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Philadelphia for Families

Kid-Friendly Museums
Philadelphia for Families
With ample playgrounds and outdoor spaces, museums boasting interactive and hands-on exhibits, family-friendly restaurants, and fun shopping options, a visit to Philadelphia is great for both kids and parents.
By Sue Manuel, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of M. Edlow/Visit Philadelphia
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    Kid-Friendly Museums
    Kid-Friendly Museums
    Located in Fairmount Park, the Please Touch Museum is an award-winning facility for kids up to seven years old, offering hands-on play experiences and a restored 1908 carousel in a glass pavilion. The Academy of Natural Sciences features dinosaurs, animal exhibits, and a butterfly garden. Its neighbor on Logan Circle, the Franklin Institute (named after Benjamin Franklin), has fun and interactive displays about electricity, sports, machines, motion, and technology.
    Photo courtesy of M. Edlow/Visit Philadelphia
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    Family Fun by the Water
    Family Fun by the Water
    Parents looking for great family-fun itineraries can begin at Penn's Landing on the Delaware riverfront, at one of the frequent outdoor festivals or concerts, or on a skating rink during the winter, or on the river itself, where swan boats (in the summer) provide entertainment. At the Independence Seaport Museum, kids can explore a docked World War II submarine (the Becuna) and then head across the river to Camden, New Jersey, on the RiverLink Ferry, a short and breezy ride. In Camden, the good times continue at the Adventure Aquarium or with a trip to the retired New Jersey battleship, now a floating museum.
    Photo by Sue Manuel
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    Where History Class Comes to Life
    Where History Class Comes to Life
    Everything the kids learned in American-history class can come to life with stops at the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Carpenters' Hall, Franklin Court, and the Betsy Ross House. Those with more time to explore can bring young ones to the Museum of the American Revolution at Third and Chestnut streets, where George Washington's original tent is on display alongside cool exhibits of Revolutionary-era weapons, manuscripts, and personal items.
    Photo by Sue Manuel
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    Historical Public Spaces
    Historical Public Spaces
    Families with younger kids may enjoy Sister Cities Park, adjacent to Logan Square (one of the city’s five original public spaces planned by William Penn) and close to both the Academy of Natural Sciences and the Franklin Institute. The plaza in the park features a fountain, a playground, and a Children’s Discovery Garden. There's a visitor center in the Logan Square Café. Another of the city's original public squares, Franklin Square, offers several family-friendly attractions, including a miniature-golf course with kid-size replicas of iconic Philly landmarks. Centered around a lovely fountain, the park is also the site of a vintage carousel, picnic area, and a restaurant.
    Photo by Sue Manuel
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    Trips to the Dark Side
    Trips to the Dark Side
    Parents with older kids might enjoy a visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary historic site, a former prison in the Fairmount section built in 1829 and used until 1971. Its cells were occupied by the famous and infamous, including gangster Al Capone and even a beagle. The prison offers a self-guided audio tour, hands-on exhibits, and art installations; it's not recommended for children under the age of seven. Also not ideal for little ones, but a hit with teens who like their attractions a little goth (and who can stomach some disturbing sights): the Mütter Museum. Even teenagers dead set on appearing bored during the family vacation will react to animal specimens floating in jars and vintage medical tools. Adventurous families can also try after-dark guided ghost tours of old Philadelphia, available from several local companies.
    Photo by Sue Manuel
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    Travel Back in Time
    Travel Back in Time
    Visitors seeking an immersive-history experience can get the sensation of traveling back in time to experience the homes, stories, and lives of early Americans, from everyday citizens to the city’s better-known previous inhabitants. Your first stop should be Elfreth’s Alley, the country’s oldest continuously occupied residential street. Most of the houses on the block are private homes, but houses 124 and 126 are open to the public. Guided tours begin in the Museum Shop, at number 124. Another chance to step into the past can be found at the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site on Seventh Street; its tours are free.
    Photo by Sue Manuel
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    Sweet Treats
    Sweet Treats
    From artisanal doughnuts to whoopie pies, Philly offers sweet treats for visitors of every age. Families visiting the historic sites in Old City should take the kids to Shane Confectionery, a vintage candy shop that makes chocolate and other candies in-house. A stop here is worthwhile even if only to view the gorgeous Victorian interior and to peek into the classic display cabinets. Ice cream lovers should visit Franklin Fountain, a charming retro ice cream store that makes its own premium ice cream and is also located on Market Street, just a few doors away from Shane Confectionery; though the lines can be long, especially in the summer, the goodies are worth the wait. The offbeat and delicious fried charms of Federal Donuts—not just its namesake product but its divine fried chicken, too—have brought this eatery national fame. Don't you think you should judge for yourself?
    Photo by Sue Manuel
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    Kid-Tested Restaurants
    Kid-Tested Restaurants
    For the best grilled cheese in town—parents will definitely concur—beeline to MeltKraft, a sandwich joint and cheesemonger inside Reading Terminal Market. If there are picky eaters in the family, the sprawling market should offer options for everyone. Grab your choice from one of the vendors and convene at a table in the middle, ready to exchange bites. (The market's also a great place to browse local crafts and shop for souvenirs.) Slice lovers will want to sample the award-winning pies at Pizza Brain. A trip to Philly also affords an opportunity to weigh in on the great cheesesteak debate: Is the best made by Pat's, Geno's, or maybe one of the less-famous local favorites?
    Photo by M. Fischetti / VISIT PHILADELPHIA