The Liberty Bell and Philadelphia Zoo are some of the most iconic spots in Philadelphia, but if you’re a regular to the city of Brotherly Love and have exhausted all the usual sites, it’s time to explore all the unique things to do in Philly with kids. Whether it’s getting a glimpse into the past at the centuries-old Elfreth’s Alley, letting your kids get their hands on everything at the Please Touch Museum, or being immersed in a kaleidoscope of mosaic art at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, you can find lots of fantastic adventures and sites off the beaten path. Read on for 13 unique things to do, and for more things to do in Philadelphia, we’ve got a guide to the city, too. (featured photo credit: Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens)
Unique things to do in Philly with kids
Find 300 years of history about the city and the people who lived here when you take a stroll on this charming alleyway, which instantly transports you back to colonial America. The alley was not in the original plans for Philly, but the overcrowding made landowners realize that they needed other routes to the river. A cart path was created in 1703, and it later became known as Elfreth’s Alley after blacksmith and developer Jeremiah Elfreth. Although today it’s mostly a residential street, you can walk the path and visit the museum (from April 14 to October 29) to learn more about the residents and shop owners who once called this street home.
126 Elfreth’s Alley, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Please Touch Museum
Museums are not always the best spots to bring littles who want to touch it all, but kids are encouraged to get their hands on everything at the Please Touch Museum. This interactive playspace will capture the imagination of your little ones (and give you a bunch of awesome Insta-moments). Let your kids explore and shop for groceries in the Food & Family exhibit, “roast” s’mores in the Happy Camper section, and make a pit stop in your car at the Please Touch Garage—the only rule here is to have fun.
4231 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia, PA 19131
Sisters Cities Park
Need to cool off? The Sister Cities fountain has 11 geyser-like spouts representing Philadelphia’s 11 sister cities and is a refreshing stop on a hot day. Or visit the Children’s Discovery Garden, where your kiddos can go wild with the push-button water jets, stream dam, and sensory-friendly twig nest. Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Valley inspires the garden, so use your imagination and play in the garden’s winding pathways and streams. A stop here in winter is also worthwhile when the area is converted into a special playground.
18th St & the Benjamin Franklin Pkwy., Philadelphia, PA 19103
Spruce Street Harbor Park
Swinging hammocks, colorful LEDs, and floating gardens—Spruce Street is the place to go when the weather is warm. During the summer, grab a craft brew, sample the food, and reserve a hammock to swing on or sit down by the water. This Delaware River Waterfront stop also has fun seasonal events, including a Makers Market, Taco Tuesday, and much more.
301 S. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19106
Wanamaker Grand Court
From January through October, you can tour the Wanamaker Building, a historic former department store and home to one of the largest organs in the world. The Grand Court Organ was built in 1904 for the St. Louis World’s Fair, and it took 13 freight cars to move the organ to Philadelphia and over two years to install. Now, you can tour the organ and see the pipe chambers, blowers, and the Wanamaker Organ Shop, where repairs take place. Visitors can also enjoy daily concerts, special concerts, and a Christmas Light Show, where the organ is used for the finale of select light shows.
13th and Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Explore 50 acres of this public garden and National Historic Landmark in Southwest Philadelphia. The park is located on Lenape territory on the banks of the Tidal Schuylkill River, a venue for art with access to the river and wetlands. There is also an outdoor classroom, a living laboratory, and an adorable garden adventure for toddlers at Bartrum’s every month.
5400 Lindbergh Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19143
Once Upon A Nation Storytelling
Award-winning and one-of-a-kind, the At the Once Upon A Nation Storytelling Bench within Philadelphia’s Historic District is where you can hear stories of the past that shaped our nation’s history in the places where they happened. Listen to uniformed storytellers share free, 3-5-minute stories while spilling some historical secrets along the way. Visit a bench in Independence Square and others behind Independence Hall, Franklin Square, and the Betsy Ross House.
Benches located at Independence Square, behind Independence Hall, Franklin Square, Signer’s Garden, Independence Visitor Center, Franklin Court, and the Betsy Ross House
Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse
This 6 1/2 acre playground has been a destination spot for over 100 years and boasts a historic giant wooden slide that can fit several children at once. Along with the slide are more than 50 unique, age-appropriate, and accessible play equipment parts. There is also a mansion-sized playhouse where kids can use their imagination to play house.
3500 Reservoir Drive, East Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, PA 19121-1095
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
Imagine being immersed in mosaic art created by everyday objects like bicycle wheels, mirrors, bottles, and handmade tiles. Artist Isaiah Zagar created these mosaics to chronicle his life and influences in this attraction that opened in 2008. Now, visitors can take tours and engage in hands-on interpretive experiences, workshops, art activities, concerts, exhibitions, and more. Don’t miss the PECO Family Jams, included with admission and family-orientated programs like watercolor painting and printmaking. For a more interactive experience, book a special guided kids tour, which explains more about the artist and gives tips for exploring the space on your own.
1020 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Eastern State Penitentiary
Grand architecture, running water, and central heat before the White House even had it—it sounds like an amazing place, right? Well, not quite. The Eastern State Penitentiary was known for its strict discipline, and it was the world’s first true “penitentiary” as it aimed to instill genuine regret in the prisoners. “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al “Scarface” Capone were some of the well-known inmates at this location, known as one of the world’s most famous and expensive prisons. Now, you can visit during the day for tamer tours, and there is a Challenge booklet and scavenger hunts for kids (age 7 and up is recommended, and audio tours are marked for adult-only content). If you are looking for a real scare, don’t miss their Halloween events.
2027 Fairmount Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19130
Stop in for a sweet treat at America’s oldest continuously operating candy store. With the Shane family’s 100-year-old recipe and 100-year-old machine, this sweet shop is dripping with history and sweetness. Sample their chocolate, candy, baked goods, and Franklin ice cream (the house-roasted chocolate is a fave) when you stop by the shop and on-site cafe. Once a week, there are tours of the 150-year-old building, where you can listen to the history of confections in Philly and participate in interactive, hands-on workshops.
110 Market Street, Philadelphia Street, PA 19106
Museum of Illusions Philadelphia
Not everything is what it seems is what you’ll be saying after a visit here. Get a peek into the optical illusions at this museum, where 60 visual and sensory experiences tease the mind and have everyone in your family questioning what’s real and what’s not. As you explore each immersive room, such as the Tilted Room, Anti-Gravity Room, and Swap Noses Room, you’ll see things in a whole new light (and sneak in some STEM learning for the kids, too).
401 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum
Got a family that loves racing and cars? Then, make sure this unique museum is on your list. Ad one of the world’s greatest collections of racing sports cars, kids and adults can explore the history and evolution of 75 historically significant cars, including Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Mercedes, Jaguar, Bentley, Porsche, Aston Martin, Corvette, Ford, and more. Stop in when they have one of their Demo Days, where a car from the collection will be highlighted, and you can see, smell, and hear the engine rev up.
6825 Norwitch Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19153
What are your favorite unique things to do in Philly with kids?
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