Top Places for a Quick Family Day Trip in Philly and New Jersey

Follow an NYC magazine publisher as she takes her family on a weekend getaway.

I'm fortunate in that, as publisher of Where New York City, I'm also just a car ride away from other family-friendly towns and cities. On a recent 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!).

Philadelphia Zoo

First stop: the Philadelphia Zoo. Who doesn’t love animals? Our daughters squealed with delight at the lions hulking above us in their overhead cages. The gorillas were also having a grand old time, playing with each other in the large, open space they call home. Elsewhere, zebras grazed, Amur leopards lounged and Aldabra tortoises slowly lumbered, as tortoises do. (And that’s OK because they have the time. These tortoises can live to the ripe old age of 120!)

Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel

Please Touch Museum

Next, we moved on to the Please Touch Museum, which is, as the name implies, lets visitors touch and play with everything. Many of the exhibits are interactive, including the beautiful, 100-year-old Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel. The family had a wonderful time riding it.

Statue of Liberty torch

Under the gorgeous glass dome in Hamilton Hall, we saw something familiar: the Statue of Liberty’s torch. By sculptor Leo Sewell, this torch is completely made out of toys, forming a fantastic, colorful collage. It was actually displayed during the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. Also in Hamilton Hall, we found the “Sid the Science Kid” exhibit. We all loved exploring Sid’s home, along with his 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 grocery, picking up canned goods and other items. This area of the museum also includes a restaurant, a hospital, a construction zone and a shoe store. 

LEGOLAND replica of Lincoln Financial Field

LegoLand

A quick car ride outside the city to Plymouth Meeting Hall takes you to LEGOLAND. This huge, indoor activity playground, with its life-sized figures of the "LEGO Forever Friends," was a favorite with my girls. 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 were 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.

 

Buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes at Davio’s

Adventure Aquarium

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 not to be missed. Inside, at Hippo Haven, a goofy hippo gave me an Instagram-worthy grin, as he popped 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 a sandbar and nurse sharks on a V-shaped rope suspension bridge. There are so many magnificent sea creatures to see here.

One happy hippo