Looking to head east for a family vacation? I highly recommend Philadelphia getting on your radar. I enjoyed a solo journey to the City of Brotherly Love but couldn’t stop thinking about how much my husband and daughter would love it. There are dozens of museums, award-winning hotels, and delicious food.

The best way to see the sights of Philadelphia is to get a CityPASS. No matter the duration of your visit, CityPASS makes it extremely simple and affordable to see multiple attractions. They offer passes to see three, four, or five must-see spots. I opted for four and loved the ease of hopping to each exhibit. Since everyone was super family-friendly, here are my recommendations for what not to miss in Philadelphia. Psst, make sure to get a pretzel and Rita’s Ice Custard!

Philadelphia Zoo

The quintessential family outing, I was blown away at the Philadelphia Zoo. It holds the title of being the nation’s first zoo and at 42 acres, there’s a lot of ground to cover. I was rarely without an exotic animal near or even above me. At Big Cat Falls, tigers and lions use an overhead bridge to access their terrain.

They also boast a petting zoo, aviary, animatronic dinosaurs, and an extremely educated staff.

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

The very first of its kind and in operation since 1812. The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University will have the kids roaring. They’ll get up close and personal with life-size dinosaur skeletons in Dinosaur Hall, see striking animals in their habitats throughout 37 dioramas, and so much more.

The academy is centrally located to several restaurants, shops, and other galleries. Including….

The Barnes Foundation

Admittedly, this museum may not keep very small youngsters entertained. But their grown-ups will be wide-eyed. The Barnes Foundation is home to one of the largest collections of works by Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Modigliani. If you have art enthusiasts in the family, they will be in awe.

They also have an ample promenade with Reflections Cafe before entering the galleries. Here, you can grab a coffee, sandwiches, and pastries. It’s a perfect nook for taking a breather.

A tiger at the zoo crosses the bridge. (c) Mary Farah
Animatronic T-rex at the zoo. Rawr! (c) Mary Farah

Museum of the American Revolution

Being in Philadelphia, there’s a lot of America’s beginnings to absorb. The Museum of the American Revolution is located in the Old City district and is a great starting point for a major history lesson.

While you’ll get up close and personal with artifacts like George Washington’s war tents and items from the Boston Tea Party, what left me the most compelled was the Black Founders exhibit. It’s a shame to me it’s in its final months. I hope they consider making even a fraction of it permanent. It highlights Philadelphia’s Forten family and their impact as a Black family on the Revolutionary War, women’s, and even voting rights.

One of over three dozen dioramas at the Science Center. (c) Mary Farah
Powerful re-enactments at the Museum of the American Revolution. (c) Mary Farah

Where to Stay

The Marriott of Downtown Philadelphia is a great option for the family. It’s safe, secure, and located near many attractions and great food. Speaking of food, it’s directly across the street from the Reading Terminal Market. This is a superb food court and market for everyone as there are over 80 vendors to pick from. Even gluten-free and vegan choices. The kids will get a kick out of the fast-paced environment and endless options. Make sure to get a picture with their mascot, the terminal pig!


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