Things to Do in Philadelphia With Kids

Philadelphia is an absolutely fantastic place to bring kids. How family-friendly is this city? Here are my top ten reasons:

1. Kid-friendly food: Pretty much all of our best foods come in sandwich format. Most of them come with a side of Cheez Whiz.

2. Our most famous landmarks, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, are FREE to visit.

3. Ignore the drama of our major league sports teams and enjoy some of the most family-friendly minor league sports ever, at a fraction of the cost.

4. You know how museums always have those signs that tell you not to touch anything? Three words: Please Touch Museum.

5. Fun with science: We have that kind of sneaky educational stuff that’s so fun, your kids won’t notice they’re learning. You can walk through a two-story human heart (Franklin Institute), explore a submarine (Independence Seaport Museum), and hold disgusting insects in your very own hands (Insectarium).

6. If your kids start bickering, remind them that they are in the City of Brotherly Love. Tell them we take that so seriously, that they can be arrested for fighting with their siblings. Not true, of course, but your kids don’t know that. Family togetherness! Yay!

7. Your teens are now way too cool to vacay with Mom and Dad? Take them to the Mutter Museum of medical oddities and see how tough they really are. Spoiler: they are not nearly as tough as they think.

8. Getting around: In many cases, and with a tiny amount of planning, you’ll be able to walk from one attraction to another. When walking isn’t an option, we have taxis, but public transit is way cheaper and pretty easy to navigate. There’s also a ferry you can take across the Delaware to lots of fun stuff on the New Jersey side of the river.

9. So many movie catchphrases to choose from! If you’re planning on videoing any of your visit, be sure to teach your kids to yell “Yo, Adrian!”, whisper “I see dead people,” and deadpan “I’m gonna steal the Declaration of Independence.” (Pro tip: Do not use that line from National Treasure when you’re actually in Independence Hall, though.)

10. Philadelphia is basically one giant, interactive social studies classroom: Visit the Liberty Bell. Visit Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Constitution was written. Sit on the Supreme Court at the National Constitution Center. This is the stuff that’s in your kid’s history textbook, except it’s really right in front of you.

Check out our slideshow below for 22 fun things to do, see, and eat with your whole family!

  • Philly Fun: 22 Things to Do, See, and Eat With Your Family 1 of 23
    Click the arrows to scroll through for fun family activities in the City of Brotherly Love.
  • Independence National Historical Park 2 of 23
    The site of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, Independence Park is a must-see. Your tour guides are National Park Rangers, and they know their subject inside and out. I've been through Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell pavilion many times, and I still get chills when I stand in the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed.

    Tickets, which are free, are required to enter Independence Hall. (The ticket will give you a tour time.) Pro tip: tickets are usually gone by 1 p.m. Either get there early (between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.), or reserve online and pay a $1.50 reservation fee per ticket. Note that tickets are not required to see the Liberty Bell, but you should be prepared for a line, especially in the summer.

    (Photo Credits: This page:National Park Service/Independence National Historical Park. Liberty Bell image in front collage: GPTMC/Visit Philly)
  • National Constitution Center 3 of 23
    Allocate plenty of time for your family to enjoy the amazingly entertaining and interactive National Constitution Center. Ticket prices vary by age (free for children 3 and under; $8 for kids 4-12; $13 for kids 13-18; $14.50 for adults; free for active military). If you're being careful with your Philadelphia visit budget, the cost for this one is well worth it, in my opinion. You can reserve general admission and special event tickets online.

    (Photo Credit: National Constitution Center)
  • Franklin Square 4 of 23
    One of Philadelphia's five original squares, Franklin Square was recently ranked by Yahoo.com as one of the top five playgrounds in the United States. The square features a beautiful fountain, the Philadelphia Park Liberty Carousel, a miniature golf course, and SquareBurger. Franklin Square is open daily, weather permitting, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The carousel is $2.50 per person; children under two ride free. Philly Mini Golf is $9 for adults; $7 for kids 12 and under; and free for kids under 2.

    (Photo Credit: Historic Philadelphia)
  • Minor League Sports FTW 5 of 23
    Philly's well-known for its major league sports teams, but really, who can afford that? Consider opting for minor league or college sports for a super-fun family outing. You can take the ferry across the Camden River and cheer on the Camden Riversharks. Even cheaper are tickets to college sporting events, most of which are either free or only a couple of bucks (with the exception of college basketball, of course). Check the athletics department websites for Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and St. Joseph's University for info.

