Philadelphia has always been an exciting destination for children. A throng of yellow school buses line up in front of the Franklin Institute, Betsy Ross House and the Philadelphia Zoo almost every day for nine months out of the year. It’s difficult for families, however, to compete with these pricey PTA-sponsored field trips. When your kids need a diversion from video games and Nickelodeon TV, check out these top kid-centric activities in Philadelphia that won’t break the bank.
1 Boathouse Row
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Fabulous Fairmount Park is the largest urban park system in the country. From sunrise to sunset, something is always happening. Baseball diamonds, tennis courts, football, field hockey, soccer, cricket and rugby fields, a bowling green and archery range are spread across its more than 9,200 acres. The free park also features 18-hole golf courses, outdoor swimming pools, miles of bike, bridle and walking trails, a trout-stocked fishing stream, loads of picnic areas, gardens and magnificent views. For just a $3 ticket, kids can enjoy a ride on the Amazon Rainforest Carousel or the PZ Express Train. During the summer, Smith Memorial Playhouse and Playground’s giant wooden slide and 50-piece jungle gym provide children younger than age with 10 hours of unbridled fun.
Firemen’s Hall Museum
147 N. 2nd St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Kids love fire trucks, and what better way to start a discussion about fire safety than with a visit to America’s first fire fighting company? Founded by hometown hero Ben Franklin in 1736, Fireman’s Hall Museum pays tribute to the courageous men and women of Philadelphia, past and present, who have put their lives on the line to fight fires throughout the city. The free museum is housed in a restored 1902 firehouse in historic Old City. A collection of axes, uniforms, tools, parade badges and a restored 1815 hand pumper are sure to delight kids of all ages.
Herron Park Sprayground
250 Reed St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Kids can get wet and wild to their hearts’ content at South Philly’s Herron Park Sprayground. This Disneyland of sprinkler parks has five paved pads of cool water mechanisms, and it’s free. Geysers rise from the ground, buckets of refreshing H2O pour from above, sprayers spray and squirters squirt. When your tikes get their full of wet entertainment, head over to the adventure-style playground, basketball courts and picnic area for a basket lunch.
2601 South St.
Philadelphia, PA 19146
For more water-based amusement, check out O’Connor Pool, a public swimming pool maintained by the City of Philadelphia. The fully-guarded pool is free, attracting a blend of neighborhood kids, families and medical students to its outside facility. It’s closed during the winter, but typically reopens around Memorial Day. Check the online schedule before you go, as certain times are dedicated strictly for adult swim.
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
1020 South St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Esteemed mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar began resurrecting a trash-strewn vacant lot into a magical menagerie of grottoes, murals and tiled tunnels in 1994. Today, visitors enjoy self-guided tours of the indoor and outdoor kaleidoscopic art gallery. The space is affixed with thousands of mosaic tiles, pinwheels, bottles, plates, bicycle wheels and mirrors for children and adults to examine and appreciate. Open daily, the cost to get in is $7 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, $3 for children ages six to 12 and free for kids age five and younger.
Susan DeFeo has been a professional writer since 1997. She served as a community events columnist for New Jersey’s “Cape May County Herald” for more than a decade. A writer for numerous online publications, Susan has covered health, fitness, beauty and travel, all subjects that are near and dear to her as a married mother of seven children. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.