Monday, June 16, 2014

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

We've been to Philadelphia many times and have always found it to be a great town that appeals on many levels. Whether you want to take in the historical sites, visit some kiddie theme parks and museums, or indulge in the local fare until your stomach protests, there's something for everyone in the family.



What to Do

I love how Philly makes history comes alive with attractions like the Betsy Ross House, the Liberty Bell, the Ben Franklin Museum and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Of course, this may not mean anything to your kids if they're young, but it's something to keep in mind for a return trip when they're older.

I'm not a big fan of children's museums, but if I were compelled to pick a favorite, it'd be Philly's Please Touch Museum. It's got many well-done exhibits (we particularly enjoyed the Alice in Wonderland themed one), but what I like most is that the building is huge and high-ceilinged, so it never feels claustrophobic. There's even a full-size wooden carousel in an annex on the main level.


The Franklin Institute, a hands-on science museum, is another great stop in Philly. We were there to see a special Star Wars exhibit, but there are plenty of other great attractions there as well, including a real-life mummy and giant replicas of the heart and brain that your kids can crawl through.

We never made it to Franklin Square, but it's on my list to visit the next time we go. The square features a playground, fountain, carousel and Philly-themed mini-golf course.

And just over the river in Camden, NJ, is the popular Adventure Aquarium. Plan on spending at least a few hours there if you go.

Where to Eat

I love most food markets, but Reading Terminal tops my list because the majority of the food stalls are run by the Amish, who make the most comforting food in the world. My one gripe is that all of the Amish stands are closed on Sundays. Don't miss Dienner’s for the barbecue chicken, Bassett’s for the fresh ice cream, Miller's for the handmade soft pretzels, Beiler's for the glazed donuts, and Beck's for spicy Cajun staples like gumbo and jambalaya.

And of course you’re having a Philly cheesesteak while in Philly, but the question is: Geno’s or Pat’s? My friend, who's a Philadelphia native, swears by Pat's, but after trying both, I honestly couldn't pick between them! They're both really good. Just be ready to stand in line with the kids for a long, long time. Consider Jim's as an alternative - it's closer to the center of the city and has better ratings anyway.


What’s Nearby

Within half an hour of Philadelphia are two amusement parks geared toward younger children. Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA, is perfect for the younger set, with gentle rides, shows starring Elmo, a water park section, and a parade that runs twice a day. The whole park is pretty small by theme-park standards, making it easy for families to get around.

Diggerland is a construction-themed park in West Berlin, NJ, featuring real construction vehicles and equipment that your kids can ride and operate. They’ll be able to maneuver an actual digger, drive a dumper through an obstacle course, and dig for buried treasure using a mini excavator, among other down and dirty activities. There are also some more traditional amusement park rides, as well as stunt shows involving heavy equipment acrobatics.

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