Travel

The Philadelphia Guide

Recently, the City of Brotherly Love has become a hybrid of old and new, classic and cool—experiencing a renaissance of its own. Take, for instance, Fishtown: The neighborhood once known for commercial fishing has seen an influx of some of the city’s best restaurants, bars, and art galleries, offering a destination for young professionals and creatives alike–and giving Philly a whole new, revitalized feel. But at its core, Philadelphia is a city that runs on a medley of loyalty, tradition, and so much history. There are the sports fans—diehards for their Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, and 76ers—the ever-famous (rightfully so) cheesesteaks, and the deep-rooted historical context—after all, it was here where most of the American Revolution was devised and the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed. For the teeniest tourists, the city’s landmarked buildings and cobblestone streets lend endless opportunities for exploration and surprise history lessons, not to mention, refresher courses for the adults.

Eastern State Penitentiary

2027 Fairmount Ave., Fairmount | 215.236.3300

With its dramatic gothic architecture (complete with gargoyles and dark grey stone) now crumbling, Eastern State Penitentiary may actually be creepier now than it was in the 1970's, when it last held prisoners. Largely believed to be haunted, the now-empty prison hosts after-dark programming during Halloween that's largely considered to be some of the scariest in the country. During the day, scaredy cats can visit for history-rich tours, learning about the famous escapes, prisoners (Al Capone stayed here), and the Quaker philosophies that guided the architecture and programming in its earliest days. Admission comes with a free audio tour that's narrated by Steven Buscemi.

Franklin Museum

222 N. 20th St., Logan Square | 215.448.1200

Named for Benjamin Franklin, this is one of the country's oldest science museums (the Franklin Institute has been in existence since 1824, and they officially broke ground on the museum in the 1930's). Inside, you'll find a slew of permanent and traveling science exhibits exploring everything from virtual reality to biology to engineering, plus a full IMAX theatre and a recently remodeled planetarium. There's plenty for littles to explore here, but older kids are big fans of their escape rooms, which can be booked in advance.

Mütter Museum

19 S. 22nd St., Rittenhouse | 215.560.8564

It's definitely not for the squeamish, but anyone who's a geek about the human body (or a fan of The Nick) is likely to love the Mütter, a museum of medical history run by the Philadelphia College of Musicians since the 1800's. Among the—literal—cabinets of curiosities: the human skull collection of Joseph Hyrtl (which includes more than a hundred specimens), several pieces of Einstein's brain preserved in glass slides, and hundreds of fascinating, if disturbing, antique medical tools and devices.

Please Touch Museum

4231 Avenue of the Republic, Fairmount Park | 215.581.3181

Besides the fact that this is possibly the best named children museum we've come across, the Please Touch Museum earns brownie points for its stunning 1908 carousel, which is as beautiful as it is entertaining. Founded back in the 1970's by a Montessori educator, PTM targets kids below age seven with tons of interactive exhibits, activities, and kid-sized play spaces. Check the calendar for activities like story time, sing-alongs, and crafts, which happen at designated times daily.

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

1020 S. St., Washington Square West | 215.733.0390

As its name suggests, this massive, interactive art installation—including indoor-outdoor galleries and a labyrinth—is, in fact, magical. Artist Isaiah Zagar works predominantly in mosaic, which he meticulously constructs from tiles, old plates, glass, old tires, and more (if his art looks familiar, you likely saw some of his smaller scale murals peppered throughout the city). You can easily see the entire space in under an hour, with plenty of time left over to explore the rest of the neighborhood. Pro tip: Grab your tickets online ahead of time.

RiverRink

101 S. Columbus Blvd., Old City | 215.922.2386

Philly is bordered on the east by the Delaware River (you can see New Jersey on the other side), and the city has taken great pains to activate the areas along the waterfront. One of our personal favorites: the kid-friendly wonderland that takes over Penn's Landing during the summer months. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the Delaware River Waterfront organizes an outdoor roller skating rink, with other carnival activities like mini-golf, games, and a Ferris wheel. Food-wise, you can pick up hard-shell crabs and cheesesteaks with a side of old-school crinkle fries at Chickie and Pete's, and there's an ice cream stand from Franklin Fountain in the summer. They recently debuted a winterized version around the holidays, when the roller rink gets covered in ice, and ice cream gets swapped out for egg nog and hot chocolate.

Momo’s Treehouse

205 Arch St., Old City | 267.457.2803

What separates this adorable little toy store from its big-box counterparts is its focus on learning the old-fashioned way: through imaginative play and make-believe. Proof: There’s a play area where kiddos can test out floor models and an arts-and-crafts table, meaning customers are encouraged to stay a while. The toy selection is as vast as it is thoughtful, much of which is blessedly analog for when you need a break from screens, buttons, and the like. If you’re lucky, your visit will coincide with one of the many in-store events (story time, sing-along, etc.)

Minnow Lane

2029 Frankford Ave., Fishtown | 215.291.1875

A beautiful, expertly curated one-stop shop for sustainability-conscious parents, this Fishtown boutique is an indispensible resource for non-toxic products, organic-cotton clothing, tried-and-true toys, strollers, and furniture, and so much more. Locals also come here for breastfeeding support groups, cloth diapering workshops, baby-care classes, and for help finding doulas, nannies, and specialists. Their consignment section is a goldmine of gently loved baby clothes, gear, and maternity wear—brilliant.

Franklin Fountain

116 Market St., Old City | 215.627.1899

The goal of this Old Town gem is to introduce a whole new generation of sweet-teeth to the traditional ice cream soda fountain experience. As with their candy-focused venture, Shane, the Berley brothers looked to the past for inspiration for both the décor (Art Deco-ish, with an antique bar and tin walls) and the menu (milkshakes, sundaes, house-made waffle cones). Try a phosphate soda or one of the classic banana splits (there are currently three on the menu).

Shane Candies

110 Market St., Old City | 215.922.1048

An old-timey candy shop at first glance, recently, the new Shane Candies has been carefully restored (by the brother team behind Franklin Fountain) to mirror the original confectionary—in business on and off since 1863. Their claim to fame: “clear toy” candies, made right on site, where they also craft bonbons, fudge, perfect marshmallow hot chocolate, and so much more, from scratch.