Visit the historical city of Philadelphia with your family, which is not only just around the corner from NYC, but offers everything from a wide array of family-friendly museums and exhibits to delicious melt-in-your-mouth cheesesteaks.
Less than 100 miles from the Big Apple, Philadelphia, nestled on the coast of the Delaware River, is a fun destination for the family this summer. Nicknamed the City of Brotherly Love, Philly, as locals affectionately call their home, is famous for many reasons. It is the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence, home to the Liberty Bell, the setting of the iconic Rocky movies, and of course, it serves up the best cheesesteak sandwiches in the world. Beyond those obvious reasons, there are a slew of great activities for the family that make a quick trip to Philadelphia an ideal way to spend a long summer weekend.
From the Pages of History Books...
The historical setting of Philadelphia should be reason enough for any family with school-age children to want to visit. Founded in 1862, Old City is the center of it all; these streets, many still paved with the original cobblestone, are the very same that the likes of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin walked before they signed the Declaration of Independence.
A staple of the historic district is the Liberty Bell Center where your family can see the iconic Liberty Bell, crack and all, on display (and it's free!). Nearby are Independence Hall, the location of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the National Constitution Center, an interactive museum that is both engaging and informative for families. The only museum devoted entirely to the Constitution, it brings the governing document to life by showing how it is relevant in the everyday lives of your family.
Kids will love the many multi-media exhibits. Another must-see in Old City: Betsy Ross's House. At the flag-maker's home you can meet her impersonator and check out some hands-on exhibits. Summer also boats seasonal activities such as the surprising Storytelling Benches -- at 13 spots throughout the historic district, costumed actors tell a tale of life in Philadelphia during the American Revolution (for more information on where specific benches are located visit www.historicphiladelphia.org).
Science, Museums, and Zoos, Too
Way more fun than science class, The Franklin Institute is an interactive museum that is a winner with kids of all ages. You will not want to miss the Human Heart exhibit, where the family can walk through a giant heart and even see clogged arteries up close and personal. Other highlights: Discover how fit you are in the Sports exhibit, ride on the full-sized train that blows actual smoke, and bike across a high wire. The Franklin Institute also has a special traveling exhibit, Mummies of the World, running through October 23. One of the largest collections anywhere, it includes the world's oldest infant mummies, an entire mummified family, and some animal mummies.
If your kids would be more interested in seeing a living animal specimen, take them to the Philadelphia Zoo, where they'll be enthralled by the 42-acres that is home to more than 1,300 animals. Founded in 1874, it is also the nation's oldest zoo, and many of the buildings retain an authentic Victorian-era charm. This summer through October 31, the zoo is hosting X-tink-shun, an imaginative first-time exhibition featuring puppets from The Jim Henson Igor the Tiger, and other adorable critters representing extinct or endangered animals. The exhibit will feature performances and parades that aim to educate young visitors about the plights of endangered species while also making sure they have a great time.
For families with very young children, the Please Touch Museum at Memorial Hall is a no-brainer for a fun day. One of the nation's premier children's museums, it features six interactive exhibit zones that cover more than 157,000 square feet. Each section has a unique theme: Explore the fantastical pleasure of "Alice's Adventure in Wonderland," where children can play croquet with the Queen of Hearts and sip tea with the Mad Hatter; check out the Supermarket and let the kids do the shopping -- they can stock the shelves, load their carts, and even ring up the order. All members of the family will love to take a ride on the restored Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel. Built in 1908, the Carousel was formally in storage for more than 40 years, but now it provides delights for kids in the 9,000 square-foot glass pavilion on the eastern section of Memorial Hall. While the Please Touch Museum doesn't have any specific exhibits planned for the summer, it offers a full schedule of craft activities, plus dance, music, and storytelling performances.
There is obviously a ton to do and see in Philly. For families looking to explore these attractions and more, consider investing in the CityPass. Providing admission to six different Philadelphia sites, including all mentioned above, it gives a savings of nearly 50 percent. When you purchase the CityPass it is valid for nine days from the first use and can also help you skip most lines. For more information and pricing, visit www.citypass.com/philadelphia.
Jillian Ryan, a travel writer who lives in Astoria, feels that Philadelphia is one of the few cities she's visited that can compete with her native NYC. Philadelphia's history, cobblestone streets, and friendly people have made it a favorite weekend destination.
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