Philadelphia: Top Attractions
Rich in history, Philadelphia treats kids to the sights and sounds of America's birth. The Declaration of Independence was signed here, proclaiming our freedom from Britain, and the U.S. Constitution was drafted in Philly. Today, Philly offers gifts for the eyes and minds at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Franklin Institute, and the Rodin Museum. Visitors can enjoy the simple pleasures of Fairmount Park and its bike paths, picnic areas, vistas, and walking trails. The city offers easy access to the Jersey Shore, Valley Forge, Sesame Place, and the cities of Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and New York.
Liberty Bell, Independence National Historical Park and the National Constitution Center
The places your kids read about in history classÂ—the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were adoptedÂ—are some of the 20 sites in Independence National Historical Park. Storytellers, part of the new Once Upon a Nation program, sit on park benches and enliven history by recounting tales of the colonial era. At the National Constitution Center, kids discover amazing details of the Constitution through interactive exhibits.
Liberty Bell, Independence National Historical Park: 215.965.2305, www.nps.gov/inde/
The National Constitution Center: 215.409.6600, www.constitutioncenter.org
Lights of Liberty
This night-time history lesson is incredibly fun. As larger-than-life projections of revolutionary heroes, the rabble, and the British appear on buildings, you walk through the Liberty Bell National Historic Park listening to an audio tape recanting the colonial tales. The Philadelphia Orchestra performs the music, Ossie Davis narrates the adult tape, and Whoopi Goldberg does the children's version. The background of horses' hooves, mob shouts, and cannon shots makes you feel part of the American Revolution. New in 2005: a hologram of Ben Franklin.
Lights of Liberty: 215.LIBERTY, www.lightsofliberty.org
Franklin Institute Science Museum
Hundreds of hands-on exhibits teach kids about science. The renovated, walk-through heart beats to an improved sound system. The pulsing muscle is the centerpiece of an exhibit that lets kids take an EKG reading and find out about the circulatory system. At Sports Challenge, kids test their reaction times, measure the height of their basketball jumps, and learn how angles help ace tennis games. Great for young kids, the outdoor Science Park, open May through September, features mini-periscopes, hide-and-seek tunnels, and sundials.
Franklin Institute Science Museum: 212.448.1200, www.fi.edu
Kangaroos and emus from Australia and zebras, giraffes, and warthogs from Africa are some of the 1,500 animals that delight kids. Zoozapalooza: Search for Treasure, opening April 28, treats kids to live animal encounters and lets them dig in the dirt to unearth natural treasures. Dodge Wild Earth, another new attraction, is a simulated 3-D drive through the Serengeti, complete with cheetahs, rhinos, and hippos. The zoo offers family overnights, so check the schedule.
Philadelphia Zoo: 215.243.1100, www.philadelphiazoo.org
Ride the Ducks
It's hard for kids to be bored on a Ducks tour. These renovated WWII amphibious vehicles add attitude to a city driving tour. Board the behemoths at 6th and Chestnut Streets for an 80-minute sightseeing foray that rumbles down South Street, through Old City, past Independence Mall, and ends with a splashdown in the Delaware River at Penn's Landing.
Ride the Ducks: 215.227.DUCK, www.phillyducks.com
Philadelphia Phillies and Citizens Bank Park
It's not just about rooting for the Phillies. At Citizens Bank Park kids get into the spirit by zipping down the Phanatic Shoe slide, climbing on play equipment at the Phanatic Phun Zone, stuffing their own Phillie PhanaticÂ—the team mascotÂ—at the Build-A-Bear Workshop, and scaling a giant inflatable baseball climbing wall. On park tours, visit the dugouts, bull pens, the Diamond Club with its glass-enclosed batting cages, and the Phillies Hall of Fame.
Philadelphia Phillies, Citizens Bank Park: 215.463.1000, philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com
Fairmount Park's thousands of acres encompass classic city attractions such as the zoo, the Rodin Museum, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The setting also serves up such quintessential Philly scenes as Boathouse Row. Stroll along Kelly Drive, bike through Valley Green (permit needed for riders 16 and older), or join in a game of Frisbee golf at Sedgeley Woods, a dedicated disc course.
Fairmount Park: 215.683.0200, www.phila.gov/fairpark/
Adventure Aquarium (Camden, NJ)
Take a 12-minute ride on the RiverLink Ferry across the Delaware River to see the aquatic residents at Adventure Aquarium, newly renovated in May 2005. This remake of the former New Jersey State Aquarium replaces look-and-see tanks with exhibits designed to immerse you in natural water habitats. Such attractions include a 40-foot tunnel, where toothy sharks swim above and around you, and a two-story waterfall that creates the feel of a rainforest as you peer at freshwater fish. The 4-D special effects add thrills to Deep Sea: The Ride, a journey into the ocean depths.
Adventure Aquarium: 856.365.3300, www.adventureaquarium.com
Sesame Place (Langhorne, PA)
At Sesame Place, 40 minutes north of Philadelphia, kids splash in water-themed play areas and play with the Sesame Street characters. Toddlers get wet at Rubber Duckie Pond and the whole family slides down the six-person rafts at Sky Splash. The full-size Sesame Neighborhood features Bert and Ernie's house and Oscar the Grouch's garbage can. These characters, along with Big Bird, Cookie Monster, and other loveables, appear in lively shows.
Sesame Place: 215.752.7070, www.sesameplace.com
Valley Forge National Historical Park
It was at Valley Forge, about 30 minutes from downtown Philadelphia, that General George Washington and the Continental Army suffered through six months of winter conditions so severe that 2,000 soldiers perished without fighting. Determined to Persevere, the Welcome Center's exhibit, uses muskets and other colonial-era artifacts to explain how the surviving soldiers used their time to reorganize and stay alive. Show up on Saturday mornings for Kids Corner, with special family activities on spinning, children's clothing, or other aspects of 18th-century life.
Valley Forge National Historical Park: 610.783.1077, www.nps.gov/vafo/
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication