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Mara Gorman

Newark, Delaware

MY KIDS

My Travel Style

If I had to choose one word to describe my family's travel style, it would be "diverse." There isn't much my family doesn't like to do, but we especially like trips that incorporate outdoor activities (skiing, hiking, biking, kayaking) and visits to museums and cultural institutions. We're big fans of long weekends that explore our local area but also enjoy taking two-week trips to Europe.

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Penn Museum

3260 South St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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  • Big kids (6-8)
  • Tweens (9-12)
Visited: June 2012 | Submitted: Feb 4, 2014 | I traveled with big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

Yes, there are mummies in Philadelphia

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This museum or archeology and anthropology owns over one million objects from all around the world, including mummies, skulls, a crystal ball, and Buddhist temples. Unfortunately, there is no audio guide aimed specifically at children, and many of the explanatory panels are dense and hard to read. I do recommend the (small) exhibit on human evolution and budding Egyptologists will enjoy seeing the sphinx and hieroglyphics in the Egypt gallery. But this was certainly not my favorite museum in Philadelphia. And my museum- and history-loving tween assigned it a solid grade of "B" because he felt like either the exhibits didn't have enough explanation or had descriptions that were too hard to read.

Tips for Families

I definitely don’t recommend this museum for children any younger than seven. There are no exhibits that are aimed at younger children; in fact it’s probably best for children who know how to read. Parking at the museum is limited, but it’s very easy to take the train from Center City Philadelphia. The train station is right across the street from the museum

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Please Touch Museum

4231 Ave of the Republic, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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  • Little kids (3-5)
Visited: September 2009 | Submitted: Feb 4, 2014 | I traveled with little kids (3-5)

One of the prettiest children's museums you'll find anywhere

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The Please Touch Museum is housed in Memorial Hall, a grand building in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park that was build for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. To give you a sense of the size and style of the rooms, it was the original home of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It's now home not to formal portraits and sculptures but a bright Philadelphia cityscape (complete with a subway car), a river to race boats or splash in, and Alice's Wonderland complete with a rabbit hole and a tea party. among many other exhibits There are tons of opportunities for imaginative play, including a large pretend supermarket. But my son's favorite activity was the gorgeously restored antique carousel. It's the perfect place to spend a morning with younger children.

Tips for Families

Parking costs five dollars for nonmembers. There seems to be plenty of it however, and it is immediately adjacent to the building. If you are visiting the city in the summer, you can take a two-dollar Phlash shuttle from Center City to the museum. The museum opens at 9. Although the website says to avoid the morning because that is when school groups come, we arrived soon after it opened and found that it was fairly empty until around 11:30.

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Philadelphia Zoo

3400 W. Girard Ave., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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  • Little kids (3-5)
  • Big kids (6-8)
Visited: April 2009 | Submitted: Feb 4, 2014 | I traveled with little kids (3-5) and big kids (6-8)

Visit the oldest zoo in America

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Billing itself as the oldest zoo in the United States, this charming home to lions, tigers, and bears has a very walkable size that make it a perfect place to go with a preschooler. The grounds have a genteel, Victorian feel to them that seems like it must be much the same as when the zoo opened in 1874. Although it is situated in the large Fairmount Park, you know you are in the city - trains rumble past - but it is also full of lush landscaping and public art. My little animal lover liked that he could get up close and personal with the big cats, the primates, and the polar bears - none of the enclosures here is so big that the animals are really far away. There's a brand new children's zoo that I haven't yet had a chance to visit, but it promises lots of fun with a butterfly enclosure, a duck pond, a pigeon loft, and more.

Tips for Families

There is plenty of paid parking available at the zoo, but driving there is a bit of a hairy experience since it is located off the Schuylkill Expressway, one of Philly's oldest and busiest highways. If you are visiting the city in the summer and want to get out there you can take a two-dollar Phlash shuttle from Center City to the zoos gates. You can also always take a bus or trolley using SEPTA, the city’s public transportation system. The zoo has an app that offers an interactive trip planner, realtime parking status updates, interactive content, and more.

