Sunrise on Philadelphia with kids

The 411 on Philadelphia with Kids

Philadelphia is known for its historical sites, cheese steaks, and no-nonsense approach to life. But its world-class museums, green space, and food scene have put it on the map as a top destination for families that ours just can’t get enough of. Whether you’re here for a long weekend of for a week, you’ll find plenty to keep you and the family busy.

If you’re heading to Philadelphia with kids, here are four activities to keep you busy, with a little history thrown in for good measure, a fantastic Italian restaurant, and a hotel that will feel like your own Philly pied-a-terre.

Activity 1: Step into History at Independence Hall

Independence Hall is a must-do on any first time trip to Philadelphia with kids.
Independence Hall is a must-do on any first time trip to Philadelphia with kids.

Name a pivotal moment in early American history—say, for example, the signing of the Declaration of Independence or the drafting and signing of the U.S. Constitution—and chances are, it happened in Independence Hall.

Costumed guides offer tours daily, 365 days a year. This tour is probably best for children over the age of six. If you have younger tots in tow, consider just taking a glimpse at the Liberty Bell next door. It’s super-quick and you don’t need tickets.

You’ll need to get timed-entry tickets for your visit to Independence Hall.  They hand them out at the Visitor Center starting at 8:30.  I recommend getting your tickets online and picking them up at the will call counter.

Activity 2: Play like a Founding Father at the Franklin Institute

Franklin Center, Philadelphia with kids
The hands-on sports exhibit at the Franklin Institute.

You’ve probably heard great things about the Franklin Institute and it will, indeed, blow your mind. The museum is dedicated to the city’s favorite uncle, Benjamin Franklin, his inventions, and his scientific curiosity. You can walk into a giant heart, learn about weather patterns, try your spins, throws, and kicks at the hands-on sports exhibit, and even ride through the air on a sky bike (note the 48-inch height requirement). There is truly something for everyone in the family to explore.

Tip: If there are more than four of you, consider getting a family membership.  You will receive free entry to dozens of other museums around the country.

Activity 3: Take a Mural Walk

view over 2,000 murals in all corners of the city
More than 2,000 murals can be found throughout Philadelphia.

I can’t think of a better thing to do on a sunny Philadelphia day than a Mural Arts Tour. The Mural Arts Project was born in an effort to—literally—clean up the city by creating outdoor murals that would reflect the flavor, history, and circumstances of its unique neighborhoods. Today, you can view over 2,000 murals in all corners of the city and they all have a story to tell.

You will meander through parts of the center city and China Town, hitting about a dozen murals along the way. They also offer trolley tours, bike tours, and custom tours.

This tour is probably best for children at either end of the spectrum—stroller-sized or over the age of eight.

Activity 4: Touch Everything at the Please Touch Museum

Hands-on fun is the name of the game at the Please Touch Museum in Philly.
Hands-on fun is the name of the game at the Please Touch Museum in Philly.

If you are visiting Philadelphia with younger kids (up to age seven), you must visit the Please Touch Museum. The museum is housed in a classic, grand building, which was originally built for the 1876 Centennial World Fair, the first one in the U.S. It is truly one of the country’s greatest children’s museums.

As the not-so-sublet name suggests the exhibits are completely hands-on. Kids can play make-believe to their heart’s content, playing doctor, scientist, cashier, or TV producer. They can also get moderately wet at the water play area and shoot foam rockets at each other in the space section. There is a separate area for children under age three and a sweet old carousel for the whole family.

The hardest part about this visit will be tearing your kids away when it’s time to leave.

1 Great Place to Eat: Little Nonna’s

Inside Little Nonna's restaurant.
Inside Little Nonna’s restaurant.

Located in midtown Philadelphia, Little Nonna’s is a friendly Italian restaurant with a homey, casual décor and garden seating. It’s the perfect spot for a family meal of spaghetti and meatballs or gnocchi, and tantalizing appetizers like seared octopus and wild mushroom arancini.

The interior is cozy, with red banquettes and an open kitchen with hanging copper pots. It’s also rather small, so try to make a reservation if you can.

1 Great Place to Stay: The Roost Rittenhouse

family-friendly Roost in Philadelphia.
Rest your brood at family-friendly Roost Rittenhouse in Philadelphia.

There are plenty of places to stay in central Philadelphia but for location, space, and design, the Roost Rittenhouse is hands-down the best family accommodations you will find. You can rent a studio, one-bedroom, or two-bedroom apartment , all with a modern kitchen and sumptuous bathroom. Really, you can’t go wrong here. The décor is crisp and modern.

Tip: DiBruno Brothers, which is just down the block, is a perfect place to pick up deli sandwiches, fresh produce, or even pasta and home-made sauce to bring back to the Roost.

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The 411 on Philadelphia with Kids
The 411 on Philadelphia with Kids
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Veronique Autphenne

Véronique Autphenne grew up on three different continents and has had a passion for travel ever since she can remember. She has settled in Alexandria, VA, and still travels as often as possible with her husband John and three boys. She started Pax Travel Design to help busy families realize their travel dreams while staying sane in the process. Vero runs the blog, Belgium with Kids, wrote the e-book Brussels with Kids, and co-founded All Over the Map. Follow her on Twitter: @veroautphenne and on Facebook: Pax Travel Design. Her favorite moments, both on the road and at home, tend to involve food, family, and lots of laughter.
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5 thoughts on “The 411 on Philadelphia with Kids”

  1. These options look so fun! I love that Please Touch museum, but I especially love the idea of the mural walk and using the outside to share artistic versions of the city’s history.

    I so wish I could make it to Philadelphia this summer. Good thing these tips will also work for other times of the year too, though!

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