How to Explore Philadelphia With Kids of All Ages

Going on a family vacation to Philly? These itineraries round up top activities for every age.

With family-friendly attractions ranging from a mansion-sized indoor playground to an Instagram-worthy South Street art museum, Philadelphia captivates even the youngest visitors. If you're in town with kids, check out these itineraries that appeal to children—and adults—of all ages.

Philadelphia Zoo
The Philadelphia Zoo is home to more than 1,300 animals. (©J.Fusco/VisitPhilly)

For Toddlers and Preschoolers

The award-winning Please Touch Museum entertains youngsters with Philly-centric, hand-on exhibits like the miniature ShopRite Supermarket stocked with plastic food and ringing cash registers, the SEPTA bus that youngsters can steer, and the City Park complete with a food vendor's cart. Parents get a dose of nostalgia from the collection of retro toys on display throughout the galleries, and everyone will love the museum's beautifully restored 1908 carousel.

Just across the Schuylkill River, Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse has welcomed Philly kids for more than 100 years. This 16,000-square-foot mansion was specifically built to be a Toyland, where kids ages 5 and younger  ride tricycles, drive trains, run around and participate in crafts and games. Outside, a 6.5-acre playground includes more than 50 pieces of equipment for kids up to age 10 to enjoy.

To locate the Philadelphia Zoo, just look for the 6ABC Zooballoon in the sky, which lets visitors take in stunning views of the city from 400 feet in the air. Home to more than 1,300 animals, many of which are rare or endangered, the historic zoo includes the innovative Z00360 network of overhead mesh trails, where animals from similar habitats roam freely between their respective homes.

The Please Touch Museum
The carousel is a family-favorite at the Please Touch Museum. (©M.Edlow/VisitPhilly)

For Elementary-Aged Kids

In 2015, Philadelphia became America's first World Heritage City, which means you're in the perfect place to bring history to life for elementary school-aged kids. Stop by the Independence Visitor Center in the morning to receive free, time-stamped, same-day passes to Independence Hall, where George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin and other prolific patriots debated and signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

After visiting nearby historic sites like the Liberty Bell, the Benjamin Franklin Museum and the Betsy Ross House, head to the National Constitution Center. Through exhibits ranging from multimedia theatrics to life-sized bronze sculptures of the founding fathers, the Museum of "We the People" celebrates the tenets of the U.S. Constitution.

Next, head to Franklin Square, one of the city's five original squares. The park is now a kid-friendly wonderland that features the Parx Liberty Carousel, a tree-shaded playground and a popular, Philly-themed miniature golf course.

Afterwards, put away your putter and take a load off as you hop aboard Ride the Ducks, the 80-minute tour that traverses land and sea. After driving through Chinatown, the Museum District and Old City, the group's amphibious vehicles take to the Delaware River, cruising past Adventure Aquarium, Penn's Landing and other local attractions.

Ride the Ducks
See all of Philly's best attractions aboard a duck boat with Ride the Ducks. (Courtesy Ride the Ducks)

For Preteens/Middle Schoolers

The blockbuster film "Creed" introduced a whole new generation of moviegoers to Philly's cinematic hometown hero, Rocky Balboa. Snap your middle schooler's photo next to the fictional boxer's statue in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, then race each other up to the top of the "Rocky Steps." Head inside the world-class museum to see masterpieces by Monet, Rodin, Picasso and other visionaries, whose works comprise the permanent collection. And don't miss the Perelman Building, located across the street from the main museum housing even more fine works.  

Just down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, The Franklin Institute also hosts special exhibits along with fun, hands-on activities, like SportsZone, where kids make like pro athletes and test their physical skills, and The Giant Heart, which lets youngsters explore this vital organ by walking through it.

Afterwards, spend the afternoon behind the massive stone walls of Eastern State Penitentiary, which is open to visitors age 7 and older. Inside the notorious jail, which is now a museum, an audio tour narrated by actor Steve Buscemi chronicles what life was like for the inmates who were incarcerated there.

Eastern State Penitentiary
The Eastern State Penitentiary is great for kids seven years and older. (M. Fischetti/Visit Philly)

For Teenagers

To paraphrase the classic '60s song, South Street is still the hippest street in town. The eastern stretch of this thriving thoroughfare now boasts trendy restaurants, one-of-a-kind boutiques and colorful cafes but still retains the edgy, artsy vibe that made it famous.

Head into Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, the highly Instagrammable alfresco museum created by local artist Isaiah Zagar. This labyrinthine mosaic space once housed Zagar's studio. Today, visitors tour the eye-catching attraction made of items ranging from broken plates to bicycle wheels, creating an experiential installation completely unique to Philadelphia.

At 9th Street, head south to another one-of-a-kind spot, the Italian Market. The food stalls and ethnic specialty stores that make up the open-air market dole out everything from Italian cheeses to carnitas tacos. At the south end of the multi-block stretch, two Philly institutions face off across the street from each other. With Pat's King of Steaks on one corner and Geno's Steaks on the other, there's a delicious, decades-old rivalry that churns out some of the city's best cheesesteaks, 24/7. 

Geno's Steaks
No trip to Philly is complete without a cheesesteak. (©J. Fusco/VisitPhilly)