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
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
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
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
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
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
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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