I am fortunate in that, as publisher of New York City, I am also a car ride away from other family-friendly towns and cities. On a recent winter weekend, my husband and I decided to pack our two little girls into the car and head down to Philly for an action-packed weekend (all G-rated, of course!)
First stop: the Philadelphia Zoo. Who doesn’t love animals? Our daughters squealed with delight, watching the lions hulking above us in their overhead cages. Such beautiful, but intimidating animals! The gorillas were also having a grand old time, playing with each other in the large, open space that they call home at the zoo. Elsewhere there were zebras grazing, Amur leopards lounging and Aldabra tortoises slowly lumbering, as tortoises do (that’s OK, they have the time: these tortoise usually live to the ripe old age of 120!)
Please Touch Museum
Next, we moved on to the Please Touch Museum, which is—well, just as the name says, visitors are encouraged to touch and play with everything! Many of the exhibits were interactive: The family had a grand old time riding the beautiful, 100-year-old Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel.
Under the gorgeous glass dome in Hamilton Hall, we saw something familiar: the Statue of Liberty’s torch! The torch, by sculptor Leo Sewell, is completely made out of toys, forming a fantastic, colorful collage, and was actually displayed during the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. Also in Hamilton Hall was the “Sid the Science Kid” exhibit. We all loved exploring Sid’s home, school, lab and playground and learning about the magic of science.
In the kid-sized city, my girls, already professional shoppers, loved being able to take their own little supermarket carts and stroll through the food store, picking up canned goods and other items. This area of the museum is complete with the market, a restaurant, hospital, construction zone and shoe store.
A quick car ride outside the city to Plymouth Meeting Hall was LEGOLAND. This huge, indoor activity playground, with its life-sized figures of the "LEGO Forever Friends," was one of my girls’ favorites of the trip. A Lego version of the football stadium of the (now Super Bowl champions!) Philadelphia Eagles was a treat as well. Naturally, we had to make a stop at the gift shop, which paid off for us at dinnertime!
Westin Philadelphia and Davio's
Finally, we were ready to check into our hotel and get some dinner. After dropping off our bags in the elegant Westin Philadelphia, (a perfect family hotel, close to so many of these attractions, with a terrific staff and first-class service), we made our way over to Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse. This restaurant is a favorite of mine in NYC, so it is no surprise that we all loved the Philadelphia branch as well. The tuna tartare, Buffalo mozzarella and filet mignon was top-shelf, the Cabernet (Davio's own label) was spectacular, and best of all, my daughters were busy with their LEGOLAND toys, so that my husband and I could actually relax and enjoy our food and wine without distraction.
In the morning, we had to head back home, but not before one final stop in Camden, New Jersey. There, we visited the Adventure Aquarium, one of the best aquariums in the country, and, if you are anywhere near the area, not to be missed. A goofy hippo gave me an Instagram-worthy grin in Hippo Haven, popping his head out of the water with a perfect pose. In one play area, my daughters ducked under the “bubble” to become part of the sea world. Shark Bridge was super-fun: We walked inches above sandbar and nurse sharks on a V-shaped rope suspension bridge. So many magnificent sea creatures to see.