Things To Do In Philadelphia With Kids: History, Education, And Fun

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Spending the day across that other river (hello, Delaware), you’ll find there are lots of things to do in Philadelphia with kids. From the iconic symbol of freedom at The Liberty Bell to seeing exotic species 360 degrees at America’s first zoo to playing for hours at the award-winning Please Touch Museum— exploring the Birthplace of America is a day trip or weekend of fun, history, and culture for the whole family. Ready to make a plan? Scroll down for our extensive guide for all things to do in Philadelphia with kids, and when you’re headed back to NJ, make a stop at America’s Most Decorated Battleship across the river in Camden for more family fun.

Featured Photo Credit: Istock/Roman Babakin

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26 Things to do in Philadelphia with kids

Step back in time in our nation’s history

things to do in Philadelphia with kidsEastern State Penitentiary

The Eastern State Penitentiary has opportunities for families to visit during the day. Photo Credit: Eastern State Penitentiary Photo by Jeff Fusco

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
(215) 236-3300

Elfreth’s Alley
Where else can you find three hundred years of history on one street? Learn all about the homes and the people who lived there at this charming alleyway, which looks like you stepped back into 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 it’s mostly a residential street now,  you can walk the path and visit the museum to learn more about the residents and shop owners who called this street home.
126 Elfreth’s Alley, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Fireman’s Hall Museum
Benjamin Franklin’s legacy continues to have an influence all over Philadephia. In addition to the many contributions he made to the city, he founded the first volunteer fire company in 1736. You’ll learn that and more when you explore this 1902 firehouse, an interactive museum of firefighting history in Philadelphia. Kids will love getting to steer a fireboat, reading about “Franklin’s Volunteers,” trying on fire coats and boots, and playing a “when to call 911” computer quiz. Don’t miss the country’s first 9/11 exhibit commemorating the firefighters who gave their lives and a large stained glass window memorial to Philadelphia firefighters who died in the line of duty at the museum.
147 N 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 923-1438

Independence Mall
“America’s Most Historic Square Mile” is a must-see for any history buff or anyone who wants to get a glimpse into the past. The first stop is Independence Hall ( one of only 24 World Heritage Sites in the nation), where the Declaration of Independence was signed and where the US Constitution was created. Next, the Liberty Bell, an iconic symbol of freedom, is a must-see. If you want more information while in the area, the Independence Visitor Center is a good stop for information, access to live experts, and more. And fun fact—the largest Wawa in the world is right across the street for a Gobbler Sandwich and Frozen Cappuccino (IYKYK).
Independence Mall, Philadelphia, PA 19106
(800) 537-7676

Independence Seaport Museum 
Formerly known as the Philadelphia Maritime Museum, the Independence Seaport Museum offers a unique look at maritime history. Visit the Cruiser Olympia, the oldest steel warship afloat globally and one of only two ships from World War I. And check out the Submarine Becuna, a national historical landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. Kids will love to climb aboard the Schooner Diligence, a 102-foot vessel with masts above a 62-foot deck parked squarely in the middle of the museum (it’s a full-size model of the original from 1797). The Seaport Museum is full of interactive exhibits, a science lab, and programs for all ages, making it one of the top things to do in Philadelphia with kids.
211 S. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 413-8655

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, behind Independence Hall, Franklin Square, and the Betsy Ross House.
Benches located at Independence Square, behind Independence Hall, Franklin Square, and the Betsy Ross House

Get wild with big cats and butterflies

Kid-friendly things to do in Philadelphia Zoo The animal exploration trail system is a unique way to watch zoo animals in the zoo. Photo Credit: Philadelphia Zoo

Philadelphia Zoo
Welcome to America’s first zoo (opened in 1874) where you can explore over 42 acres and see over 1300 animals, including Amur tigers, gorillas, giraffes, and even a white rhino. And with unique exhibits like Zoo360, a trip to the Philly zoo is a must. The 330-foot overhead passageway is the first in the world, and the whole family will be in awe as you see lions, pumas, jaguars, and more walk right over you. But that’s not all—you can also come face to face with an endangered primate and learn what conservationists are doing to save them at the PECO Primate Reserve, ride the carousel, go on a scavenger hunt, and feed exotic birds at the McNeil Aviation Center.
3400 W. Girard Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 243-1100

Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion
This new science museum is a must-see with two floors of museum exhibits, a 7,000 square foot tropical butterfly pavilion, and Next Generation aligned educational programming. Don’t miss their community events, classes, and free programs all about the ecology of insects. Hint: If you wear bright colors when you visit the butterflies, you have a better chance of them landing right on you.
8046 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19136
(215) 335-9500

