“Staycationing” – the concept of conducting vacation-like activities from while staying at home – grew in popularity as the economy tanked and as families found their vacation budgets shrinking. Philadelphia area residents are fortunate that our area is host to a wide range of activities to please almost any family member, making “staycationing” a palatable option for the budget-conscious.
Within Philadelphia itself, there are parks, museums and a wealth of historical sites, encompassing both indoor and outdoor activities. A favorite for children and parents alike is the Franklin Institute, as 222 North 20th Street. The museum is well-known for having a wide variety of hands-on activities to seize the minds of children and adults, including a scale model of the human heart large enough to walk through. The Franklin Institute has a planetarium, an IMAX theater, and the FranklinTheater offers 3D films; offers “camp-in” nights where for an additional fee, your family can participate in special evening programs and sleep over at the Franklin Institute. The museum also offers high-quality traveling exhibits at additional cost; for example, from June 2010 through early January 2011, the world premiere of the Cleopatra exhibit takes place at the Franklin Institute. A day ticket including the museum and one show in each of the three theaters (IMAX, FranklinTheater and the planetarium) is $23 for an adult and $19.50 for children ages 4 through 11.
For a taste of the outdoors, head over America’s first zoo – the Philadelphia Zoo. At just 42 acres, the zoo is not one of the largest in the United States, yet the zoo remains a time-honored favorite attraction in Philadelphia. If you know you are likely to visit more than once in a year, consider purchasing an annual family pass for $99. Otherwise, tickets are $14 for anyone age 2 or above. Additional cost attractions include the ZooBallon, pan-handling for gems, pony, elephant and camel rides, among others, so be prepared for your children to work hard to convince you to part with some additional cash. As I found out during a visit with my granddaughter, it’s difficult to say “No” when the little one wants to share a ride on the elephant with Pop-pop!
With a wealth of history, vacationers and staycationers alike could easily spend an entire week visiting the various historical sites. My pick: the Triple Crown of Philadelphia history: Independence Hall, the LibertyBellCenter and the new NationalConstitutionCenter are all located within two blocks from each other. Independence Hall offers free walk-up tickets, but during busy times, tickets are often gone by early afternoon. Timed guaranteed admission tickets are just $1.50 each. The LibertyBellCenter is free (can you get any better than that?). Adult tickets for the NationalConstitutionCenter are $12, while children ages 4 through 12 are $8.
A nine-day City Pass ($59 for adults, $39 for children ages 2 through 12) can be another great way to save on the above attractions, and gets you base tickets into three additional attractions, including one just over the river in Camden, New Jersey. The Adventure Aquarium, the Philadelphia Trolley and Big Bus Company (a great way to get around to Philadelphia attractions), and your choice of either the PleaseTouchMuseum or the Eastern State Penitentiary – a pair of attractions where age does matter. The PleaseTouchMuseum caters to young children, while children under age 7 are not permitted at the Penitentiary.
There are many other worthwhile attractions to make up your family’s staycation, both in Philadelphia and in the nearby environs. Other favorites of our family include LongwoodGardens in Kennett Square and Valley Forge Historical Park, as long as the weather cooperates. Both are about an hour’s drive from center city Philadelphia, so a car is highly recommended. Close by Longwood Gardens, Gateway Stables offers trail rides (minimum age 8), making a nice pairing for a day’s activities. For those looking for a shopping fix, consider pairing a trip to Valley Forge Park with an evening of shopping at the King of Prussia mall, a huge complex and one of the largest malls in the United States.