Family Vacation Fun
- High Street Sweets.
Rise early like founding father and famed Philadelphia resident Benjamin Franklin, and get to High Street on Market first thing for some of the city’s best house-baked breads and breakfast sandwiches. The also-excellent pastry selection changes seasonally — order a croissant and whatever tea cake is currently on the menu.
- American History Tour.
Most of Philadelphia’s rich American history can be explored within a few blocks. Start at the Liberty Bell — arrive when the center opens to beat the typically substantial crowds — and examine the symbol of freedom and its famed crack. Next, go across the street to Independence Hall to tour the grounds where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were debated and signed. (No tickets are required for the Liberty Bell, but stop by the Ranger’s Desk at the Independence Visitor Center for same-day tickets to Independence Hall.)
- Beer Garden Break.
Just across the street from the Liberty Bell, find the lively Independence Beer Garden. Break for a relaxing lunch and choose a local craft brew from a selection of 40 taps.
- Flag Origins.
A few blocks away, find the Betsy Ross House, where the legendary seamstress sewed the first American flag. Specialized audio tours are available for both adults and kids ages 4–8.
- Old -Fashioned Ice Cream.
The Franklin Fountain is a retro soda fountain just a few blocks from the exhibit (and the Benjamin Franklin Museum.) Order the house-made ice cream in a cone, or choose one of the giant sundaes, delivered in a Chinese takeout container.
- Benjamin Franklin Artifacts.
Back on Market Street, enter through a passageway to see the remnants of a home once owned by Benjamin Franklin. The Fragments of Franklin Court archaeological exhibit showcases artifacts found buried at the site.
- Patriotic Dinner.
Dubbed Little Lion for the nickname once given to Alexander Hamilton, the inviting restaurant is conveniently situated in historic Philadelphia and serves Southern-infused comfort foods, craft beer and specialty cocktails. Relax in the lofty space that once housed a bank and plot out your next day.
- Coffe and Doughnuts.
Federal Donuts serves up fried dough made to order, so “hot fresh” sugar-rolled flavors like vanilla spice and strawberry lavender practically melt in your mouth.
- Science Fun.
The Franklin Institute science museum is chock-full of cool, hands-on fun. Permanent exhibits include the Sports Zone, where you can race against professional athletes or Phillies team mascot the Phillie Phanatic, and high-speed cameras analyze your run, plus others that allow visitors to interactively explore electricity, the brain and the heart. Rotating exhibitions are popular, as well, including those recently highlighting robots, dinosaurs and 3-D printing.
- Follow in Rocky’s Steps.
After a short walk down Benjamin Franklin Parkway, arrive at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Whether or not you have time to tour the world-class collection, no visit to Philadelphia is complete without a run up the 72 steps, raising your arms at the top like Rocky Balboa and taking in the view from the top. The statue commemorating the champ is at the base of the steps and makes for fun photos.
- Museum Options.
If you don’t tour the art museum, opt for another nearby gem. Older kids might like the Mütter Museum — an oddball collection of medical curiosities and anatomical specimens, with highlights like Einstein’s brain and a plaster cast of conjoined twins Chang and Eng. For younger kids, the Please Touch Museum, with its hands-on exhibits and indoor carousel, is always a hit.
- Dinner on the Parc.
Parc, from Philadelphia-based restaurateur Stephen Starr, is right on Rittenhouse Square. The kid-friendly spot serves classic French bistro fare in a convivial atmosphere, and tables outside offer lovely views of the leafy square.
- Breakfast at Aqimero.
Dine on Belgian waffles or eggs Benedict under the dome of the former bank building before setting out on another adventure-filled day.
- The Philadelphia Zoo.
Dating back to 1874, America’s first real zoo is spread out over 42 acres, with highlights like the unique Zoo360 animal trail system, which gives animals like gorillas and African lions more room to roam. Kid-friendly exhibits and educational programs are abundant, and when it’s time for a break, try a soft pretzel from the outpost of Philly Pretzel Factory, a local favorite.
- Kelly Drive.
After the zoo, head across the river to the bronze Playing Angels sculptures that reside on Kelly Drive and walk the path south to take in more public art and sweeping views of the Schuylkill. Keep your eyes peeled for boaters methodically rowing sculls from Boathouse Row.
- Walnut Street Café.
Just over the river in University City, this sleek-yet-casual sunny café has something for everyone. Choose from pastas and small plates to a porterhouse steak for two. Kids will love the house-made sodas and ice cream sandwiches for dessert.
- Market Breakfast.
A few blocks from the hotel, Reading Terminal Market is one of the nation’s oldest continuously operating indoor farmers markets, with stalls selling everything from ice cream to Peking duck. Make for Beiler’s, where you’ll find Pennsylvania Dutch classics next to the M&M-topped and lemon cream-filled pastries.
- Go Fish.
Spend the morning at the Adventure Aquarium, just across the Delaware River in Camden, New Jersey. Kids 6 and under will enjoy the hands-on KidZone, while all ages can get up close to Nile hippos, stingrays, turtles, and the sharks that populate the 550,000-gallon Shark Realm.
- River Rink.
After the aquarium, come back across the Delaware to the Blue Cross RiverRink. In warm weather, the rink hosts Summerfest, with roller skating, mini golf and plenty of Philly-favorite treats, while in cold weather the rink transforms into a winter wonderland with ice skating, a ski chalet-inspired lodge and plenty of hot chocolate.
- Diner Favorites.
Helmed by the same team that runs Philadelphia’s award-winning restaurant Zahav, Rooster Soup Co. serves an updated take on classic diner food, with all of the profits going to a local charity. Try the house-made biscuits, smoked matzo ball soup, blue plate specials and milkshakes. With mostly counter seating and only a few tables, it’s a good idea to make a reservation.
- All Day Café.
Start the day at Talula’s Daily on Washington Square. Pull up a seat in the charming all-day café and market (that also hosts nightly “secret” supper club dinners) for a cup of La Colombe coffee and a freshly baked muffin or full breakfast made with local cheese and eggs.
- Magic Morning.
Perhaps the most whimsical spot in the city, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is an indoor and outdoor gallery on South Street meticulously covered in colorful mosaics, thanks to local mosaic mural artist Isaiah Zagar. Tour the creative, offbeat space, filled with found objects and sculptures, and have your camera handy — there are countless backdrops for prime picture taking. Lines can be long on the weekends, so arrive when it opens at 11 a.m.
- Italian Specialties.
Visit the Italian Market, America’s oldest outdoor market, and pop into Di Bruno Bros. cheese shop, Claudio’s and other mom-and-pop vendors who have been selling specialty foods on Ninth Street for years.
- Water Ice.
After strolling the Italian Market, in summer indulge in a refreshing John’s Water Ice. Choose from the fresh fruit flavors that the family-run shop has been making since 1945, and remember not to call it Italian ice here.
- Mural Arts Trolley Tour.
Philadelphia is home to a staggering number of murals, mostly thanks to the nation’s largest public arts program: Mural Arts. Book one of their themed tours to explore the “world’s largest outdoor art gallery” by trolley.
- An Electric Evening.
One of the five original public squares William Penn laid out when planning the city, Franklin Square is now home to a mini golf course featuring Philadelphia’s historic landmarks, a charming carousel, a spacious playground and a picturesque fountain in the center of it all. Come for a casual dinner at SquareBurger and treat yourself to a Cake Shake, infused with Tastykake butterscotch krimpets, a hometown favorite.