There’s more to see in historic Philadelphia than the Liberty Bell. Kids will love these attractions in the historic district, also known as Old City.
If you have small children, make Franklin Square, 200 N. 6th Street, part of your visit. Within easy walking distance of other attractions, such as the Betsy Ross House, 239 Arch Street, the park is packed with activities. Ride the Parx Liberty Carousel, play miniature golf at a course filled with miniature versions of historic Philadelphia buildings, or play on the playground, which includes a toddler section. There are fees for the carousel rides and the miniature golf, but the playground is free, as are the storytelling benches around the central fountain, where you can hear a tale from real-life raconteurs. The park also features food stands and (thankfully) restrooms!
Independence Seaport Museum
Whether your child loves transportation, history or science, the Independence Seaport Museum is guaranteed to entertain. Admission is $13.50 for adults; $10 or children, free for ages 2 and under, and AAA discounts are available. The museum houses attractive, well-lit exhibits on topics ranging from sea exploration, to ship building, to a hands-on exhibit about how boats work. For my 4-year-old, the main attraction were the numerous intricate models of real ships. Admission includes a self-guided tour of a World War II submarine and a steel warship, first launched in 1892.
Fireman’s Hall Museum
A museum dedicated to firefighters was an easy sell for my preschooler. The Fireman’s Hall Museum, 147 N. 2nd Street, packs centuries of history into a relatively small space, a former firehouse. For my son, the highlight were the firefighting vehicles, ranging from 19th-Century hand-pumps to a 20th century gas-powered engine. There’s also an exhibit on fire safety, firefighting coats and boats to try on, and oodles of info about Philadelphia firefighting history. Admission is free; donations requested. The gift shop offers some great toys and souvenirs.
National Museum of American Jewish History
The National Museum of American Jewish History, 101 S. Independence Mall E. (at the corner of 5th and Market streets), features state-of-the-art exhibits on the history of Jewish-American citizens. Admission is $12 for adults and free for children 12 and under. Kids can pretend to ride west in a covered wagon, sit in turn-of-the-century school desks, and don masks for a ballroom dance. We visited for the current special exhibit on baseball, a must-see attraction for both boys and girls. In addition to focusing on Jewish players, the exhibit addresses other “outsider” groups, such as women and African-Americans. A family guide at the exhibit entrance includes activities and discussion questions. A computer interactive game allows visitors to field balls from baseball’s greats, and a pitching mound in the concourse invites you to pitch like Sandy Koufax.