Philadelphia’s Historic District offers a treasure trove of hands-on excitement for the whole family.
All over the district, spots ranging from a carousel-equipped park to a modern roller skating rink offer ways for families to take a fun step back in time. Immersive experiences like meeting the Founding Fathers, playing mini-golf around replicas of iconic Philly sites and munching on 18th-century-style cuisine help to bring the past to life for young visitors.
Whether your kids are into costumes and carousels, selfies and sweets or history and heroics, they’re in for an unforgettable visit in the Historic District.
Spruce Street Harbor Park has been lauded as one of the best urban parks in the country. Crowds come in droves to enjoy the oasis along the Delaware River Waterfront, and kids love the Jersey Shore-style boardwalk, complete with an arcade and al fresco food stands.
Where: Spruce Street Harbor Park, 301 S. Columbus Boulevard
During cold weather months, kids lace up their skates and take to the ice at Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest. When the weather heats up, the waterfront attraction transforms into a roller skating rink for Summerfest, with a lodge onsite, outdoor bowling, mini-golf and plenty of outdoor seating for relaxing in the summer sun.
Where: Blue Cross RiverRink, 101 S. Columbus Boulevard
Philadelphia has always been a city of seafarers. While you’re here, take to the water in a swan boat. Available to rent through Paddle Penn’s Landing at the Independence Seaport Museum, these colorful paddle boats allow even novice boaters to partake in the fun and try out their sea legs in a section of the river removed from water traffic.
Where: Penn's Landing, 101 N. Christopher Columbus Boulevard
One of Philadelphia’s original five squares, Franklin Square now features fun attractions like the Parx Liberty Carousel and a Philly-themed miniature-golf course. SquareBurger, the park’s on-site food stand, serves up items that rank high as kids’ favorites, including burgers, fries and signature Philly shakes (e.g., the Cake Shake blended with Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpets!).
Where: Franklin Square, 200 N. 6th Street
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Take sightseeing to a whole new level at the Military Muster, where kids can march alongside Continental Army reenactors. Pint-sized participants can even borrow a (wooden) musket to get into the historical spirit.
Where: Signer's Garden, 434-498 Chestnut Street
Bring your cameras, smartphones and selfie sticks to the Historic District and snap a family photo in front of iconic sites like the Liberty Bell and Independence Mall. Find the “XOXO” selfie spot in the lobby of the Independence Visitor Center for an Instagram-worthy shot that celebrates the City of Brotherly Love.
Where: Liberty Bell Center, 526 Market Street
On select days throughout the summer, costumed historians at 13 storytelling benches throughout the Historic District entertain visitors with short anecdotes about the Colonial era as part of Once Upon a Nation. Children can pick up a Story Flag at any storytelling bench, then collect a star from every storyteller on their journey. Flags with at least ten stars can be redeemed for a free carousel ride on the Parx Liberty Carousel at Franklin Square.
Where: Carpenter's Historic Hall, 320 Chestnut Street
Franklin Fountain always attracts a crowd — and for good reason. The old-fashioned ice cream parlor’s homemade sweet treats include awesome, over-the-top sundaes with names that pay homage to the neighborhood’s historical significance, including the Franklin Mint (mint chip and vanilla ice creams, chocolate, marshmallow, creme de menthe and whipped cream) and the Lightening Rod (brownies with coffee ice cream, espresso, chocolate-covered espresso beans, white chocolate and a pretzel rod).
Where: The Franklin Fountain, 116 Market Street
When the little ones start to get hungry, treat the whole family to a round of authentic Philly cheesesteaks. Sonny’s and Campo’s, two casual eateries in Philadelphia’s Historic District, serve made-to-order sandwiches for lunch and dinner.
Where: Sonny's Famous Steaks, 228 Market Street
Learn all about Philadelphia’s favorite Founding Father at the Benjamin Franklin Museum. Dedicated to the life and multifaceted career of this visionary leader, the exhibits contain artifacts and displays that appeal to visitors of all ages.
Where: Benjamin Franklin Museum, 317 Chestnut Street
The Museum of the American Revolution lays just steps from Independence Hall and in the heart of a city that served as the headquarters for the Revolution. Through immersive exhibitions and priceless artifacts, the museum traces the evolution of the Colonies from the earliest days of unrest through the improbable victory that led to a new nation. Highlights include General Washington’s original headquarters tent, Revolutionary War weapons, centuries-old military documents and the museum’s Patriots Gallery, where little ones can try on Revolutionary-inspired clothing, design their own flag, decode secret messages and practice drilling like a Revolutionary soldier.
Where: Museum of the American Revolution, 101 S. 3rd Street
Interactive exhibits, hands-on activities and a live multimedia performance all help bring the U.S. Constitution to life at the National Constitution Center. In Signers’ Hall, kids can pose with life-sized bronze statues of the 42 men who signed of the Constitution in 1787.
Where: National Constitution Center, 525 Arch Street
Eat and drink like a Colonial Philadelphian at City Tavern, where diners indulge in period-inspired cuisine served by costumed waitstaff. This historic spot played a significant role in Colonial America, having served as an unofficial meeting place for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and their fellow delegates during the First Continental Congress in 1774.
Where: City Tavern, 138 S. 2nd Street
America’s most celebrated seamstress lived and worked at the site now known as the Betsy Ross House. Visitors of all ages can tour the home and workshop, which dates back to 1740, as well as speak with a costumed Betsy Ross reenactor.
Where: Betsy Ross House, 239 Arch Street
Housed in a firehouse that dates back to 1902, Fireman’s Hall chronicles the history of firefighting in Philadelphia and promotes fire safety. Best of all? Kids can play dress up with helmets, boots and jackets.
Where: Fireman's Hall Museum, 147 N. 2nd Street
The African American Museum in Philadelphia contains four galleries that use art, artifacts and words to showcase the lives and work of African Americans. In the Children’s Corner, hands-on activities teach kids about the daily lives of children in Colonial Philadelphia.
Where: The African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch Street
Families can discover the stories of real-life heroes like Jackie Robinson and Nelson Mandela at the National Liberty Museum. The “Welcome to Liberty” exhibit includes interactive quizzes, hands-on iPad games and a replica of the Liberty Bell that kids can actually touch.
Where: National Liberty Museum, 321 Chestnut Street
With a collection of more than 30,000 modern artifacts, the National Museum of American Jewish History tells the story of the Jewish experience throughout American history. Kids can engage in interactive activities like trying on period clothing, listening to a prairie soundscape and exploring a covered wagon.
Where: National Museum of American Jewish History, 101 S. Independence Mall E.
Aptly named, Penn’s Landing marks the spot where William Penn first arrived in the New World. Today, the waterfront promenade hosts family-friendly events of all kinds, ranging from multicultural festivals to movie screenings under the stars to open-air concerts.
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A post shared by Ryan Schmid (@schmidiometry) on Feb 5, 2016 at 12:19pm PST
Christ Church Burial Ground, which dates back to 1719, serves as the final resting place for some of the most important figures in Colonial Philadelphia, including Benjamin Franklin and his wife, Deborah. In a nod to Franklin’s motto of “a penny saved is a penny earned,” visitors partake in an unofficial tradition of throwing pennies onto his grave.
Where: Christ Church Burial Ground, 340 N. 5th Street
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The Independence Seaport Museum delights visitors seven days a week, but kids especially love heading there on Seafarin’ Saturday. Free with museum admission, this weekly program lets youngsters participate in age-appropriate nautical activities and crafts.
Where: Independence Seaport Museum, 211 S. Columbus Boulevard
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A post shared by Shannon Leahy (@shannonrleahy) on Nov 13, 2015 at 10:20am PST
The first U.S. Mint opened in Philadelphia in 1792, and while there are four such production facilities around the country today, the majority of coins in circulation still come from Philly. During free, self-guided tours, families can learn about the history of coin-making and look for their home state’s quarter.
Where: United States Mint, 151 N. Independence Mall E.
Book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package for stays through November 30, 2018 and get FREE hotel parking as well as free tickets to the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art, a $25 gift card to the must-visit Reading Terminal Market, free Philly-themed mini-golf at Franklin Square and a $10 Lyft credit.