How to do Philadelphia for FREE!
Last week we got back from a road trio to Philadelphia and I am left feeling so inspired! It all started about a month ago when the boys were really into inventing things. So we decided to study inventors!
I scoured the library for all the inventor books I could find. It turns out that Alexander Graham Bell grew up I’m the city next to ours! We studied him first. Then we learned about a few other inventors, but Benjamin Franklin really stuck with the kids. We had wanted to do a road trip this summer, and this excitement of Ben got us to thinking Philly might be the right place for a mini vacation. We booked it and off we went!
Just days before we left, I did some final research on places we wanted to visit in our two days in Philly and I stumbled upon a TON of freebie places that fit right in with our topic of Dr Franklin (and focused in history as well). I’ve compiled them here for you to help those who may be planning a trip to historic Philadelphia.
We stayed at the beautiful Wydham hotel in the historic district and everything below is in walking distance with a 3 and 5 year old (most within a block or two from the hotel). Oh, and if you stay there, be see to get the room with the fridge! So helpful!
Note: I am not getting paid for this post or receiving anything to write it. I just loved it so much and was so inspired as an entrepreneur, that I wanted to share it!
1. Independence Hall – FREE
I can hardly believe this is free, but it is! We got to take a tour of Independence Hall and learn about some history behind it, as well as Ben Franklin’s role (which just solidified what the boys already knew). Wow. I still can’t believe we got to stand in the place where it all began. Crazy!
2. Liberty Bell – FREE
Seriously, how incredible is it to stand right beside this beautiful piece of history. The centre where it is located is full of all sorts of facts and stories about the bell.
3. Independence Visitor Centre – FREE
They have a great museum-type area filled with historic characters and their info. This is also the very first place you should go in order to get everything you need (maps, brochures, etc.) on Philly so you can plan your adventures!
4. US Mint – FREE
A free, self-guided tour, the mint was right in front of our hotel room. Super interesting and lots to touch, it was great for us and the kids. Being Canadian, the boys weren’t familiar with the coins, but we compared Canadian to US coins and got to watch the factory from above as they prepped the metals, punched them, and packages them. So cool to see!
5. Stories from Once Upon A Nation – FREE
By far, my favourite part of this trip! There are 10 benches situated around the Old City area of Philly. Storytellers (who are simply AMAZING – it’s like watching a performance!) take 5 minutes to tell stories from the time of the late 1700’s when the nation began. These aren’t just any stories that you can hear anywhere, but stories you would never have known. At each bench, the kids would get a star for a flag (they were given the flag at the first bench we visited) and when they collected all 10, they received a free carousel ride at Franklin Square. The program runs daily from 11-4 and we were racing to get to the last bench, arriving late at 4:15. The storyteller there had waited, knowing that sometimes people make it at the end of the day. That touched me, as she was thinking of others before herself, especially when her work day was done. And the carousel ride was fantastic! My only regret – not buying the book filled with the stories we heard. And, if this is ever read by the owners of that program, your staff are exceptional and even brought down my 3-year old from a tantrum. Each and every one of them had a unique personality and would shine as they told the story (even though I’m sure they’ve told it a million times). Thank you!
6. Franklin Square – FREE
This is a perfect park for a picnic. Or to play at the park. Or to run around. Or, if you’re wanting to spend a bit of money, a great place for mini golf or a ride in the carousel! Our ride was free, because of the Once Upon a Nation stories.
7. Benjamin Franklin Printing Press – FREE
A re-creation of the printing press, this spot is the location of some houses Benjamin Franklin would rent out to people. The old smell makes you feel like you’ve been taken back in time and we got to see how they prep the press, paper and ink for printing. They even sell some of the printed BF quotes and the Declaration of Independence from $0.25-$1.00.
8. Benjamin Franklin Post Office (still a real post office!) – FREE
We just went in here to take a peak, as it’s still being use as a post office. After learning about Ben’s hand in creating the current postal system, this was a must stop for us.
9. Benjamin Frankin’s House – FREE
On Franklin Court, one block from our hotel, is a passage that leads to the place of Benjamin Franklin’s house. They have built the outline of his home and where it stood. The passage itself is the exact place where he walked through every time he left him home. How incredible!
10. Reading Terminal Market – FREE
As a vegetarian family, it can sometimes be tricky to find places to eat. Not in this city! Although this market sure had its meat farmers, there’s was a beautiful organic fruits/veggies stall selling a TON of produce at amazing prices. Also, most of the places selling their famous cheesesteaks also had veggie/vegan options, which is very thoughtful! This place is 122 years old and absolutely worth the visit!
11. Ruins of the President’s House – FREE
In 2010 the city revealed the ruins of the President’s House. It’s preserved under glass, but you can look at it from above. They’ve also built a structure based on these ruins, which gives you an idea of what it looked like. There is also many photos and historic stories of slavery that are posted on the walls of the re-created open space.
12. Trading Cards from the Rangers – FREE
Each Park Ranger at all the National Park locations had trading cards they would offer the kids. They would always ask the kids questions in order to earn their cards. In total, I think they each received 15 out of the possible 500 (from across the nation). Such a great keepsake!
13. Military Muster – FREE
This reenactment has children join the army and training them how to march and the etiquette of using a (wooden) musket. The soldiers reenacting and leading the ‘new’ army were so great and so funny! It was about a half hour long and both the boys did the entire thing and loved it!
14. Ben Franklin Museum – $2 per child, $5 per adult (absolutely worth it!)
Considering we were studying Ben Franklin, we knew this would be one thing we absolutely had to do. Not that we were looking to only do things for free, but the fact that this was such a minimal cost was great! Plus, it gave me more of a reason to spend what I wanted at the gift shop 🙂 The best part about this tour was the Skugg (squirrel). You see, we had read up before our trip that Ben had a pet squirrel, named Skugg. Apparently that’s what they called squirrels back then. The thought of this made the boys giggle, so when they saw the Skugg at the museum, they were thrilled! They had to follow him around the museum to learn about the different parts of Ben’s life. It was great!
Overall, this was one of the best trips we’ve ever had! We definitely could have stayed a few extra days. The moment we pulled into our driveway at home, Cruz asked “Can we go back to Philadelphia?”. Not yet, my child. But definitely sometime in the near future.