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, there are quite a few unique things to do in Philly with kids too. 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 gaining an appreciation of roadside art at The Neon Museum of Philadelphia, you can find lots of fantastic adventures and sites off the beaten path. Read on for 11 unique things to do, and be sure to read up on things Philly to do with your kids 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 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 at the Please Touch Museum, kids are encouraged to get their hands on everything. 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 garage—the only rules here are to have fun.
4231 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia, PA 19131
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
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 on you.
8046 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19136
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 are 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, and the Betsy Ross House
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. And 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
Sisters Cities Park
Need 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
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
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, 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.
121 N. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19106
What are your favorite unique things to do in Philly with kids?
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