Philadelphia in a Weekend: Top Things to See and Do with the Fam

Walking on Elfreth Alley in Pennsylvania, the oldest street in America.

Philadelphia is known as one of the most family-friendly cities in the United States. It’s steeped rich in history, has many cultural and art centers, is easy to navigate, and the people couldn’t be nicer. It’s a pleasant city to stroll around and take in the sites, and never feels too overwhelming.

Overview of Philadelphia

We recently spent a weekend in Philly and all four of us loved it. It’s a great place to take the kids and educate them on U.S. history. Stand in the room in Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed, take a walk on Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest neighborhood in America, see Ben Franklin’s grave, even visit the nation’s first zoo.

There are many other things to see and do in Philly, including museums, picturesque parks, good restaurants and pretty tree-lined neighborhoods. It can be hard to know what to leave in and what to leave out. Below is a list of all that you can do in Philly. For us, we wanted to first make sure to see the sites that focus on Philly’s historical importance – it is, after all, the birth place of America!

Exploring the fountain at City Hall in Philadelphia.

The first thing you want to do when arriving to Philly is to head to the Independence Visitor’s Center. Here you can get maps and talk to the staff about the best way to navigate Philly for your family. They will steer you in the right direction and show you where everything is on the map, and suggest good walking routes. The Visitor’s Center is located in the Old City Cultural District right near the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, so it’s in a convenient location.

Sites to see in Old City Cultural District

This section of Philly is where all the historical sites are located and the perfect place to start seeing the city.

Independence Hall

Independence Hall is where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed and adopted, so it is a must see! Stand in the very room where the United States was “born” – it’s great for all ages. Our guide was phenomenal and very engaging with the kids and knew how to make it interesting for them. The whole audience was into it. It’s about a half hour long.

Note: Independence Hall requires reserved timed tickets. You can get them from the Visitors Center day of, but best to reserve them online ahead of time as they sell out quickly. There’s a $1.50 per ticket charge if you get them online. Also, you have to pick up the tickets from the Visitors Center – you cannot show them on your phone, which is what we mistakenly did! Plan to arrive 30-45 minutes ahead of your entry time for security check.

Liberty Bell

Viewing the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.

The Liberty Bell, America’s iconic symbol for liberty and freedom for all, once rang in Independence Hall. It’s now on display a block down from Independence Hall and can be seen throughout the day. Tickets are not required, but a long line does form quickly. It’s best to either go first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. If the line is too long you can view it from the outside through a glass window,

Betsy Ross House

It is said Betsy Ross, a seamstress, made the first American flag and lived in this house while designing it. I wasn’t sure if my kids would like the Betsy Ross House because I thought they might find it boring, but I was wrong. They have audio sets for children, which makes it fun for them, and you can even meet “Betsy Ross” herself. Learn all about how things worked in the 18th century and the daily lives of people like Betsy Ross. It’s a short tour and the whole thing from beginning to end doesn’t take more than half an hour.

Elfreth’s Alley

This was one of our favorite things we did during out stay. Elfreth’s Alley is America’s oldest residential street, with 32 Federal and Georgian style homes. Take a stroll down the street and go back in time to the Colonial days. It’s fascinating for all ages, and fun to see the different residences that make up the alley.

People still live in the homes, and just by chance we got to see ones of the homes from the inside! We were looking at a cat in front of someone’s front door, when it swung open, and this nice family invited us in. We had a nice chat with them about what it’s like to live where they do (they love it, tourists and all!). This was definitely one of the more unique experiences of our trip.

Christ Church Burial Ground

Looking at Ben Franklin's grave at Christ Church cemetery in Philadelphia.

Ben Franklin’s grave is in the Christ Church Burial Ground, across the street from the Visitor’s Center. It’s $2 to enter the cemetery, however you can also view it without entering, from the other side of the fence. The graves of many other signers of the Declaration of Independence are here as well, so many people choose to walk through.

National Constitution Center

Girls loved casting their votes in the voting booth at Constitution Center.

The National Constitution Center is an institution dedicated to bringing awareness about the U.S. Constitution. There are interactive exhibits, live shows in a 360 degrees state of the art theatre, and a ton of educational material on display. We know people who rave about the center, but for us it wasn’t necessarily a highlight. There is a lot of dense material to get through, perhaps my girls needed another year or two. Having said that, they loved the show, as well as casting their “votes” in the voting booths, so it wasn’t a bust by any means. It just wasn’t our favorite thing.

Strolling through Rittenhouse Square District

Rittenhouse Square is one of the loveliest urban parks in the United States. We love this area of Philadelphia for its charming park and tree lined streets, great restaurants and shopping, picturesque brownstone homes, and its overall fun, yet sophisticated vibe. No trip to Philly is complete without a stroll through this neighborhood. Dine at one of the many bustling restaurants (we had a wonderful meal at Marathon), window shop, or let the kids roam about the beautiful park.

One Liberty Observation Deck

View from One Liberty Observation Deck in Philadelphia.

Located in the Northeastern section of the Rittenhouse Square district is One Liberty Observation Deck, where you can see “Philly from the top”. Take the elevator up to the 57th floor and get 360 degrees panoramic views of the city. It’s a lot of fun, and at $39 for 4 people, we thought completely worth it. The kids loved it.

Comcast Center

Looking at the lobby in the Comcast Center in Philadelphia.

A couple blocks away from the One Liberty Observation Deck is the Comcast Center. This is not in your typical guide books, but my husband being an architect – and having been an architect for this building – he thought the lobby would be a lot of fun for the girls. And it was! There are statues of people everywhere, some on the ground, and many of them walking on beams across the lobby high above.

Two Must-Sees in Central Philadelphia

City Hall

Philadelphia’s City Hall is in the center of the city and very accessible. The largest municipal building in the United States, it has over 14.5 acres of floor space. It’s a beautiful, striking building, and one that we came across many times in our walks through Philly (we stayed in the Convention Center district, right next to it). Every time we walked by it it seemed we had a new vantage point of this impressive building. It’s covered by sculpture throughout, and all designed by Alexander Calder. There is a central courtyard where you can walk through the building on all four sides, and here musicians are out playing their instrument and kids running about. I highly recommend a stroll by, it’s central and easy to get to and trust me you will be impressed.

Reading Terminal Market

Eating lunch at Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia.

I cannot say enough about how great this indoor public market is! We went three times! But we also stayed in a hotel right near it. Like one gigantic farmers market, in Reading Terminal Market you will find fresh produce, meats, cheeses, baked goods and sweets, seafood and more. Some of Philly’s best vendors are here, such as Metropolitan bakery and Carmen’s (for famous Philly cheese-steak). There are restaurants and stores, so no matter your appetite you’ll find something delicious. There is so much good food here, highly recommend.

Philadelphia’s Museums

Full disclosure, we did not see any museums while we were in Philadelphia but this city is known for its art and cultural institutions, that I could not leave museums out. Truth be told, on our last day it was the first nice Spring day we had, and we decided to walk around outside and take in all the charm. We know that we’ll be back!

Franklin Institute

The Franklin Institute is Philadelphia’s science museum, full of fun interactive play. There are 10 permanent exhibitions and a variety of temporary ones including the current Jurassic World exhibition.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Photo credit: Pixabay

Perhaps Philly’s most famous museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is an internationally renowned museum full of European, American and Asian art.

Please Touch Museum

The Please Touch Museum is regarded as one of the best children’s museums in the country. Featuring interactive exhibitions to promote creativity and exploration, those with kids 7 and younger love heading here.

Rodin Museum

An affiliate of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rodin Museum has the largest collection of work by sculptor Auguste Rodin outside of Paris.

Barnes Foundation

The Barnes Foundation is an educational art institution with a collection mainly comprised of Modern and Impressionist arts.

This is by no means a complete list of Philadelphia, but rather the highlights we think most people would want to see in a weekend. Apart from these, we simply enjoyed just walking around the city and admiring all the historical architecture and picturesque streets.

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Top things to see and do in Philadelphia.

Linking up with CITY TRIPPING, THE WEEKLY POSTCARD and WEEKEND TRAVEL INSPIRATION

 

MummyTravels
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51 Comments

  1. April 10, 2017 / 6:41 am

    My daughter lives in Philly and we love to visit..however, the last time we were there, (Thanksgiving 2016) we noticed a huge increase in the number of homeless people, some of whom were quite confrontational. Did you experience that?

    • April 17, 2017 / 9:38 am

      Hi Cindy,

      I did notice a lot of homeless people, more in the area near where we stayed (Convention Center district). However, they were never confrontational, at least not in our experience. I hadn’t been to Philly in 9 years so didn’t have much to compare it to.

      • April 17, 2017 / 5:53 pm

        It’s a tough situation for sure..but we have noticed a real increase over the last few years and what seemed to be a lot more evidence of drug use..😔..sad.

  2. April 10, 2017 / 12:32 pm

    We went to Phila for a long weekend – we did liberty bell, independence hall, franklin museaum, and sean ran up the rocky steps at the art museum. We were mostly there to see an NBA game. 😉

    • April 17, 2017 / 9:39 am

      Fun!! We didn’t do the Rocky steps bc my kids have no idea who he is..but will remember that for next time! ;).

