After being lucky enough to win tickets to Sesame Place from the 3 Decades 3 Kids (http://www.3decades3kids.com) blog, my family and I decided to celebrate with a long weekend starting in Philadelphia and ending in Langhorne, PA.
Even though I've lived about two hours away from Philadelphia for my entire life, I can count on one hand the number of times I've been there. And that's a shame, because there really is a LOT to do there, especially for families travelling with their children.
Philadelphia - Day 1
Our trip to Philly began at Jake's Sandwich Board (http://www.jakessandwichboard.com), a restaurant my hubby and I had seen on United States of Bacon, one of our favorite Travel Channel food shows. This center city spot is known for a variety of fresh meat sandwiches, especially crazy creations such as their Garlic Bomb (a steak sandwich with garlic spread, sauteed garlic, and fried garlic cloves) and 50/50 (half pork and half bacon) sandwich. They have a wicked sense of culinary humor with their chocolate covered bacon and even an Entenmann's donut milkshake.
After lunch, we spent a good part of the day walking around the historical heart of downtown Philly, near Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. While our young kids were a little too small to understand the importance of what we were seeing, they absolutely fell in love with our next destination, Please Touch (http://www.pleasetouchmuseum.org), the Children's Museum of Philadelphia.
Housed in a stunning, 1870's-era building, Please Touch is not your average museum! It has tons of interactive areas and experiences for kids to come in, learn, play, and explore. There is everything from a boats and water play area to a recreation of Alice in Wonderland to a play McDonald's and ShopRite. There is so much to enjoy at Please Touch - the indoor carousel truly is special, and kids may not want to leave. in fact, my kids did NOT want to leave! Even as the staff was calling out that the building was closing, my kids were seriously in protest mode. Make sure to get there early so you can spend a long time at Please Touch.
An amazing way to see the city of Philadelphia, with or without kids, is by using CityPASS (http://www.cityPASS.com). This great travel tool is a booklet of admission vouchers to a number of different attractions and experiences, including The Franklin Institute, Please Touch, Philadelphia Zoo, and others, including The Big Bus Company/Philadelphia Trolley works tour, which is a terrific way to explore the City of Brotherly Love. CityPASS is offered in ten cities, including New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, and offers up to 50% off the combined admission of different tourist attractions. You can also use it to skip entrance lines! For Philadelphia, an adult CityPASS is $59, and it's $39 for kids. Well worth it!
According to the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, whose http://www.visitphilly.com is a great resource to use before heading down to Philadelphia, there are over 100 hotels and more than 11,200 hotel rooms in the area, so there truly is something for everyone! Since we were not planning to be out in the city at night, and we prefer to stay at hotels that include free wi-fi and free parking, we spent the night at the Hampton Inn near the Philadelphia Airport. We've had great luck staying at Hampton Inn properties in the past - they are always clean with big comfy beds and a complimentary hot buffet breakfast - and this one was no exception.
Driving around the area near the hotel, which was about 15 minutes outside of downtown, we randomly came upon a little joint called Big Daddy'z BBQ (http://www.bigdaddyzbbq.net/). We are suckers for fresh, authentic BBQ, so we were in luck that they hadn't sold out before we arrived. We enjoyed a huge 3-meat platter of smoked kielbasa, Texas-style brisket, and pulled chicken breast along with cornbread, beans, and collared greens while sitting at the one communal table in the parking lot. One ordering misstep was the pierogies and smoked kielbasa dish, which was just a bit too greasy and salty. You'd be better ordering the pierogies or the kielbasa individually. Big Daddy'z was a yummy little roadside find, and a really nice end to our day.
Philadelphia - Day 2
The following morning we started our day at Reading Terminal Market, bright and early before the crowds arrived. It was a Sunday, so we missed the Pennsylvania Dutch food stands that we had hoped to enjoy, but made up for it by finally getting to eat the famous roast pork/broccoli rabe/sharp Provolone sandwich at Tommy DiNic’s (http://tommydinics.com/). This was a sandwich we had waited years to try, and it was worth the wait! This may warrant a more-than-annual trip to Philadelphia going forward.
Our next stop was the legendary Franklin Institute (http://www.fi.edu/), an enormous science and education center that goes back to 1824! The building is filled with interactive exhibits for hands-on, experiential learning for both kids and adults. We spent the better part of a day there, and didn’t even get to see everything! There are sections devoted to the Earth, electricity, air and space, the human body, and so much more. Make sure to pick up a ticket to see something at the small but fun Fels Planetarium, the second one ever built in the United States.
We really had a wonderful time in Philly, and it will not be long before we go back. My only caveat to share about Philadelphia is that the parking in the downtown area can be extremely difficult. We even wound up with a $75 parking ticket – on a Sunday! The parking is limited and the signs are confusing. We were trying to avoid paying $20 to park in a lot, but in hindsight that would have been a better idea. You could also park outside of downtown and take the SEPTA rail right into Reading Terminal.
Jennifer Niederhoffer is the founder of Impress Media, an independent lifestyle & entertainment public relations and editorial services firm. You can follow her on twitter @impressmedia or @themommysreview.