies), Wells Fargo Center (home of the 76ers and Flyers) and the Liacouras Center (Temple University basketball). 214 Market Street, (215) 923-1000, camposdeli.com
  • Owned and operated by the family that gave Philly gelato (Capogiro), Old City’s Capofitto serves up its now-famous hazelnut, pistachio or fresh berry scoops, along with wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas and authentic Italian brunch. 233 Chestnut Street, (215) 897-9999, capofittoforno.com
  • Established in 1773, City Tavern is a Colonial tavern featuring an award-winning children’s menu, high chairs and booster seats, as well as costumed servers. 138 S. 2nd Street, (215) 413-1443, citytavern.com
  • Those who have a taste for sweets and history can stop by The Franklin Fountain, an award-winning, old-fashioned ice-cream saloon serving up handmade ice cream, splits, shakes, sundaes, fountain sodas and seasonally minded baked goods using fresh, local ingredients sourced from area farms. 116 Market Street, (215) 627-1899, franklinfountain.com
  • Jim’s Steaks South Street, a popular eatery on the always-lively South Street, serves those tasty Philadelphia cheesesteaks. Families can take advantage of the additional seating upstairs. 400 South Street, (215) 928-1911, jimssouthstreet.com
  • With a setting right out of The Brady Bunch, Jones restaurant serves up classic comfort foods such as macaroni and cheese and meatloaf. 700 Chestnut Street, (215) 223-5663,
    jones-restaurant.com
  • Conveniently located throughout Center City, Marathon’s casual restaurants prove perfect for early-riser breakfast, lunch or dinner—thanks to menus filled with sandwiches, salads, full entrees and healthy choices. 121 S. 16th Street, (215) 569-3278; 1818 Market Street, (215) 561-1818; 1839 Spruce Street, (215) 731-0800, eatmarathon.com
  • Pizza and kids are always a winning combination, which is exactly why families can’t go wrong at Pizzeria Stella. The just-off-South Street restaurant offers gourmet pizzas, pastas and salads, along with house-made gelato made from a secret family recipe. Don’t worry—there are simple selections perfect for the youngest members of the group. 2nd & Lombard Street, (215) 320-8000, pizzeriastella.net
  • Fresh produce, meats, fish, cheeses, spices and prepared foods ranging from cheesesteaks to cannolis are up for grabs throughout the historic Reading Terminal Market. Annual events and festivals are fun for food lovers of all ages. 12th & Arch Streets, (215) 922-2317, readingterminalmarket.org
  • Precede a visit to the nearby Italian Market with a hearty breakfast at friendly Sam’s Morning Glory Diner. Their famous Glory cakes come in short stacks, and families can pass the time waiting for a table on the weekends at the across-the-street playground. 735 S. 10th Street, (215) 413-3999, themorningglorydiner.com
  • Shane Confectionery is America’s oldest candy store, which was built in 1863 and restored to its 1911 splendor with its carved cabinetry and glass cases. Clerks in long dresses or bowties serve award-wining house-made fresh chocolates and confections using early 20th-century machinery. Customers can watch as their sweet treats are bagged and weighed on antique scales or choose chocolates by the piece. 110 Market Street, (215) 922-1048, shanecandies.com
  • Date night meets family night when contemporary Bella Vista bistro Supper offers discriminating diners a special fixed-price, four-person, kid-friendly family dinner, along with an a la carte children’s menu featuring mozzarella Monte Cristos and mac-and-cheese fritters. 926 South Street, (215) 592-8180, supperphilly.com

Parks & Public Spaces:

  • City Hall’s recently refurbished front yard, Dilworth Park boasts tree-lined fountains (splashing encouraged) in warm weather and an ice skating rink in winter. Year-round movies, festivals, a cozy Cuban cafe and great access to public transit have revived the very center of Center City. 15th & Market Streets, (215) 482-9565, ccdparks.org/dilworth-park
  • Endless trails, an enormous public pool, historic houses and a Japanese garden are among the pleasant surprises that await explorers of Fairmount Park, one of the nation’s largest urban parks, stretching from Boathouse Row to West Philadelphia, Strawberry Mansion, Chestnut Hill and Northeast Philadelphia. phila.gov/parksandrecreation
  • One of William Penn’s original five squares, Franklin Square is a modern and fun family park, with a Philly-themed miniature golf course, a restored marble fountain, two playgrounds and an old-fashioned carousel featuring some famous Philly horses. When hunger strikes, SquareBurger delivers with burgers, fries and Cake Shakes. 6th & Race Streets, (215) 629-4026, historicphiladelphia.org
  • In summer, an alfresco hangout pops up in The Oval, a once little-used parking lot at the edge of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Though the programming changes year to year, reliable fun includes mega-sized games to play, visits from food and retail trucks, plus arts festivals and family parties. 2601 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, theovalphl.org
  • The Benjamin Franklin Bridge towers above Race Street Pier, a finger pier reinvented as a multi-use, two-level recreational space now used for picnicking, yoga classes, concerts, fireworks-watching and simply catching the Delaware River breeze. Columbus Boulevard & Race Street, (215) 629-3200, racestreetpier.com
  • To wee water fans, the pebble-bottom wading pool sheltered by a landscaped hill and randomly spouting fountains makes Sister Cities Park a summertime paradise. To the fans’ caretakers, the lifeguard, cafe and kiosk that sells plastic boats, swim diapers, sunscreen and other essentials is just as great. 18th Street & Logan Square, (215) 440-5500, ccdparks.org/sister-cities-park
  • Penn’s Landing doubles down on riverside fun with seasonal pop-ups, Spruce Street Harbor Park and Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest. The former, with tree-slung hammocks, cargo container arcades and concessions, misting palm trees and planted barges (with bars) was an instant hit during its 2014 summer debut. The latter warms up winter with a skating rink, fire pits, indoor games, cozy couches and hot drinks. Spruce Street Harbor Park, Columbus Boulevard & Spruce Street; Winterfest, Columbus Boulevard & Walnut Street, (215) 629-3200, delawareriverwaterfront.com
  • The eco-friendly arts and community center that has transformed Manayunk’s formerly vacant Venice Island is a study in city-and-citizen cooperation. But kids don’t know that. They just want to go to children’s theater, dash through the water park and play a game of basketball or volleyball. Main Street & Cotton Street, (215) 482-9565, manayunk.com/dsr/veniceisland.html

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