Guest Blogger: Karen loves to travel the world with Piper, her seven year old daughter. They have a shared passion for finding the very best family friendly days out, places to stay, and things to eat. You can find a journal of their adventures on their website, Are We There Yet Kids.
Historic, charming and, some might say, the birthplace of the United States, the beautiful city of Philadelphia is packed full of child friendly things to see and do. My daughter and I visited Philadelphia last summer and totally fell in love with the city. Although we only had three days to explore, we managed to cram plenty in, leaving us exhausted by the end of our long weekend. Here are our top tips on where to go, eat, and stay!
THINGS TO DO
#1: Please Touch Museum
When planning our adventure, I knew I had to include the Please Touch Museum on our list of things to do because I had heard so many great things about this child friendly museum. As the name suggests, this museum is dedicated to teaching children through play, and the museum totally follows through on this promise. There is so much to see and do that you can easily spend a full day here. We only had a morning to devote to this museum, but we managed to visit most of the exhibits, even if I did find myself hurrying Piper along a few times.
Being big fans of the book, we loved the Alice in Wonderland themed Wonderland area, where you can have tea with the Mad Hatter, get lost in the hedge maze, and even paint some roses red. Piper’s favorite part of the visit was the Woodside Park Dentzel carousel, which was an additional $3 on top of admission, but well worth the charge.
Other hits include the River Adventures water area, where kids can learn all about water flow, City Capers, where children can really indulge their imaginations and try out various grown up jobs in venues such as a hospital, restaurant, and shopping center, and Roadside Attractions, which gives children the opportunity to explore a real car, pretend to be mechanics, and drive a trolley.
Please Touch Museum is geared towards younger children and preschoolers, but Piper is seven and still loved the exhibits. Some of the exhibits are starting to show a little wear and tear, but the kids don’t seem to mind, so it did not diminish our enjoyment.
#2: The Rocky Steps and Statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
This is good fun to visit even if your kids haven’t seen the movies, and it makes for a fabulous photo opportunity. The famous Rocky Statue and Rocky Steps aren’t too much a challenge to run up, even in the heat of summer, and if you have time to visit the Museum of Art while you’re there, even better!
#3: Sister Cities Park
We loved Sister Cities Park, a cute little park located just a few minutes from our hotel. When we visited, the famous “LOVE” sculpture was closed for maintenance, but we found the replacement “AMOR” sculpture here. Make sure you get a quick photo with the sign and take a breather in this park, which has a lovely little café, a children’s discovery garden, and a 10 geyser splash fountain in the summer, perfect for cooling down after a hot day of exploring.
#4: The Franklin Institute
The Franklin Institute was built to honor one of America’s most famous scientists, Benjamin Franklin. The Institute is one of the oldest and best centers for science education and development in the United States and it is my absolute favorite place to visit in Philly. It’s a hands on and totally interactive science museum with plenty to learn for both kids and grown-ups.
The Franklin Institute is home to the famous heart exhibit, where kids can explore the workings of a heart by walking through it, following the journey a blood cell would take. But the fun doesn’t end there – the newest exhibit, dedicated to the workings of the human brain, includes an 18 foot tall climbing structure called the neural climb, which kids can safely climb all the way to the top. Active kids will love the Sportszone, where they can test their reactions against the ping-pong wall, perfect their baseball throw, see how far they can jump from a running or standing start, and race virtual athletes along a 40 foot track.
There is also the Franklin Air Show, which introduces visitors to the history and technology of flight, Sir Isaac’s Loft, which brings Newton’s theories to life, and Changing Earth, which is guaranteed to get little brains thinking about the impact we all have on this planet.
Although some exhibits dedicated to the physiology of the human body are a bit gory, my seven year old loved it all. If your child is sensitive, I suggest checking ahead and perhaps bypassing some more graphic areas.
#5: The Liberty Bell
No visit to Philadelphia is complete without taking a trip to see the iconic liberty bell. It’s a great opportunity to teach kids a little American history, but it is best to visit out of season or later in the day to avoid the lines. We arrived at around 4pm on a hot July day and had to wait around 30 minutes to get through security. We then struggled to get a clear picture with the bell itself. Once inside the exhibit, you walk through a small section of informational exhibits, which are all interesting, but probably won’t hold the attention of little ones for too long. The bell itself is located at the end of the exhibit, in front of a huge glass wall overlooking Independence Hall and the bell tower where the bell was originally housed. The exhibit is free (managed by the National Park Service), and timed tickets are not required.
#6: Independence Hall
Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was conceived, drafted, and signed, is also managed by the National Park Service and although free to visit, you will need a timed ticket. These can be found at the Visitor Center desk on the day you want to visit, but please be sure to plan ahead as your desired time slot may be unavailable during busy tourist season. Tours last between 30 to 40 minutes and you can view original printed versions of the Constitution, Articles of Confederation, and the Declaration of Independence. All the rangers were extremely knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions, from the simple to the complex. This was yet another great opportunity to get a little bit of American history and learn about the founding fathers.
Pro Tip: I highly recommend using the Phlash Bus to navigate around the city. It runs every five minutes to most places mentioned above and is just $5 for a full day pass. Make sure you have cash to purchase your pass on the bus as it will save you the $1.50 online fee.
WHAT TO EAT
It goes without saying that when in Philly, you must eat a Philly cheesesteak. A Philly cheesesteak is a soft (or sometime crusty) bread roll stuffed with shredded beef and stringy cheese. I wasn’t a massive fan, to be honest, but as you know, when in Philly…
You can find a Philly cheesesteak almost anywhere, but the two arguably most famous locations are Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks, conveniently located across the street from one another, so if you plan your visit, it’s possible to sample both in one meal!
If you have the time, I highly recommend visiting Reading Terminal Market, one of America’s oldest and largest public markets. Inside you fill find a huge food court full of gorgeous treats and places to dine and you are almost certainly guaranteed to find something that will please everyone in the family. The Market does get quite busy, so be sure to keep the little ones close so they don’t get overwhelmed.
WHERE TO STAY
We chose to spend our weekend at the lovely Windsor Suites in Downtown Philadelphia, conveniently located within walking distance to most of Philadelphia’s main attractions, with plenty of restaurants and grocery stores nearby as well. Happily, the hotel was located away from the bulk of the downtown Philadelphia nightlife, so it was a peaceful place to be with kids.
After a recent cramped stay in Boston, we were absolutely blown away by the apartment style rooms. We had a small but perfectly outfitted kitchen, heaps of storage space, and a large cozy bed. The hotel has a rooftop pool, which is open in the summer months, a laundry room, and some of the friendliest staff members we have encountered.
The hotel offers an onsite pub/restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Although we did dine at the restaurant and experience the friendly atmosphere and tasty food, we elected to eat in our room most of the time, in order to take full advantage of the superbly equipped kitchen.
Karen and her daughter’s action packed stay in Philadelphia has us thinking we need to plan a trip sooner rather than later. What are your favorite places to visit in the City of Brotherly Love?
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