City guide: Philadelphia

Your one-stop city guide, packed with information on family-friendly hotels, restaurants, and local and unique attractions.

Bev Sykes (basykes)
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Philadelphia’s pivotal role in the founding of our nation makes it a rewarding destination for families.  The quintessentially American spirit in Ben Franklin, Betsy Ross and even Rocky Balboa is palpable in this city nestled on the shores of the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers.  Unmistakably urban, Philly also has ample park space, and the countryside is only a short drive from Center City.  Bring on the cheese steak!


Embassy Suites
1776 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 561-1776
Price: Rooms starting at $120/night

You couldn’t ask for a better location: sightseeing tours begin one block from the hotel. Every room is a 2-room suite, so you’ll have plenty of room to spread out. The on-site TGI Fridays, sure to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters!

Courtyard by Marriott
21 North Juniper Street, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 496-3200
Price: Rooms starting at $135/night

With 6 options for room types, you’re sure to find the one that’s right for your needs.   With an indoor pool and whirlpool, you and the rest of your crew can rejuvenate at the end of a day packed with sightseeing. Winner of a 2012 Certificate of Excellence from

Hotel Palomar, Kimpton Hotel
117 South 17th Street, Philadelphia, PA  
(215) 563-5006
Price: Rooms starting at $230/night

Nestled in posh Rittenhouse Square, The Palomar prides itself on its luxurious amenities for the family on the go.  The Kimpton Kids package offers some nifty perks: connecting rooms, a travel activity pack for kids, free cribs, in-room child-safety kits and a bedtime snack of milk and cookies. Children 17 and under stay free.

Omni Hotel at Independence Park
401 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 925-0000
Price: Rooms starting at $229/night

If you’re up for a high-end accommodations and attentive customer service, the Omni is an excellent choice.  Upon arrival, children are presented with a backpack filled with a Discovery map and 32 games, a mini-disc, hackey-sack, magnifying glass and Twizzlers.  Milk and cookies are delivered before bed on the first night of your stay.  Omni has been recognized by Parents magazine as one of the Ten Best Hotel Chains for Families in 2012.

Holiday Inn Express
1305 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 735-9300
Price: Rooms starting at $170/night

A great value in a central location.  A short walk from the Liberty Bell and the Reading Terminal Market, the Holiday Inn Express caters to people on the move.   Amenities for children include an outdoor pool, in-room Nintendo game cubes and loaner board games at front desk.


Philadelphia Cheesesteak Sandwich

iStockphoto- Philadelphia Cheesesteak Sandwich

700 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 223-5663
Monday-Thursday: 11:30am-11:30pm, Friday: 11:30am-12am
Saturday: Brunch: 10am-3pm, Dinner: 5pm-12am
Sunday: Brunch: 10am-3pm, Dinner: 4-11pm
Price: $$
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

This Old City up-and-comer is a great choice for kids. Local restaurateur Stephen Starr has revitalized the neighborhood with this mecca for affordable, upscale comfort food.  Yes, there’s mac and cheese, but go for the signature dish: fried chicken and waffles.  

Villa di Roma
936 South 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 592-1295
Monday-Thursday: 4-10:30pm
Friday & Saturday: 12-11pm
Sunday: 2-10pm
Price: $$
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

They know a thing or two about Italian food in Philadelphia, and this unassuming South Philly spot will not disappoint.  Standards like chicken parm are outstanding; be sure to order a side of fried asparagus. Cash only.

Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse
7500 State Road, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 331-3112
Hours: 11am-9pm (daily)
Price: $$$
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

This is the place to go for succulent BBQ.  Perfect for families, Sweet Lucy’s offers the “Pig Out” a feast for the whole brood, or a child-sized “Piglet.” There’s a buffet on Mondays.  Children under ten eat at half price, and children under five eat free.  Consistently rated among the top restaurants in the city.

21 South 16th Street, Philadelphia, PA  
(215) 569-3278
Monday-Thursday: 7am-10pm
Friday: 7am-11pm
Saturday: 8am-11pm
Sunday: 8am-9pm
Price: $$
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

Since 1984, Marathon Grill has been all about high quality fresh food at an affordable price.  Sally’s matzoh ball soup is loved by adults and children alike.  Breakfast served all day.

