Philadelphia is home to some of our nation’s richest history, but it’s also a national treasure of science. With The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, The Franklin Institute, and The Philadelphia Zoo there is no shortage of scientific fun families can have in Philadelphia.
We’ll start our science fun day at The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, then head over to The Franklin Institute or Philadelphia Zoo because our travel strategy with kids is to start our day off at calmer attractions and finish with places the kids can burn off energy.
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University may sound like a college classroom but it’s the oldest science research institute and museum in America. It’s been in Philadelphia for 200 years, with the current location in Logan Square opening in 1876. If you appreciate architectural design, you’ll love this historic building.
It isn’t just a stuffy old science museum. It’s a place where generations of Philly natives bring their kids and wonder at the timelessness of old but renovated exhibits and the new technology woven throughout. It’s a treasure for families of all ages.
We recommend you start on the top floor. The Outside In Room will especially entertain younger kids. It is filled with interactive play – like investigating rocks through a huge microscope or a chance to pet a cockroach (yes, really!). There’s so much for kids to learn in this space.
After this, visit the animal exhibit halls where you will learn about animals from different continents. This is a great space for all ages as there is space for kids to move. While the younger ones move from display to display, you can keep an eye on your older kids who may be taking some time to read. Also, where else can you see a real live mummy?
Once you’ve explored the exhibit halls visit the Butterfly Room and current special exhibit. They’re both amazing in their own way. NOTE: they have an additional cost.
The Butterfly Room may not be as great for younger ones who want to chase and catch the butterflies but the display window where you can see chrysalises in various stages is cool. If you’re lucky you may see a butterfly emerge.
The special exhibits are always fun with hands on learning and interactive displays. We’ve loved them all. Check the museum’s website for information on what is currently being featured.
Before you leave, make sure to stop by the Dinosaur Hall. The younger kids will love The Big Dig but there are things to do for all ages.
Depending on the schedule for the day you might catch a live demonstration or stop at learning carts where students from Drexel University engage kids with educational activities.
Location: 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia
Parking: See website for nearby parking or park at Franklin Institute
Time: 2-3 hours
After you visit The Academy of Natural Sciences we recommend you visit The Franklin Institute, which is across the circle from The Academy of Natural Sciences or head west a couple miles to The Philadelphia Zoo. Both are amazing places to visit and let kids burn off energy.
The Franklin Institute
If you enter from the parking garage we recommend you walk out the main entrance and come back in. There’s nothing like it! Once you do that you come face-to-face with a sculpture of Benjamin Franklin, the namesake of the museum.
One thing we did before visiting The Franklin Institute is familiarize ourselves with the map layout online. This is especially helpful when you have younger kids as the museum is large. Come up with a basic plan so once you arrive you aren’t trying to get your bearings while the kids want to go here, there, and everywhere.
Also, while it is good for all ages we feel there isn’t as much for toddlers to do. If that’s the ages you have, you may want to visit the Please Touch Museum (near the Philadelphia Zoo) instead.
Location: 220 N 20th St., Philadelphia
Parking: Parking Garage
Time: 2-4 hours
The Philadelphia Zoo
The Philadelphia Zoo is America’s first zoo. Over the years it has been updated to make it a truly special place to visit. Most notably, they added Zoo360 where you may see a tiger stalking through the zoo above you and the KidZooU where kids can pet animals and learn through interactive play and displays.
The zoo is set up in an easy-to-follow loop with many of the animal and bird houses set in the middle. You’ll especially want to make sure to visit Big Cat Falls and McNeil Avian House.
We love that Big Cat Falls is completely enclosed so kids can press up against the windows to get a glimpse of the cats without worrying about an open enclosure. It’s peaceful and fun to wind your way “through the jungle” to get to each exhibit.
McNeil Avian House is also a must-see because you can walk through an open bird room and take a few minutes to sit and watch a short video in the 4-D Migration Theater.
While the layout of the zoo is a big loop, they have many cut-throughs so if your family needs a short day or only wants to see a portion of the zoo you can do so easily. Whatever you do, make sure you stop at the African Plains to see the giraffes, zebras, and rhinoceros.
There are concession stands throughout the zoo but you are also welcome to bring a picnic lunch to eat at one of the picnic areas!
Location: 3400 W. Girard Ave., Philadelphia
Parking: Parking Lot and Garage
Time: 2-4 hours
As you can see, there’s days worth of scientific fun for kids in Philadelphia. Book the Long Weekender package and enjoy 50% off your Sunday night stay, plus insider guides to the best of food and family fun in the city.