Over labor day weekend my family and I made the trek to PA from the NYC-area for our family vacation to Philadelphia. I was really excited for this trip since I have never been to Philly before and I heard it was an amazing (and walkable) place that kids of all ages will love.
We started our journey via Amtrak, which is a short one hour and 20 minutes from Penn Station. I tried to pack light since it was just me and the girls for the first night, but that in itself is challenging with kids. For this quick train ride, I packed books, games, and breaks with walks to the food car to break up the trip. We arrived at the Philly train station, grabbed a cab and within 20 minutes we were checked-in to the Omni Hotel at Independence Park, a gorgeous European-style luxury hotel located right in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. The hotel has a fun Omni Kids program where they were given a kids backpack filled with activity books, crayons, a ball and a magnifying glass. These basic toys went a long way and the girls loved the novelty of getting something new and special right when we checked in.
The girls and I were amazed by the gorgeous view from our hotel room that we enjoyed while regrouping before we found a restaurant for lunch. Since we had no car for this trip, the entire experience would be via walking, cabs, trolleys or the bus. For lunch, I decided to walk to the Moshulu, a restaurant in Penn's Landing that is located on the waterfront. I had my older daughter an umbrella stroller and my baby in the Ergo and we were off. While trying to find the restaurant, I loved walking around and soaking in the sights as we walked by Penn's Landing that usually has family-friendly events throughout the year.
The gorgeous restaurant was located on an historic four-masted ship that serves lunch and dinner. My older daughter got a kick out of eating on a boat, and I loved looking out at the water while we ate. It wasn't too busy for lunch, so we had no problem getting a table and were even given a huge circular eating area, which was incredible space for my baby. Specializing in seafood, I had a salmon sandwich and the girls had pasta, the food was delicious and came out quickly. Overall, we had an amazing experience there but I think the best part was after lunch when they could wander around the deck and look out of the window.
After our bellies were full, I found a bridge connecting to South Street and I walked around the neighborhood. While I was looking around the gorgeous home - many of which actually reminded me of homes in Brooklyn - I noticed that both of my daughters feel asleep where I continued to take in the sights and head to the Liberty Bell. Coming from NY, I was struck by how clean, quite and easy it was to get around. I loved passing my parks and different neighborhoods as I explored and took in the serene environment.
In about 30 minutes I was back in the downtown area and both girls were up for a trip to the historic Liberty Bell.I was also excited to see this famous symbol of independence up close and explain to my older daughter about its history. She wasn't interested in taking pictures with it, but she had a lot of questions - especially about its crack. Located right on the beautiful, and again, so clean Independence National Historical Park, a visit to the Bell is free and located right near the Independence Visitor Center.
We really enjoyed stopping there after a long walk where we enjoyed a snack and found more information about what to do around the area. The center was stocked with brochures and there is a fun souvenir shop that we enjoyed looking at.
We then walked around and passed by the U.S. Mint and the National Constitution Center, and headed to Franklin Squarefor some recreation before dinner. Having been to many parks over the past four years, I was really impressed by this space that included a golf course, carousel, SquareBurger, a Stephen Starr-run "burger shack," storytelling bench, picnic area and playground that is segmented by age.
I was amazed as my baby started climbing a mini-rock wall while my older daughter was swinging from monkey bars. After some swings and more playing, the girls loved the carousel and afterward we walked to Chestnut street to locate a quick to-go dinner. We were all exhausted and needed something quick to take back to our room. I found a sushi place and we enjoyed eating the room and relaxing after our busy day. After the girls slept I did some work and I really appreciated the FREE and fast WiFi that helped me get through some articles as well as a way to catch-up.
The next day we ordered room service - a delicious breakfast of oatmeal and blueberry pancakes that the girls devoured as they watched some TV on the big TV at the Omni. our plan was an adventure to the Please Touch Museum and the Philadelphia Zoo. Since it was further than our immediate area, I opted to take a cab where we passed interesting stops like the Rodin Museum, the Free Library, the Philadelphia Museum of Art (also the location of the Rocky stairs), and then finally the location of the Please Touch Museum at Fairmount Park's Memorial Hall.
Since my girls are up bright and early (hello, 6am!), we were there right when the museum opened at 9am and started exploring. Featuring six interactive exhibit zones across 38,000 square feet, we started by exploring the 'Roadside Attractions,' an area devoted to transportation featuring Philadelphia's SEPTA Bus, the Monorail Rocket Express, an authentic Philadelphia food vendor's cart and a car where kids can pump gas and pretend to ride in. I was struck my how quickly the girls loved the place and it was easy to see way: they could freely play, walk and touch every single item in the museum.
It was genius and beyond perfect for the age-range that my daughters are in. They also had a great time in 'Wonderland,' featuring the world of Alice and Wonderland through the Tea Party, the Hall of Doors and Mirrors, the Pool of Tears and Caucus Race, and the Duchess' Kitchen as well as the 'City Capers,' an amazing area with a construction zone, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Medical Center, and our favorite, the ShopRite Supermarket where the kids could load up their shopping wagons and load up mini containers of food. We ended our time there (some three hours later), with a trip around the carousel. My older daughter couldn't stop talking about the museum - describing everything she did - and I loved that both girls of different ages and needs could equally enjoy an experience at the Please Touch Museum.