Take in the sites

Things To Do In Philadelphia With Kids Magic Gardens

Art comes to life at the Magic Gardens on South Street. Photo Credit: Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
Imagine being immersed in mosaic art created by everyday objects like bicycle wheels, mirrors, bottles, handmade tiles, and more. Artist Isaiah Zagar created these mosaics to chronicle his life and influences in this attraction that opened in 2008. Now visitors can take tours, 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 to printmaking. And for a more interactive experience, book a special guided kids tour, which explains more about the artist and gives you tips for exploring the space on your own.
1020 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 733-0390

Bartrum’s Garden
Explore 50-acres of this public garden and National Historic Landmark in Southwest Philadelphia. The garden 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 and a living laboratory, as well as an adorable garden adventure for toddlers at Bartrum’s every month.
5400 Lindbergh Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19143
(215) 729-5281

City Hall Observation Deck
Travel 548 feet from the ground in the highest open-air observation deck in the city to see Philadelphia from a different perspective. From the top of the city hall, the view spans the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and skyline. Littles will love trying to spot the iconic LOVE sculpture or the 27-ton statue of William Penn from the observation deck. City Hall Tours are also available for the interior and exterior of the city hall.
1 South Penn Square, Philadelphia, PA 19102
(267) 514-4757

Franklin Square
One of Philadelphia’s five original squares, Franklin Square is now home to the Parx Liberty Carousel, a fountain over 100-years old (with bubbling water shows), a playground, and more. The mini-golf course on-site also gives you a scaled-down mini-tour of Philadelphia with iconic holes, including the LOVE statue, Ben Franklin Bridge, and more. The Square is great if you’re looking to take a break between all the things to do in Philadelphia with kids.
200 N. 6th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 629-4026

Love Sculpture
Are you feeling the love of this amazing city? To keep it going, head to the LOVE park to see the iconic statue, the site of many movies and photo backdrops. This Robert Indiana sculpture in John F. Kennedy Plaza — better known as LOVE Park —  is located near City Hall. This Insta-worthy Philly spot was installed in 1976, briefly removed in 1978, and then brought back by popular demand, and is here to stay as an enduring city landmark.
John F. Kennedy Plaza – 15th Street and JFK Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19102 

Museums to learn and explore

things to do with kids in Philadelphia Franklin Institute

Listen to a real heartbeat as you and your kiddos explore the inner workings of the human heart at The Franklin Institute. Photo Credit: The Franklin Institute

Franklin Institute
Of course, the most famous exhibit is at the heart of the museum—kids will love going through the colossal heart display that stands over 220 feet tall and takes them on an interactive journey to learn how the human heart works. But there’s much more to visit at this hands-on museum dedicated to the sciences. Head to the Train Factory and climb aboard a 350-ton locomotive, experiment in Sir Issac’s Loft, or check out the Holt & Miller Observatory for some rooftop stargazing with a historic 10-inch Zeiss Refracting Telescope. There are several special exhibits (past productions have included Lego Art and other creative expositions), so check the schedule of what’s happening when you plan a visit.
222 North 20th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 448-1200

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
Get up close to giant dinosaurs, explore butterflies in a tropical garden, and meet live animals at this leading natural history museum founded in 1812. This museum contains over 18 million specimens, and it is dedicated to understanding the natural world while inspiring others to care for it. The whole family will enjoy the children’s discovery center, fossil dig, interactive science exhibits, all while engaging with science experts. Or visit the Permian Monster: Life Before the Dinosaurs exhibit, where you can step back 290 million years to get a glimpse at the world before dinosaurs walked the earth. Don’t miss the giant saber-toothed gorgonopsid, and if you don’t know what that is, then it’s worth taking the trip to find out.
1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 299-1019

Science History Institute
Chemistry, chemical engineering, and life sciences may not get your kids’ attention at first, but when it becomes the Science of Stretch or the Science of Play, they’ll be on board at this hands-on museum that immerses visitors into a world of discovery. The Science History Institute takes a deep dive into the amazing successes, spectacular failures, and strange surprises behind the science that shapes our world.  Learn about mechanochemistry, aka the “science of crush,” play with midcentury chemistry sets, or get an in-depth look into scientific instruments.
315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 925-2222

Philadelphia Museum of Art and “The Rocky Steps”
Did you ever wonder what’s behind those doors from the top of the “Rocky steps” made famous in the movie? At the Philadelphia Museum of Art there are 200 galleries of world-class art, including everything from Medieval to Early Renaissance Art to Modern & Contemporary exhibits. For families looking to expose their kids to art early on, check out the kids’ programs such as the Art Playdate in the Garden, Art Kids Studio, and Art-Making for Kids.
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19130
(215) 763-8100

