There’s much more to Philly than the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. In fact, it’s easy to plan a family-focused itinerary that serves up so much fun the kiddos won’t even realize they’re learning some incredible history at the same time. For a trip to the City of Brotherly Love, add these five family-friendly attractions to the top of your list.
Major cities have science museums, but none of the others take you on a journey through all four chambers of a giant heart. The Franklin Institute’s two-story heart has been beating for more than 50 years. A more recent virtual reality attraction puts you in the ocean with a blue whale, or whizzing around the solar system.
Use your smartphone to see exhibits using augmented reality (AR), much like your kids see when playing Pokemon Go. The museum added AR to the Terracotta Warriors exhibit, allowing you to build your own army and get more info on ancient weapons. Other hands-on learning opportunities include exploring trains, sports, electricity, machines, space, the brain, and Earth.
Benjamin Franklin Museum
You may notice that many places have the name Franklin in Philly. In addition to being a founding father, Benjamin Franklin played a prominent role in the City of Brotherly Love. Visit his house and the Benjamin Franklin Museum next to his home’s foundation in Center City’s historic cobblestone area. It’s a hands-on experience operated by the National Park Service that allows you to learn about the quirky man who served as a printer’s apprentice at age 12 and then became the first postmaster general.
He also played the glass armonica (no “H” at the beginning), invented bifocals, founded the first Philadelphia fire brigade, and co-founded the country’s oldest mutual fire insurance company. And that’s just a partial list. Climb into a replica of the carriage that carried Franklin to the Constitutional Convention for 100 days, and try your hand at lifting metal ink balls to rub on typeset. Be sure to attempt to solve some of the math games that Franklin loved.
Reading Terminal Market
The Reading Terminal Market (pronounced Redding) is an indoor market filled with restaurant stalls and food provisions to make your mouth water. Older versions of similar markets stretch back to 1680, although this particular market didn’t get its start until the 1890s.
It’s hard to choose from vendors selling traditional Philly cheesesteaks, gourmet grilled cheese, Greek food, Mexican food, barbecue ribs, salad, and so much more. Stock up on fresh seafood and meat, and don’t skip the long Beiler’s Donuts line. Donut offerings like Fruity Pebbles and maple bacon are worth it, “for the kids.”
This South Philly attraction is a child’s dream. As a workshop and indoor/outdoor museum, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is like a giant game of I Spy. The museum even provides scavenger hunts for families.
The whimsical garden walls are the artistic creation of Isaiah Zagar, who uses found objects to create colorful mosaics that actually span beyond the formal gardens to South Street. Inside, changing exhibits from other artists blend with Zagar’s work. Outside is a sculpture labyrinth, with nooks and crannies, winding walkways, and sitting areas.
What’s a family trip without ice cream? Head to Franklin Fountain, a corner ice cream parlor that looks like it’s from the early 1900s (but is actually from 2004). The ice cream scoopers and soda jerks make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time as you enjoy sundaes like Franklin Mint, Lightening Rod, Maple Leaf Rag, and Stock Market Crunch. Also known for its fountain drinks, such as the Japanese Thirst Killer Phosphate, Franklin Fountain offers 25 flavors. The old-fashioned Shane Confectionery is located a few doors down and belongs to the same owner.
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