Hot Pennsylvania

Family guide to Philadelphia with Kids – Where to eat, stay & play

There is so much fun and history for the family to witness in America's birthplace

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was one of the cities we were really excited to visit during our big family road trip across the United States. For one, it is the birthplace of America, where the Second Continental Congress signed the United States Declaration of Independence. It also served as our nation’s capital until 1799.

For my daughter, it is home of the Liberty Bell, which she was learning about in school and was super excited to see in person. In addition to the historical sites in Philadelphia, the city is loaded childhood memories for my dad.

Needless to say, we had a lot on our agenda and places to go in Philadelphia. Somehow we managed to do it all. Now, I want to share with you some great things to do in Philadelphia with kids.


Video showing things to do in Philadelphia with kids

First off, if you are a visual person we have also provided a video to complement this blog post, which shows our weekend exploring Philly including the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Betsy Ross house, Benjamin Franklin’s grave site, etc. You can check it out on our YouTube link below.

Money Saving Tips

Philly is a big city and that means there are a lot of options for a variety of budgets. There are a ton of free things to do in Philadelphia with kids. In fact, the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are free to visit. The other historical sites in Philadelphia have a small entrance fee.

If there are Philadelphia attractions that aren’t free that you would like to see, I would recommend getting a City Pass for great savings. Get your City Pass. Living Social also offers a lot of great deals on dining and attractions in Philadelphia. See Deals. All in all, we found that Philadelphia can be a very affordable city.

Save up to 70% on LivingSocial deals!Philadelphia_300x250

Where to stay in Philadelphia

This is a big city, so there are a ton of options for hotels in the Philadelphia area. There are a lot of neighborhoods in Philadelphia, all with a distinct personality. In my opinion, the best places to stay in Philadelphia are in Philadelphia Center City, because there are a lot of things to do in center city Philadelphia. Center City encompasses some of the cities’ most popular neighborhoods, Philadelphia attractions and best Philadelphia hotels. Check rates and availability.

Best Western Plus Philadelphia Convention Center Hotel

We were invited to stay at the Best Western Plus Philadelphia Convention Center Hotel, which is located in center city Philadelphia. The hotel is right across the street from the Convention Center as well as the popular Reading Terminal Market. The location was convenient for our Philadelphia sightseeing adventures. We also enjoyed the lobby bar. Hey, family travel includes parents’ enjoyment too. This isn’t just about Philadelphia for kids only. Besides they had their fun during the complimentary breakfast, chowing down on Liberty Bell waffles. For more details about our stay at the Best Western Plus Philadelphia Convention Center Hotel, see our full review. To book your stay, check rates and availability.

Best Western Plus Philadelphia Convention Center Hotel

Best Western Plus Independence Park Hotel

This hotel is another great Best Western option. Independence Park Hotel is located in the Old City, a neighborhood within Center City. It is also near many of the Philadelphia historical sites and landmarks in Philadelphia, like Independence Hall. I like how the décor has more colonial glamour and gives it a more historical vibe. Check rates and availability.

Places to eat in Philly

If you have ever talked to anyone from Philly, you’ll notice that all they talk about is food. My dad is one of these Philadelphia foodies and anytime he runs into someone from home, all they do is reminisce about food. Eating local favorites is probably one of the most important things to do in Philadelphia. Now, we were only spending the weekend in Philadelphia, so we obviously didn’t get to eat as much as we would have liked. However, we did get to eat a few Philly staples as well as discover some of the best places to eat in Philadelphia. First, I recommend getting yourself a J’eat dining passport to save big on restaurants in Philly. Save now.

Philly Cheesesteak

The main thing I had to try while in Philadelphia was a Philly Cheesesteak. I love Philly Cheesesteaks. The crusty rolls stuffed with tender dripping rib eye, melted cheese, grilled onions and sweet peppers are beyond heavenly. I usually always get them at Dave & Buster’s in California. Before you get mad, my dad says they are the best he’s had outside of Philly. So, it was time to compare.

Now, many of the best places to get a Philly Cheesesteak in Philadelphia are located in South Philly. Since we were staying in Center City, we didn’t get to try Philly favorites like John’s Roast Pork, Tony Luke’s, or Pat’s King of Steaks, the home of the original cheesesteak. The list for best Philly Cheesesteaks goes on and on, especially in South Philly. If eating is what you came to do, then see the hotels in South Philadelphia and eat your heart out.

Regrettably, we just didn’t have time to try some of these top rated places for Philly Cheesesteaks. So, I can’t fairly assess the Philly Cheesesteaks from Philly vs. Dave & Buster’s. Plus, most of them are take-out type joints. Since we were in Philadelphia with kids and battling pregnancy nausea, we opted for a restaurant to cool down in and relax. However, we did try the Philly Cheesesteak at Red Owl Tavern and it was very good. However, Dave & Buster’s is just as yummy.

Reading Terminal Market

Once we arrived in Philly, everyone we ran into told us to head to the Reading Terminal Market. Locals would practically salivate as they would rave about various vendors within the market. Our bartender at the Best Western Plus Philadelphia Convention Center Hotel told us we had to try the carved turkey sandwich. So, that is exactly what we did.

It is clear that Reading Terminal Market is in top 10 things to do in Philadelphia. Also, it is very popular among visitors as well as locals, so it is very busy. It is also huge and the vendors seem to go on forever. I recommend grabbing the map to help navigate this bustling market place.

They do serve alcohol at the Reading Terminal Market and have a few restaurants/bars within the market which is nice. We were kind of overwhelmed when we first entered, so we sat down at Molly Malloy’s for a beer and to go over our map. Then we made our move.

We loaded up on Cheeses and olives from Valley Shepherd Creamery. Then we tried the carved turkey sandwich, which was huge and delicious! The kids really liked the sandwich. Hot Daddy got a tip to try the famous roast pork sandwhich at DiNic’s, and he says it was definitely worth the buzz. Afterwards we finished with some ice cream at Bassetts Ice Cream and candy at the Sweet Fudge Candy Shop. We definitely needed more time and bigger stomachs to fully enjoy our time at Reading Terminal Market.

Reading Terminal Market

China Town

I love Asian cuisine and Philly has some amazing restaurants in China Town. Even though our hotel was right by China Town, we didn’t have a chance to try one of them. So disappointed about that, but it gives us more reasons to go back. If you get to visit Philadelphia, definitely take the time to try some eats in China Town. I wish we had!

Race Street Café

We stumbled upon Race Street Café after visiting Betsy Ross’s House and it was so good! It is located on Race Street, hence the name. The atmosphere has an old school pub feeling with a great selection of beer on tap. Family owned, all of the food is homemade and delicious. They even make their own blue cheese dressing. It was so good, I practically drank it. It is a great stop if you are in the neighborhood.

Things to do in Philly

There are a ton of things to do in Philly with kids. The issue is deciding what Philadelphia activities to do first. However, navigating and parking in a new city can be a beat. I recommend using Uber XL or the Philly PHLASH. We really enjoyed taking the PHLASH for sightseeing Philadelphia. It was clean, efficient and great for Philadelphia tourism.

At $5 for an all day pass and 22 stops, this purple bus is a very affordable way to visit the many popular Philadelphia points of interest. I didn’t even know about the PHLASH until we were invited to try it by Visit Philly. There are so many things to do with kids in Philadelphia that I highly recommend purchasing passes for your Philadelphia visit.

Riding the Philly Phlash

Spruce Street Harbor Park

This was one of the first places in Philadelphia we visited. We went during the dusk, just as the multicolored crystal lights that dripped from the trees were aglow. If you are looking for fun places for kids in Philadelphia, then get to Spruce Street Harbor Park. It is where to go in Philadelphia. Located on the Delaware River, Spruce Street Harbor Park is a lively gathering place filled with food, drinks, games and hammocks.

Spruce Street Harbor Park Philadelphia

The park is a favorite among locals as well as visitors. My dad reminisced as he gazed upon the Ben Franklin Bridge, the kids relaxed in hammocks and ate ice cream and my mom and hubby enjoyed some local brews. Spruce Street Harbor Park was a wonderful introduction to the city and one of those great places for kids in Philadelphia.

Independence Hall

While in town we definitely wanted to visit the many historical places in Philadelphia. Independence Hall is one of the most important places to visit in Philadelphia. This is the site where the United States Declaration of Independence as well as the United States Constitution were debated and approved. It is essentially the location of the birthplace of America and that alone makes it one of the top things to do in Philadelphia.

The Independence Hall is a National Historic Site and does not charge admission. Since it is so significant as well as one of the free activities in Philadelphia, it tends to be very popular among visitors. Don’t worry it doesn’t get too crowded, because they only take people in assigned groups with free tickets. I recommend the first thing to do the morning of your visit is to stop by the Independence Visitor Center to get your ticket before the crowds, which tells you what time to return. It is like a fast pass for one of the top tourist attractions in Philadelphia. Without waiting in long queues or spending a ton of cash, Independence Hall is a very easy, educational and fun thing to in Philadelphia with kids.

For more fun for kids in Philly, you will often find reenactments going on in the court yard of the Independence Hall. My kids enjoyed watching the show and meeting the actors.

Independence Hall Philadelphia

Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell was one of the historical sites in Philadelphia that my daughter was most excited to visit. She had just learned about it in school and couldn’t wait to see in person. She also wanted me to send a photo of her with the Liberty Bell to her teacher, which I did. Like Independence Hall it is one those free Philadelphia things to do while in town. However, you do not need a timed ticket to view the Liberty Bell. You just need to wait in line. Don’t stress if the line looks long. They move it very fast. We were visiting Philadelphia with kids during the heat of the summer. I was pregnant and Papa has mobility issues and we all found the line fairly easy to handle.

Once inside, you wander through a visual timeline telling the story of the Liberty Bell. Then you reach the grand finale. The Liberty Bell originally hung in the steeple of Independence Hall. It was used to announce public meetings and to beckon lawmakers to attend legislative sessions. However, the Liberty Bell cracked after it was first rung upon its arrival to Philadelphia. Now, it sits in the Liberty Bell Center for visitors to observe up close and personal.

Liberty Bell Philadelphia

I was surprised at how close we could get to the Liberty Bell. There was just a little rope between us and history. You can take as much time as you like viewing the bell and my daughter really wanted to examine every detail. Sure it is touristy, but it is a must-see Philadelphia site. Of course, my kids had to take a little Liberty Bell home. It was one of there favorite souvenirs. GET YOURS

Betsy Ross House

Most of us have heard of Betsy Ross. She was commissioned by General George Washington to make the first American Flag. A must see in Philadelphia, you can visit the Betsy Ross house, the home of America’s most famous flag-maker. Philadelphia historic sites are all over the city, but this one is a very personal experience. For one, you are touring the home of a historical figure. Secondly, you are also visiting her grave site. Yes, she is buried on the property. Lastly, my kids were excited because Betsy Ross may have been an ancestor of ours which is why the Ross name has been passed down on HotDaddy’s side of the family. Our son Kevin Ross even bears the name.

Betsy Ross House Philadelphia

It does cost a small admission to tour the home. Adults are $5 while kids, seniors and military are only $4. It cost a $2 to add an audio tour. We just bought one and shared. After listening to the audio tour, we appreciated her work even more. See at the time she made the flag, we were not technically our own country yet. The making of the first American flag was an act of treason to Britain at the time. Little Betsy was a bold lady.

Since there are so many interactive exhibits within the Betsy Ross House, it is one of the fun things to do with kids in Philadelphia. The kids loved trying on the clothes and playing in the kitchen. They also really enjoyed the meet and greet with the Betsy Ross impersonator. Actually, they enjoyed it a little too much and I had to get them out there so they would stop asking so many questions!

Ben Franklin Grave Site

For interesting things to do in Philadelphia, you can visit Ben Franklin’s grave! In fact, you can easily visit this in tandem with Betsy Ross’s House, because Christ Church is located just down the street. Here, Benjamin Franklin is buried in a family plot alongside his wife and two children. This is definitely one of the places to see in Philadelphia.

Admission into the cemetery is $3 for adults and $1 for children. Now, this may not seem like one the most exciting things for kids to do in Philadelphia, but I think it is important. I always take my kids to historical cemeteries and they have always behaved respectfully. We gave the pennies to throw on Ben Franklin’s grave, a tradition for visitors as an ode to his famous quote, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Benjamin Franklin Gravesite

Eastern State Penitentiary

While riding on the PHLASH, looking for more family fun in Philadelphia we came across the hulking castle-like walls of Eastern State Penitentiary. I have always wanted to visit this infamous prison, but I didn’t think it was close enough to our other Philadelphia tourist attractions. Not the case. It was really close to the old city Philadelphia sights. I was so excited when it came up on our route as a stop. This is probably one of the most unique things to do in Philadelphia.

