New York City, NY

5 Fun Things to Do in Philadelphia With Kids

By Allison Tibaldi
Independence National Historical Park in PhiladelphiaPhoto by Phillip Goldsberry

Philadelphia is an unbeatable weekend getaway for New York City families. Located less than two hours from NYC, it’s a snap to reach via public transportation, barely giving the tykes time to say “are we there yet?” Laid out in an easy-to-explore grid, it is both pedestrian and stroller friendly. It has a viable network of buses, a subway system and an extensive network of commuter trains for exploring farther afield.

If this sounds awfully familiar, Philadelphia does share some of the Big Apple’s urban flair. Pint-sized New Yorkers will feel right at home surrounded by the town’s big city verve, complete with Fresh Direct trucks making the delivery rounds. But don’t get any ideas about calling it the sixth borough. Philadelphia is utterly its own gal, dense with history, museums and attractions. The City of Brotherly Love is so captivating your kids may call a truce and experience a weekend of sibling peace. With so many attention-grabbing activities, they’ll be too busy to bicker.

Philadelphia Museums

1. Franklin Institute |
This is one of the country’s oldest and most celebrated science museums. Despite its venerable status, the world of science is explored in a thoroughly modern way. Meander through a replica of a human heart, ride a sky bike across a 1-inch cable and engineer a working 350-ton locomotive before hitting the planetarium and IMAX Theater.

2. Please Touch Museum |
Catering to the eight and under crowd, this museum is 100% hands-on. There are six interactive zones that encourage learning through imaginative play. Developmentally appropriate art activities are on tap throughout the day. The Playhouse Theater preforms 25-minute live shows daily, the perfect duration for the preschool set. The fully refurbished 1908 carousel is a showstopper.

3. Academy of Natural Sciences |
The Dinosaur Hall here is huge, making it Philadelphia’s top destination for budding paleontologists.  The butterfly exhibit presents colorful winged beauties flying freely in a reproduction of a tropical rainforest.  The Live Animal Center is home to more than 100 live birds, mammals, reptiles and invertebrates.

4. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology |
Egyptophile families should head straight to the basement to check out the human and animal mummies. The museum’s lauded collection includes nearly one million artifacts of civilizations past and present, including a monumental granite sphinx, three-dimensional Egyptian sculptures and excavated parts of an Egyptian royal palace. Greek, Roman, Etruscan, Islamic and Native American cultures are also well represented.

5. Independence National Historical Park |
Known as America’s most historic square mile, you could easily spend the day strolling this compact area that brings elementary school history lessons to life. Some 20 of its buildings are open to the public. Start at the Independence Visitor’s Center so the kids can get a free Junior Ranger Activity Book. This is also where you can pick up free, same-day tickets to tour Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed. The Liberty Bell Center, home to that cracked bronze symbol of freedom, is also located in the Old City. A photo of the kids next to the bell is de rigueur. The oldest Mint in the country is definitely worth a visit. Kids love watching all stages of the efficient minting process, with the machines striking over one million shiny coins each hour. Self-guided tours are free on weekdays. Adults need a state issued photo I.D.

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offMetro is a travel resource for city dwellers who want to get out of town–car-optional. oM reports on the best day trips and weekend getaways that are easily accessible via alternative modes of transportation, be it by bike, bus, subway, or boat. If you can’t make the weekends longer, strive to make them better.

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