Family Fun in Philly: Five Kid-Friendly Activities in the City of Brotherly Love
Boasting a top-notch zoo and a standout aquarium, Philadelphia is a place where young visitors are transported to the deserts of Australia or to the ocean floor without ever leaving the city. First-class museums cater to children's imaginations in the City of Brotherly Love. And, as a former capital of the United States and a key city during the birth of the country, Philadelphia brims with history and lore that is relevant and exciting to school-aged children.
Monkey Around at the Philadelphia Zoo
Delight the kids with a day at the 42-acre Philadelphia Zoo (3400 W. Girard Ave., Philadelphia, PA) where they can check out kangaroos and emus in the Outback Outpost exhibit, witness the acrobatic prowess of spider monkeys in Monkey Junction and admire majestic creatures like lions and giraffes in the African Plains area. During the summer, admission to the zoo costs $23 for adults and $19 for children between the ages of 2 and 11. Rates drop slightly during the winter. Children under the age of 2 enjoy the zoo for free. For an extra $12 per person or $40 for a family of four, you can go for a thrilling 10-minute ride on the 6ABC Zooballoon, a helium balloon that rises to 400 feet for a bird's-eye view of the property.
Hippos and Penguins and Sharks, Oh My! Explore Adventure Aquarium
Though it is technically in New Jersey, the Adventure Aquarium (1 Riverside Dr., Camden, NJ) is just minutes from downtown Philadelphia and offers some of the biggest thrills in the area. Here the kids make eye contact with 3,000-pound hippos and enjoy the delightful antics of Little Blue and African penguins. This is also the only aquarium in the country where you can get a close look at ferocious-looking great hammerhead sharks. Touch exhibits make it possible for patrons of all ages to get acquainted with invertebrates like sea stars and anemone. There are also feedings and shows throughout the day. Admission to the aquarium is $28 for adults and $12 for children between the ages of 2 and 12.
Stimulate Young Minds at the Please Touch Museum
Conventional museum rules don't apply at Philadelphia's Please Touch Museum (4231 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia, PA), where the exhibits encourage the kids not only to touch, but also to climb, jump, problem-solve and create. Patrons play architect with enormous foam blocks in the Imagination Playground, work their way through a maze and a hall of mirrors in an Alice in Wonderland-themed area and launch a rocket ship of their own design in the Flight Fantasy exhibit. If the weather is nice, spend some time putting around in the herb and vegetable gardens. Several Toddler Zones ensure that even visitors under the age of 3 can learn and explore. Before you leave, treat the kids to a spin on the museum's carousel. Admission to the museum costs $19 per person. Children ages 1 and under are admitted free. Carousel tickets cost $3.
Get Patriotic at Independence National Historical Park
School-aged children who have studied American history will see their textbooks come to life at Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park, where many defining moments in the early days of the republic took place. Admission is free, and no tickets are required to admire and pose with the famous Liberty Bell, an iconic symbol of the city, housed in the Liberty Bell Center (6th & Market Sts., Philadelphia, PA). You will, however, need tickets for every member of your party to venture inside Independence Hall (520 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA), where the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were both signed. Visits are by ranger-led tours only. Tickets are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Independence Hall Visitor Center (599 Market St., 1 North Independence Mall West, Philadelphia, PA).
Put on Your Thinking Caps at the Franklin Institute
Philadelphia's Franklin Institute (222 North 20th St., Philadelphia, PA) cleverly turns science into adventures that kids relish. Ten exhibitions include the iconic Giant Heart, where children can imagine themselves to be blood cells, and a Mirror Maze, where math is the key to getting out. Here they learn all about the forces that allow locomotives to work in the Train Factory, dabble in physics in Sir Isaac's Loft and learn about human motion in the Sports Zone. Admission costs $20 for adults and $16 for children ages 3 to 11. You'll have to pay an extra $5 per person to explore the Mirror Maze.
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Since beginning her career as a professional journalist in 2007, Nathalie Alonso has covered a myriad of topics, including arts, culture and travel, for newspapers and magazines in New York City. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Columbia University and lives in Queens with her two cats.