Philadelphia is another wonderful city to explore with kids. This wonderful city has tons of history, attractions, and food to explore. I’m sure you will have just as much fun as we did on our trip to Philadelphia.
Known as the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia is a wonderful city to explore American history. It is of course, where the Declaration of Independence was written. Way before Washington DC was the capital, Philadelphia was the capital of the United States. Let’s dive into this wonderful city.
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Independence Hall in Philadelphia
Any visit to Philadelphia should start with the place where our nation started, Independence Hall.
The Pennsylvania Statehouse whose name was later changed to Independence Hall is where the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were written and signed into law. This is why this building is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Walking through these rooms to see where our nation’s beginnings took place is quite a unique experience. Of course, I really enjoy seeing the architecture of the time as well.
It surprises me how these rooms are not large by any means and yet so many gathered to debate and write our laws here. The tour of Independence Hall which is led by a ranger is very informative and worth going on. I always find out more fun facts and information about American History that I didn’t already know.
Yes, I really love American History. You can read more about my love here in my post on the Freedom Trail in Boston.
Philadelphia is the home of the Liberty Bell
Going to see the Liberty Bell, one of America’s icon symbols is definitely something special. It’s truly beautiful. Although we can’t hear it ring any longer, we can imagine it hanging from the old State House, now Independence Hall calling the people of Philadelphia in to hear the news or to town meetings.
The message on the bell:
Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.From the King James Version of the bible.
The message didn’t become a rebel’s cry until after the civil war though. It was then that those wanting to end slavery used the message for their plight. Afterward in the early 1900s women, suffragists used this “Liberty Bell” and its inscription for their cause. This is really when the average American becomes familiar with and learns about the bell.
Don’t forget to have your kids earn their Junior Ranger Badge while exploring Independent National Historical Park.
The Crack in Philadelphia’s Bell
It’s almost funny to say the ‘crack’ you see is actually the repair to the bell. Historians believe the bell developed a small crack in the mid-1800s after 90 years of use. To try and fix the small crack, they widened the crack to restore the tone of the bell and stop further cracking. Unfortunately, the repair didn’t work. A second fissure formed and that is when the bell stopped ringing. No one alive today has heard this bell ring. The National Park system, however, has a computer model of what the bell would sound like.
Benjamin Franklin Museum
The story of the city’s founding father. The courtyard has the outline of Franklin’s original house and his grandson’s printing business.
This is a hands-on museum where you can explore and learn about Ben Franklin. My kids really enjoy these museums and I enjoy watching them figure out puzzles and learning about Benjamin Franklin. There are 5 rooms to explore, each focusing on the different character traits of Franklin. Don’t miss watching the video in the library though.
If you and your kids are into a scavenger hunt then check out the “Skuggs mascot” as you enter the museum and look for these furry friends as you explore all the exhibits. (FYI – skuggs are what they used to call squirrels.) This is a fun scavenger hunt for all.
Don’t miss the Franklin Court Printing Office. They have a typesetting area as well as two reproduction 18th-century presses and a binder. They have Benjamin Franklin Bache, Franklin’s grandson’s printing office set up as well. You can see rangers giving a demonstration of either the typesetting or printing during your visit.
Betsy Ross’s House
Betsy Ross we all know sewed the first American Flag. However, did you know that is was actually considered an act of treason? The flag was ready to raise and display prior to the end of the Revolutionary War. This is why when you tour Betsy Ross’s House you will see the first American Flag in her bedroom. This is where she would have sewn the flag so others wouldn’t have seen it.
Taking the audio self-tour will bring you closer to understanding the times in which Betsy lived and her house. There is a separate kid’s audio that has them solving mysteries from the 18th century. I’d highly recommend this, my kids loved it.
There is a great courtyard outside Betsy Ross’s House with a fun fountain with 2 cats and the original 13 colonies are written along the bottom of the fountain. This isn’t original to the house; it was added in 1974.
I think my favorite part of the house is Betsy’s bedroom. I love seeing the flag but also the period furniture and bedspread and curtains. The most interesting item I found in the bedroom is the snuff-box, though. Yes, Betsy had a snuff box with tobacco. No, she didn’t smoke it but instead inhaled the finely ground tobacco. During her time, they believed it helped with eyesight. Since Betsy wore glasses and then went blind, historians believe it was for this purpose.
Another great item the museum has is the only known signature of Betsy Ross as Elizabeth Ross. It is on the probate papers that show the legal transfer of her husband, John Ross’s, possessions to Betsy after his death in 1776. These probate papers are on display in the Upholstery Shop.
Elfreth’s Alley, one of the first streets in Philadelphia
Elfreth’s Alley really grew out of necessity in colonial Philadelphia. To alleviate overcrowding, a few landowners, close to the port, opened up a passageway through their land, and Elfreth’s Alley was born.
This street really is a wonderful look at colonial architecture. As you walk the ‘alley’ you can imagine being back in colonial times. Back with Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross and John Hamilton. These houses are excellently cared for and have all the original features and even the original glass.
We owe the preservation of the alley to Dolly Ottey. Ms. Ottey fought to keep Elfreth’s Alley from deteriorating and even helped form the Elfreth’s Alley Association in 1934. Thankfully the EAA also secured National Landmark Status for the alley which prevented the new Rt 95 highway from going through and tearing down the alley.
