Help Kids Get Close to History While Staying Close to Home
As the birthplace of our nation, Philadelphia is full of ways to discover American history as a family. From iconic city landmarks to wide-open battlefields, we have so much history to explore in our own backyard. And, one of the coolest things about having these historical sites close at hand is the ability to easily share them with your kids. (Be sure to check with each destination before you go regarding advance reservations and special rules/protocols around COVID-19.)
Here’s a brief tour of the best places in the Philadelphia area to let your family experience history firsthand.
We’ll begin in Center City Philadelphia. The Liberty Bell is often the symbol that first comes to mind when you think of Philadelphia history. This is a great spot to visit, but be prepared to answer your children’s questions about why the bell is cracked, how it happened and why they don’t just fix it. You’ve been warned. Beyond the Liberty Bell, which is free and fun, there is so much more to explore…
National Constitution Center Known as the Museum of We the People, the National Constitution Center brings the constitution to life for visitors of all ages through interactive programs and exhibits. Learn about American history through multimedia exhibits, see 42 life-sized bronze statues of those who signed the Declaration of Independence and watch a theatrical performance about the history of the U.S.
There is also a constant rotation of feature exhibits offering a deeper look at specific themes, people and ideas that have shaped our nation. Past feature exhibits have focused on everything from Alexander Hamilton to Abraham Lincoln and Bruce Springsteen to baseball.
Independence Hall and Congress Hall At Independence Hall, see the room where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were both signed. Entrance is by tour only. Pick up your free timed tickets (March through December) at the Independence Visitor Center on the morning of your visit.
Then, visit Congress Hall, home to the U.S. Congress from 1790 to 1800, when Philadelphia served as the temporary capital of the United States. Presidents Washington and Adams were both inaugurated here. Admission is free and no tickets are required.
Museum of the American Revolution This beautiful new museum brings to life the events, people and ideals that sparked the American Revolution and led to the founding of the United States. Located just steps from Independence Hall, the Museum’s immersive galleries, powerful theater experiences and interactive elements will help the whole family gain a deeper appreciation for how this nation came to be.
The Museum’s hands-on discovery center, Revolution Place, brings 1770s Philadelphia to life with four immersive environments – a military encampment, a tavern, a place of worship and a home. Children can experience a variety of crafts, digital interactives, hands-on activities and story time in the space.
Valley Forge National Historical Park To witness history in a different way, take a short drive west of the city to Valley Forge National Historical Park. The site of a Revolutionary War encampment, Valley Forge features nine historical attractions over 3,500 acres. Drive the 10-mile Encampment Tour route to see them all, or you can walk, hike or bike on the park’s 8.7 mile paved multi-use trail.
Seasonally, guided tours and bicycle rentals are available to learn about the Revolutionary War. Plus, check their website for special events like Living History programs that let children and adults experience the life of a soldier. And don’t forget to stop by the Visitor Center to find out how to become a Junior Park Ranger.
This concludes our tour of some top places to experience history in Philadelphia. For a full list of historic Philadelphia destinations, click here. And, don’t forget that your local library may have passes that you can check out to visit some of these museums for free. Check out our list here.
Updated February 2021