Quite honestly, as much as we all love to travel, my kids prefer beaches and amusement parks to historical sights. But as mom who loves history, I feel strongly that my kids need to see important historical sights to better understand our history. With that goal in mind, I took my five kids to Philadelphia for spring break to see where our Founding Fathers declared their independence and assembled to write and sign the Constitution.
Here are my tips for helping families of all ages enjoy visiting Philadelphia’s historic sites.
1. Read books before you visit Philadelphia.
The month before our trip, we checked out library books about the signing of the Declaration of Independence and read up on the history of the Founding Fathers and Philadelphia in 1776. The bedtime stories helped my younger kids understand the history of what we were going to see.
2. Book tickets to Independence Hall in advance.
You must have a free, timed ticket to enter Independence Hall. Every person in your party must have a ticket, including babies. You may reserve tickets online in advance, or pick them up at 8:30 a.m. for same-day tickets. If you pick up same-day tickets, one person may pick up 10 tickets so not everyone has to stand in line.
We stayed at the Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District just around the corner from Independence Hall, and I left my husband at the hotel managing breakfast while I ran and picked up tickets for all of us. You will want to arrive right at 8:30 so you have options on what time of day works best for you. Advance reservations are probably worth the $1.50 processing fee per ticket if you know what time of day you would like to visit.
3. Start at the Liberty Bell first thing in the morning.
The line to see the Liberty Bell gets longer as the day goes on, and in the summer the wait can be as long as an hour in the hot sun. You must take the kids to see the Liberty Bell, so start your day here when the lines are short and then head over to Independence Hall. Tip: If you don’t have time to wait in line, you can walk by the outside of the building and see the Liberty Bell through the glass. You will miss the museum displays inside but will still get a good view of the bell.
4. Pick one museum or movie to get your history fix.
I had grand dreams of visiting the Constitution Center, a hands-on history museum, and spending plenty of time in the Independence Visitor’s Center. I quickly realized that my younger kids (and maybe my teens too!) didn’t have the patience for a full day of museums. We opted to see the Liberty 360 3-D show, which was the perfect balance of entertainment and education. The 15-minute show, hosted by Ben Franklin himself, was a great introduction to Philadelphia and the many symbols of America. The air conditioning, clean bathrooms, and great gift shop at the PECO theater were an added bonus.
5. Stop by Ben Franklin’s Grave.
Take a few minutes to walk by Ben Franklin’s grave. He is buried in the Christ Church Burial Ground just across the street from the Independence Visitor’s Center. People traditionally throw pennies on his grave as a symbol of good luck and to recognize his saying “A penny saved is a penny earned.” There is a small fee to enter Christ Church Burial Ground, so most people just pass by outside the fence.
6. Visit Franklin Court.
It’s worth a stroll through the city to walk by Franklin Court, which is where Ben Franklin’s home was before it was unfortunately torn down. We loved stopping at the working post office where you can send hand-stamped letter’s with Franklin’s postmark, and finding Franklin’s privy pit. There is also a museum there, but it was closed by the time we arrived.
Franklin’s Court is a great place to stroll when you are hungry. We found a delicious cheesesteak sandwich at Sonny’s nearby.
7. Have a Treat at the Franklin Fountain.
Planning a Trip to Philadelphia?
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- Our Pennsylvania destination page
- Our Pennsylvania for Families Pinterest board
- Big Bus Tours of Philadelphia is Easy, Fun for Families
- Kid’s Love Philadelphia’s Please Touch Museum
- Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District hotel review