Eastern State Penitentiary

Why is it one of the cool things to do in Philadelphia? For one, it is said to be the most haunted prison in America. Secondly, it opened in 1829 and is considered the world’s first true penitentiary. It was the first prison to introduce separate confinement, coining the term, “The Pennsylvania System.” Third, it housed many famous prisoners, including the notorious Al Capone. Lastly, my dad actually performed for the prisoners here as a child in 1940.

I was so excited to explore the Eastern State Penitentiary and even more excited to do it with my dad and kids. Now, admission is a little pricier than the other attractions in Philadelphia, but it is so worth it. Adults are $14, seniors are $12 and students and kids 7 to 12 are $10. We had passes thanks to Visit Philly, but at the time of our visit both my kids were under the age of 7. They don’t charge for kids under 7, but they have strict rules.

Kid Alert!

Since the prison is considered a ruin, there are a lot of dangers associated with the buildings. They definitely don’t want the kids to touch the walls, because of the lead in the paint. Because of the danger it is not advertised as one of the things for kids to do in Philly, but my kids loved the tour. The kids loved walking around the creepy prison while listening to their audio tour. It is definitely one those activities in Philadelphia you just have to do. Just use precaution, explain the rules and keep an eye on them and they’ll be fine. The kids really did have fun and learn a lot, showing again that a place doesn’t have to be kid-oriented to be kid friendly.

Learn More About Eastern State Penitentiary

That’s A Wrap:

We saw a lot of cities during our #HotMamaDoesAmerica road trip, but this was one of FireCracker’s favorite cities. There is so much history as well as Philadelphia places to visit. Not to mention all exciting family things to do in Philadelphia and Philadelphia attractions for kids. Spruce Street Harbor Park is really fun for kids in Philadelphia. My kids can’t stop talking about that park! The history and sightseeing in Philadelphia was not only fun, but educational. I mean, they got to see where our country all began. How cool is that? Plus, we can’t leave out all the amazing food in Philly!

I put together what I feel are the best things to do in Philadelphia. I hope this post helps you decide what to do in Philadelphia during your visit. After just a weekend in Philadelphia, we definitely left town with Philly kids.

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Things to do in Philadelphia with kids


I am a busy mama with 3 delicious babies and a serious itch for travel and writing (when I am not bartending, that is)! After graduating from Cal State San Marcos with a B.A. in Communications, I decided to start a family and pursue a career in freelance writing. I created HotMamaTravel as an outlet to do what I love while sharing useful travel tips and inspiration with others. Our mission is to show parents how to master travel with kids, while keeping your Saturday-night selves. We call it "Family travel...with a twist".


  1. This is a such a great list – there are so many things to do in Philly and it’s often difficult to narrow it down to the essentials. Will definitely be paying a visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary next time we’re there! Thanks.

    • Eastern State Penitentiary was definitely a highlight and I recommend putting it on your list!

  2. I didn’t really there was so much to see in Philly, especially all the important historic sites. Definitely a great list to save for when I visit.

  3. A complete guideline. And in a world, I’ll just say, awesome. Thanks a lot for sharing such post & keep posting these kinds of articles every time so that people can get information and guideline about traveling new places. Best of Luck.

    • Thank you so much. I try to give as much information as possible so that others can plan their trip easily.

  4. we have done almost all of these, except the penitentary! I had no idea about the $5 bus! When we have gone to Philly I make everyone walk all over the place, I think they would like this better.

    • The penitentiary was such a unique experience, you should do it next time you are in Philly. I heard that they do something scary for Halloween, which would awesome to see! The bus was on-time, clean, air conditioned, and felt very safe. Would definitely recommend for budget friendliness as well 🙂

  5. So many great places to visit in Philadelphia and such a fun way to make your kids get interested in their country history.

    • Yes, travel is a great education. They retain so much information when they experience something.

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