We just came home from a very quick roadtrip to Philadelphia, PA. Philly is a history lover’s paradise. There is so much to see and do in this city. Unfortunately, we were on a very tight schedule and could only spare a couple days. Day one was spent at Valley Forge followed by a show at the Tower theater in Upper Darby Read about that here.
Day two offered us a little time in the city before heading home. We decided that we wanted our kids to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.
Here are my tips for families visiting these national landmarks:
- Allow lots of time for traffic. On our first night, we spent over an hour to travel 14 miles. Ugh. We thought we were going to miss our show. When you purchase tickets for Independence Hall, allow plenty of time for traffic, parking, and security.
- Speaking of parking…it’s limited everywhere. If you stay overnight in the city, expect that your only option for parking will be valet and that you will have a parking charge on your hotel bill. Some hotels even charge extra each time your car leaves the garage. We stayed in a Philly suburb and drove into the city for the day. It cost $20 for us to park at the Independence Visitor Center parking garage for a few hours. The last time we stayed in town, we were surprised to find out our hotel had no parking. None. We ended up in a garage blocks away carrying our luggage down crowded sidewalks. We had to valet park it with someone who didn’t speak English and they left cigarette buts on the floor of my car. We were not happy.
- The Liberty Bell is on first-come basis. No ticket is needed. However, you need a ticket for Independence Hall. Tickets sell quickly. So, call a day ahead or purchase online. Reserve tickets here for $1.50 per ticket.
- The national park service offers a free app to help you navigate around the area with lots of good information and even audio tours. Search for “NPS Independence” on the app store.
There are other things to see within very short walking distance including Ben Franklin’s grave at Christ Church cemetery, Congress Hall, and the American Philosophical Society Museum more about that here There are horse and carriages lining the streets to take your family for a ride as well.
- Bathrooms-there is a public restroom at the visitor center but not at the landmarks. So be sure to take little ones there first. If you are in a bind, there’s a Dairy Queen nearby as well.
Independence Hall is where the Declaration of Independence was signed. The second continental congress met here to debate the Declaration and also the U.S. Constitution. This building has also been used for a courtroom, including supreme court cases, an art gallery, and a natural science museum.
Explore this building by guided tour only. Tour guides are knowledgeable park service rangers. Security is tight. You’ll need to pass through a security area similar to an airport. No weapons, pepper spray, firearms, etc. are permitted.
Also, in this area in the Congress building. While Washington DC was still under construction, Philadelphia was our nation’s capital city. The Senate and the House met here to test and make amendments to the Constitution. This is also the site of the first peaceful transfer of power from President Washington to President Adams.
The area around the Liberty Bell has a lot of police presence and we felt safe here. But, with any city, be aware of your surroundings and keep little ones close.
My favorite lunch spot in Philly is the Reading Terminal Market. You can get a real deal cheese steaks here, Amish fare, seafood, meat, sweets, you name it! more info here The market is located at at
51 N 12th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107 and is currently advertising $4 parking (for 2hrs with a $10 purchase and validation).
If you have more time to explore the city, check out the world-class art museums, the Mint, the Franklin Institute, Please Touch museum, or one of the science museums. Philly has bicycle trails, spectator sports, and interesting festivals and events year round. It’s a great destination.