Buttercream Philly Truck

4634 Woodland Avenue, Philadelphia PA
(267) 505-7486
Hours: Check website for scheduled stops
Price: $
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

Cupcakes are the “little black dress” of desserts these days, and Buttercream Philly offers the yummiest in town.  Lawyer-turned- baker Kate Carrara is behind this mobile dessert wagon, which makes stops all over the city.  Check the website for the schedule of stops.


Independence Hall

59 South Street, Shrewsbury, MA, 01545

(508) 791-1213

Hours: 9am-5pm (daily)
Price: Free
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

Home of the Liberty Bell and the hallowed spot where the Declaration of Independence were signed. The tour guides are excellent, and weave the tales of our nation’s founding into engaging stories that will interest all age groups.

National Constitution Center
525 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 409-6700
Monday-Friday: 9:30am-5pm
Saturday: 9:30am-6pm
Sunday: 12pm-5pm
Price: Children (ages 4-12): $8, Adults (ages 13-64): $14.50, Senior (age 65+): $13
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

Educational, informative, and interactive, this is a must-do.  This exhibition gives new meaning to the Constitution as a “living document” by inviting children to vote for their favorite president and take the oath of office.  The civic-minded can email their congressmen on the spot.  Don’t leave without seeing the tools used to stage the Watergate break-in.

The Franklin Institute
222 North 20th Street, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 448-1200
Hours: Sunday-Friday: 9:30am-7pm, Saturday: 9:30am-5pm
Price: Children (ages 3-11): $12.50, Adults (ages 12+): $16.50, Members: Free
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

A truly special science museum!  The permanent exhibits include the famous Giant Heart, where the children learn about the circulatory system by climbing through arteries and ventricles.  The Sports Challenge includes an invitation to pitch a baseball 60 feet to “get” aerodynamics.  Splurge for a membership and keep going back!

Betsy Ross House
239 Arch St. Philadelphia, PA
(215) 629-4026
December, Janurary, February: Monday: Closed, Tuesday-Sunday: 10am-5pm
March-November: 10am-5pm (daily)
Self-Guided Tours: Children, Students, Seniors, Military: $4, Adults: $5
Audio Tours: Children, Students, Seniors, Military: $6, Adults: $7    
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

More than a house, this is the birthplace of the American flag.  The children will learn the story of the famous seamstress and entrepreneur, and even get to ask her questions.

Linvilla Orchards
137 W. Knowlton Rd. Media, PA
(610) 876-7116
Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 8am-6pm, Friday-Saturday: 8am-7pm
Price: Free
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

Just 12 miles from Philadelphia, you’ll find plenty to do at this orchard, garden center and swim club.  “Pick your own” from a wide array of fruits and veggies, go fishing in Lake Orchard or take a daytime or early evening hayride.  Don’t leave without picking up a pie (or two) from the bakery.

Phillies Game and Stadium Tour at Citizen’s Bank Park
One Citizens Bank Way, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 463-1000
Game Days: Monday-Saturday: 10:30am-2:30pm
Non-Game Days: Monday-Saturday: 10:30am
Off-Season: Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 10:30am
Price: Children (ages 4-12): $6, Adults (ages 13-64): $10, Seniors (ages 65+): $6
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

The Phillies ballclub has done an excellent job creating a stadium experience that focuses on family-centertainment.  The Philly Phanatic has become among the most beloved mascots in sports, and he will happily pose for photos.  There is an arcade called the Phun Zone, and the Phood Stand offers kids meals for $3.50!

Abe’s Buggy Rides
2596 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bird-in-Hand, PA
(717) 392-1794

Hours: Monday-Saturday: 9am-6pm
Children (age 2 and under): Free
Mile Ride 2.3: Children (ages 3-12): $5, Adults (ages 12+): $10
Mile Ride 4.5: Children (ages 3-12): $25, Adults (ages 12+): $10
1-Hour Ride: Children (ages 3-12): $11, Adults (ages 12+): $30
Age Range: Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

Well worth the hour or so from Center City, a ride on one of Abe’s Buggies is a wonderful way to introduce children to the Amish and Mennonite way of life.  You will sit comfortably as your authentically Amish buggy driver leads you through the farms and schoolhouses of Lancaster County.  After a picnic lunch, take the kids to a playground crafted by the local Amish. Only cash and checks accepted.