The US Mint in Philadelphia
The Philadelphia Mint is one of six mints around the country. Four of the facilities are production facilities, like Philly. However, the other two mints are not. The mint at Fort Knox, Kentucky houses the bullion deposits and the Washington DC location is the headquarters of the mint. I would love to see the bullion deposits. I’m sure it is something special.
The establishment of a national money system started with the coinage act of 1792. In this act, the US Mint was established along with the coins to be produced. I think it’s so interesting that the denominations were similar to the England coins. The half-penny is a coin England used up until December of 1984. In fact, I remember the half-penny and used it when I was in England as a kid.
The Coinage Act specified the coins to be minted in the following amounts: copper coins in half-cent and cents, silver coins in half-dime, dime, quarter, half-dollar, and dollar. Finally, gold coins in quarter eagle, worth $2.50, half eagle, worth $5 and eagle worth, $10. As you can see paper money didn’t come till later. Coins began to circulate one year after the US Mint was established.
The Philadelphia mint is special in that they ‘do it all’. They produce coins but also have all the designers and engravers to do the congressional medals and non-circulated and commemorative coins.
The tour is a self-guided tour with lots of hands-on and interactive exhibits. Unfortunately, the production floor was not active when we were there but you can see videos of it in action. My kids think all the coins are super cool.
National Constitution Center
The National Constitution Center is a great way to learn how the Constitution came to be and how “We the people” all started. There is so much to see and do in this museum but start with the movie called “Freedom Rising.” What I love so much about this movie is that it’s a 360-degree screen and you feel as though you are in the scene as you watch the movie. There is a narrator telling you the story of how the colonists fought for the freedom we have today. Honestly, it’s the best place to start in the museum.
Of course, there is an exhibit in the entry hall with this frame hanging. The year on the bottom of the picture is the year each of my kids can run for president. They both thought it was cool to calculate the year.
The next exhibit you must visit and is very interactive is “The Story of We the People.” Here my kids got sworn in as President, proud mama moment. OK, seriously though they have a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation. It’s a must-see. There is also a book with questions you would need to answer if you wanted to become an American Citizens.
The third main exhibit is the “Signers’ Hall.” This is a room full of bronze statues of all 42 Founding Fathers at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. You can shake their hands and say “Thanks for all your hard work and making this a free country.”
Museum of the American Revolution
The Museum of the American Revolution is a great place to start learning about how American won its independence from England. This hands-on and interactive museum is a great way to learn about our country.
There are five sections to the museum that takes you from the start of the revolution to the end of the war. In the first rooms, you learn about ‘Becoming Revolutionaries’. Here you learn about British rule, taking down the King, and ‘Boston’s Tree of Liberty’. The second section of the museum focuses on ‘The Darkest Hour’ from the battle of Brooklyn to Saratoga and onto Valley Forge.
The third section has a section of a life-size warship of the times and focuses on the war itself. The fourth room is all about the ‘New Nation’ and the constitution. The last area is George Washington’s war tent. This is a film about how Washington started as a general and became President.
This museum truly brings the American Revolution alive with all the exhibits.
Please Touch Museum
The Please Touch Museum is a little bit out of downtown Philly but it’s worth the drive. With a full carousel and treehouse to climb you will find fun for the whole family here.
Some of our favorite exhibits are the Wonderland area based on Alice in Wonderland, the river adventures, and the treehouse. I’m a big fan of letting the kids play and learn as they go to these museums. It always amazes what they gravitate toward and how they explore.
I have to say Clint and I got into the play as well with filling our shopping carts in the Healthy Me supermarket area. But don’t miss out on the slinky fun. Did you know that the slinky was invented in Philadelphia?
Christ Church and Burying Grounds
This church is the ‘Nation’s Church’. It is the first Episcopalian church here in America. Founding Fathers such as Benjamin and Deborah Franklin, Betsy Ross, George Washington, and Robert Morris among others attended this church. Don’t miss the seating arrangements to see which pew you want to sit in.
Take the tour and learn about the history of this church and how it was part of the colonial scene during revolutionary times. For more fun take the burying grounds tour and see the graves of Benjamin Franklin and several other members of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
While traveling we love to check out the local food scene. In Philly that means cheesesteaks! We love locals’ recommendations for this icon sandwich and tried a few. The winner is certainly Jim’s Cheesesteaks! The steak is tender and juicy. The bun is soft, yet holds up to all the meat and cheese inside. CHEESE, oh the cheese, what can I say but YUM! It really makes the sandwich. Jim’s put the right amount of cheese on to make it tasty but not overwhelm the steak. It’s the right amount of everything all wrapped up in one bite. Delicious! Don’t miss this American treasure!
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Other Site Around Philadelphia
There are so many more sites to see around Philadelphia. Here are a few more sites we enjoyed. The Rocky Steps, Reading Terminal, Love Park, and the Philadelphia City Hall. We also found some fun statues and even Benjamin Franklin walking around. Have you ever gone to a city and seen a historical character walking around?
Philadelphia is a great city to explore with your family. From American History to food there is something for everyone. Have you been to Philly? What is your favorite place to visit?