Philadelphia is one of the country's great family destinations. It has a variety of attractions for different ages, and because it's so walkable and neighborhood based, a snack, a rest, or a new distraction is never far away.
The Independence Visitor Center, at 6th and Market streets (tel. 800/537-7676 or 215/965-7676; www.independencevisitorcenter.com), coordinates and sells several packages that combine free admission to many kid-friendly attractions with accommodations at hotels such as the Loews, Sheraton Society Hill, Four Seasons, and Holiday Inn. Contact the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation (tel. 215/599-0776; www.gophila.org) for more family-oriented hotel packages.
Museums & Sights
In Center City, you'll find Franklin Institute and CoreStates Science Park at Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 20th Street and the Academy of Natural Sciences at Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 19th Street. The Free Library of Philadelphia Children's Department, across Logan Circle at Vine and 19th streets, is a joy, with a separate entrance, 100,000 books, and computers in a playgroundlike space, with weekend hours. Around Independence Hall are the Liberty Bell Center; Franklin Court, between Market and Chestnut streets at 4th Street; the waterfront at Penn's Landing, off Front Street; the new National Constitution Center at Arch and 5th streets; and, of course, the guided tour of Independence Hall. You can also take the ferry from Penn's Landing and the great new Independence Seaport Museum to the aquarium, children's garden, and battleship in Camden, New Jersey. In West Fairmount Park, you'll find the zoo.
Rittenhouse Square at 18th and Walnut streets has a small playground and space in which to eat and relax. Other imaginative urban playgrounds on this side of Center City are Schuylkill River Park at Pine and 26th streets, and at 26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, opposite the art museum. Nearest Independence Hall, try Delancey, aka "Three Bears," Park at Delancey between 3rd and 4th streets (with lots of fountains and animal sculptures to climb on) or Starr Garden at 6th and Lombard streets. The best park in Fairmount Park is the Smith Memorial. It's got a giant wooden slide, weird things to climb on, and an indoor playground with plenty of toys to play with and spots to picnic (head north on 33rd St., then take a left into the park at Oxford Ave., near Woodford). Worth an afternoon is Franklin Square Park, between 6th and 7th on Race Street, with an old-fashioned carousel, a fountain (ca. 1825), a Philly-themed minigolf course, and a playground. Open daylight hours. The carousel costs $3 for adults and $2 for children. Minigolf costs $8 per adult and $6 per child. Daily 9am to 9pm.
There is lots of children's theater in Philadelphia. The Arden Theatre at 40 N. 2nd St. (tel. 215/922-1122; www.ardentheatre.org) is one of a dozen companies that produces children's theater year-round. The Pennsylvania Ballet also puts on matinee performances that make for a perfect early afternoon. Call tel. 215/551-7000 for more information.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art at 26th and Benjamin Franklin Parkway (bus: PHLASH, 21, or 42) has dedicated itself to producing Sunday-morning and early-afternoon programs for children, at minimal or no charge. Your kids could wind up drawing pictures of armor or watching a puppet play about dragons, visiting a Chinese court, or exploring cubism. Call tel. 215/763-8100, or 684-7500 for 24-hour information.
In Bucks County, there are Sesame Street-based rides and water slides at Sesame Place in Langhorne, and a restored antique carousel at Peddler's Village in Lahaska. To the northwest, try the 20th-century entertainment areas connected with Franklin Mills, and Ridley Creek State Park and its 17th-century working farm in Montgomery County. For Revolutionary War history in action, visit Valley Forge or Washington Crossing National Historical Park. And for a fascinating experience, spend a couple of days in Lancaster County -- you can even stay on a working Amish farm.
Connect the Docs
Here's a game to test your knowledge of Philadelphia's historical documents. Match each document -- written and ratified or published in Philly -- with its first full sentence:
1. The Declaration of Independence (1776)
2. The Articles of Confederation (1778)
3. The Constitution of the United States (1787)
4. The Bill of Rights (1791)
5. George Washington's Farewell Address (1796)
A. "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this [document name]."
B. "To all to whom these Presents shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of the States affixed to our Names, send greeting."
C. "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
D. "Friends and fellow citizens: The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the Executive Government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made."
E. "The Conventions of a number of the States having, at the time of adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added."
Answers: 1) C, 2) B, 3) A, 4) E, 5) D.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.