Please Touch Museum
4231 Avenue of the Republic,  Philadelphia,  PA
(215) 581-3181
Hours: Monday-Saturday: 9am-5pm, Sunday: 11am-5pm
Price: $16 per person

Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

“Learn through play” is the motto at this pioneering center of experiential learning for the under-7 set.  The “City Capers” zone recreates the skyline of Philadelphia; little ones don surgical scrubs as they figure out what it means to be a doctor.  The rainforest area introduces the concept of “jungle.”  There’s so many activities available here, it’s likely you’ll need a few visits.

Comedy/Sportz for Kids
2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA
Hours:  Last Sunday of every month: 11am
Price: $10 per person
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

A family-friendly version of this successful comedy/improv troupe’s performances.  The idea: comedians compete on teams for laughs and refs call the game.  The audience awards points and shouts out suggestions.  Like American Idol, but more interactive!

Smith Playhouse and Playground
East Fairmount Park, 33rd and Oxford Street, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 765-4325
April 1-September 30: Tuesday-Sunday: 10am-6pm,
October 1-December 31: Friday-Sunday: 10am-4pm

Playhouse Hours:
April 1-September 30: Tuesday-Friday: 10am-4pm, Saturday & Sunday:10am-6pm October 1-March 31: Tuesday-Sunday: 10am-4pm

Price: Free
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

This charming 7-acre spot has been hosting Philly’s younger set for over 100 years.  For fives and under, check out the “Playhouse Mansion,” where the high ceilings, elegant staircase and intricate woodworking form the backdrop for an awesome tricycle room, a book nook and a tumbling room.  Outside there’s a gigantic wooden slide and spinning jungle gyms.  Definitely not your run-of-the-mill playground.

Local unique:

U.S. Mint
151 North Independence Mall East, 5th and Arch Streets, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 408-0114
Memorial Day-Labor Day: Monday-Saturday: 9am-4:30pm
Labor Day-Memorial Day: Monday-Friday: 9am-4:30pm

Price: Free
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

Maybe you didn’t know coins don’t come from DC, but from Philly and Denver.  Or that the US Mint Police is one of the oldest law enforcement troops in the nation.  Show the children how they protect our money, and how coins are manufactured.  

Mummer’s Parade on New Year’s Day
1000 South 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 336-3050
Hours: January 1
Price: Free
Age Range: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, Elementary, Tween, Teen

As Mardi Gras is to New Orleans, the Mummer’s Parade is to Philadelphia, just less rowdy and commercialized.  The name is a reference to Momus, the Greek god of mockery.  Mummer’s Day is a celebration of the lightness of being.  Children will enjoy the colors and sounds of this festival of civic pride.  Although it lasts but a day, it’s a perfect way to start the new year for locals, daytrippers and the just plain curious.

“40 Winks With the Sphynx” at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Architecture and Archaeology
3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 898-4000
Hours: Select Saturday nights.  
Price: $50 per person
Age Range: Elementary, Tween

A Night at the Museum in real life! If the kids liked the movie, they’ll love this overnight expedition of ancient Egypt.  Children ages 6-12 and their chaperones will explore the galleries by flashlight, go on a scavenger hunt, discover mummies and decode hieroglyphics.  Book early as dates sell out.

Awfully Nice Tours
916 Waverly Street, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 280-3746
Price: 2 hours: $175, Half Day: $275, Full Day: $445
Age Range: Elementary, Tween, Teen

While you can’t go wrong with the many trolley tours the city, consider treating the family to the expertise of Andy Maunton and his unmatched team of guides.  The folks at Awfully Nice will customize a program, whether you’ve got two hours, a half day or a full day.  Their knowledge is unsurpassed, and they love to field questions from kids. Consistently rated #1 of 48 tours in Philadelphia on

Philadelphia’s 9thStreet Italian Market
9th St. from Wharton to Fitzwater Street, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 278-2903
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 8am-4pm, Sunday: 8am-1pm
Price: Free
Age Range: Toddler, Preschool, Elementary, Tween, Teen

Antonio Palumbo opened a boarding house for Italian immigrants in 1880, and since then, the merchants have not stopped setting up shop.  The oldest outdoor food market in the country, the 9th St. Market has expanded its reach over the years to become the central spot in town for authentic Mexican fare, Korean BBQ and Vietnamese Pho.