If you’ve chosen Philadelphia for your next family vacation, you’re coming to the right place!
What’s so special about Philly? For starters, the district known as Old City Philadelphia has an amazing numbers of sites and attractions, all within walking distance of each other. For a change of pace, try renting bikes for one or more riders, or take a tour around town on Philly’s famous 15-passenger pedicycles.
Don’t worry — you won’t get lost in Philly. Old City has plenty of informational signage to keep you headed in the right direction, and the city’s streets are laid out on a grid system with most east-west streets named after trees (e.g. Chestnut, Walnut, Spruce) and most north-south streets numbered.
Must-Dos in Philly
A family photo next to the Liberty Bell is one of the first of many memories to be made in Philly. Admission to the Liberty Bell Center is free — an added bonus.
Next, walk over to Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. George Washington’s “rising sun” chair is here, as is the original inkstand used for the signing. Admission is free here also, but from March through December everyone needs a ticket, and a limited number are given out each day. For a small fee, you’re able to reserve tickets in advance.
A copy of the first printing of the Constitution is at the National Constitution Center, where an interactive display lets you add your signature to the famous document. The center is a great place to spend an entire day with the kids.
Get to know more about Philly’s most famous citizen at the Benjamin Franklin Museum. For die-hard Franklin fans, there’s also the Franklin’s Footsteps Itinerary, a walking tour of Franklin’s old haunts.
The kids will never forget the Please Touch Museum. Loaded with hands-on fun that encourages kids to learn by doing, Please Touch has special areas for the very little ones, themes play spaces, an enchanting carousel and more. Please Touch is located inside Memorial Hall at Fairmount Park.
The Franklin Institute is also a museum that’s great for kids, with amazing hands-on exhibits like a walk-through heart and a glow-in-the-dark Spirograph machine. The institute also houses the Tuttleman domed IMAX Theater, a steam engine, an observatory, and exhibits on weather, electricity and machines.
Just around the corner is another photo opp at the entrance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where visitors can race up the “Rocky Steps” immortalized by the “Rocky” movies.
Head over to The Philadelphia Zoo to see more than 1,300 birds, mammals, reptiles and endangered animals. The zoo’s exhibits and programs allow visitors to get up close to animals and even participate in the feeding of some in the children’s area.
A Break in the Shade
Philly has a great park system that invites at least an afternoon of picnic and play. Anchored by a striking blue-water fountain, Franklin Square was ranked by Yahoo.com as one of the nation’s top five playgrounds. The park has a carousel, miniature golf course and popular burger stand.
Fairmount Park is more than 9,200 acres of everything a park should be. There are green spaces for picnic or play, trails for hiking or biking, stately mansions to explore, a playground for kids, water features, public art and a historic boathouse.
While in Philly, check out what’s happening at Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River, the site of year-round outdoor festivals, parades and fireworks, plus some of the best views of the city’s skyline.
Time to Eat
Take in the tastes of Philly while you’re in town. There are innumerable places to try a Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwich, a soft pretzel, old-fashioned ice cream, authentic Italian pizza, homemade kielbasa or a serving of scrapple (a kind of pork meatloaf).
Locals shop at the Reading Terminal Market, a popular place for fresh produce and locally produced foods such as meats, cheeses and baked goods from the Pennsylvania Dutch region.
Whatever your family’s tastes, Philadelphia has the amenities to make memories for a lifetime.
Prices: $62 for adults ages 13 and up. $39 for children ages 2-12.
Good for admission to five of seven attractions: The Franklin Institute, Adventure Aquarium, Philadelphia Trolley Works & The Big Bus Company, the Philadelphia Zoo or National Constitution Center, and the Eastern State Penitentiary or Please Touch Museum.
Independence Visitors Center
6th and Market Streets
Hours: Open daily. September – April, 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.; June – August, 8:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Benjamin Franklin Museum
317 Chestnut Street
Hours: Open daily, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission: $5 for adults, $2 for children ages 4-16, free for children age 3 and under.
520 Chestnut Street
Hours: Open daily, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission: Free but requires a ticket for each visitor March through December. A limited number of tickets are available each day; distribution begins at the hall starting at 8:30 a.m. During the busy summer months, tickets are often gone by 10:30 a.m. Reserve tickets in advance for a nominal fee of $1.50 per person through www.recreation.gov or by phone at 877-444-6777.
Liberty Bell Center
Market between 5th and 6th Streets
Hours: Open daily, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Gates close at 4:55 p.m.
National Constitution Center
525 Arch Street
Hours: Monday – Friday 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sunday 12 – 5 p.m. Admission: $14.50 for adults, $13 for seniors and youth, $8 for children ages 4-12. Free for active military and children age 3 and under.
Philadelphia Museum of Art “Rocky Steps”
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Please Touch Museum
4231 Avenue of the Republic
Hours: Monday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. Special hours Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Admission: $17 for children and adults. Check the website for discount options.
The Franklin Institute
222 N. 20th Street
Hours: Open daily, 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Day and on Franklin Awards Day (in April).
Admission: $16.50 for adults, $14 for children 3-11. Additional admission required for the IMAX.
The Philadelphia Zoo
3400 W. Girard Avenue
Hours: Open daily, 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. March - October; 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. November – February. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Admission: $16 for adults and children, kids under age 2 are free.
1 Boathouse Row
Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset
6th and Race Streets
Hours: Playground open daily 6 a.m. – 9 p.m. Other amenities open at 10 a.m. year round, weather permitting. Closing times vary. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Admission: Carousel $3 per person, children under age 2 free. Mini golf $9 adults, $7 ages 12 and under, children under age 2 free.
101 Columbus Boulevard
Reading Terminal Market
12th and Arch Streets
Hours: Monday – Saturday 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission: $4 parking
Check out even more great ideas in our eBook, “Top 15 Family-Friendly Activities in Philadelphia (for under $100).