5 tips for visiting historic Philadelphia

When visiting Historic Philadelphia, most visitors plan their trip around The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall and then reach out on Facebook or through email, looking for must-see spots in Philadelphia. We take our kids to Philly a few times a year (we live in the suburbs) and I’ve lived here nearly all my life. I’m also an educator and was a 4th grade teacher (we study PA history in 4th grade.)

Map courtesy of ushistory.org

Map courtesy of ushistory.org

I’ve seen many local suggest skipping the Betsy Ross house, but I have to argue. It’s a quick walk and there’s so much to learn about the period by walking through. It’s a favorite stop for our family, not so much because it’s about Betsy as it is about the period. Visitors are guided through a (mostly) unchanged home from the 1700s. Inside are fascinating artifacts and interactive activities, including a chance to meet “Betsy” and learn of the experiences of women in the late 18th century. I always remember to point out how the foundation of homes has changed — the rooms were much smaller, as were the doorways and the stairways were tighter. This fascinates children.

The Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia has incredible artifacts and is an interactive place to visit in historical Philadelphia. Check out this list for more ideas

Photo courtesy Daily Vacationer

Later, take a walk down Elfreth’s Alley. Not only will you experience an untouched neighborhood with a cobblestone, undrivable (too narrow) street and buildings still baring names and signs of the 1y00s, but you’ll find $5 Souvenier t-shirts and a wonderful coffee and ice cream shop when you need a break.

If your kids are about 10+, do not miss the Freedom Rising show at the Constitution Center — it’s a multimedia theatrical performance. It’s a phenomenal, educational production, covering a look at our nation’s historic fight for Freedom from before the Revolution through the Civil War, voting and equality movements to our current struggles.

Elfreths Alley in Historic Philadelphia has is nearly untouched from the 1700s. Take a stroll and explore. Check out this list for more ideas

Photo courtesy Scenes from Philadelphia

Hungry for lunch? We like to walk about 2 blocks away from the Historical Park to and enjoy a true Philly Cheesesteak from Sonny’s in Old City. Old City is a hotspot for nightlight, but the restaurants and shops are just as fun in the day time, and you can find every type of food you’d like. (The Continental has an excellent brunch.) If you’d like to remain around Indpendence Mall and the weather is nice, take your food back to picnic on the yard in front of Independence Hall. You can also grab lunch from the food court at the Bourse and eat it inside or outside. (Keep in mind, if you’re bringing food for a picnic from home, most historic buildings have rules against bringing in food and drink, so keep them sealed in a carrier, or store them in your car until lunch time. The Bourse has typical food-court options, and you can always grab snacks from the many food trucks throughout town, or from the small to-go spot in the Visitor’s Center.

Benjamin Franklin's House in Philadelphia is one of the hidden gems in a visit to historical Philadelphia. Check out this list for more ideas

Photo courtesy of Daily Vacationer

If you have a little extra time, check out the Ben Franklin House. Visitors can walk over archives of the actual house and see things like the kitchen and the toilet area. In that same block you’ll walk through the country’s first Post Office (still in operation). (I recommend skipping the underground museum. Sadly, it hasn’t been updated in years and just doesn’t hold the interest of the kids.)

Our kids also love visiting the Fireman’s Museum and I was surprisingly fascinated when we recently visited Christ Church.

When visiting Historic Philadelphia, there are so many opportunities beyond the Liberty Bell. Read to find out where you should take your family

mom of 3 and wife living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Julie is a former elementary school teacher and a Public Relations manager. She is the owner/editor of Julieverse, a merchandiser with Chloe + Isabel (jewelryverse.com) and founder VlogMom and Splash Creative Media. A marketing strategist and freelance education and parenting writer by trade, Julie attempts to carve out time to enjoy playing with her kids, PTO, cooking and exercise.

© 2015, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.


  1. says

    When our boys are a little older I really want to take a history tour from NC to NYC. I love all of these details and learning about our history. Great tips!

    • says

      there is such much to do in the 6 hour corridor from DC to NYC (and, actually, you can make the trip a little longer and keep driving to Boston!) Oh! And you could start in Williamsburg. It could be a 2-week history trip. 3 weeks and there’s your October vacation!

  2. Sarah says

    I am a big history geek and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that we have so many amazing and important places so close to home. I agree that the Betsy Ross house is a great stop for kids. Christ Church is also pretty cool. You can sit in the pew that Washington sat in when he attended services. Then while you are there, you might as well walk a little more and stop at Franklin Fountain for ice cream – you know because it’s a historic building too. Ha!

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