Traveling with kids can be challenging, but Philadelphia makes it easy, offering family-friendly activities, fantastic food and opportunities to learn, grow and make lasting memories together.
Start in West Philadelphia for a hometown favorite. Keep the kids engaged (and feel like a kid again yourself) at the all-ages Please Touch Museum, where interacting and learning from whimsical exhibits is the name of the game.
Next, make your way to the Philadelphia Zoo – the nation’s oldest and one of the world’s best. The innovative Zoo360 experience allows tigers, gorillas and other animals to climb overhead as you move between exhibits. Whether you’re an herbivore or a carnivore, refuel with lunch at one of the themed eateries found throughout the zoo, such as the Urban Green open-air food marketplace.
Head back towards downtown and visit a Philadelphia treasure and one of the nation’s top science museums. Inspired by statesman, humorist and inventor Benjamin Franklin — and home to his national memorial — The Franklin Institute is known for its all-ages, hands-on exploration of key science concepts, including a giant walk-through heart, planetarium, immersive brain exhibit and more. Take a short stroll to the east and explore life-size dioramas, fossils, and other exhibits that examine biodiversity and environmental science at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University – the first natural sciences museum in the Americas.
Glance behind the scenes of our nation’s (and the world’s) largest producer of coins at the free-to-visit U.S. Mint in the historic district, then pick up limited-edition coins and other souvenirs in the gift shop. Afterwards, join Mural Arts Philadelphia for a walking, trolley, or train tour of the nation’s largest public art program to learn more about the engine behind a citywide movement that has resulted in over 4,000 colorful murals in neighborhoods throughout the city.
Great taste isn’t limited to our exhibits. The Parkway Museums District boasts a kid-friendly lineup of reservation-free pubs, taquerias, pizza parlors, and steakhouses, including Pizzeria Vetri and Iron Chef Jose Garces’ Buena Onda Tacos. For more family-friendly dining options in Philadelphia, click here.
Begin the day with an adventure through America’s maritime history at the Independence Seaport Museum along the Delaware River waterfront. Interact with hands-on exhibits inside the museum, then explore one of the two historic ships docked nearby. TIP: Visit in the summer months to enjoy on-water programming offered by the Independence Seaport Museum, including the ability to cruise around the Penn’s Landing basin in a paddleboat or row boat.
Stroll along the river’s edge to discover Philadelphia’s waterfront parks, including Spruce Street Harbor Park and a riverside rink that activates in the summer and winter with seasonal skating and more.
Hop aboard the RiverLink Ferry to sail across the Delaware River to Adventure Aquarium, which is home to over 8,000 marine animals including the largest shark collection in the Northeast. A short walk from the aquarium, explore the decks, halls, and corridors of the U.S. Navy’s most decorated battleship, the Battleship New Jersey. Signal your visit with a bang by firing the ship’s saluting gun.
Cruise back across the river and find a table in Society Hill. Restaurants, cafes and ice cream trim the cobblestone streets of this historic district. Starr Restaurant’s Pizzeria Stella offers classic pizza options for younger eaters, with creative toppings such as egg, goat cheese and black truffle for more adults.
It’s a short walk to Old City where you can explore the Betsy Ross House. There’s quite a bit to learn about our flag — and the woman who reportedly sewed it – as you tour the upholsterer’s former home along Arch Street. Stay in Old City and explore the greatest contributions of Jewish Americans at the National Museum of American Jewish History alongside Independence Hall, whose Only in America® Gallery honors Leonard Bernstein, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Steven Spielberg, and other extraordinary Jewish Americans who left their mark on the world.
Philadelphia has family-friendly mainstays for whatever you’re craving for dinner, such as Jose Garces’ University City taqueria, Distrito, which features a vintage Volkswagen Bug booth and hundreds of Lucha Libre masks hanging throughout the dining room.
A quick car or train ride from Center City brings you to Morris Arboretum – a 92-acre arboretum that is bursting with year-round greenery and plenty of kid-approved activities, including a 50-foot-high canopy walk. Next, stroll the leafy streets of Chestnut Hill and neighboring Mt. Airy for family-friendly restaurants and cafes (and visit a few toy stores and boutiques along the way).
Back in downtown Philadelphia, study the interactive exhibits of the African American Museum in Philadelphia – our nation’s first institution dedicated to the life and works of African Americans. Located nearby, Franklin Square is a Philadelphia classic, brimming with playgrounds, mini golf, a carousel and a nearly two-century-old fountain that puts on a memorable show during the spring, summer and fall, with a can’t miss holiday light show in the winter.
Explore one of Philadelphia’s newest attractions, the Faith and Liberty Discovery Center. This high-tech museum uses interactive experiences to lead guests of all-ages on a personalized journey to discover how faith influenced the nation’s founding and core American values. The Center also offers a free smartphone app, that features custom walking tours taking visitors to historic sites in neighborhoods around Philadelphia.
Spend part of the day at a live sporting event in South Philadelphia, where you can root for the Phillies, Flyers, Sixers or Eagles and meet some of the city’s most lovable mascots. If soccer is more your style, the home of the Philadelphia Union is just a short drive away in Chester, Pennsylvania.
For dinner, find something for everyone – kids included – at Craft Hall. This spacious bar and restaurant near the Delaware River waterfront has a BBQ-focused menu and features an indoor pirate-themed playground for younger visitors, with craft beer brewed on-site for adults. End your Philadelphia visit by bowling a few frames at North Bowl, a hip, retro-inspired bowling alley in Northern Liberties. A menu of specialty tater tots is at the ready should the family-friendly competition work up an appetite.
Cover photo: Franklin Square. Photo by J. Fusco for Historic Philadelphia.