Philadelphia is one of America’s most historic cities, but you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy it. There are plenty of free and inexpensive things to do in Philadelphia. Here is our selection of 10 free things to do in Philadelphia with kids:
#1. Pose in front of LOVE
Philadelphia is known as the City of Brotherly Love and you can visit the iconic LOVE Statue, the Robert Indiana sculpture in John F. Kennedy Plaza, northwest of City Hall. Just join the line to take your turn at getting your photo taken in front of the statue.
But did you know there’s another LOVE Statue you can visit on the campus of University of Pennsylvania? This one graces the triangular grounds of Blanche Levy Park on 36th and Locust Walk and is a larger version of the original one downtown. Bonus: you won’t have to queue to get your photo taken here!
We also enjoyed a visit to the nearby University Bookstore browsing its excellent collection of books, stationery, University clothing and gifts.
#2. Liberty Bell Center
The State House Bell now known as the Liberty Bell used to ring in the tower in the Pennsylvania State House. The story of its famous crack was never recorded so no one is exactly sure when or why the Bell cracked.
The inscription on the bell states “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof”. This became a rallying cry for abolitionists working to end slavery.
No tickets are required, visiting is done on a first come first served basis, lines can be long during summer peak times so go early. There is an exhibition and a 10 minute video presentation about the Bell.
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#3. See Money Being Made at the US Mint
Ever wondered how money is made? You can get to see how at the US Mint. The tour is free and self-guided, it takes about 45 minutes.
- View the actual coining operations from 40 feet above the factory floor.
- See the first coining press, used to strike our nation’s first coins in 1792.
- See the Key to the First Mint, and the Mint Deed signed by President Andrew Jackson.
- Marvel at the seven glass mosaics created by Tiffany of New York to celebrate the opening of the Third Mint building in 1901.
- Meet Peter the Mint Eagle, a real Bald Eagle who made the First United States Mint his home. Today’s Mint artists still study Peter when working on new eagle designs.
NB Adults will be asked to provide government-issued photo identification for security purposes. All visitors are required to enter through a metal detector.
#4. See America’s Oldest Residential Street at Elfreth’s Alley
Elfreth’s Alley is located not far from the Betsy Ross House. This cobblestoned street is the oldest residential street in America, dating back to 1702. The Alley preserves three centuries of evolution through its old-fashioned flower boxes, shutters, Flemish bond brickwork and other architectural details.
Two adjacent houses, built in 1755, are now a museum and are open to the public. The tour, which tells the story of two dressmakers who ran a sewing business at Elfreth’s Alley.
#5. People Watch at Rittenhouse Square
Named for astronomer and clockmaker David Rittenhouse, Rittenhouse Square, one of the 5 original squares planned by city founder William Penn in the late 17th century, is where visitors and locals gather for picnics, brown-bag lunches or just strolling amid the trees, manicured lawns and sculptures.
The family-friendly park is one of the most lovely and peaceful spots in which to paint, read, relax on a park bench or catch-up with friends. Rittenhouse Square is the site of annual flower markets and outdoor art exhibitions. More than any of the other squares, it also functions as a neighborhood park. Office workers eat their lunches on the benches; parents bring children to play; and many people stroll through to admire the plants, sculptures, or the fat and saucy squirrels.
The day we visited we heard a trumpeter playing jazz and watched a beautifully dressed old lady take her cat for a walk on a long leash!
#6. Cool off at a Sprayground or Swimming Pool
Did you know there are 71 outdoor public pools in Philadelphia? Pick a new one to visit and head out for some cooling time!
You will also find spraygrounds dotted about the city, ideal for beating the heat.
Check out the StayCoolMap for locations.
#7. Swing in a Hammock at the Popup Park at Spruce Street Harbor
This was the highlight of our visit to Philadelphia! Every summer there is a pop up park at Spruce Street Harbor Park which is free to visit during the summer months. As well as offering food & drink options from takeaway to sit down restaurants, you will be able to:
- Swing in a colorful hammock with a canopy of lights
- Play FREE giant games like chess, connect four and Jenga
- Bocce, shuffleboard and ping-pong all at the water’s edge
- Listen to music and watch circus performers throughout the weekend
- Cool off in one of the fountains.
#8. Run up the Rocky Steps at Philadelphia Art Museum
A must-see stop for any visit to Philadelphia is the Philadelphia Art Museum. Make sure you pose in front of the Rocky statue at the front of the Museum then have a go at running up the steps!
Children under 12 go free to the museum and the first Sunday of every month and every Wednesday after 5:00 p.m. is Pay What You Wish for adults.
#9. Edgar Allan Poe House
A little off the beaten track, you will find Edgar Allan Poe’s house at 532 N. 7th Street, on-street parking is usually available near the house.
Described as horrifying, mystifying, and full of genius, Poe’s writing has engaged readers all over the globe. The six years Poe lived in Philadelphia were his happiest and most productive. Yet Poe also struggled with bad luck, personal demons and his wife’s tuberculosis.
The site includes the original home (unfurnished) where Poe lived in ca.1843-1844 as well as an adjoining home with exhibits exploring Poe and publishing, Philadelphia through Poe’s eyes, and Poe and his family. Visitors to the site may opt for a self-guided tour, or request a ranger-led tour.
There was a short but informative audio-visual film that we enjoyed, and there is a kids activity sheet for them to have fun hunting around for answers to clues.
#10. Schuylkill River Trail and BoardWalk
The Schuylkill (pronounced SKOOKIL) River runs through Philadelphia city centre, with the River Trail, a recreational path that runs along the Schuylkill River from Center City Philadelphia, through Valley Forge National Historical Park in Montgomery County and ends in Phoenixville, Chester County. The 26.5-mile trail is a favorite for bicycle clubs, families, runners and walkers.
Three years in the making, the recently opened Boardwalk is an over-the-water extension of the existing Schuylkill River Trail. It is a 2,000-foot-long concrete pathway along the shoreline from Locust Street another four blocks south to connect to the South Street Bridge. The riverside path is 15-feet wide and includes four scenic overlooks for those who want to relax and take in spectacular waterfront views of the Philadelphia Skyline. We enjoyed a riverside stroll from near the station to the Philadelphia Art Museum.
You might also enjoy some of our other USA city guides:
- 10 Free Things to do with Kids in Boston
- 10 Free Things to do with Kids in New York City
- 10 Free Things to do with Kids in Los Angeles
- 10 Free Things to do with Kids in Seattle
- 10 Free Things to do with Kids in Chicago
- 10 Free Things to do with kids in Atlanta
- 10 Free Things to do with Kids in Orlando
Over to you now! What’s your favourite free thing to do in Philadelphia with kids? Tell us in the comments below.