The Neon Museum of Philadelphia
American art and history come together in The Neon Museum of Philadelphia, a museum dedicated to preserving historic signage, neon art, and appreciation of the 20th-century American roadside. Tweens and teens will love exploring cool bright lights of neon, including clocks, animated signs, window signs, national commercial signs, and historical Philadelphia commercial signs. Check it out for the insta-moments and the custom pieces that celebrate this unique slice of 20th-century modern art. 
1800 North American Street, Unit E, Philadelphia, PA 19122
(267) 534-3883

Things to do in Philadelphia with kids to get them moving

things to do in philadelphia with kids Please Touch MuseumExplore through touch at the Please Touch Museum. Photo Caption: Please Touch Museum

Please Touch Museum
Littles can play with purpose at the Please Touch Museum, where “yes” is the theme, and gain independence and confidence along the way. This award-winning children’s museum is an educational play place where kids will discover the power of learning through play. Catch a game of I Spy in the Fairy Tale Garden, learn about money at the Cents and Sensibility exhibit,  “roast marshmallows” at the campfire, drive a SEPTA bus at Roadside Attractions, or on sunny days, step outside to the Please Touch Garden.
Memorial Hall – 4231 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia, PA 19131
(215) 581-3181

Morris Arboretum of The University of Pennsylvania
Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, the Morris Arboretum is a must-see. Littles will want to visit the fairies in the Fairy Woods and take an Arboretum Adventure around the property. Beyond the kid fun, there are tours about what’s blooming and opps to do some bird watching. The Garden Railway is also a fun stop for the whole family—kids will love seeing model trains bustling all over the garden, and make sure you mark your calendar when Thomas the Tank model trains come out at special times during the year.
100 E. Northwestern Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19118
(215) 247-5777

Sisters Cities Park
Looking to cool off? The Sister Cities fountain has ten geyser-like spouts representing Philadelphia’s ten 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.
18th St & the Benjamin Franklin Pkwy., Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 440-5500

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 with its 39 feet long and 13 feet wide dimensions. Along with the slide are more than 50 unique, age-appropriate, and accessible play equipment parts. There is also a 16,000 square foot playhouse (currently under construction) and expected to reopen to the public in 2021.
3500 Reservoir Drive, East Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, PA 19121-1095
(215) 765-4325

Blue Cross River Rink
Are you team winter or summer? Well, at the Blue Cross River Rink, you can have it both ways. The rink becomes a spot for roller skating in the summer with a play area for kids, carnival fun, and an urban beach area. When temps start to drop, the rink transforms into a winter wonderland with an ice skating rink, warming cabins, fire pit station, and games. And don’t miss the signature holiday tree during the holiday season. With year-round views of the Ben Franklin Bridge and the Delaware River, you can’t go wrong during any season at the Blue Cross River Rink.
101 South Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 922-2FUN

Food and fun spots you don’t want to miss

things to do in Philadelphia with kids Candytopia

What’s sweeter than an attraction dedicated to candy? Photo Credit: Candytopia

Candytopia
Looking for something sweet to do in the City of Brotherly Love? Well, look no further than Candytopia, a place with twisted taffy and candy-constructed pieces that will make your eyes wide and your mouth water. From flying unicorn pigs to a marshmallow tsunami, you will feel like you walked right into Willy Wonka’s factory in this interactive candy wonderland.
901 Market Street #1150, Philadelphia, PA 19107
kisses@candytopia.com

Reading Terminal Market
All this activity means you need a break, and stopping at one of America’s largest and oldest public markets (since 1893), will appeal to even the pickiest of eaters. Housed in a National Historic Landmark building, the Terminal has counter-style eateries like Beck’s Cajun Cafe, Beiler’s Bakery, Fox & Son Fancy Corndogs, Golden Fish Market, Hershel’s East Side Deli, and Pearl’s Oyster Bar. But food is only one part of the market—you’ll find everything from cookbooks, table linens, kitchenware, fresh-cut flowers, and more. There are also restaurants, Pennsylvania Dutch Markets, and Bassett’s Ice Cream, known for its sweet treats and the first merchant to sign at the Reading Terminal Market in 1892 (the same family still owns and operates the shop today).
51 N. 12th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 922-2317

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 and sample the food. You can 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 so much more.
121 N. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 922-2FUN

What things to do in Philadelphia with kids are your favorites?

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About Author

Melanie Bodner has always had a love for writing, but now she has a new love…being a mom. Before having her kids, Melanie was no stranger to writing or working with children. She wrote for a local newspaper as a reporter and taught English and Dance in a public school. Now Melanie enjoys spending time with her kids, doing yoga, writing and decorating her home. Check out her Instagram @burlapbythebeach.

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