Beyond History: Philadelphia's Full of Family Fun

April 19, 2016
Candyce H. Stapen

Philadelphia is full of historic sites, but there's plenty to do that's not history-focused. Here are the highlights.

Photo: Sichuan Tianyu

So you’ve taken the kids to Philadelphia to learn how we moved from revolution to a new nation. You saw the Liberty Bell, toured the National Constitution Center, Independence Hall, and the other structures in Independence National Historical Park. For this visit, experience another side of Philly: Take part in a fun festival, get hands-on at museums and watch how money is made.

Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival in Franklin Square

Encounter a glowing, 200-foot-tall dragon as you walk through Franklin Square’s 7.5 acres. The snaking monster as well as a four-story pagoda and playful pandas are some of 28 out-sized lanterns that dazzle visitors during the park’s seven-week festival. Created in Zigong, in Sichuan, China, the center for lantern-making for thousands of years, the lanterns, constructed of silk stretched over a steel frame, shine with hundreds of LED lights. Browse crafts for sale by artists and watch free performances of Chinese songs and dances at 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The festival runs from April 22 through June 12.

Franklin Institute Science Museum

Kids have walked through a mega-sized, pulsing heart for 50 years at the Franklin Institute Science Museum.The pulsing muscle is the centerpiece of an exhibit that lets kids take an EKG reading, find out about blood, and more. At Your Brain, learn about brain imaging and climb a two-story-tall neural network to understand how your brain sends messages. At Sports Challenge kids test their reaction times, measure the height of their basketball jumps and learn how knowing about angles helps ace tennis games. In the special exhibit Science Behind Pixar, discover how Pixar merges science and art to create films and favorite characters from Buzz Lightyear to Dory and others. Through Sept. 5, 2016.

Please Touch Museum

Tots and younger grade-schoolers like the Please Touch Museum. It’s located in Memorial Hall, the only building remaining from the city’s 1876 Centennial Exhibition. The facility frequently ranks in the top 10 of US children’s museums. Kids can construct buildings, sail boats on a river, go shopping at a mini-supermarket, ride a Dentzel carousel horse, and go down a rabbit hole into a hall of mirrors to have tea with the Mad Hatter. At the Toddler Zones, ages 3 and younger have objects to touch, mirrors to look into and mats to wiggle on.

United States Mint

Only one of four facilities that produce American coins, the US Mint calls itself the “world’s largest coin collection.” The tour—a self-guided walk down hallways overlooking the factory floor—isn’t hands-on or high-tech, but it is informative. Look down at the conveyor belts, bulky presses, and depending on the day’s activity, big bins of shiny, new pennies, nickels, dimes, or quarters. Along the way, displays contain such interesting objects as Indian Peace Medals and the Congressional Medals given to Bob Hope, Walt Disney, and Thomas Edison. Fun facts: Guess how many quarters fit into a bag being shipped to the Federal Reserve Bank and how much the bag weighs? The answer: 200,000 quarters and more than one ton.

Where to Eat

Crave an authentic cheesesteak? Two good bets are Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s. Another good place for a quick bite: Reading Terminal Market, where more than 80 merchants sell fresh-baked bread, cheeses, sausages, and much more.

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