With numerous taverns, eye catching street art, and an amazing collection of museums, historic Philadelphia has a lot to offer families. Whether it’s your first trip or a return visit, here are 11 things you should do with your family in Historic Philadelphia.
Historic Philadelphia – Amazing Things To Do with the Kids
- Sign the Constitution
The Signers Gallery with the National Constitution Center invites you to mingle with the Founding Fathers. You can wander among the 42 life size bronze statues of each delegate, perhaps visiting a representative from your state, but be sure to step up to the table and add your signature to the constitution. For a bonus, you can have your signed version emailed to you as an amazing souvenir. (Cost: entrance fee to the museum, signed constitution emailed to you is free)
- Hear Stories Come to Life
Located throughout Historic Philadelphia you’ll find inviting curved benches to sit and experience the art of storytelling. The 13 Once Upon a Nation Storytelling Benches bring Philadelphia events and people to life. You’re transported in time through each storyteller’s enthusiasm and knowledge. Kids can enjoy collecting stars on their Story Flag (available at any of the benches) as they visit each bench and become further connected to the country’s past. (Cost: free)
- Play the Armonica
Visiting the Benjamin Franklin museum, we discovered a very versatile man. Did you know he created the Armonica. It’s an instrument based on moistened fingers touching the edge of spinning glass. It’s similar to the idea of running a wet finger around the rim of a glass filled with water. Along with seeing one of these instruments in the museum, you can try your hand playing on one through an interactive display. My kids couldn’t get enough of this exhibit and many of the interactive exhibits at this museum. (Cost: entrance fee to the museum)
- Get a Benjamin Franklin Post Mark
When visiting the museum shop be sure to pick-up a postcard to mail from the Benjamin Franklin post office across the courtyard. We love postcards as an inexpensive souvenir from any family trip. When sending a quick note to friends and family while on vacation, grab a postcard as a keepsake of your trip and pen a few fond memories. The kids will love receiving these weeks after returning from your trip, reliving the vacation again. Plus at the Benjamin Franklin post office in historic Philadelphia you can have your stamps hand cancelled (Cost: free, excluding stamps and postcard)
- Walk Through an Urban Graveyard
Cemeteries are often perceived as places of sadness but they are full of history, especially within Philadelphia. I was fascinated with how may urban graveyards exist within the historic part of Philadelphia. You’ll find Old Saint Mary’s Church, Christ Church (where Benjamin Franklin is buried), old Pine Cemetery (where you can see the likeness of George Duffield, the Old Pine minister during the Revolutionary War, carved from a tree stump), plus many smaller sites. Seeing these ornate tombstones and plaques, and reading the dates these people lived is a reminder that that history wasn’t just something written in books. There were real people, some of stature and some of everyday living (Cost: free)
- Admire the City’s Street Art
I’ve always been a fan of street art, whether commissioned or spontaneous artist installations. Street art in the form of murals can tell a story, depict a neighbourhood or set a mood. Philadelphia’s Mural Arts offers a self-guided The Mural Mile walking tour (downloadable pdf map). Most are outside of the Historic Philadelphia district but we found a few pieces when walking around. (Cost: free)
- Take a Selfie with the Liberty Bell
A visit to Historic Philadelphia isn’t complete without seeing the Liberty Bell. My kids had more of a connection to these historic monuments through the film National Treasure than history lessons. Grabbing a selfie in front of the Liberty Bell is a must. Don’t be discouraged by the long line to enter the Liberty Bell Center. The slowdown is the security screening but the line moves fairly quickly. You won’t encounter too many crowds once inside when it comes to grabbing your selfie. If you have National Treasure fans in your family, grab a copy of this brochure (pdf) of the key movie spots in Philadelphia and Washington, DC. (Cost: free)
- Touch an Original Liberty Tree
The Liberty Trees were known as gathering places for people to discuss and debate revolt leading up to the Revolutionary War. The American Revolution Museum has a 2-story replica of the first Liberty Tree in Boston. Embedded within this replica you can touch an actual piece of the Annapolis (Maryland) Liberty Tree. Walk under the lanterns hanging from the tree and look at the interactive posts hung on the wall. This has to be one of my favourite exhibits at this museum and that’s saying a lot since there are so many great interactive exhibits. (Cost: museum entrance fee)
- Raise the Flag with Betsy Ross
I loved walking through Historic Philadelphia, past the amazing architecture and down narrow streets, spotting the American flag hanging from doorways and balconies. The best American Flag experience has to be at the Betsy Ross House with Betsy Ross herself. This could be a fun incentive to get the kids up and out early in the summer as this happens every day at 10 a.m. until Labor Day. (Cost: Free)
- Enjoy a Glass of Shrub
Historic Philadelphia isn’t short on taverns. We enjoyed an authentic 18th century lunch at the famous City Tavern, combining food with a little history. Don’t have time to stop for lunch or dinner? Step into the bar to enjoy a glass of Colonial Raspberry Shrub. It’s non-alcoholic so the whole family can enjoy. Made on site, shrub is an historic fruit libation used as an addition to mixed drinks and even cooking though it is delightfully refreshing on its own. (Cost: drink fee can vary)
- Putt Through Miniature Philadelphia
My kids are mini putt fans, especially a good themed course. The course in Franklin Park is a perfect match for our Historic Philadelphia trip. Putt over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, through the famous LOVE sculpture, up the steps ‘Rocky’ ran and even down the narrow neighbourhood streets. A fun way to bring Philadelphia down to kid size. (Cost: entrance fee to play the course)
It’s so hard to limit this list to just 11 things for families to do. If you only had a short visit in Historic Philadelphia these should be on your MUST DO list. If you’ve been before, what would you add to this list?
You can take a quick room tour of the Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill location where we stayed. It puts you close to the Delaware River and within Historical Philadelphia. We were able to walk to all of the spots listed above. Plus if you wanted to go beyond the historic district, the easily accessible The Big Bus Company offers quick hop -on/hop-off transportation with a tour.
Thanks to Visit Philly for working with us to co-ordinate this visit but as always, the thoughts and experiences are my own.