Philadelphia with Kids
It’s hard to go wrong with a family trip to the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia is packed with impressive cultural institutions and good ole U.S. history, and it’s more manageable—not to mention more affordable—than neighboring New York. In an effort to balance the city’s must-see sites with family friendly finds,
we tapped Colugo founder and Philly resident Ted Iobst for his favorite urban pit stops.
Philadelphia is full of popular tourist sites (the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, among others), but for an local guide to the city—full of family travel essentials like beautiful outdoor spaces, interactive cultural institutions, and kid-friendly restaurants—I turned to Ted Iobst. Not only is Iobst a dad—he and his wife Christy are busy with twins and a new baby—he’s also the founder of Colugo. The company, which designs products for families on the go, is anchored by a popular travel-friendly stroller, one that is lightweight, sturdy, and folds to the size of a shoulder bag with a simple one-click-fold. The stroller is also stylish, always a perk for an essential accessory, thanks to colors like lavender, navy, and a new limited edition Pride version decked out in rainbows.
Read on for Iobst’s family friendly guide to Philadelphia, packed with tips on where to stay, what to see, and how to survive a rainy day.
Click here for a Google map of Ted’s family travel finds.
How do think Philadelphia ranks as a family friendly travel destination?
Half pints will be in good company in central Philly: Young families are taking over. We’re seeing new outdoor recreation spaces and restaurants that keep kids in mind. Philly is also really affordable and many of the family-friend activities are often free.
Where should families stay in Philly for easy city access?
Washington Square West is a great neighborhood. It’s in the middle of everything, and you can walk to handful of parks and playgrounds (Washington Square and Seger Park, among others). It’s also close to lots of family-friendly attractions. Instead of a hotel, I’d book an Airbnb. That way you have separate room for naps and you can prepare some meals in your residence.
What major sites do we have to cross off our list before leaving Philadelphia?
Don’t miss Independence Mall, where you’ll find the iconic Liberty Bell, Independence Hall—the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed here, if you need a refresher—and the National Constitution Center, where kids can meander among 42 life-size bronze statues of the Founding Fathers who signed the Constitution. There’s also the Art Museum Area. The flagship Philadelphia Museum of Art has an amazing works—see the museum’s teacher resources for ideas on how to engage your kids in the collection—and children under 12 get in free. You can also get a picture of the kids running up the Rocky Steps (as in the boxer, as fans will know).
There’s also the Rodin Museum, an amazing indoor/outdoor sculpture garden with over a hundred Rodin works. From there, it’s a short walk to a Whole Foods and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway—named for the city’s founding father—so you can grab lunch and picnic along the scenic boulevard.
Finally, check out the Barnes Museum for one of the world’s best impressionist collections. They have an events-filled free family day—with art classes, story time, and stroller tours, among other activities—the first Sunday of every month.
Family travel is often a balance between cultural sites and places to run around. What are some of your favorite outdoor spaces in the city?
At Schuylkill River Park, there’s a playground for kids of all ages, as well as big open fields, gardens, and—in the case you’re also bringing Fido along—a dog park. It’s also right on the water and trains go by and honk at the kids. (As you can imagine, that’s a big hit.)
Another favorite is Spruce Street Harbor Park, an urban beach with a great outdoor beer garden and slew of food trucks in the summer. There’s also boardwalk along the Delaware River lined with classic sidewalk games and hammocks.
Franklin Square is always a hit among the kids as well. Along with the playground, there is mini golf and even a carousel where the animals include a bald eagle, naturally.
What are your recommendations for restaurants that strike a good balance of parent approved and kid friendly?
Kids and adults alike love the Reading Terminal Market, a huge indoor food hall that dates back to the 1890s. Here you can sample everything from our famous cheese steaks to Thai salmon curry bowls and homemade fudge.
Honey’s Sit ‘N Eat on South Street is another one of our go-tos. The diner-like spot serves breakfast all day, they have the best chicken fingers in town, and the challah French toast is a hit with my kids. On weekends, get there early to avoid the lines.
I also love Talulah’s Daily because you can get food to go and have a picnic in Washington Square Park. They have delicious, affordable options like grilled cheese sandwiches, roasted vegetables, and—every parent’s travel staple—coffee.
And at first glance, you wouldn’t necessarily consider Audrey Claire kid-friendly, but the staff is wonderful and understanding. Our kids eat whatever we eat, and the seasonal rotating menu includes dishes like lamb meatballs and grilled arctic char. They now take some weekend reservations, but this is another spot where you’ll want to arrive on the early side. Bonus: It’s BYOB.
When traveling with kids, parents always need a coffee, and they usually need a drink. What’s your favorite local coffee shop, and any breweries you can recommend that won’t bat an eye at the kids?
We live at Ultimo Coffee, which has locations across the city. They have gourmet ice cream sandwiches that my kids love. They will also give kiddos their own cappuccino cup. It’s filled with water, but it makes them feel very grown up.
We head to Craft Hall when we need a pint. It’s basically a beer garden with a giant pirate ship playground for kids. Also keep an eye out for Parks on Tap, which is a traveling beer garden that pops up in city parks throughout the summer.
Let’s get the rainy day plan. What can families do indoors if the weather turns?
The Academy of Natural Sciences is a really cool place to spend time on a rainy or cold day. They have fun exhibits on dinosaur fossils, as well as a butterfly room with up to 40 different species from around the world. Your kids can also ask real archaeologists questions about their work. (But, speaking from experience, beware of the gift shop: There are so many things your kids are going to want to take home.)
Then there’s the Please Touch Museum, a children’s institution where kids are encouraged to interact with the exhibits. It’s located in Fairmount Park—a distance worthy of a cab ride—and you can have lunch there. And while this is less of a traveler draw, you’ll meet local parents at indoor gym InMovement, especially on a rainy day, and it’s a great place for kids to burn off steam.
Any locally owned shops where you can pick up children’s gifts or special souvenirs?
The Nesting House is a well-curated, all-organic children’s store that sells clothes and gifts like Apple Farm Organic stuffed animals and handmade wooden puzzles. Baby Wordplay is a great kid’s story and song place that also has a bookstore.
How do you recommend families with kids get around Philly?
UberFamily, which gives you a car seat option for a $10 surcharge, is a great way to travel from the airport, but once you’re settled centrally, the city is super walkable. Plan to get around by foot—and stroller of course.
Want this guide on the go? Click here for an easy map you can print out or access on your smart phone.