Philadelphia with a 5-year-old

As the subject line says. For various reasons, my daughter and I will be in Philadelphia this weekend with her 5-year-old. It’s a day trip. We’ll have about 4 hours that are not accounted for, so one child-centered activity plus lunch, and we can always go to a playground, weather permitting, if what we do pales early. My daughter has done extensive research and has decided on three places that look especially promising:

*The Please Touch children’s museum;

*The Insectarium science museum;

*Legoland Discovery Center (in Plymouth Meeting, so outside the city limits).

Any thoughts from those who have experience with one or more of these places? The boy in question is generally easy-going and travels well, and he’d probably be interested in any of these things. (My mother suggested the Liberty Bell; I did nix that one.) I’m also happy to consider suggestions from people who haven’t been to these places but nonetheless have opinions about them (fool that I am). Or if there are places we should consider beyond these, have at it.

Thanks in advance.

I was a tourist in Philadelphia a week ago and I strongly recommend lunch or breakfast (as time permits) at the Reading Terminal Market. It is an feast for the senses, in a really good way, and they offer $4/2 hours parking with validation at the garage next door, a steal.

I also would skip the Bell.

I second Reading Terminal Market. I briefly lived in Phila but never saw it through a kid’s eyes.

Yeah, I love Reading Terminal Market. My concern is that it is SUCH a feast for the senses as to possibly be overwhelming for the little guy. Last time I was there I don’t recall any kids under about ten, but maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough…I guess he could ride on my shoulders. I’ll throw it into the mix, thanks. It is such a wonderful place…

I can’t speak to anything on your list, but we were just in Philly last weekend with our 10 yo. The Magic Garden is pretty cool.

Definitely ixnay on the ellbay. Long lines and the thing is broken!

The 3 suggested sites are in wildly different parts of the city. I assume you will be driving.

You could easily spend the good portion of that four hours stuck on the schuyllkill expressway if you’re unlucky, so Plymouth Meeting is out.

The insectarium is fun, up in a blue collar neighborhood in the northeast among some run down store fronts, though lunch options are plenty.

I’ve never been to the please touch but it is in a very cool part of town, site of the centennial celebration. I highly reccomend visiting Shofuso house nearby.
So browse Reading Terminal, get a to-go lunch and head to the Please Touch area for a picnic lunch on Belmont Plateau overlooking the city skyline.

i would go with either the academy of natural sciences or the franklin institute.

the academy has dinosaurs, the franklin has a crayola exhibit. there are places to eat around both places. the academy and franklin are a block apart. sister city park is a block away as well.

CCD Parks | Sister Cities Park (

The Franklin Institute | The Franklin Institute Science Museum (
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (

I lived in Philadelphia for four years in the late 80s. I tried to see the damn bell on several occasions, but each time one-way streets kept me from my accomplishment.

I’d skip the bell. I loved the Franklin Science Museum, but that was the only thing I did in Philly that a five year old would be allowed to do.

When I was 12, I tried to go to the Franklin Institute once a month (for the planetarium show, among other things), but I don’t think it would be appropriate for a 5 year old. Ditto Natural History. And the Liberty Bell isn’t all it is cracked up to be. Especially, before you have learned any American history.

I’d vote on PTM first.

I’m not a fan of the Shorekill/Surekill expressway but from PTM (Please Touch Museum) to Plymouth Meeting isn’t that long on the expressway & one could easily go Belmont to Green Ln to Ridge (just set the option for ‘No Highways’ in your GPS device) & the two aren’t that far apart, < 15 miles. You’d need much more than 4 hrs to do all three as Insectarium isn’t that close to the other two.

The Shofusu house is a traditional Japanese house walking distance from PTM; it’s peaceful & zen like but probably not the best place for a kid…except for the large pond with a lot of the largest koi I’ve ever seen. Walk out the ‘back, left side’ of PTM, turn left on the road, go thru the gates & then turn right. You can see it, for free, outside the gates as you go walk over the bridge. Total walk there & back from PTM, just over ¼ mile.

Another great way to have fun for a couple of minutes - if you’re facing the front entrance of PTM, you’ll see the multi story Smith Memorial Arch on either side of the road a couple of hundred yards to the right inscribed with the names of all of the PA Civil War generals. Each side has a very long curved bench. You sit in one corner of one of the benches & have the kid sit at the other end. Make sure to sit back & then whisper to him

A short drive away from PTM is Smith Playground with their cool, & wide, wooden slide. Call first as the website states construction on the Playhouse (indoor part) to confirm it’s open. Across the street from that (but hidden from view) is a (paid) ropes course

I love Reading Terminal but unless he’s going to be on shoulders the whole time it’s not gonna be a lot of fun for the short one; crowded & mostly food vendors, either stuff to take home to cook or places to buy/eat lunch there. He’s going to be looking at a lot of legs closeup. If you do go over there, make sure to walk along the SE side, Chocolates by Mueller (they sell candy, too) with some cool & unique chocolate shapes from their own molds - noses, ears, anatomically correct hearts, nuts, bolts, etc., along w/ the cookie vendor (around the corner to the left of them) If you do go there, two blocks west is City Hall; on the west side of city hall is a cool series of low fountains in Dilworth Plaza that kids run thru; just realize he could get soaked there so spare shoes/clothes could be in order for that.

This is just generic advice, and I don’t know whether it applies to you or any of those places you listed.

If you are a member of any local zoo, museum, children’s museum, etc., then look into reciprocal benefits. Occasionally that will be free admission or steeply discounted fees at other places.

Cost may not be your main concern, but if, for example, membership at your local children’s museum can get you into the PTM for free, then that may help make the decision.

Philadelphia with a 5-year-old

If TV is accurate, they outta fit right in! :laughing:

Thanks to all who responded, especially @Spiderman with the lengthy, detailed, and thoughtful reply. We did go to the Please Touch Museum, where the little guy please-touched his way through what seemed like pretty nearly every room in the place. He was totally thrilled with the place, complained when we had to leave, and asked hopefully “Can we come back to the touch museum tomorrow?” No, li’l fella, sorry, too far, but we did promise to bring him back another day before he gets too old for it.

–We got a late start and ran into Road Construction because of course we did, so our four hours got whittled down a fair amount. Oh well! Always leave 'em wanting more, as they say.

(Aside to @echoreply – yes, we have a very small children’s museum in town and have joined in part because of the free-and-cheaper admission to other museums in cities we’ve visited. Unfortunately our museum has been closed since March of 2020 and it’s not clear whether it’s going to reopen–but thanks for the reminder!)

All in all, a very successful trip, and thank again to all for your suggestions and advice.