Our “See the USA” series has taken us through the alphabet exploring some beautiful destinations around the country you might want to put on your travel radar (if you haven’t already). Hopefully you caught the best of Orlando (outside the theme parks) last week and Newport, Rhode Island the week before. This week we’ve reached letter P and Philadelphia, a city I’ve always wanted to visit. This week I have Sarah who writes as Philadelphia Traveling Mom on TravelingMom.com sharing the top 5 family friendly things to do in Philadelphia!
Top 5 Family Friendly Things to do in Philadelphia
Philadelphia has a lot to offer kids, from Philly’s famous science museum, to its welcoming Center City parks, to the great food at Reading Terminal Market, and more.
If you’re visiting Philadelphia with little kids, take a tip from a local. Only Philly insiders know about Smith Playground. Imagine a 3-storey mansion, with each floor a giant open space where little kids can ride tricycles, climb into play trains, and put on puppet shows. Imagine the mansion is surrounded by a huge outdoor playground. Imagine the playground includes a giant slide 13 feet wide, made of polished wood like a bowling alley, where 4, 5, or even 6 kids across can slide down at once, like bowling balls. Kids – and adults – love it.
That’s Smith Playground in Philadelphia. The house was never meant to be lived in, but was designed as a playhouse for kids. It has been open as a playhouse since 1899. This is a great spot for kids about 9 and under. And it’s free!
Reading Terminal Market
Do your kids like trying new foods? You can get just about anything to eat at Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market (12th and Arch), where farmers, bakers, butchers, and restaurants have been selling great food since 1892. No national chains here. Instead, you’ll find Pennsylvania Dutch farmers, Italian and Amish bakeries, food stands selling everything from Mexican tamales to Middleastern tabouli to Southern ribs to Thai food – and more. It’s fun to watch the bakers squirting cream inside the donuts, or watch the pretzel makers stretching the dough. Come hungry. And you might even get to hear free music.
Philadelphia Magic Gardens
Once upon a time, an eccentric artist transformed a building and adjacent lot by covering its walls and floors with a brightly colored mosaic of broken tiles and mirrors. He used bicycle wheels, bottles, teacups, and other objects to build tunnels and sculptures in the space. The mosaic grew and grew until it covered half a block. And in 2008, the artist invited the public to visit the magically transformed space. This unique inspired zaniness is called Philadelphia Magic Gardens (near 10th and South), a beautiful urban dreamscape. The artist, Isaiah Zagar, still sometimes teaches at the space.
Center City Philadelphia Parks for Kids
Philadelphia’s Center City has wonderful small parks where kids can play. In warm weather, kids can splash in the fountain jets at Dilworth Park, located at the foot of City Hall. Kids under 5 will enjoy the sprinkler and wading pool at tiny Sister Cities Park (18th and Benjamin Franklin Parkway). Franklin Square, one of the squares originally laid out by William Penn when he planned the city, has a pretty fountain, a playground, mini golf featuring iconic Philly buildings, and a carousel (between 6th and 7th on Race). The park is free; food, mini-golf, and the carousel charge.
My favorite is Spruce Street Harbor Park, a quirky Philly space on a converted dock on the Delaware River (Columbus Blvd and Spruce) that pops up only from spring to September. Last year, 750,000 people visited to enjoy its floating garden, net seating extending over the water, urban beach, colorful hammocks and lights dripping from trees, along with the river view. This park feels like an outdoor party for people of all ages (well, until night falls). The park is free; arcade games, food, and drinks are not.
The Franklin Institute
If you’re visiting Philadelphia with kids, you probably know about Philly’s terrific science museum, The Franklin Institute. But if not, it deserves a shout out. This massive science museum encourages kids to physically interact with its exhibits. A perennial favorite is the Giant Heart that kids can walk through, as if they were blood coursing through the heart. In the Sports Zone, kids can test their pitching, surfing, and running skills. The Franklin Institute has a planetarium and regularly shows a variety of movies in its IMAX theater screen. This is a great spot for kids, though toddlers might be overwhelmed.
What’s your favorite place to explore in Philadelphia?
Sarah Ricks is Philadelphia Traveling Mom on the Traveling Mom website. She loves seeing and tasting what’s unique about a place, its history, architecture and culture, and exploring Philadelphia when she isn’t traveling. Follow her as Very Hungry Traveller on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter.