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Mar 20 2013

Hands-On Family Fun Abounds In Philly This Summer & Beyond

Two Of The Newest Interactive Attractions: The Philadelphia Zoo’s KidZooU & Benjamin Franklin Life and Legacy Museum

When the Philadelphia Zoo launches its brand new KidZooU this spring, kids and their families can study wildlife like scientists, learn more about conservation and explore a brand new habitat. And when the Benjamin Franklin Museum opens its doors, children can explore the Founding Father’s life with the help of Skuggs the Squirrel and plenty of hands-on components. Couple these adventures with a troll through the tree houses at Longwood Gardens and a shark-touching expedition at the Adventure Aquarium, and it’s easy to see that Philadelphia provides an educational playground for its youngest visitors. Here are some of the area’s best opportunities for interactive learning and discovery:

Science & Nature:

  • At Morris Arboretum, the Big Bugs exhibit invites viewers to learn about the role of insects in the environment, from April 1 through August 31. The ongoing Tree Adventure, meanwhile, is designed for climbing, with 50-feet canopies over the forest, nets to scamper in and a giant bird’s nest to explore, and the expansive Garden Railway showcases model trains rolling through a natural landscape. 100 E. Northwestern Avenue, (215) 247-5777, morrisarboretum.org
  • Opening April 13, KidZooU: Hamilton Family Children’s Zoo & Faris Family Education Center serves as the Philadelphia Zoo’s brand new wildlife academy, a LEED-certified facility with indoor and outdoor spaces for interacting with rare goats, sheep, ducks and miniature horses; exploring a Treetop Trail; and learning about the habits of desert ants, coral-reef fish and conservation. Throughout the year, themed tours, overnight programs and rides enhance the already family-friendly zoo experience. 3400 W. Girard Avenue, (215) 243-1100, philadelphiazoo.org
  • Everyone can be a CIA agent for a day when Spy: The Secret World of Espionage opens this May at The Franklin Institute, featuring such sleuth-inspired activities as personal disguise stations, voice alteration and laser beam field-hopping. May 4-October 6. On any given day, the museum’s permanent exhibitions and attractions such as the flight simulators, Sky Bike and Observatory offer plenty of active experiences for kids. 222 N. 20th Street, (215) 448-1200, fi.edu
  • The year-round exhibits at The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University include the ever-popular Butterflies!, Dinosaur Hall and Live Animal Center. And this June brings Glow: Living Lights, an exciting new way to learn about animals that produce their own light. The exhibit features live creatures, insect dances and the opportunity to try some firefly wings on for size. June 1-September 29. 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 299-1000, ansp.org
  • It’s billed as America’s most touchable aquarium, and with exhibits like Touch-a-Shark, Stingray Beach Club and the newly renovated KidZone play area for children six and under, Adventure Aquarium delivers many tactile experiences for budding marine-life scholars. 1 Riverside Drive, Camden, NJ, (856) 365-3300, adventureaquarium.com
  • Family activities are abundant at Longwood Gardens, where the choices include a scavenger hunt through the Indoor Children’s Garden, a stroll through the Honeycomb Maze at the Bee-aMazed Children’s Garden and three tree houses to explore, plus Story Time and craft activities on select days. 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, (610) 388-1000, longwoodgardens.org

History & Art:

