As a PA resident, I’ve explored many of the things to do in Philadephia on a family vacation and still feel like I haven’t even seen a fraction of the city! Philadelphia was America’s first capital, the signing place for our Declaration of Independence and the heart of so much another history. You could spend an entire family vacation on the historical sites alone. Of course, that’s not all Philly has to offer! Check out a few of my favorite things to do in Philadelphia on a family vacation!
Things to do in Philadelphia on a Family Vacation
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Delve into History
For history-loving families, Philadelphia is pretty much a dream come true. Just about everyone stops at Independence Hall at some point on their trip. It is, after all, the birthplace of the United States. Get there early, as people start lining up like crazy in the late morning and afternoon. Tickets are free, but if you don’t want to wait, you can buy timed tickets for just $1.50.
The Liberty Bell Center is another must-see for history lovers. The famous Bell recently got a splendid new home that’s as incredible as the bell itself. Visiting the Bell is free, but you will have to undergo security screening.
Valley Forge National Historical Park is perfect for families who want a taste of history while still enjoying the great outdoors. The 3,600+ acres park is open to all- including dogs. Pack a picnic lunch and spend a breezy afternoon exploring.
If you crave a bit of the darker side of history, the Eastern State Penitentiary is a stunning example of Gothic architecture yet incredibly creepy at the same time. Rumors say it’s haunted. Fun fact: the prison actually had running water before the White House did! Al Capone spent time there when it was still in operation. Now, you can check out the facility from the outside or take a guided “ghost” tour during certain seasons.
For more historical sites, see: Visit Philly: Celebrate the Wit & Wisdom of Ben Franklin
Explore Hands-on Museums & Zoos
History isn’t all you’ll find in Philadelphia. It’s also home to some of the coolest museums and an amazing zoo!
Every kid should visit the Franklin Institute at some point in their lives. It’s not only one of the oldest science museums in the country; it’s the embodiment of “hands on” and “interactive” fun. I haven’t been there since I was a kid when my class too an overnight trip to the museum. I heard it’s only gotten better!
If you’ve always wanted to be an archeologist, you can’t get much closer than a visit to the Penn Museum. It’s home to a massive 3,200-year-old sphinx- the third largest in the world! The full name of the museum is the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, but if you’re traveling by cab, just ask them to take you to the Penn Museum. General admission is $15 for adults and $10 for kids 6-17 (or full-time college students with a valid school ID).
You don’t have to spend the day inside to appreciate art. Keep an eye out for murals by The Mural Arts Program, an anti-graffiti initiative that invites artists to paint murals throughout the city.
One of my all-time favorite things to do in Philadelphia on a family vacation is a visit to the Philly Zoo. Be prepared because it is quite a hilly zoo, but the layout is considered one of the best in the world. You’ll see everything from your favorite animals to gorgeous architecture. Tickets can get a bit pricey at $23 per adult and $19 per child. If you visit off-season (during the colder months), they’re a bit cheaper. Still, it’s worth every penny!
Get a taste of traditional Philly Foods
You can’t visit Philly on a family vacation without tasting some of the most famous foods!
Have you ever had a Philly Cheese Steak IN Philly? I have! For me, I go with the chicken variety, but most people opt for the traditional. While you can get an authentic cheesesteak at many establishments in the city, everyone seems to flock to a few select spots, like Geno’s or Pat’s. Check out the 10 most popular places to grab a bite of this traditional Philly food, then watch this video on how to order one like a pro.
While New York City has great soft pretzels all over the city, you really can’t beat a Philly soft pretzel! Grab them hot from one of the many street carts.
Did you know the Hoagie was invented in Philly? At least that’s the claim. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, it’s also called a Hero or a Sub in other areas. For a true Philly hoagie, head to places like Sarcone’s or Liscio’s.
Check out more great place for foodies in our Visit Philly: Spend the Weekend and Explore the City! post
These are just a small sample of the amazing things to do in Philadelphia on a family vacation. Philly is the largest city in PA and the 5th largest based on population, so trust me, there are tons upon tons of things to do there. If you’re planning to do a lot of activities that require admission fees, I recommend grabbing a City Pass. It’ll save you quite a bit of money.
Have you ever been to Philly? What are your favorite things to do in Philadelphia on a family vacation? Tell us in the comments!
*Photos from Pixabay, except zoo (personal photo)