Known as the birthplace of American democracy or, more affectionately, the “city of Brotherly Love” — Philadelphia is a just an hour and a half from New York City by train. If you are looking to take a day trip or long weekend for fun family experiences that involve history, arts, and culture, then Philadelphia is the city for you.
From an educational perspective, Philadelphia has a lot to offer, so leave the history textbooks and packets at home. The entire city presents United States history in an experiential way for its visitors, and provides the whole family a compelling way to learn about the foundation of our country. In fact most of Philadelphia’s historic sites and attractions are free. For instance, the National Historical Park — an urban park that includes famous landmarks and icons, such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell — provides a preserved model of history right in the heart of the city. You can also utilize The Constitutional’s maps and guides to embark upon your own self-guided walking tour around historic Philadelphia. The tour goes through a square mile of historic sites, and is a free and fun-filled activity for the entire family. Remember to dress accordingly and wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing and shoes.
Philadelphia also offers a lively arts scene with a young, creative culture in the city. Day and night, you can walk around the city and find treasures like public art, galleries, museums, restaurants, and shops — all of which are located in or within walking distance of downtown. Beginning in the spring of 2015, visitors can purchase a day pass and bike around downtown, when Philadelphia introduces its bike-sharing program, which will include more than 600 bikes at more than 60 stations. A nice alternative to biking (and walking) is the Victorian-style trolleys that travel to most of the notable sites and attractions in the city.
There are a number of places to see and things to do in Philadelphia, including the great cuisine in the city to experience that stretches far beyond cheesesteaks (although quite delicious). There are also renowned performing arts and museums, and, for sports lovers, there are professional basketball, football, hockey, and baseball teams. There are so many things to see and do, and you’ll want to visit again and again.
Provided below is a list of 10 of my favorites things to do in Philadelphia.
Interactive exhibits, touchable attractions, and science exploration is abound at the Franklin Institute. A favorite component of the permanent collection is “The Sports Challenge,” which illustrates the physics of sports with strategically placed multimedia.
[222 N. 20th St. between Race and Winter streets, (215) 448–1200, www.fi.edu]
Considered a symbol of freedom, all are welcomed to view this massive artifact. There are no tickets required to visit the Liberty Bell Center. Please note, visitors must go through security screening.
[526 Market St. at N. Fifth Street, (215) 965–2305, www.nps.gov/inde/liberty-bell-center.htm]
Founded as an anti-graffiti program in 1984, Mural Arts has become an internationally recognized community-based public arts organization. You and your kids can view contemporary art throughout the city. Take a free tour of the many vibrant murals.
[901 Market St., Level 2, between N. Ninth and S. 10th streets, (215) 925–3633, www.muralarts.org]
National Constitution Center
This museum is an interactive space centered upon the document on which our nation was founded. It is a fun, multimedia experience for the entire family.
[525 Arch St. between N. Fifth and Sixth streets, (215) 409–6700, http://constitutioncenter.org]
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Visitors can tour 80 period rooms in this museum space. Free family programs are offered throughout the calendar year. There is also a trolley shuttle (included in the admission price) to take you to other cultural institutions.
[2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 763–8100, www.philamuseum.org]
The 42-acre Victorian garden was the first zoo chartered in the United States. With its petting zoo and tree house, it is always a great family-friendly outing.
[3400 W. Girard Ave. off N. 34th Street, (215) 243–1100 www.philadelphiazoo.org]
Service returning in the spring, the shuttle costs $2 per person per ride ($5 for an all-day pass). Some children (4 and under) and seniors are free.
[20 stops through Philadelphia, (484) 881-3574, http://phlvisitorcenter.com]
Please Touch Museum
The 38,000-square-foot space boasts interactive exhibits for children of all ages. Kids are encouraged to dress up, create, laugh, and to play.
[4231 Avenue of the Republic Memorial Hall between W. and E. roads, (215) 581-3181, www.pleasetouchmuseum.org]
There are more than 120 sculptures, drawings, paintings, and studies of Rodin on display at this museum. Several large pieces are on view in the garden and there is a nearby reflecting pool.
[2157 Benjamin Franklin Parkway and N. 22nd Street, (215) 763–8100, www.rodinmuseum.org]
Reading Terminal Market
Offering a variety of foods, the market showcases more than 80 vendors. Kids will like watching the cooking demonstrations and the other events taking place in the market.
[51 N. 12th St. at Arch Street, (215) 922–2317, www.readingterminalmarket.org/
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Shnieka Johnson is an education consultant and freelance writer. She is based in Manhattan where she resides with her husband and son. Contact her via her website: www.shniekajohnson.com.