Everything you need to know about visiting the wonderful city of Philadelphia with kids!
Historic, charming and some might say, the birthplace of the USA as the Declaration of Independence was conceived, drafted and signed at Independence Hall, 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, we only had 3 days to explore but managed to cram plenty in, even if it left us exhausted by the end of it! These are our top tips on everything you need to know about visiting Philadelphia with kids.
Things to do in Philadelphia with kids
Please Touch Museum
When planning our USA adventure I knew I had to include Philadelphia on our visit simply because I had heard so many great things about the Please Touch museum. As the name suggests, this museum is dedicated to teaching children through play and totally follows through on this promise. There’s so much to see and do, you could easily spend a full day here, we only had a morning but 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 take tea with the mad hatter, get lost in the hedge maze and even paint some roses red! Pipers favourite part of her visit was the Woodside Park Dentzel carousel which is $3 extra but well worth the charge.
Other best bits include the River Adventures water area where kids can learn all about water flow, City Capers, where they can really indulge their imaginations and try out various grown up jobs in venues such as a hospital, restaurant and shopping centre and Roadside Attractions which allows them to explore a real car, play at being mechanics and drive a trolley.
The museum is definitely geared towards younger kids and preschoolers but Piper is 7 and still loved getting stuck in. Some exhibits are starting to show a little wear and tear but the kids don’t seem to mind so it didn’t really impact our enjoyment.
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 makes for a fab photo opportunity. The steps aren’t too much of a challenge to run up, even in the heat of summer and if you have time to visit the Art Gallery whilst you’re there, even better!
Sister Cities Park
We loved this cute little park which was located just a few minutes from our hotel. When we visited, the famous “LOVE” sculpture was closed for maintenance. This park is where you’ll find its replacement “AMOR”. Make sure you get a quick pic with the sign and take a breather in the park. There’s 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.
The Franklin Institute
Built in honour of one of Americas most famous scientists – Benjamin Franklin, the Institute is one of the oldest and best centres for science education and development in the USA and is my absolutely favourite place to visit in Philly. It’s a hands on and totally interactive science museum with plenty to learn for both the 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 the 18 ft 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 40ft track.
There’s also the Franklin Air Show which introduces you 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 the planet.
Some exhibits dedicated to the physiology of the human body are a bit gory. My seven year old loved it all but you can easily bypass these areas if you have more sensitive little ones.
The Liberty Bell
You can’t visit Philadelphia without taking a trip to see the iconic bell itself. It’s a great opportunity to teach kids a little American history. It’s best to visit out of season or later in the day to avoid the queues. We arrived at about 4pm on a hot July day and had to wait around 30mins to get through security. We struggled to get a clear picture with the bell itself. Once in, you walk through a small section of informational exhibits. These are all interesting but probably wont hold the littles ones attention for too long. The bell is right at the end as you would expect, in front of a huge glass wall overlooking Independence Hall and the bell tower where the bell was originally housed. It’s free to visit and you don’t need a timed ticket.
Unlike the Liberty bell, you will need timed tickets to enter Independence Hall. These can be found at the NPS desk in the Independence Visitor Centre on the day you want to visit. They are free but you may need to be flexible about your time slot. Tours last between 30 to 40 minutes. This is also the place to view original printed versions of the Constitution, Articles of Confederation and the Declaration of Independence. We found all the rangers to be extremely knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions. From the simple to the complex and another great opportunity to learn all about the work of the founding fathers.
Top Tip: I highly recommend using the Phlash Bus to navigate around the city. It runs every 5 minutes to most places mentioned above and is just $5 for a full days pass. Make sure you have cash to purchase your pass on the bus, it will save you a $1.50 online fee.
What to eat in Philadelphia with kids
It goes without saying that when in Philly, you need to try a Philly cheese steak. These are soft (or sometimes crusty) bread rolls stuffed with shredded beef and stringy cheese. I wasn’t a massive fan but you know, when in Philly…….
If you can squeeze it in, I highly recommend a visit to Reading Terminal Market. This is one of the oldest indoor farmers markets in the Country. It’s like a huge food court, full of gorgeous treats and places to buy a meal. They are guaranteed to have something to please everyone in the family. It does get quite busy so be sure to keep the little ones close so they don’t get too overwhelmed.
Where to stay
We chose to stay in the lovely Windsor Suiteswhich is within walking distance to most of the attractions of Philadelphia, plenty of restaurants and grocery stores but far enough away from the nightlife to be peaceful enough for kids.
We were blown away by the apartment style rooms after a very cramped stay in Boston. Included in the apartment was a small but perfectly fitted kitchen, heaps of storage space and a huge cosy bed. The hotel has a rooftop pool which is open during the summer months. Also a laundry room and some of the friendliest hotel staff we have come across.
They have an onsite pub/restaurant which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It had a friendly atmosphere and tasty food. But we mainly ate in the room, taking full advantage of the superbly equipped kitchen.
All this was just 3 day’s worth of adventuring. Philadelphia has so many more family friendly activities, we would love to return and see more. What are your favourite places to visit in Philadelphia with kids? Let me know in the comments below.