Family Vacations to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Liberty Bell, Philadelphia
Liberty Bell, Philadelphia (PhotoDisc)

Philadelphia Highlights

  • Relive the birth of the United States at the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the National Constitution Center.
  • Bicycle or play Frisbee golf at Fairmount Park.
  • Walk through a giant heart, test your reaction time, and learn about stars at the Franklin Institute Science Museum.
  • Root for the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park (but arrive early enough to climb on the play equipment at the Phanatic Phun Zone)
  • Explore the ocean floor and an African river at the Adventure Aquarium.
  • Splash and play in Muppet-themed neighborhoods at Sesame Place.

In Philadelphia, textbook lessons about the American Revolution come to life. Visit Independence National Historical Park and you and your kids can see the Liberty Bell and stand in Independence Hall where the founding fathers debated the Declaration of Independence and crafted the Constitution. At the National Constitution Center, discover more about this governing document and founders such as Philly's favorite elder statesman, Benjamin Franklin, who celebrates his 300th birthday in 2006.

Take a Lights of Liberty evening tour and travel back to the 18th century on a guided walk through Philly's historic area. You'll stroll past larger-than-life projections of revolutionary heroes, the rabble, and the Redcoats while listening to Ossie Davis (or Whoopi Goldberg on the kids' version) deliver commentary via your headphones. The background of horses' hooves, mob cries, and cannon shots makes you feel like part of the action.

Colonial characters also abound on Once Upon A Nation's history tours. The "Cobwebs and Cobblestones" ghost tour entices older kids enamored with things that go "boo" in the night.

Philadelphia also offers first-rate museums, an imaginative zoo, and an expansive park system. At the Franklin Institute Science Museum, known for its giant walk-through heart and hundreds of hands-on exhibits, kids of all ages can measure the height of their basketball jumps, find out how angles help ace tennis games, and learn the secrets of the stars at Fels Planetarium.

Fairmount Park, along with housing the Rodin Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, offers families more than 9,200 acres for play. Stroll along Kelly Drive, bike through Valley Green, or join in a game of Frisbee golf at Sedgley Woods, a dedicated disc course. The Philadelphia Zoo, home to over 1,500 animals, recently debuted its new "Bank of America Big Cat Falls" exhibit, a stunning habitat for lions, leopards, jaguars, and tigers. For a truly unique experience, take your family camping in the zoo and observe the animals in "night mode" without the daytime crowds. Check the schedule and book overnights well in advance.

You can't leave town without eating an authentic Philly cheesesteak, available from delis, street vendors, and also at the Reading Terminal Market, the nation's oldest continuously operating farmer's market. The booths are piled high with vegetables, fruit, Amish baked goods, Middle Eastern salads, and lots of other treats for hungry sightseers.

Cruise on the RiverLink Ferry across the Delaware River to arrive in style at Camden, New Jersey's Adventure Aquarium. Highlights here include a 40-foot tunnel where toothy sharks swim above and around you, a West African river habitat, home to hippos and 20 species of birds, and Deep Sea-4D, a special-effects film that whisks you to the bottom of the ocean floor.

Another near-to-Philly experience is Sesame Place, 30 minutes north of the city in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. Targeted to ages two to 12, the park combines water-themed play areas with Sesame Street characters. Splash down slides, walk through Bert and Ernie's house, and try the rides at Elmo's World, a new exhibit in the park.

Tip: Save money with a CityPass ticket ( that gives you nine days to visit six popular attractions.

Recommended Side Trips: Brandywine Valley, Valley Forge, the Jersey Shore, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and New York.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 9 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »