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Best Philly Museums To Take The Whole Family



Visiting a new city often includes museums of some sort. When you've got children in tow, you want to be sure you're hitting up the best of the best since their attention span can be minimal. Fortunately, Philadelphia sports some terrific options in this area. From science-heavy places like the Academy of Natural Sciences that will excite primarily the under-seven crowd to hands-on hotspots like the Please Touch Museum to the National Constitution Center and wonderful new additions to the city such as the Museum of the American Revolution, there are plenty of opportunities to explore, learn and pass the time in the City of Brotherly Love. Spend a morning, an afternoon or the better part of a day in ones that inspire the interests and creativity in your crowd, and discover everything from history to government to science to aquatic life. Learning is fun, but don't tell the little ones that part. The museums on this list are also a great way to spend time together as well.


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The B. Free Franklin Post office is the only free colonial-themed post office operated by the US Postal Service in existence. It also proves itself in staying true to the period in which it was created (for instance, it does not fly the American flag as there was no flag in 1775). This post office honors Benjamin Franklin, our nation's first post master, and explores his history and the history of the postal service through an onsite museum. In the museum, find postal memorabilia as well as objects and articles of historical interest and significance. The postal-stamp letters receive from going through this office still bear the mark "B. Free Franklin".

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: This museum is near many Old City historic sites, and a quick visit lets your group in on what the first post office was like.

Sharon's expert tip: This building is definitely more of a museum than a fully operational post office, so remember that they have mailing limitations and restrictions should you be looking for extensive postal services.

Read more about B. Free Franklin Post Office & Museum →




Just across the Delaware River, in Camden, NJ, Philadelphia residents have access to our nation's largest and most decorated battleship, the USS New Jersey. Fully-restored, this battleship-turned-museum welcomes visitors of all ages, even hosting sleepovers and other opportunities for groups to get up close and personal with this piece of American naval history. The ship is 887 feet of armor-plated steel and weighs in at 45,000 tons. Tours on the ship allow you to climb ladders, crawl through passageways and experience things just as the crew did when it was operational. Mini deck tours are also available should climbing, crawling and shimmying through small spaces not be your thing.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: Especially great for men in the bunch, this ship shakes up the usual museum experience a bit and lets you experience ship life a bit.

Sharon's expert tip: Opt for a guide-led tour or an overnight stay on the ship if possible to experience it to its fullest. Also beware, it involves a good amount of stairs.

Read more about Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial →




Built in the mid 1700s, this Georgian-style house was owned by the Widow Lithgow, who rented rooms in it to Betsy Ross and her husband, from 1773-1786. They ran an upholstery business out of this house, and in 1776, Betsy allegedly sewed the first U.S. flag here. Fully restored in the 1930s, today the house is one of Philadelphia's most visited attractions. Betsy Ross is buried in the adjacent courtyard. The gift shop offers Betsy memorabilia and flag souvenirs, books, and toys. It's a short visit, but very worthwhile to see the humble building where one of the first symbols of our new nation was created.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: Not many other places say "America" more than the home where our flag was sewn. See if it is what you thought it'd look like!

Sharon's expert tip: For an additional treat, stop to chat with the historically-dressed Betsy in the courtyard as you head into the house.

Read more about Betsy Ross House →


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National Constitution Center


A visit to the National Constitution Center starts with a powerful multi-media theater presentation that describes the main points of our country's most important document. After the presentation,visitors are free to roam about the building exploring the hows and whys of the Constitution. As a family-oriented museum, the set-up is not heavy on reading plaques and boards. Instead, many of the exhibits are interactive, as guests may vote for their favorite president, or even take the presidential oath of office. Though it's possible to purchase walk-in tickets, you may also purchase timed tickets in advance, which is recommended during busy seasons.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: For kids that are covering any related topic in school, this museum gives them the chance to relate to it on an interactive platform.

Sharon's expert tip: The constitution center hosts some of the most prominent political and media-related speakers and public events in the world; check the website to coordinate your visit with one of these educational events.

Read more about National Constitution Center →


Liberty Bell
Photo courtesy of Visit Philadelphia


The Liberty Bell Center is a Philadelphia must-see. Visitors can not only view the famous Liberty Bell, one of the most recognized symbols of American freedom, but also learn its history. Films, historical documents, and visual displays enlighten visitors on its history and why it has become the symbol of freedom for many. Take the time to read the many informative plaques and view the pictures along the way telling the Liberty Bell's past and stories that pertain to its place throughout history. Viewing the bell itself at the back of the building it's now housed in allows for scenic photographs, and the privilege of taking in a huge symbol of this country's storied past.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: You can visit the Liberty Bell but also read the history surrounding it and learn about the role it played in the Nation's past.

Sharon's expert tip: Taking a photo at the Bell with Independence Hall and the flowers of Spring and Summer in the background out the back window makes for a scenic souvenir for anyone.

Read more about Liberty Bell →


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Outside the city
Adventure Aquarium
Photo courtesy of C. Barrington for Visit Philadelphia


This aquatic wonderland, open 365-days-a-year, offers kids and grown-ups alike the opportunity to explore sealife of all shapes and sizes. Adventure Aquarium is located just across the river from Philadelphia (you can see it from the waterfront), and is a great side trip to entertain, educate and explore with kids. What kinds of life can you see here? They've got penguins, sharks, hippos, stingrays, birds, reptiles, turtles, crocodiles and a ton of fish ranging from the angelically beautiful to the hideously ugly, the harmless to the dangerous, and everything in between. If you've got a sealife lover, or if you just want a fun day out, take a trip to Adventure Aquarium.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: Fish and aquatic life are fun, interesting, soothing and great for kids of all ages and temperaments. Explore sea life here with your whole crew.

Sharon's expert tip: If you plan to visit more than a few times, check into their Annual Membership, as it may be worth it to purchase that.

Read more about Adventure Aquarium →


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Museum District & Fairmount Park
Please Touch Museum
Photo courtesy of M. Edlow for Visit Philadelphia


No "Do Not Touch" signs â€" a dream come true in a kid's museum setting! Designed to promote the arts, sciences, and humanities, exhibits here promise educational entertainment for the young and the young-at-heart. There is an incredible collection of toys and a 3D interactive playground based upon popular children's books. Art exhibits feature work from children in the Philadelphia area. On the bottom floor is a pretend grocery store where kids can "shop" and "pay", and a maze to explore. There are ample opportunities for role-playing and dress-up, as well as to try out all kinds of machines and tools and grown-up devices!

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: You owe it to your little ones to take them here and tell them to TOUCH EVERYTHING. Because that's the fun of it all.

Sharon's expert tip: Parking is free on the street, and there are discount admission nights as well as special exhibits. Check their calendar.

Read more about Please Touch Museum →


Museum of the American Revolution
Photo courtesy of Sharon Rigney


You know the story of the American Revolution - or do you? This brand new museum explores topics related to the American war in ways kids of all ages can understand and explore. Through things they can touch and activities they can participate in, as well plenty to read and see, this museum gives kids more than just a recounting of the war. It asks them what decisions they'd make, shows them what life was like then, brings their textbook learning into real life and puts a better dimension on it. Should someone in your crowd have interest in this subject or be studying it in school, the museum is a wonderful way to further their appreciation of it. It's not too long, leads you through in a way that makes sense and is quite moving as well.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: Concentrating on the American Revolution, this museum excels at delivering history in a wonderfully family-friendly and interactive fashion.

Sharon's expert tip: Tickets here are good for two consecutive days, so should you not see everything the first time around or simply want to go back for a second look, you can.

Read more about Museum of the American Revolution →


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Museum District & Fairmount Park


This internationally-renowned museum dates back to 1812 and serves as a public forum for environmental research and education. Numerous interactive exhibits are particularly fun for children, and include live animals, dinosaurs, and insects. Greeting visitors when they enter are huge dinosaur skeletons, which are showstopping in their reconstructed size. Throughout the rest of the four floors of the building are exhibits and displays and interactive opportunities for kids to discover and learn about animals. Many are featured at times as part of live demonstrations so that children can see and hear and often touch the creatures that are being talked about.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: Best for kiddos under about the age of seven, this place is perfect for a rainy day or for just exploring new things.

Sharon's expert tip: This museum is great for creature-loving kids. The butterfly exhibit room is especially cool, and don't miss the hissing cockroach.

Read more about Academy of Natural Sciences →


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Museum District & Fairmount Park


Offering more than a dozen interactive exhibits, the Franklin Institute Science Museum is a favorite for both the young and young at heart. Children especially love walking through the world's largest artificial heart and learning about energy transfer via the Giant Newton's Cradle and Ball Launcher. Guests also discover the nation's second-oldest planetarium, Fels Planetarium, and on the top floor, an observatory where they can view the Sun, Moon and Jupiter. Have fun with electricity, wind, gravity, learn about medicine and health, sports and space. It's great for all ages and perfect for morning or afternoon exploration that'll keep kids talking about the place for long after you've headed home.

Recommended for Family-Friendly Museums because: Science is fun, and this museum proves it. Take everyone, young or old, and they'll come away with cool facts they never knew before.

Sharon's expert tip: Be sure to check out the new Brain exhibit located here for a super educational and fun visit.

Read more about Franklin Institute Science Museum →


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Meet Sharon Rigney

Sharon is a native to the Philadelphia area, but loves to wander from its familiar borders. She has traveled to more than 30 countries, trekked five continents, ventured out with family,...  More About Sharon

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