  3. April 11, 2017 / 10:40 pm

    You did a lot in a weekend. It is also a city I love to visit. Thanks for something new for me to see next time I am there

  4. April 18, 2017 / 8:58 am

    that’s such a cute alley. lots of interesting sights:) #citytripping

  5. April 18, 2017 / 9:07 am

    So my ex-husband is from Philly (well outside of it in Montgomery County) and I used to go up to Philly all the time. But we would just hang around where he grew up and I would get annoyed that we never got to really explore Philadelphia. I’ve seen the Liberty Bell, etc. but that’s about it. Now if/when I go back up, I can explore the city on my own terms! lol #citytripping

    • April 19, 2017 / 9:27 am

      Yes! I think we all have places like that. I had been to Philly before too, either visiting friends or one time for a wedding, and I never did anything touristy. Finally it was time!

  6. April 18, 2017 / 10:10 am

    I loved Philadelphia when I visited (the year before my daughter was born), much more than I had expected – the museums were great too, including the Mutter Museum with its weird medical peculiarities, although that maybe less for kids. Such an easy city to walk around as well. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • April 19, 2017 / 9:28 am

      Funny I had never heard of the Mutter Museum until a few days ago someone mentioned something about it. Will have to check it out!

  7. April 18, 2017 / 10:23 am

    Awesome post! I love all the history! How cool that you met those people!! We went to Philly 9 years ago, way before I was a blogger… and I had completely forgotten what we saw and did… this really brought back memories! P.S. Tim worked on the Philly Museum of Art.

    • April 19, 2017 / 9:30 am

      Oh cool! I wonder if Philly came up in their conversation at all..Josh used to commute there all the time for a building he was working on in Rittenhouse Square. Philly is def one of those under the radar cities, but so unexpectedly great.

  8. April 18, 2017 / 10:24 am

    Whoops! #citytripping

  9. April 18, 2017 / 10:26 am

    Alas I have to admit I’ve never had Philly on my must-see list, perhaps because as a non-American I don’t feel the same pull towards the historical sights, but I do love the look of that indoor market!

    • April 19, 2017 / 9:32 am

      The market may have been my favorite part! If I weren’t from this country it wouldn’t necessarily be on my bucket list either..but with all the history I’m so glad we took the kids. Thanks for commenting ;).

  10. April 18, 2017 / 10:40 am

    So many cute and historic places to visit! I really need to start exploring more of the East Coast, as I really find more of American history (from the beginning) to be really fascinating! I’ve been to Boston, but would love to do it again as an adult! #CityTripping

    • April 19, 2017 / 9:34 am

      That is something I really do love about the east coast – all its history. Yes, being a history buff you need to visit us more!

  11. kitgraham
    April 18, 2017 / 10:55 am

    Such a great list! I love Philly! And I remember how delicious breakfast at Reading Terminal Market was!

  12. April 18, 2017 / 8:44 pm

    Went to Philadelphia last winter (took the train from New York). It was my first solo trip in a long time and I loved every minute of it. I want to go back when the weather is nicer. Elfreth’s Alley and the market were my favorite places. Also, I visited the Eastern State Penitentiary.

  13. April 19, 2017 / 1:19 pm

    The architecture reminds me of London, I didn’t expect that. The Please Touch museum sounds really unusual, appealing and engaging. Sounds like a city with a huge amount going on.
    #citytripping

    • April 20, 2017 / 3:25 pm

      It’s a beautiful city that often times doesn’t get the credit it deserves 😉

  14. Samantha
    April 20, 2017 / 11:44 am

    Any recommendations on where to stay in walking distance to all?

    • April 22, 2017 / 3:13 pm

      We stayed in the Hilton Garden Inn which was very central but not the nicest part of town so I don’t think I’d recommend it. The Marriott and Courtyard hotels are well located. Not sure if you want luxury or not but the Ritz central too. Next time we go though I want to stay in Rittenhouse Square. Not as central but still close enough and a picturesque and fun part of town.

  15. Wherejogoes
    April 21, 2017 / 2:50 pm

    So much to do here – and I never knew that the declaration of independence was signed in Philadelphia – gap in my education! That would definitely be on the Philadelphia weekend list together with the Liberty Bell, the home of the lady who made the first flag Betsy Ross and the eateries at the market. My kids would enjoy the audio tours we always like doing those. Pinned for future! #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • April 21, 2017 / 9:42 pm

      Thank you! Philly doesn’t always come up when talking about U.S. travel destinations, but it’s pretty fantastic!