We then waited for the Pshlash bus, a $2 trolley, to take us to the zoo. Within minutes it arrived, and we were at the Zoo. With over 1,300 animals, there was plenty to do there from an Avian Center, Big Cats Falls, and a Children's Zoo. We loved looking around at the monkeys, bears, giraffes and hippos, but there was a lot of walking (with hills), so we often took breaks but their was still plenty to see including the Trail of the Lorax stations , a 3D educational experience held at various stations throughout the zoo.
After the zoo, my husband arrived and we went to a local Italian restaurant along the bustling Market street. I loved checking out the cute shops and again I was in awe of the quiet of the city - even on a Friday night. When we returned to the hotel, my husband and daughter went to the pool for some swimming and post-swim ice cream.
The next day, we took the Big Bus Company and took a bus tour through the city. On this particular day, there was a concert held in the city, so some stops were detoured but we were still able to take in the sights of the city via the cool double-decker bus. This included a really comprehensive tour (21 stops in total) of various points of interest such as City Hall, Christ Church, Chinatown, the Betsy Ross House, and LOVE park as our tour guide went through the details of the streets to the rich history of the city. The beauty of a tour like this is that you can 'hop off and hop on,' throughout the day - enabling you and your family to get a tour and then get off when you a point is interesting.
After the tour, my older daughter really wanted to go back to the Please Touch Museum (and also show it to my husband), so we enjoyed a quick trip there and then unfortunely had to return home. We took the Amtrak again, and we were back to NYC.
Even though we were only in Philadelphia for two days we made the most of our time, and even better - discovered a new family-friendly and fun city to return to with the kids.
Family Vacation to Philadelphia
Ready to visit with your family? Here are some key attractions to explore when you are in Philadelphia.
- Start a day in Historic Philadelphia at the Independence Visitor Center. Purchase tickets to the area'??s top attractions and tours, get free timed tickets for Independence Hall, grab lunch or a snack, pick up a few souvenirs in The Independence Store and use the ample restroom facilities, free wireless internet access and convenient underground parking. 6th and Market Streets, (800) 537- 7676, independencevisitorcenter.com
- One of William Penn's original five squares, Franklin Square is a modern and fun family park, with a Philly-themed miniature golf course, a restored marble fountain, playgrounds and an old-fashioned carousel featuring some famous Philly horses. When hunger strikes, SquareBurger delivers with burgers, fries and shakes from Starr Restaurants. 6th & Race Streets,(215) 629-4026, historicphiladelphia.org
- Future firefighters get a head start at Fireman's Hall Museum, a restored 1902 firehouse that houses some of the nation's earliest firefighting equipment, including hand, steam and motor fire engines, as well as a 9/11 exhibit and an interactive kiosk that teaches kids about 9-1-1 emergency services. Visitors can try on fire coats and boots, man a bucket brigade and learn fire prevention tips. 147 N. 2nd Street (215) 923-1438, firemanshall.org
- Once a month on Wednesdays the Philadelphia Museum of Art offers Stroller Tours for newborns-age 1 allowing parents and caregivers to tour the museum with their young ones in like company. Free with admission. 26th Street & the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 763-8100, philamuseum.org
- Housed in Fairmount Park's Memorial Hall, the kid-centric Please Touch Museum®includes six interactive exhibit zones across 38,000 square feet, plus a fully restored 100-year-old carousel. Youngsters can play and pretend amid Alice's Wonderland, River Adventures and other hands-on fun. And on Target First Wednesdays, the museum stay opens from 5:00-7:00 p.m. with $2 admission. 4231 Avenue of the Republic, (215) 581-3181, pleasetouchmuseum.org.
- The only aquarium featuring hippos, Adventure Aquarium houses more than 8,400 aquatic animals. At the new Stingray Beach Club, adventurous types can pet and hand-feed giant stingrays or roll up their sleeves to touch jellies, shrimp, lobster, starfish, horseshoe crabs and sea cucumbers. After checking out exhibits such as Seal Shores and Penguin Island, visitors can walk through Shark Tunnel, hand-feed African birds in a free-flight aviary and take in a show at the 4-D theater. 1 Aquarium Drive, Camden, NJ, (856) 365-3300, adventureaquarium.com
- In addition to the Butterfly, Railroad, Dinosaur and Storybook gardens, the four-acre Camden Children's Garden has added a new Fitness Garden where kids can crawl, climb and learn about healthy living. 3 Riverside Drive, Camden, NJ, (856) 365-8733, camdenchildrensgarden.org
- Nearly 1,300 animals - many rare and endangered - call the America's first zoo home. In addition to leading the way in conservation efforts, the Philadelphia Zoo features the McNeil Avian Center, Big Cat Falls, the Children's Zoo, the PECO Private Reserve and seasonal family events. 3400 W. Girard Avenue, (215) 243-1100, philadelphiazoo.org
- Those who Ride The Ducks, an amphibious vehicle that goes from land (Independence Mall, South Street and Society Hill) to sea (Delaware River), can look forward to almost 80 minutes of entertainment, city history, fun facts and quacking. 6th & Market Streets, (887) 88-QUACK, phillyducks.com
- Featuring the iconic Ann Newman Giant Wooden Slide, SMITH The Kids' Play Place in the Park has been offering children (ages 10 and under) a free, safe place to play, jump, swing and climb. For children ages five and under, the Tot-Lot features more than 20 pieces of age-appropriate play equipment, and the 24,000-square-foot Playhouse lets kids to run the show. The playground is open from April through October, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; the Playhouse is open year-round. Near 33rd & Oxford Streets in East Fairmount Park, (215) 765-4325, smithkidsplayplace.
For more information, please visit: http://www.visitphilly.com/
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