    (Photo Credit: Facebook/Camden Riversharks)
  • Independence Seaport Museum 6 of 23
    If your family is that particular brand of geeky that enjoys giant boats (you know who you are), the Independence Seaport Museum is a dream come true. An anchor attraction of the Philadelphia waterfront, the Seaport is home to The Olympia, which launched in 1892 and is oldest steel warship still afloat in the world. The Seaport is also the home of the decommissioned US Navy submarine Becuna. Check their website for hours, admission fees, and special events.

    (Photo Credit: Independence Seaport Museum).
  • Insectarium 7 of 23
    A little off the beaten path, the Insectarium is located in Northeast Philadelphia. Enjoy hands-on live bug exhibits, and view a (sealed-off) kitchen full of cockroaches.

    (Photo Credit: Facebook/Insectarium)
  • Please Touch Museum 8 of 23
    The opposite of every museum that tells your kids not to touch anything, this is an entire museum dedicated to hands-on learning. Please Touch Museum is home to two floors of interactive exhibit zones designed to encourage learning through play. The interactive zones include City Capers, Flight Fantasy, River Adventures, and Wonderland. Our family's fave: the Rainforest Rhythm zone. Note that Please Touch is exceptionally special needs-friendly, even offering social stories for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

    (Photo Credit: Please Touch Museum)
  • Philadelphia Zoo 9 of 23
    The nation's oldest zoo continues to thrive and expand, with the opening of the new KidZooU in April 2013. KidZooU features all kinds of hands-on fun and unrivaled cuteness, such as the rare breeds nursery. Be sure to check out the Zoo's website for upcoming special events.

    (Photo Credit: Philadelphia Zoo)
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art 10 of 23
    I know. Your kids think art museums are boring. Entice them by pretending to be Rocky and attempting a run up the Museum of Art steps. Pro tip: On Wednesday evenings from 6 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., the museum's admission fee is "pay what you wish," and the museum features fun extras like "pop-up programming," music, mini-film festivals, and gallery conversations. The Museum's Balcony Cafe stays open late on Wednesday, so you can even grab a light dinner (sandwiches or salads).

    (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
  • Rodin Museum 11 of 23
    The Rodin Museum is a unique ensemble of Beaux-Arts architecture and a formal French garden in which to experience the sculpture of Auguste Rodin. The Thinker has presided at the entrance to the museum since its opening in 1929, giving generations of families an opportunity to view world-renowned art and/or pose for hilarious photo ops.

    (Photo Credit: Rodin Museum)
  • The Franklin Institute 12 of 23
    A celebration of science that will appeal to kids from Kindergarten on up, the Franklin Institute is a highly interactive experience. Walk through the iconic 2-story high heart, explore outer space from Space Command and the Fels Planetarium, and learn about the science of sports, weather, machines, and more. Regular admission price ($16.50 for adults; $12.50 for kids age 3 to 11) includes the Science Museum, live shows, and one planetarium show. Adding on a movie at the IMAX theater will up your price a bit.

    (Photo Credit: Franklin Institute)
  • Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse 13 of 23
    With a playground the size of six football fields, a mansion-sized playhouse full of fun, and a 40-foot wooden slide, Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse has been providing free, family-oriented fun for over 100 years. Take a break from being super-scheduled and enjoy the best in unstructured, creative play. Fun fact: the playhouse was never a home. It was built specifically for the children of Philadelphia. Smith Memorial Playground is for children age 10 and under, and is closed on Mondays as well as major holidays. Be sure to check their website for hours and availability.

    (Photo Credit: D. DiFuntorum for Smith)
  • Mutter Museum 14 of 23
    The Mütter Museum is recommended for grades four and up, but I'd say it really depends on the kid. In general, I think it's suitable for teens and adults. A museum of medical history, the Mütter houses a fascinating collection of medical specimens. Fair warning: I consider myself fairly tough, and I made it through all the things in jars just fine, but when I saw the Giant Colon, everything started spinning and I almost passed out.

    Pro tip: Get two museums on one ticket in conjunction with the Penn Museum (see next slide) by purchasing special tickets at the front entry of either museum.

    (Photo Credit: George Widman, for the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia)
  • University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology 15 of 23
    In a city chock-full of history and museums, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is an often-overlooked gem. Nestled in Philadelphia's University City district, it's one of my family's favorites. Our fave exhibits are the Egypt galleries, which include mummies and a monumental granite sphinx.

    (Photo Credit: Penn Museum)
  • Heinz Wildlife Refuge 16 of 23
    Located near Philadelphia International Airport, this gem of a national wildlife refuge is home to over 300 species of birds, as well as a multitude of reptiles, amphibians, and other creatures. Despite its urban location, the Refuge protects about 200 acres of freshwater tidal marsh. Take a guided walk or simply explore on your own. Refuge grounds are open every day of the year from sunrise to sunset, free of charge. The educational Visitor Center is open daily from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM, free of charge. The visitor center is closed for all Federal holidays.

