Although I’m always tempted to park my family at the beach or a resort, we’ve made some of our most fun vacation memories in a big city. Especially if your kids don’t spend most of their time in a major metropolitan area, visiting a city has a lot of benefits that you don’t enjoy every day and that you can’t find at a typical resort.
One of our favorite big cities to visit is Philadelphia. It has the obvious benefits of having a plethora of historical places to visit and experience, but it also has some of the best big-city features like the ability to walk everywhere (no need to rent a car or pay for gas!) and a wide array of ethnically authentic restaurants.
I spend enough time in the car during our non-vacation time, so it is especially nice to not have to worry about car seats, parking and navigating a new city while I’m on vacation. Philadelphia is a city where once you’re there you don’t really need or want to deal with a car, so make the use of the train from the airport (or the Amtrak from the surrounding areas), bring some comfortable shoes, and be ready to explore by foot.
In addition to great exercise, walking around a new area give us the opportunity to look at a map and plan out each day as a family. Even young children know that maps help us understand where to go –- thanks to Dora the Explorer. We like having a master plan for what we’d like to see and accomplish during the day, but walking gives us the added advantage of being flexible to explore things along the way. We’ve noticed that when we drive we’re all about getting there, parking, and getting to the next place, but when we walk we’re a little better about looking around and "smelling the roses."
There are so many cool things to do in a small area you can easily hit Independence Hall, Penn’s Landing and St. Peter’s Church in a day.
After a few days of walking you may want to give your feet a little break. My kids love riding the bus, train, and trolley — pretty much anything that moves! They are fascinated by different types of transportation that we don’t normally use. Taking public transportation is easy, inexpensive and memorable for them. My daughter still talks more about the bus we rode to the baseball game than the actual game itself. Philadelphia, like a lot of cities, also utilizes the WWII-era "Ducks" for tours, which are fun for kids and adults and are a nice way to give your (webbed) feet a rest!
Link to A&S for duck tours?
Although Philadelphia is known for cheesesteaks (and also maybe hoagies and pizza), make sure you make time to sample some of the more interesting culinary fare. Although my husband and I love to take advantage of Philadelphia’s authentic Italian, Vietnamese and South American cuisine, my daughter has somehow not yet acquired my taste buds. Even though she’s picky, we can usually find a few simpler dishes with just chicken, noodles, plain rice, at most places we’ve visited. Usually if we’ve asked nicely and have two adults paying for entrees we’ve been able to get a side of some more kid-friendly options.
Regardless of whether you’re walking or riding or eating cheesesteak (mine are wiz with onions) or homemade gnocchi, make sure your whole family enjoys your "Big City" Philly experience.
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Emily Beerhalter enjoys spending time with her husband and children, but also takes part in the occasional
"Mom’s Night Out" in her ongoing attempt to balance work, family and