As I mentioned in the post outlining our itinerary in Washington D.C., part of the vacation involved taking the train to Philadelphia. Since the boys had a) never been on a train before or b) ever been to Philadelphia, we decided to include it as part of our American History trip. Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train makes exploring the cities in the Northeast so easy. The train ride from D.C. to Philadelphia was just two hours and seamless! What a difference from air travel.
Knowing we only had 2 nights in Philadelphia, we really focused in on seeing what we could in the “Old City”, which has all the historic sites in a very small area. Clearly, Philadelphia has a lot more to offer as a bustling and thriving city. But we knew we couldn’t see all of the city, so we wanted to make the most of the time we had.
Along with New York and Boston, Philadelphia is one of the key places to explore the United States’ early history. Philadelphia was the meeting place for the first and second Continental Congress. The place where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin’s hometown. The location of the first (two) presidents’ residence before the White House was finished. For a family immersed in Revolutionary History, stopping here felt like diving into a treasure trove of history.
Where We Stayed:
One of the best (unwitting) moves we made was our hotel. We stayed at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco which basically was catty-cornered from Independence Hall. The view from our hotel room window was the bell tower of Independence Hall which was so cool. We were definitely in the middle of everything we wanted to see. There were historic buildings surrounding the hotel in every direction within a 2 block radius. I would like to say that I chose the hotel after much planning and researching, but it was really just luck. We knew we wanted to stay at a Kimpton property, and just picked this one. I would definitely recommend anyone interested in visiting the historic sites of Philadelphia to stay here.
Now on to the highlights of what we did. I will leave out the parts when we hung out at the Rittenhouse Barnes & Noble and the boys went to the Apple Store while I shopped, because, that’s pretty much standard on all our vacations.
Since we only had 2 nights and one full day in Philadelphia, we chose to book a Constitutional Walking Tour versus visiting all dozen or so historic sites separately. This 75-minute guided walking tour stopped at a dozen or so historic sites in Old City. Places like the house where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and the site of the first president’s residence (before the White House was completed). If you have more time, then you could visit each individual site and get a full tour of each. But for a quick highlights tour, the Constitutional Walking Tour was perfect.
Our particular tour only had one other person, which made it very personalized and interesting. I love being in a small group! We stopped at each site for about 5 minutes to learn about the location and the historical context around it. The boys (ages 8 and 9) did really great at being engaged throughout. I don’t think it hurts that I offered them $5 for the gift store if they could answer my post-tour quiz 🙂 Anything for a souvenir.
Hands down, this Museum of the American Revolution was our favorite from our visit to Philadelphia, and maybe one of the top places we visited on our whole trip. The museum had just recently opened a few weeks prior to our arrival. We passed it during the Constitutional Walking tour and the guide highly recommended it, so we decided to give it a try. I’m so glad we did.
The Museum of the American Revolution is the perfect size. Not too big or overwhelming, so you can actually experience the museum in one visit. Being that it is brand new, every exhibit was not only informative, but state-of-the-art. The museum gift shop was beautiful and very well edited with their selection of interesting books, toys and souvenirs. What can I say? The boys are not the only ones who love a good museum gift shop 🙂
The highlight of the museum comes at the very end in a theater where we watched a film about George Washington during the war. For seven years, his residence was a tent where he planned attacks, wrote letters to congress, and basically did everything. The movie brings to light how difficult life on the battlefield was for all of them. The tent really represented Washington’s camaraderie with his troops since he never left their side. As the movie winds down and the screen darkens, George Washington’s actual tent is up-lit from behind. They have his actual Revolutionary War tent set up behind the moviescreen. Can you say goosebumps?
A couple different people had mentioned this waterfront park as a good place to kick back & relax. I would definitely recommend it as a pitstop if you go to Philadelphia as well. One unique feature to this park is the dozens of rope hammocks hanging from the trees. They are bright, colorful and filled with people lounging all around. The park also has plenty of food and drink vendors, plus outdoor games to keep everyone entertained. While we left before it got dark, you can see there are colorful lights hanging from the trees that would look really cool at night.
Pretty much anything you read about Philadelphia recommends eating a cheesesteak and going to Reading Terminal Market. Even the girl at the Philly Madewell store told me we had to go.
I imagined Reading Terminal Market to be like Chelsea Market in New York, the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco or Krog Street Market in Atlanta. All of which I love. And it was…kind of. A big space jam-packed with a plethora of food vendors.
I know I will be in the minority when saying this, but I didn’t really love it. There were a lot of pastries, donuts, egg dishes (we were there for breakfast), but none of it seemed special in any way. I am sure they tasted good (like all things fried and sugar filled do), but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. So take that opinion for what it is worth. There’s a good chance you would love it if you went. I guess it depends on what types of food you like.
I will share a place that was right up our alley that all four of us really enjoyed, and that is Bar Bombóm. Part corner bar, part restaurant, this place had a great little atmosphere.
Bar Bombóm takes Latin favorites and transforms them using all plant-based, organic ingredients. We ordered quite a few different things and we all left happy. Brian ordered the Buffalo Cauliflower tacos and gave them two thumbs up. That is saying a lot from someone who is obsessed with pork tacos. I ordered the crispy brussels sprouts with the peanut sauce in the picture above. Yum!
After a quick 48-hours, our visit to Philadelphia was over and it was time to say take the train back to Washington D.C. Despite losing some days from our time in D.C., we really enjoyed exploring Philly for the first time. Imagining Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, George Washington and John Adams walking the same streets we were walking was surreal.
If you have never been to Philadelphia, I highly encourage you to visit. Especially if you have any interest in the founding fathers or the early days of the United States. Next time we visit we will surely explore other parts of Philadelphia.
Have you been to Old City in Philadelphia? What did you enjoy the most?
Click HERE To read more about our time in D.C.