The city of Philadelphia is well known for its contributions to American history, delicious cheesesteaks and rowdy sports fans. It’s one of the country’s great east coast cities that’s packed with things to do, see, tour and eat. While it’s a great destination for all ages, there are so many things to do in Philadelphia for kids that it’s gaining a reputation as a family travel hotspot. To prove that point, here are ten of the best things to do with children in Philadelphia. They’re perfect activities and attractions to add to your family travel itinerary.
Things to do in Philly with kids
Please Touch Museum
The Please Touch Museum is a children’s museum with interactive exhibits that, as the name suggests, encourages tactile learning. On two floors of the museum kids learn through playing.
Among the most popular permanent exhibits are the Rocket Room, where kids enter mission control and navigate a space exhibit with planets and celestial bodies hanging from the ceiling. In the Dollars and Cents room, kids can explore the money maze and learn about saving and investing through games. It’s a wonderful and engaging place for kids to learn through hands-on activities.
What family doesn’t relish a trip for ice cream while traveling? In Philadelphia, the best place to take your kids for ice cream (or non-dairy ice cream) is The Franklin Fountain. It’s located in Old City, the historic area of Philadelphia. Just steps from the former home of Benjamin Franklin, the ice cream parlor was established in his spirit.
Inside, you’ll find bow-tie clad staff and the trappings of a vintage American ice cream and soda fountain hang out. It’s the perfect place to cap off a day of touring or to grab a cone and walk around the historic neighborhood.
If you pay in cash, walk your loose change four blocks to 4th and Arch Street. There you’ll find Christ Church Burial Grounds, the site of Benjamin Franklin’s final resting place. In Philadelphia, it’s customary to toss a penny on Franklin’s grave marker in tribute to his famous saying “a penny saved is a penny earned”.
This one is a little bit outside of the city limits, but if you have time to visit Sesame Place your children will love it. Located around 30 minutes north of the city, Sesame Place is one of the best day trips from Philadelphia. The amusement park is loaded with things to do with children including family rides like Oscar’s Wacky Taxi.
Sesame Place also has water rides and shows that feature all of your kids favorite fuzzy friends. You can also book dining experiences like dinner with Elmo. Sesame Place is the world’s first certified Autism Center which makes it an incredibly inclusive and safe amusement park for all children.
Blue Cross Riverrink
Philadelphia is a city between two rivers and the largest and most scenic is the Delaware River to its east. The waterway is the border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey and the Penn’s Landing waterfront area is one of the prettiest places in the city.
While your kids will enjoy the views of the river and the Ben Franklin Bridge, the most fun part of the waterfront is the Blue Cross Riverrink. It’s a year round attraction with ice skating in the winter and roller skating in the summer months.
The Olympic-sized skating rink attracts kids of all ages and is surrounded by relaxing cabins, picnic tables and a refreshment area to enjoy in between skating. (It’s one of the best places to go for Christmas in Philadelphia).
Philadelphia is a city of “firsts” and that includes America’s first true zoo. The Philadelphia Zoo is located in the Centennial district and was first commissioned in 1859, but the opening was delayed due to the Civil War. Its doors opened in 1874 and the zoo has been one of the best things to do in Philadelphia with kids ever since.
Philadelphia Zoo features over 1,300 animals across 42 acres of exhibits with a mission of conservation and education. As a tip, parking at the zoo will cost at least $17, but it’s possible to take public transportation or even a ride-share to save money in the process.
While the significance may be missed on the very youngest children, it’s hard not to include one of America’s most important buildings – Independence Hall. It’s the birthplace of the country and the location where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed.
The building is also one of the Philadelphia historical sites that can be toured for free. Arrange a free guided tour at The Independence Visitor’s Center located across the street. Tours are about 40 minutes long, so perfect for short attention spans, and they’re conducted by park rangers of Independence National Historical Park.
Philadelphia is one of America’s great sports cities, and if you’re lucky enough to visit during baseball season, take the kids to a Phillies game. Citizens Bank Park, the baseball stadium in Philly, is one of the most family-friendly stadiums in the league.
The park opens two hours early, so you can enter before the crowds and watch batting practice. Along the first-base entrance your kids can enjoy the Phanatic Phun Zone, a playground with slides, tunnels and a toddlers-only section. There are special food stands for kids in sections 112 and 318 and all children love the team’s mascot, the Phillie Phanatic. He even performs before the game and after the 5th inning and 7th inning stretch.
One of America’s most iconic symbols is Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell. Like Independence Hall, it doesn’t take long to visit and is free for visitors. The Liberty Bell annex is a narrow building that depicts the history of the important symbol as you make your way towards it.
While you’re not permitted to touch the Liberty Bell, you can take some time to pose for a photo in front of it and ensure that your children have the keepsake photo to remember your trip.
While it’s technically located across the river in Camden, New Jersey, a visit to Adventure Aquarium is perfect for kids. You can also add to the fun of the excursion by taking the hourly RiverLink Ferry across the Delaware River.
Once in Camden it’s a short walk to Adventure Aquarium, featuring over 15,000 aquatic animals. Inside, children love the chance to pet a stingray at Stingray Beach Club or gaze at the hippos in Hippo Haven. Adventure Aquarium is also home to the largest collection of sharks in the northeast.
The legacy of Benjamin Franklin lives on through the incredible Franklin Institute. It’s an interactive science museum that cleverly teaches visitors through relatable exhibits like Sports Zone, an exhibit that uncovers the science of sports.
Other favorites include the Giant Heart and the Electricity, one that would have no doubt been a favorite of the museum’s namesake. The Franklin Institute also includes an exciting planetarium and IMAX theatre with informative presentations and movies. It’s one of the best places to visit in Philadelphia with kids because they will have so much fun they won’t even realize they’re learning.
The city of Philadelphia is nothing short of amazing. It’s one of America’s best cities for foodies, history lovers and sports fans of all ages. There’s truly something for everyone and it’s a fantastic family destination because of the affordable accommodation in the city’s safe downtown area. Use this list of activities as a basis for your trip planning, and find out even more reasons why Philadelphia is the best American city to visit with your kids.
Author Bio: Derek Hartman and Mike Walsh are Pennsylvania natives who now live abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. They’re the creators behind the website and YouTube channel Robe Trotting and Everything Copenhagen where they share content on Copenhagen, traveling the world and living abroad.