    (Photo Credit: Maureen Long)
  • Ride the Ducks 17 of 23
    Tour the city by land and river with Philadelphia's Ride the Ducks tours. It's not cheap, but if you're looking for a tour where you get to sit down for a while, this is a great pick. Buy tickets online here. Pro tip: for online sales only, save $10 on adult tickets and $2 on kid tickets when you select and book the first ride of the day, Tuesday through Friday. Also, check this list for current "Wacky Quackers Program" partners, which can give you discounts on combo packages with other Philly sights.

    (Photo Credit: Facebook/Philly Ducks)
  • Neighborhood Walking Tours 18 of 23
    These guided tours by foot are free to take, and you pay what you wish at the end of the tour. Specialized tours include Independence Park, Ghost Tours, Food Tours, and Art Tours, all of which will take you off the beaten path and into "real" Philadelphia. These four-hour tours cover about 5 kilometers, so this is obviously only suitable for older and non-whiny kids, or those still in strollers. Advanced registration is required.

    (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Smallbones)
  • City Tavern Restaurant: Established 1773 19 of 23
    City Tavern Restaurant has been called "the most genteel tavern in America" since the 1770's. City Tavern is where people like Ben Franklin and George Washington hung out. It's where the First Continental Congress celebrated the very first Fourth of July. So, there's a little bit of history here. Although the current building is actually a reproduction (there was a fire in 1834), servers wear period garb and serve traditional foods. A children's menu keeps things easy for parents. After a day of family togetherness, parents may be ready to sample locally-brewed Yards Ale's Ales of the Revolution, which are based on recipes from Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.

    Touristy without being a "tourist trap," if you do one sit-down meal with your family, make it this one. Pro tip: the luncheon menu is less pricey than the dinner.

    (Photo Credit: Facebook/City Tavern Restaurant)
  • Yes, You Should Definitely Eat From a Food Truck 20 of 23
    I know. Eating from a street vendor seems dicey until you realize that you can actually SEE them cooking the food. Food trucks can be found throughout Philly, and they're a quick and cheap way to grab something to eat in between activities. If you're in the University City section of Philly, there's an amazing selection of food trucks with cuisines from around the world. The truck shown here is Gigi's and Big R, a hot spot for Jamaican food at 38th and Spruce.

    (Photo Credit: Twitter/Gigi and Big R)
  • The Italian Market 21 of 23
    Philly has two major farmer's markets: Reading Terminal Market at 12th and Arch, and the Italian Market, which runs along South 9th Street from Wharton to Fitzwater. Both are awesome in their own ways: Reading Terminal is indoors and a bit more upscale, and the Italian market is outdoors and full of old-school charm. Given a choice, I'll head to the Italian Market, the nation's oldest outdoor market. Favorite stops are DiBruno Bros. for cheese, Fante's for amazing kitchenware, and Sarcone's Bakery for fresh bread, pizzelles, and other Italian cookies.

    (Photo Credit: Derek Ramsay/Wikimedia Commons)
  • The Age-Old Debate: Pat’s or Geno’s? 22 of 23
    Philly is famous for its cheesesteaks, so if you must have one, you might as well head down to 9th & Passyunk for the full experience. Rival cheesesteak joints Pat's and Geno's are across the street from each other at the end of the Italian Market, and have been battling for customers' loyalties since Geno's opened in 1966. Of course it's a matter of taste and personal opinion which is better. Except, Pat's is totally better. Opened in 1930, it's considered to be the "original" cheesesteak place. I like the helpful board that explains how to order your steak ("cheez wit" means Cheez Whiz with onions). I especially like that when you order, you're standing on a plaque that says "On this spot stood Sylvester Stallone filming the great motion picture Rocky," which is the most Philly thing ever. Also, frankly, I just like their steaks better.

    Either way, expect a long but fast line, and the most filling, cholesterol-laden meal of your life.

    (Photo Credit: Pat's King of Steaks)
  • What the Heck Is a Hoagie? 23 of 23
    A hoagie is what you'd call a sub or a grinder elsewhere in the U.S. Here, they're called hoagies. There is much debate over the origin of the word, but basically it's a sandwich full of meat and cheese, topped off with oregano, oil and vinegar. As with the cheesesteak scene, everyone's got a favorite hoagie place. Mine is Primo, and by far my favorite sandwich there is the "Bada Bing" -- breaded chicken cutlets, sharp provolone, and garlicky sauteed broccoli rabe. Primo has locations throughout the region, with nine stores in Philly.

    (Photo Credit: Primo Hoagies)

Read more from Joslyn on Babble and at her blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow Joslyn on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

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