As well as being one of America’s most historic cities, Philadelphia is easy to navigate and it offers some very child-friendly attractions and places to visit. Here are our top 10 fun things to do in Philadelphia with kids:
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#1. Walk Through a Heart at The Franklin Institute
Philadelphia’s science museum The Franklin Institute offers kid-friendly and interactive exhibitions such as The Giant Heart which you can walk through, Space Command, Electricity and Changing Earth, as well as the permanent interactive and high tech exhibition Your Brain. There’s also a Planetarium, and Tuttleman IMAX® and Franklin Theater where you can watch 3D films.
They also have a cool visit planner where you can pick how many hours you have available and get recommendations on the best things to do during your visit.
#2. Send a Postcard Home from Franklin Court
Franklin Court is the site of Benjamin Franklin’s house built in 1763 which he owned until his death in 1790. On the site you can see the archaeological remains of the house and read quotes from letters.
Underground is the Benjamin Franklin Museum, a fun, interactive museum that explores Franklin’s life and character through artifacts, animations, and hands-on interactives.
The Franklin Court complex also includes a working reproduction of an 18th century printing office, an architectural/archeological exhibit, and an operating post office. Be sure to visit the Post Office and send a postcard with the Franklin post mark!
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#3. 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.
#4. Ride across the Delaware
Take a scenic RiverLink Ferry ride from one state to another, from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. This gentle boat ride takes about 15 minutes to cross the river and 15 minutes back.
On the Delaware side you will find attractions such as the Adventure Aquarium (NB a little on the pricey side at $100 for 2 adults+2 kids) which has a 4-D experience theater plus hippos, stingrays & an underwater shark tunnel and the Battleship NJ, America’s most decorated Battleship and now an interactive museum.
#5. 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.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art also offers plenty of Family Programs that allow children and parents to learn, create, and most important, have fun together. All programs and events are free. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Visitor Services Desk.
We enjoyed their Picasso collection, posing in front of one of the Degas ballet dancer statues and the peaceful Japanese Tea House on the top floor near the cafe.
#6. 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.
#7. Feel Independent at the Independence National Historic Park
The Independence National Historic Park covers a number of blocks and has 20 historic buildings including Independence Hall where the Constitution was signed and the famous Liberty Bell.
It’s a pleasant area to wander around in as well as visiting some of the key buildings. You will find storytelling benches scattered around the park, where you can grab a seat and have a listen to one of the specially trained storytellers at regular intervals.
You will need tickets to visit Independence Hall, you can turn up and buy them but we recommend booking online to get the time you want. You will have to go through security and be there 15 minutes prior to your tour time, so allow extra time to collect your tickets from the Visitor Centre and then walk across to go through that security check.
#8. See a Mummy at University of Pennsylvania Museum
Kids love Mummies and you can find plenty of them at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. And in the Artifact Lab: Conserving Egyptian Mummies, you can even watch a conservator at work and ask questions!
In the museum you will also find
- a 15-ton Egyptian sphinx
- some of the world’s oldest writing
- architectural elements from the 3,200-year-old palace of the pharaoh Merenptah
- the 4,500-year-old jewelry of Queen Puabi’s from the Mesopotamian Royal Cemetery at Ur (in modern-day Iraq)
- towering ancient Maya stone monuments and
- evocative masks from West Africa
We also enjoyed Native American Voices—The People, Here and Now, an artifact and media rich show that aims to challenge common Native American stereotypes.
#9. Franklin Square
Make sure to fit in a visit to Franklin Square with the kids. It’s one of the 5 original squares planned by city founder William Penn.
There’s an old fashioned Carousel as well as mini golf miniature golf course, featuring 18 holes designed after favorite Philly spots like Elfreth’s Alley, the Ben Franklin Bridge and the Liberty Bell.
There are regular summer events for families such as Saturday Night @ the Movies.
#10. Betsy Ross House
You will know Betsy Ross as the maker of the first Stars & Stripes flag. In the interactive Betsy Ross House you can learn about her life and the legend. A nice touch is that they have kids audio tours as well as the adult ones you normally find at attractions.
Every morning at 10 am in the summer kids can participate in a free flag-raising event with Betsy and a friend from Colonial times. There’s also a week-long Flag Fest celebration with free events every summer.
Elfreth’s Alley is located around the corner from Betsy Ross house. This cobblestoned street is the oldest residential street in America and worth a quick visit while you are near.
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 thing to do in Philadelphia with kids? Tell us in the comments below.