A Family Trip to Philadelphia offers an opportunity to expose your kids to some important history and culture. While our family is lucky enough to have relatives there, we would love visiting Philadelphia anyway, for this historic city is the birthplace of our country. With its rich history and important cultural institutions, this extraordinary city makes for a truly spectacular vacation for any family.
We think you should plan on spending at least three or four days there in order to have enough time to enjoy all of the historic sites, world-renowned museums and fun sporting events. We’ve found that the perfect time to travel to Philadelphia is when your children are in third or fourth grade and old enough to appreciate what they are seeing or perhaps when doing college tours in the Northeast, since the area is filled with over 50 colleges and universities.
Many Americans don’t realize what a fabulous collection of art museums, public art and murals Philadelphia has. From the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with its iconic Rocky steps, to the Rodin Museum to the street murals in almost every neighborhood (especially Girard Street by the Philadelphia Zoo), Philadelphia offers a wealth of cultural treasures.
And any time is a great time to celebrate the spirit of Philadelphia sports fans by catching an exciting Phillies, 76ers or Eagles game. In order to get your family psyched before your trip, we definitely suggest watching one of our favorite Philly movies, Invincible, starring Mark Wahlberg.
Philadelphia has so much to offer that, if feasible, we recommend an annual visit. Please read on for our favorite three-day, family-friendly itinerary.
Philadelphia is very accessible by train, air or car and is a convenient gateway to other major cities, such as Washington, D.C. (two hours by car), New York (also two hours by car) or Boston (a bit farther at six hours by car). While there is much to do in Philadelphia’s Center City, where you don’t need to have a car, you will want to have a car if you plan on hitting some of the other nearby historic sites, such as Valley Forge. Those on a budget who want to tour city sites only can navigate by train from the airport and on buses and taxis around town.
Residence Inn Center City Philadelphia
One of our favorite hotels for easy family living anywhere is Marriott’s Residence Inn. The Residence Inn in Philadelphia is wonderful for working parents traveling either with or without children, as Marriott provides every imaginable convenience. A stay includes a suite with a full kitchen, a business center, a sports center, a complimentary buffet breakfast and often a simple happy hour dinner. Many locations even include pools.
For our most recent trip, which was for both college touring and historic sightseeing, we chose the Residence Inn Center City. Our room on the seventeenth floor had an incredible view of the William Penn statue atop the steeple of historic Philadelphia City Hall. Our hotel was just steps away from the Reading Terminal Market, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and many world-class restaurants. The hotel also provides valet parking and is right by a trolley and metro hub at 13th and Market Streets. On our first night, we were completely exhausted after visiting several colleges, and the bratwurst supper offered by the Inn really hit the spot. The children gobbled it down in seconds flat.
Day 1: Center City and Historic Sites
We’ve found that it is a good idea to get up early and hit the historic sites as soon as they open. The Residence Inn’s complimentary breakfast is absolutely delicious and saves a family of five a small fortune. You’ll need a good breakfast before all of the walking!
From the Residence Inn Center City Philadelphia, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are only a quick ten-minute walk that is itself filled with architectural wonders, from historic Gothic structures to modern glass office towers. While admission to the Liberty Bell is free, your family and you need to be prepared for long lines. It’s a good idea to keep your small children strapped into their strollers, as we saw little ones escape and hide under the Liberty Bell, much to the dismay of the security staff.
In the Assembly Room at Independence Hall, the children had great fun pretending they were witnessing the Continental Congress and speeches by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. This room where the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were debated and adopted was larger and more beautiful than we had expected, and it brought our memories of American history to life. We still can’t figure out how they managed to write with the feather pens. Wonder what Benjamin Franklin would think of the iPhone 6? Independence Hall is run by the National Park Service, and you must take your family on one of their low-cost tours, as they are worth every penny.
Speaking of money, you can cross the street and take a very interesting tour of the Philadelphia Mint. After the tour, you can grab a quick lunch at the Bourse Food Court and sit on the green across from the Liberty Bell.
For dinner with kids, we recommend Jim’s Cheesesteaks on South Street or Dim Sum Garden in Chinatown. Your children will get a thrill from riding the historic trolley from the Residence Inn.
Day 2: Museums and the Zoo
The second morning, we enjoyed another delicious breakfast at the hotel and hit the ground running. Our first stop was the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where for over two hours we marveled at the works of Cezanne and the other wonderful Impressionists. While we’ve found that two hours of viewing art are definitely the maximum for our children, we parents find it totally refreshing.
To keep the children happy, we walked a few blocks and spent several hours at the Franklin Institute, one of America’s most highly regarded science museums. Our son really enjoyed climbing through a giant human heart and experimenting with electricity, just like Benjamin Franklin did. All of the children burned off steam for an hour with the fun games at the Sports Challenge exhibit.
The Franklin Institute often features special exhibits and currently offers the Art of the Brick, which was absolutely fascinating. It has over 100 installations that use one million LEGO bricks. Our daughter loved counting all of the LEGOs in each piece, which was quite an undertaking!
In the early afternoon, take a drive by Boathouse Row along the Schuylkill River and then hit the Philadelphia Zoo for a late lunch. America’s first zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo is located at the corner of 34th Street and Girard Avenue in Philadelphia’s historic Fairmount Park. The giraffes and hippos will guarantee laughs. Take a scenic paddleboat ride that will exhaust the little ones.
If you have time and the season is right, hit a Phillies game. Citizens Bank Park is very family-friendly and easy to navigate. We enjoyed continuing our family baseball tradition, whose goal is to hit every ballpark in America.
If you have time and are not completely worn out, other great Center City Philadelphia sites to see are South Street, Penn’s Landing, Rittenhouse Square and the University of Pennsylvania.
Day 3: Valley Forge
One of the most important historic sites that we feel is a must-see is Valley Forge, located about an hour west of Philadelphia. You should set aside a whole day for viewing the historic structures, monuments and trails contained within the 3,500-acre site, which commemorates the heroism of the Continental Army during the long, cold winter of 1777 to 1778. A good place to start your visit is by catching a tour at the Visitors Center. You can pack a picnic and should allow some time for outdoor play, so bring along a soccer ball or a Frisbee.
The Penthouse Suite at the Residence Inn Philadelphia Valley Forge
A great place to stay near the site is the Residence Inn Philadelphia Valley Forge. We were very excited to spend the night before Easter in our penthouse suite. We think that there is nothing better than having a fire, eating popcorn (a treat from the hotel) and watching the Final Four games! The next day the Easter Bunny had a wonderful time hopping around the suite distributing eggs and Easter baskets.
The Fireplace in the Penthouse Suite at Residence Inn Philadelphia Valley Forge
We’ve found that a most important item you need when traveling from hotel to event is a mobile hotspot. We love the AT&T Velocity! It’s a wonderful travel companion.
- Devices such as the AT&T Velocity help families avoid #familyfomo and remain connected, even on the road.
- With encrypted Wi-Fi, password protection and a Guest Wi-Fi network, you can connect with confidence.
- Up to 10 hours of secure Wi-Fi lets you connect when, where and how often you want, and you can connect up to 10 devices.
- Wi-Fi couldn’t be easier. You can access data usage and Wi-Fi network information and settings right on the home screen, and you can share data, photos or even music with a built-in SD Card reader.
- You can manage your Velocity directly from the home screen and get fast downloads with dual band Wi-Fi technology (select Wi-Fi networks in 2.4GHz or 5GHz).
So bring your mobile hotspot and be sure to plan a Family Trip to Philadelphia: A City of Great History and Culture. Let us know your favorite attractions so we can highlight them in our next blog!