For spring break this year, we spent a few days in Philadelphia visiting family and checking out some sites we hadn't seen before. We really enjoyed Independence National Park in the Old City part of town, home to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. My son (age 10) studied the Revolutionary War in school last year, so he was familiar with a lot of the history, but it was all new to my girls (age 8). It ended up being a great way to introduce them to the Revolutionary War period and I highly recommend it if you're going to be in the area.
The Independence Visitor Center had parking (expensive, but less than it would have cost the 5 of us to ride in via train) and is the main visitor center for the city of Philadelphia, so there is a lot inside. They helped us find a great place for lunch (Philly Cheesesteaks, of course!), and it's where you can pick up tickets for the Independence Hall Tour. Timed tickets are required, though they are FREE, and it's suggested you arrive about 15 minutes ahead of your tour time because of the security checkpoint.
Inside the Visitor Center, kids can pick up a booklet to complete the Junior Ranger Program for the area. Each page of the booklet had questions or puzzles that related to the different historical areas around the park. My kids enjoyed doing the book, and it gave them something to do the few times we had to wait in long lines. When you bring the book back at the end of the day, the kids receive a Junior Ranger pin that looks like the badge the Park Rangers wear, and are “sworn in” as Junior Rangers.
Another part of the program is the collectible trading cards–which my kids thought was a lot of fun. At each location around the park, kids can go up to a Park Ranger and ask for trading cards. The catch? The kids had to answer an educational question about the area they were in. Every Park Ranger we encountered engaged the kids with humor and got them thinking about how what they were learning related to their lives now.
The Park Ranger who did our tour inside Independence Hall, a building which is older than our country (that blew my kids' minds), did such a great job of speaking to both the kids in the group along with the adults at appropriate education levels. We saw the courtroom and this hall where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. In an adjacent building, you can see the originals in the Great Essentials Exhibit. The Park covers lots of ground, so we didn't see all the historic buildings, but there is plenty to fill more than one day if you have it. We also skipped the National Constitution Center, a museum with a fee, because we thought that would make more sense to our kids when they're a bit older. We felt like this visit gave our 8-year-olds a good introduction to how America came to be and they were able to make some connections about what they knew about George Washington (from school and our trip to Mount Vernon).
For more family travel, take a look at our other outings in Pennsylvania and at other National Parks:
- Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia
- Crayola Experience in Easton, PA
- Washington DC Memorials with Kids
- Theodore Roosevelt Island in Washington, DC
- Mount Vernon in Alexandria, VA
You can also follow my Mid-Atlantic Family Trips board on Pinterest, where you'll see them mapped out.