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Citizens Bank Park

1 Citizens Bank Way, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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  • Big kids (6-8)
  • Tweens (9-12)
Visited: May 2013 | Submitted: Feb 4, 2014 | I traveled with big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

Cheer on the hometown favorite Phils

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Got a baseball lover in your family? You're in luck if you're visiting Philadelphia, where the much-loved Phillies are a local institution. The team may inspire old-fashioned devotion, but they now play in a state-of-the art stadium where there really isn't a bad seat in the house. From cheesesteaks to crab fries to fried chicken and donuts, there are loads of great food concessions, including one selling gluten-free treats. And though Philly sports fans have a tough reputation, the atmosphere at games leans more toward the family-friendly side. There are various play areas for kids including the Phanatic Phun Zone near the First Base Gate. If you're lucky, and the Phils are having a good game, you'll get to see the Liberty Bell light up and "ring" at every run and when the game is won.

Tips for Families

I've only ever been to the park for a game, but if you'd rather just take a tour, they are offered Monday to Saturday from April to October and Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from November through March. You must buy your tickets in advance, and can do so on the Phillies' website. There are many parking lots around the stadium; you can also ride the Broad Street line to AT&T station and walk to the park from there.

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National Constitution Center

525 Arch St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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  • Big kids (6-8)
  • Tweens (9-12)
Visited: May 2012 | Submitted: Feb 4, 2014 | I traveled with big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

An interactive visit with the U.S. Constitution

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How much do you know about the U.S. Constitution? You're guaranteed to know more after a visit to this interactive and thought-provoking museum, which offers an in-depth look not only at what this important document says but how it has changed through history. Your tour starts with a short multi-media presentation, which is narrated by a live actor and offers an historic overview of the creation and evolution of the Constitution. We the People is the main exhibit and offers not only tons of information but fun interactive activities - my nine-year-old especially loved getting to use a real voting booth. My family's favorite part of the museum was Signers' Hall, where life-size statues of the men who signed the Constitution in 1787 are arranged in various stages of conversation and debate.

Tips for Families

I recommend this museum for kids eight and older. Many of the exhibits here involve a fair bit of reading and listening to be fully appreciated. Although my six-year-old had studied American history, he got bored fairly quickly, making it a challenge for my husband and I to focus our attention.

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Marriott Hotel Downtown Philadelphia

1201 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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  • Little kids (3-5)
  • Big kids (6-8)

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Visited: December 2011 | Submitted: Feb 4, 2014 | I traveled with little kids (3-5) and big kids (6-8)

A large hotel, just steps from City Hall

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The Marriott in downtown Philadelphia couldn't really be more conveniently located. Not only is it steps from City Hall (some rooms offer views of the statue of William Penn that tops this iconic building) it also sits halfway between Museum Row and Independence National Historical Park. Although the rooms here aren't especially stylish, you can definitely find deals, especially on the weekend.

Tips for Families

This hotel has an indoor pool, great for the kids. Valet parking here is pretty expensive at 48 dollars a day; look online for nearby parking garages (the Philadelphia Parking Authority has a website that will help you do so). Another great feature of this hotel is that it is steps from Reading Terminal Market - a great place for breakfast, lunch, or dinner with kids.

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Independence National Historical Park

143 South Third Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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  • Big kids (6-8)
  • Tweens (9-12)
Visited: May 2013 | Submitted: Feb 4, 2014 | I traveled with big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

Learn about the birth of the United States in an urban national park

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This urban national park covers a 20-block area right in the middle of Philadelphia. In addition to seeing the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall you and your kids can learn about the origins of the United States, see the site where the Declaration of Independence was first read, and learn about the role of slaves in the founding of the United States. Start out in the large Visitor Center, where exhibits and films offer a historical overview of Philadelphia and the sites in the park. If you are visiting Philadelphia over several a period of days, you might want to plan to spend a few hours at a time in the park visiting different sites - there are definitely more things to see here than you can cover in a single day. Only got a day to spend? Make sure you see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Second Bank of the United States, and Christ Church.

Tips for Families

The sites here are best for school-age kids and older who have some familiarity with American history. Although tours of Independence Hall are free, you'll need a timed ticket. Pick one up on the Visitor Center. Looking for a bite to eat? There are two family-friendly restaurants just steps away from Independence Hall. Jones is a groovy tribute to the Brady Bunch era, with shag carpeting and grown-up comfort food (you won't want to miss the fried chicken) or stop by the Red Owl Tavern in the Hotel Monaco. Although they have a great dinner menu, I also recommend visiting for breakfast or brunch - their cider donuts cannot be beat. And before you visit, be sure to download the Philly History This Way app on your smartphone or mobile device - it provides an interactive map of the area with information about various points of interest; it will also automatically play videos about some of the historic sites as you walk past them.

