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6 Bright Ideas For Philadelphia With Kids


I like revisiting certain places periodically as Tiny Traveler grows. Seeing the evolution in her interests makes these trips more memorable. Nearby Philadelphia is one of these places. Over spring break we decided to see how age 7 compared with her visit at age 4.

crane at Please Touch in PhiladelphiaGrowing out of Please Touch

It was clear (if a little sad) that she’s getting too mature this giant children’s museum that enthralled her as a preschooler.

The world of Alice in Wonderland was still her favorite and where we spent the most time. She rode the carousel. And she had fun building with big blue foam blocks, maneuvering a bulldozer to lift plastic balls from a pit, and shooting rockets in the room that’s all about motion. The craft room always has something going on for kids of many ages.

Still, even the exhibits she liked didn’t hold her interest as much as they once did. Two hours here was plenty.

Growing Into the Franklin Institute

Benjamin Franklin watches a science demonstration in PhiladelphiaOn the other hand, She’s hit the perfect age for the Franklin Institute, probably the best science museum we’ve been to.

She liked the KidScience room, which explores air, water, wind and light and is just for 5- to 8-year-olds.

She had a great time pretending she was on a Magic School Bus trip as she climbed inside a human heart and crawled all over brain neurons. We made a human circuit in the Electricity room and she recorded her own weather forecast as we passed through the Changing Earth.

The Amazing Machine looks a little dull at first, but she could have spent hours here turning gears into machines and making devices move in different ways.

Even with the museum staying open late for spring break there was a lot we missed.

Note: A Groupon for Please Touch saved us about 40% off admission. And our AAA membership gave us a discount at the Franklin. These are two great resources to keep in mind no matter where you go.

A Magical Discovery

peruvian statues at the magic garden in Philadelphiatires and mosaics at the magic garden in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia CVB suggested the Magic Garden on South Street as an activity that would please both parents and kids, and they were so right!

An artist took a retail space and backyard and spent about a decade covering every available inch with mosaics of tiles and mirrors, ziggurats of glass bottles, Peruvian statues, bicycle wheels and any other odd bits that struck his fancy. It’s part genius and part crazy and makes you say, wow!

The ticker seller gave TT a scavenger hunt that sent her searching high and low for animals, birds and mermaids. On our way out we exchanged her pencil for a tattoo designed by the artist.

Art After Dark

The Philadelphia Art Museum stays open until 8:30 on Friday nights and offers live jazz and light food. The jazz was great but way too loud for TT. While we did see other families dancing and eating, we didn’t linger in the main hall.

Rocky Stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of art

The fellow who sold us our tickets recommend the impressionists collection, the Brancusi statues and the Asian galleries for kids and he was mostly right.

We spent a lot of time talking about light in the impressionist paintings, guessing what time of day and what season they showed. And we moved closer to them and further back to see how they changed. Brancusi intrigued her. And she found a small wing of eclectic American art imaginative and amusing.

Note: If your kids aren’t jazz fans either, try the museum on a Sunday, when it offers its family programs.

Trying American History…Again

It’s hard to resist the wealth of America history Philadelphia offers, but I think it’s best for kids ages 9 and up, about the age kids start learning history in school.

running on the lawn by independence hall in PhiladelphiaWe visited the Independence Visitors Center across from the Liberty Bell, which I recommend. Two free movies they show are about 25 minutes long. The one we saw focused on the lives of real young people on both sides of the revolution. TT was curious but didn’t entirely understand it. We also watched a guy give a demonstration on a hammered dulcimer. He asked for requests, so I joking asked if he knew “Hotel California.” And he did!

We also picked up free, scheduled tickets to tour
Independence Hall. I find it thrilling to stand in the room that yielded both the Declaration of Independence and the Constituion, but I’ll admit it was incredibly boring for her. While waiting for our tour, we ventured into a small side exhibit that explored the interest and influence the founding fathers had on science and nature, especially Franklin and Jefferson. She actually enjoyed it and I think she learned from it.

A Philadelphia Culinary Adventure

We never visit the city without stopping to shop and eat in the Italian and Mexican markets in South Philadelphia. Share a roast pork sandwich from George’s but leave room for tacos from any of several purveyors (and cannoli, of course).

cheese shop in south PhiladelphiaWe bought a huge bag of surprisingly good tomatoes for $2 from one of the produce guys on the street. We smelled the amazing cheese shop before we saw its well-curated selection, including rich Italian styles you don’t see everywhere. We discovered a butcher that specializes in game and picked up some boar to make Ragu with (his house-made sausages looked good, too). Our last stop was a pasta shop where we watched them crank out fresh fettuccine for us.

We picked up cannoli and mascarpone-filled éclairs at Isgro’s bakery for the car ride. Then drove home to cook our South Philly Feast.

We’ll be back.

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15 Comments

  1. Rachael@safari254
    April 21, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    The mention of the Magic School Bus has taken me way back. I loved the show.

    • April 27, 2015 at 1:25 pm

      A whole new generation of kids is discovering it thanks to Netflix!

  2. April 21, 2015 at 1:03 am

    Lovely place…

  3. April 20, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    The world is wide open. Love the mosaics!

  4. April 20, 2015 at 10:18 am

    I love the Franklin Museum! Even as an adult, it’s quite fun.
    A Magical Discovery and Italian and Mexican markets are definitely on my agenda when I go back this summer.

  5. April 20, 2015 at 2:20 am

    Eileen, I love Philly! There is so much to do. My absolute favorite place is the mint! Have you been?

    • April 20, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      i haven’t, but you are the second or third person who mentioned it to me, so I should add it to our “next time” list.

  6. April 20, 2015 at 1:51 am

    I totally missed the magic garden the first time there, I’m going to have to make sure we stop there on the next trip stateside, I can’t believe it was right there the entire time. We hit as much as possible, but missed so much at the same time. A trip back is well overdue.

    • April 20, 2015 at 3:39 pm

      It’s actually only a few years old. if you were there before 2006 it perhaps wasn’t open. But it certainly deserves more attention!

  7. April 19, 2015 at 4:19 am

    These are some awesome tips.I guess Art museum is a fantastic place.

    • April 19, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      All 3 of those museums are really tops in their respective classes. There is another smaller art museum and a Rodin museum that are supposed to be great, too.

  8. April 18, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    The magic garden does look like a great deal of fun.

    • April 20, 2015 at 3:40 pm

      It was a bit of a find, especially as we wouldn’t have gone to South Street otherwise.

  9. April 18, 2015 at 6:31 am

    We went to Philadelphia last year for a very quick visit. It was an impromptu stop while driving from Washington DC to New York City. Our girls our teens, and we only did the historical stuff. It’s amazing how much we squeezed into a few hours.

    • April 19, 2015 at 3:13 pm

      The historical stuff is what i would recommend if you only have one day. The great thing about Philly is that the scale of the city works well for a quick visit.