  16. April 21, 2017 / 2:51 pm

    Being a complete cretin when it comes to American history, I didn’t realise that the Liberty Bell is in Philly or that the Declaration of Independence was signed there. (I know, I’m terrible). I thought all that stuff was in Washington DC. So there are heaps of things to see and do in Philly, I’ll have to get over there! #WeeklyPostcard

    • April 21, 2017 / 9:43 pm

      I think a lot of people assume it’s all in D.C., you are not alone!

  17. April 21, 2017 / 5:03 pm

    I’ve never been to Philadelphia, but it looks very interesting. Many of the old streets and houses are very like what we have in the England. I’m pinning this for later! Thanks for sharing #theweeklypostcard

    • April 21, 2017 / 9:45 pm

      Yes, it all started with England!

  18. Clare Thomson
    April 22, 2017 / 7:14 am

    Such a great guide to Philadelphia, Corey. I loved your story about the people inviting you into their home. I do love snooping around other people’s houses and those Philadelphia homes and streets look so wonderful.

    • April 22, 2017 / 11:05 am

      Thanks so much, Clare. I feel bad bc the family just started a baking company in a local food truck and gave me their info. and I was going to put it in this post but I can’t find the little piece of paper. I hate it when that happens!!

  19. Anisa
    April 22, 2017 / 8:53 am

    There really is so much to see in Philly! I loved the Liberty Bell exhibit. I thought it was really well done. I want to go back and see the Betsy Ross House and the Constitution Museum. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    • April 22, 2017 / 11:06 am

      Thanks so much, Anisa. I thought the Liberty Bell was well-done too (we were lucky with not long lines), and the building it’s displayed in is beautiful.

  20. April 22, 2017 / 2:59 pm

    I love Philadelphia. It’s only 2 hours away so we go quite a bit. The Magic Garden on South Street is a fun art space with kids. And it’s a great city for food, too.

    • April 22, 2017 / 3:05 pm

      All the meals we had were delicious – we stayed in a hotel near Reading Terminal market which was about the greatest indoor food market I’ve been to. We’ll have to check out the Magic Garden next time.

  21. April 22, 2017 / 4:31 pm

    I was able to do a quick stop in Philadelphia on a car trip from Washington DC to New York City. The old city cultural district was all I had time for and it was amazing. I would love to have had your experience on Elfreth’s Alley.

    • April 22, 2017 / 9:52 pm

      Well, at least you saw most of the old city cultural district – that’s where I would tell anyone passing through to go first. Thanks for the comment.

  22. April 23, 2017 / 10:47 am

    We absolutely love Philadelphia! Despite several visits, reading this post made us want to go back again! For one thing, we still haven’t been up to the observation deck, and we completely missed the Comcast Center. So much to see and do in Philly – another trip (or a few!) is definitely in order. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard!

    • April 24, 2017 / 8:43 am

      Isn’t Philly great? Comcast Center is a bit random, but my husband is an architect and worked on the building, and wanted to show us..the lobby is super cool, so I put it in. The Observation Deck is fun – for next time!

  23. At Lifestyle Crossroads
    April 24, 2017 / 11:04 am

    There are so many things to do in Philly indeed! Haven´t been there yet but would defenitely love to visit one day! Elfreth’s Alley looks amazing! #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • April 24, 2017 / 10:34 pm

      You will love it – such a pleasant city!

  24. Momma To Go
    April 24, 2017 / 11:28 am

    found you from the weekend inpsiration hop! I love Philly, we took our kids once and did hit some of the museums. Ive been to the Barnes without kids and its amazing if you like art. We hope to return soon now that our guys are a little older!

    • April 24, 2017 / 10:36 pm

      I wish we had time for the Barnes but we didn’t..I hadn’t been in many years. Next time! Thanks for stopping by!

  25. April 26, 2017 / 7:06 am

    I’m flying to Philadelphia by the end of September and I was not sure of where I should go.
    This article really is a good guide on which all places I should checkout when I reach there. Thank you fifiandhop for share your experience!

    • April 27, 2017 / 6:17 am

      Thank you so much and I’m glad I can help! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

  26. April 28, 2017 / 12:54 am

    We visited Philadelphia on the Fourth of July when my now 17 year old was a toddler. I’ll admit that we looked at the Liberty Bell through the window instead of waiting in line. That is so cool that you got to chat with some of the residents of Elfreth’s Alley. It must be a bit strange to have one’s street be a tourist destination, so it’s good that they’ve embraced being on show. And I really like the statue of the man walking across the beam in the Comcast Center.

    • April 29, 2017 / 9:04 am

      Thanks – Comcast is something I never would have thought of if it weren’t for my architect husband..but it’s actually an amazing lobby to see.

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