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Longwood Gardens

1001 Longwood Rd., Kennett Square, Pennsylvania

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  • Tots (0-2)
  • Little kids (3-5)
  • Big kids (6-8)
  • Tweens (9-12)
Visited: December 2013 | Submitted: Feb 4, 2014 | I traveled with tots (0-2), little kids (3-5), big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

A year round glorious garden that's great for families

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My family and I have been members at Longwood Gardens for years, and I've visited with kids of every age, from infants through tweens. There are so many things to love about Longwood that its hard to share them all. For starters, they have both an indoor and an outdoor children's garden, where kids can run, do lots of water play (you might want to bring a change of clothes for little ones), or do scavenger hunts. During the warmer months, kids can learn about vegetables and composting in the A to Z garden. The grounds offer so much to explore - from a huge conservatory that's a haven of color and scent on the bleakest of winter days, to the outdoor color garden - spectacular all year long, but no more so than in the spring when thousands of tulips show their faces. There are also three treehouse to explore, a huge meadow to romp in, and in fall, a large outdoor electric train display. The holiday exhibit here is second to none and is a beloved tradition for my family and many others.

Tips for Families

Longwood is an easy drive 30- to 45-minute drive from Center City Philadelphia and is worth the trip. They have an onsite cafeteria as well as a more formal sit-down restaurant. Both have kid-friendly options but my preference is either to pack a picnic (which you can only eat in the designated picnic area - outside food isn't permitted elsewhere) or to drive into nearby Kennett Square where the Half Moon Restaurant serves local delicious locally-sourced food. If you visit Longwood during the holiday season (between Thanksgiving and just after New Years) you will need a timed ticket, which you can purchase from their website. I recommend avoiding the weekends during that time period if you can. At every time of year, be sure to check the website for upcoming events for children and families.

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Battleship New Jersey Museum & Memorial

62 Battleship Place, Camden, Pennsylvania

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My ratings by kids age

  • Big kids (6-8)
  • Tweens (9-12)
Visited: November 2012 | Submitted: Jan 31, 2014 | I traveled with big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

Explore a floating museum from bow to stern

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I'll admit that I was surprised at how fascinating this museum is, offering a unique chance for visitors to explore pretty much every inch of a battleship that was built in the Philadelphia Shipyard and saw action in every conflict from World War II through the civil war in Lebanon in the early 1980s. My kids were fascinated to explore the gun turrets, check out the living quarters, and learn all about life on board this enormous ship as well as the battles in which it took part. The audio guide was excellent and comprehensive, as were the exhibits inside the ship that shared artifacts and photos of the many sailors who served on board.

Tips for Families

Be sure that when you buy tickets you also ask for an audio guide - this museum would not be very interesting without one. Note also, that the ship is closed in January and is open only on weekends from November through March. The ship is docked just across the river from Philadelphia in Camden, New Jersey. You might want to make an entire day of your visit, checking out the other family attractions on the waterfront including the Adventure Aquarium and the Children's Garden. We spent several hours in the battleship.

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The Franklin Institute

222 N 20th St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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  • Big kids (6-8)
  • Tweens (9-12)
Visited: October 2013 | Submitted: Jan 31, 2014 | I traveled with big kids (6-8) and tweens (9-12)

Science, history, and a little bit of everything in between

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There's really a little something for everyone at this interactive science museum. My sports-loving son spent over an hour in the Sports Challenge exhibit, where he could clock his pitches (and learn about the physics of improving them), test his reaction time in a race car, and kick a soccer ball against an imaginary goalie. The whole family loved Sir Isaac's Loft, where we could conduct experiments in gravity, levers, and cause-and-effect. The Giant Heart - an enormous beating heart that kids can walk through - may be the museum's most famous exhibit. The youngest visitors (and maybe even their older siblings) will enjoying checking out the tactile Island of the Elements exhibit, which is designed for children aged 5 to 8.

Tips for Families

Check in advance to see what special exhibits are running at the museum and whether these will suit any of your children's interests. These exhibits usually involve the purchase of a timed ticket, but are worth the cost. My family has visited and enjoyed exhibits about King Tut and the history of spying during the Cold War. The Franklin Institute also has has an IMAX, a 3D theater, and a planetarium, all of which cost extra to visit. The museum has a parking garage but metered street parking is cheaper if you can find a spot.

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