Though many visitors come to Philadelphia to get a first-hand look at the birthplace of modern democracy and experience the historical sites, the City of Brotherly Love is also home to many family friendly attractions, where children can pique their interest, make new discoveries, and learn while playing.
For children and families with curious minds, The Franklin Institute welcomes visitors to discover the mysteries of the human brain, learn the mechanics of electricity, feel the forces of flight, or to challenge themselves in an escape room. Families may take in a movie together in the four-story IMAX® theater, reach for the stars in the planetarium, walk through a larger-than-life heart, and learn from Benjamin Franklin’s early electricity experiments.
Visiting families love exploring the hall of dinosaurs and marveling at the monarchs in the butterfly room at The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. For children aged 2 – 5, “Tiny Tot Explorers” offers a child and a parent the opportunity to team up and explore nature through song, game-play, hands-on activities, and museum adventures. Older kids pack sleeping bags for “Night in the Museum,” where they can enjoy interactive activities, meet live animals, and sleep beneath the dinosaurs.
Since 1976, The Please Touch Museum® has thrilled children and their families through hands-on interactive exhibits with the mission to change a child’s life as they discover the power of learning through play. Located in Fairmount Park West, the vast space is home to more than 12 permanent and temporary exhibits. Kid favorites include assembling and launching rockets in the Rocket Room, having a tea party with the Mad Hatter beneath a towering faux tree in the Wonderland exhibit, building towers and sculptures out of giant foam blocks in Imagination Playground, and dawning protective smocks to keep dry while piloting boats and rubber ducks along the waterway in River Adventures. Grab a bite in the on-site café, or relax and enjoy shows and special programs in the Live Theater. The museum’s newest permanent gallery, Healthy Me, Healthy Family, Healthy Community teaches kids about the importance of nutrition and sustainability.
America’s first zoo, The Philadelphia Zoo invites families to spend the day wandering through Big Cat Crossing to get up close and personal with Bengal tigers and lions as they stroll through a network of elevated pathways overhead, as part of the stunning Zoo360 trail system. Kids also love watching the South American giant river otters twirl and play right before their eyes, observing the Gorillas caring for their new babies, peering up in wonder at the tall giraffes, and petting goats in the KidZooU area. The zoo enables kids to be kids in an indoor tree house with larger-than-life insects, dinosaur eggs and tunnels throughout, to take a ride on a leopard on the carousel, or paddle with mom and dad in a giant swan boat on a tranquil pond. When the weather is warm enough, older kids and parents alike enjoy the views of the city skyline from a tethered hot air Zoo balloon. Plus, face painting, fountains, cafes, free-roaming peacocks and more.
For aspiring artists, The Philadelphia Museum of Art offers a variety of kid-friendly programming, and admission for children 12 years of age and younger is always free. Year round, children are awed and inspired by permanent exhibitions including impressionists, South Asian Art, a hall of armor, a terraced outdoor sculpture garden, and so much more. The Philadelphia Museum of Art hosts children’s art classes, a stroller tour, and opportunities to make art, sketch and play games among the masterpieces. In the summertime, the popular Art Splash program empowers children to develop a love of art with their parents through art-making activities, themed tours, sing along musical performances, and more.
Home to one of the world’s greatest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern European paintings, The Barnes Foundation offers fun art-focused programming for children including special tours, Barnes Toddler Time where children aged 2-4 and their caregivers participate in art making, story time, and movement activities, as well as Free First Sunday Family Day where kids K-12 create their own works of art, enjoy live performances, and more.
An 18-hole Philadelphia-themed mini-golf course, playground, carousel and a beautiful fountain, all make Franklin Square Park, one of Philadelphia’s original 5 squares (maintained by Historic Philadelphia) a wonderful place to find family fun and excitement. Kids can put through the Liberty Bell, take a ride on Smarty Jones on the carousel and climb to their heart’s content on one of Philadelphia’s best playgrounds. Families can refuel at the park restaurant, SquareBurger, and dine on crowd-pleasers like burgers, chicken fingers, cheesesteak fries, and milkshakes.
A long-time favorite place to play in the city for more than a century, Smith Memorial Playground in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, welcomes over 200,000 visitors annually. The playground is open to the public free of charge, although donations are appreciated. Kids choose from three full floors of indoor creative-play activities inside the 16,000 square foot playhouse, and frolic around the amazing outdoor playground, complete with a giant wooden slide. On Tuesdays, Smith hosts Family Morning where no groups are allowed and it is less crowded, as well as story time on Wednesdays. The playground also puts on fun annual events like Play-A-Palooza, Kidchella Music Festival, Healthy Halloween, and Winter Wonderland.
Recognized as the official arboretum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and listed on The National Register of Historic Places, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania is one of Philadelphia’s most beautiful treasures in all seasons of the year, and a wonderful place for children and families to connect with nature. Families explore and play their way through the 92-acre beautifully manicured gardens, which contain 13,000 labeled trees and plants from around the world, and several sculptures throughout. Kids especially love the swan pond, log cabin, fernery, and bullfrog sculpture. Families stroll “Out On A Limb,” among the tall tree tops where they are able to bird watch and identify plants, enter a larger-than-life bird nest with giant robin’s eggs inside, and climb around in large hammock-like nets high above the forest floor. For the little ones (from May-October and around the holidays), the crowned jewel is the Garden Railway, an impressive network of miniature trains that weave through bushes and greenery, and across overhead bridges. The arboretum offers family-centric programming throughout the year including story time, nature walks, yoga, and many other classes, festivals, and events.
A short jaunt over the Delaware River, an “Ocean Realm” of over 1,500 species of fish awaits at Adventure Aquarium. Family favorites include Penguin Island, Sea Turtle Cove, Hippo Haven, and Shark Bridge, where families can walk the longest V-shaped rope suspension bridge in the world just inches above the Shark Realm exhibit. Kids are also invited to get to know sea life through an exhilarating tactile experience of touching smaller sharks and stingrays.
The Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) is the official tourism promotion agency for the City of Philadelphia.
Updated May 17, 2018