Family Things to do in Philadelphia

Our oldest daughter is in 4th grade so she is in the midst of studying the birth of the United States: the Mayflower, the Pilgrims, and the 13 original colonies. With Philadelphia so close to New York City, I thought it would be an easy, fun, yet educational weekend to take the family to one of the most historical cities in the country, and The City of Brotherly Love.


Our daughter made this on Day 3 out of sticks at the Franklin Square playground.  She was so inspired by Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture.


We left on a Friday right after the girls got out of school and stayed through Sunday. We only took two duffel bags of clothes and a bag of snacks for the train ride. Below is what we did and a sample itinerary of family things to do in Philadelphia, but not spend too much money.


  • 4:03pm Amtrak train from New York Penn Station. We love taking Amtrak. It’s fast, reliable and comfortable. Especially with kids. The Coach Class has plugs so you can bring electronics and know that you won’t run out of juice. The trip to Philly is only 1 hour and 20 minutes and before you know it, you’re there.
  • 5:40pm Check in at the Marriott Residence Inn Philadelphia Center City. More on this great hotel in another post!
  • 6:00pm Dinner at Zio’s Brickoven Pizzeria on S. 13th Street.  A casual pizza joint which was bustling with locals families (always a good sign).  The girls had generous slices of pizza, I had the biggest eggplant parmigian for $6.95 and Michael had his Philly Cheesesteak complete with Cheese Whiz also for $6.95.
  • 7:15pm Quick short walk three store-fronts down to Capogiro Gelato for dessert. They had the most interesting flavors like Chocolate Banana, Burnt Sugar and Tiramisu. Tip: All you need is one scoop each. Their gelato is so rich,  in a good way.


  • 8:30am Breakfast! Since we are staying at the Marriott Residence Inn, we hit their free hot breakfast (godsend to families), because you know you can’t leave the hotel without putting something warm in your kid’s tummies.
  • 9:30am Reading Terminal Market.  It’s a five-minute walk from the Marriott Residence Inn.  This a wonderful indoor open market that has everything from coffee, crepes, croissants, ice-cream, fresh vegetables (from local Pennsylvania Farms), meats and dairy. It’s basically Philadelphia’s green, local market.
  • 10:30am The Big Bus Tour. We’ve learned after going on many family vacations that doing a sightseeing tour first gives a good introduction to the city, and the lay of the land. The Big Bus is a 1/ ½ hour, 21-stop tour on a double-decker bus which you can hop on and hop off with a ticket that is good for 24-hours.  Major  attractions include The Betsy Ross’ House, Eastern State Penitentiary, and the Rocky Steps.
Some scenes from The Big Bus Tour (clockwise): Betsy Ross’ House, Rodin, The Rocky Steps.
  • 12:15pm. Lunch at Fork, etc. This is a casual café on Market Street, not far from where The Big Bus drops you off. They have high-quality sandwiches and breakfast foods. The girls had the fluffiest scrambled eggs with bacon and multi-grain toast while I had a chicken Banh Mi sandwich and Michael had a Turkey BLT. Not too expensive and good food in a local, cafe scene.
  • 1:00pm The Liberty Bell. This is a free attraction that is within a 5 minute walk from The Big Bus drop-off. There’s a small museum about the history of the bell and its famous crack, and the real Liberty Bell itself.
  • 2:00pm Independence Hall. Right across the street is where two of the most important documents in our country’s history were signed: The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Guides bring you through the buildings and give you a high-level history of Philadelphia. A lot of historical information will go over your kids heads, unless they are in middle school or older, but they may get a kick out of the fact that a lot of the furniture, paintings and books are 250 years old. Plus, you get to see the actual chair that George Washington sat in during the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Pretty Cool!
  • 3:30pm. Afternoon Snack at Old City Frozen Yogurt. Back on Market Street for a healthy snack. If you’ve ever been to Red Mango or Pink Berry, this is very similar with DIY yogurt and toppings.
  • 4:00pm. The Betsy Ross’ House. The house tells Betsy Ross’ life story in a museum like setting. It shows how people lived 250 years ago with rooms set up with furniture from the time period. The girl’s favorite part was in the basement where there was a mock kitchen with kid’s bowls and pretend food and a recipe from back-in-the day on how to make Turkey Pot Pie. I think this was the girl’s highlight!
  • 4:45pm Franklin Square.  This is a very kid-friendly park with a playground, carousel and miniature golf. Even while traveling, we make it a point to let the kids be kids and let them run around.  We hit the carousel first, then the playground. There are two sections, one for the little kids, and one for the big kids. It’s about a 15 minute walk from Betsy Ross’ house.
Having a blast and getting a lot of their energy out at the Franklin Square playground.
  • 6:00pm Dinner at Continental Martini Bar.  This is a 20-minute walk from Franklin Square, but I assure you, it is well worth it. Walk via Elfreth’s Alley (Philadelphia’s oldest residential street) to get some sight-seeing along the way. Continental is swank enough that you feel cool, but casual enough that the you are OK going in with kids. We had the Lobster Mac and Cheese, Korean Pork Tacos, BBQ Chicken Quesadillas and the French Onion Soup Dumplings. The girls had the Chicken Lettuce Wraps and the Udon Noodle Soup, which they had two servings of. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with this place.
  • 8:15am Breakfast! Enjoyed the free, hot breakfast at the Marriott Residence Inn, again.
  • 9:00am Reading Terminal Market.  For more food, this time Nutella and Banana Crepes and Coffee from Old City Coffee. Sundays are not as bustling because a lot of the shops are closed since they are owned by the Amish, but you can still get a killer cup of coffee and breakfast pastries.
  • 10:00am The Franklin Institute. This is a phenomenal museum that has a science bent.  It is very similar to New Jersey’s Liberty Science Center – without the crowds. We definitely came out smarter than when we came in. We learned the science behind flight (I actually understood it this time), space exploration, how trains move and the human heart (there’s a giant human heart that you can actually walk in!) We spent four hours here and could have easily spent another 3 hours. Both girls (ages 9 and 5) were equally engaged in all the exhibitions. Highly, highly recommend going.
At The Franklin Institute (clockwise): On top of the Giant Heart; exercising while learning what the benefits of exercise are; understanding what makes planes fly. 
  • 3:25pm Amtrak train back to New York City!

We loved our weekend here, and Philadelphia is one of those cities that you feel so humbled being in. It’s so hard to grasp how much history took place int his town. Will we be back?  To quote our 5-year old during the trip:

“It’s always a beautiful day in Philadelphia”

“Philadelphia is beautiful.”


Our spectacular view from our 1-bedroom suite at the Marriott Residence Inn. How pretty is she?

You bet we will.  Next time might have to be a longer weekend. Two days is just not enough!


  • Philadelphia’s transit system, SEPTA, seems pretty extensive. There were many bus and subway stops , but we didn’t use it. We walked about 95% of the time and took a cab four times.
  • Cabs are plentiful and easy to get. Cab fare for us went from $7 – $11 depending on where you were going.
  • Unless your kids are really young, you don’t need a stroller. The city is definitely a walking city, so make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes.

What are your favorite family things to do in Philadelphia?