  • At the soon-to-be opened Benjamin Franklin Museum, debuting in late summer 2013, the story of Benjamin Franklin’s life begins with Skuggs the Squirrel, the chipper host that leads the littlest visitors through the exhibits, many of which have hands-on components that teach about daily life in the 18th century. 317 Chestnut Street, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov/inde
  • The creative family programs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) feature drawing classes and Wednesday night story times, with special events and tours tied to themed exhibitions. On the first Sunday of the month, Family Studio invites kids and their parents to create original artworks of their own. Across the street, the museum’s Perelman Building will be transformed into a family destination in summer 2013, with five kid-friendly exhibitions. Activities bring the art work of the exhibitions to life through engaging activities and workshops: Families pose for their own pictures in a photo booth inspired by the exhibition Family Portraits, curl up with a picture book by Jerry Pinkney or play with a giant magnetic version of Candy DePew’s wonderland. June 28-September 3. PMA, 26th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway; Perelman Building, 2525 Pennsylvania Avenue, (215) 763-8100, philamuseum.org
  • The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts holds Family Arts Academy workshops every Sunday. The art-making activities are tailored to deepen understanding about the collection, exhibitions and art history. 118 N. Broad Street, (215) 972-7600, pafa.org
  • Second Sundays are Family Days at the Penn Museum, with workshops designed for kids that include craft activities, gallery exploration and the opportunity to get up close with ancient artifacts. 3260 South Street, (215) 898-4000, penn.museum
  • In the midst of historic Old City, Franklin Square gives kids a place to exercise their right to play—with swings, climbing structures, a carousel and mini golf. Throughout the neighborhood, Historic Philadelphia’s storytelling benches and reenactments bring its rich history to life. For example, during the popular Military Muster, kids practice the arts of marching and musket etiquette. (215) 629-4026, historicphiladelphia.org

On The Move:

  • Families with children can spend the night on the historic Battleship New Jersey on weekends, where they can stow their belongings in a real sailor locker, sleep in bunks, dine in the Mess and wander through the ship’s gun turrets, Combat Engagement Center, cabins and wardrooms. On weekdays, the 90-minute Fire Power tour, a historical journey through the Battleship’s gun turrets and weapon systems, is fun for visitors of all ages. I Riverside Drive, Camden, NJ, (866) 877-6262, battleshipnewjersey.org
  • While they may never leave the ground, kids can get behind the controls of several vintage and modern helicopters at the American Helicopter Museum & Education Center and let their imaginations fly as they learn more about aviation history and the engineering principles behind propeller aircraft. 1220 American Boulevard, West Chester, (610) 436-9600, americanhelicopter.museum
  • There’s much for young mateys to see aboard the U.S. submarine Becuna and the Cruiser Olympia, the climbable ships on display at the Independence Seaport Museum, and plenty of indoor interactive exhibits for navigating the city’s maritime history. 211 S. Columbus Boulevard at Walnut Street, (215) 413-8655, phillyseaport.org
  • The Fireman’s Hall Museum celebrates the proud local history of firefighting with displays of antique engines and artifacts. Little ones can participate by trying on fireman’s gear and getting behind the wheel of a fireboat. 147 N. 2nd Street, (215) 923-1438, firemanshall.org

For Kids Only:

  • At the new Bucks County Children’s Museum, it’s all about pretend play: Visitors can shop, cook and ride the train in the Town Square; build their own racecar; work on an archeological dig; and much more. 500 Union Square, New Hope, (215) 693-1290, buckskids.org
  • The epicenter for all-things Philly, kids and interactive, Please Touch Museum® spans two floors of play space, including a miniature cityscape, an antique carousel and a Lewis Carroll-inspired Wonderland, and offers craft times, sing-a-longs and other changing programs. 4231 Avenue of the Republic, (215) 581-3181, pleasetouchmuseum.org
  • Fairmount Park’s Smith: The Kids’ Play Place in the Park is a veritable utopia for kids ages 10 and under. Outdoors, there are 20 interactive play pieces and a giant slide; inside the 24,000-square-foot mansion is a miniature town, a book nook and a train, plus regular craft programs. 3500 Reservoir Drive, (215) 765-4325, smithkidsplayplace.org
  • The fun keeps on coming at Giggleberry Fair in Peddler’s Village, where the tyke-tivities include the Giggles Discovers play areas, family-friendly arcade games and the region’s largest indoor obstacle course. Routes 202 & 263, Lahaska, (215) 794-4000, peddlersvillage.com

The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) makes Philadelphia and The Countryside® a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases business and promotes the region’s vitality.

For more information about travel to Philadelphia, visit visitphilly.com or www.uwishunu.com/, where you can build itineraries; search event calendars; see photos and videos; view interactive maps; sign up for newsletters; listen to HearPhilly, an online radio station about what to see and do in the region; book hotel reservations and more. Or, call the Independence Visitor Center, located in Historic Philadelphia, at (800) 537-7676.

Contact(s):
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