This week in homeschooling: Fun places to visit in Philadelphia with your kids

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Rockford was working in Philadelphia for a few days last weekend and early this week. The kids and I had never been to Philadelphia and Rockford’s sister lives there, so a few months ago we decided we’d go along with him.

Our hotel (Hilton Garden Inn Center City; great location & very friendly and helpful staff) was right next to the Reading Terminal Market — I recommend a blend of bread-and-butter and hot pickles from Beillers and the Grilled Mozzarella sandwich from MeltKraft — and just a 15-minute walk from what the kids called the “boring history stuff.”

The Philadelphia CityPass covered the Adventure Aquarium; either the National Constitution Center or the zoo; the Please Touch Children’s Museum or the Eastern State Penitentiary; the Franklin Institute; and a trolley tour. All of the sites were on our to-see list, so we decided to spring for the passes. We ended up only using four of the five tickets — the trolley tour didn’t seem like a good fit for us — but I think it was a good purchase anyway.

One of the front desk attendants at the hotel strongly suggested we try the Uber car service for the sites that weren’t within walking distance, because they were running a free promotional weekend for some cars and she had a code I could use for $30 off our first ride. (And now I have one, too! Use code “nicholee19” to get $30 off your first ride.) We used it to get to most of the City Pass sites and to meet Rockford’s sister and her fiancé for dinner one evening. The app is crazy-easy to use, the cars were prompt and clean, and the drivers were all friendly. I’d definitely use it again.

Adventure Aquarium
They had my name! With the H! They never have Nichole-with-an-H! I wasn’t in the market for a personalized shark-tooth choker, though, so there it stayed.

Adventure Aquarium is actually in Camden NJ, so the kids got to add another state to their list of states visited.

Pete — who at some point has become a shark enthusiast without my knowledge — loved it. Pete and I touched some small sharks and a stingray, some very large sharks swam above our heads and I was momentarily hypnotized by a tank full of jellies. Other members of our party were less pleased with the entire experience and spent most of the trip enveloped in ennui. Said “other members” had high expectations of the children’s area and had difficulty recovering their good attitude when it didn’t meet those expectations.

Even so: It’s a pretty nice aquarium, and the view of Philadelphia across the river was neat.


Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia

“Mama, this is the best museum I’ve ever seen!”

That’s pretty much all you need to know about the Please Touch Museum, isn’t it? All of the advertising materials I saw for the children’s museum said it was for kids up to age 7, but I think they’re selling themselves short. Nine-year-old Poppy loved it just as much as her nearly-7-year-old brother did.

The museum (which is housed in a gorgeous building) is full of fun, interactive, kid-sized exhibits such as Roadside Attractions, where they can design their own vehicles and “drive” a city bus; Flight Fantasy, where they can assemble and launch rockets; and (my favorite) Wonderland, which immerses them in scenes from “Alice in Wonderland.”

It’s a very cool museum, and it was the kids’ favorite part of the trip.

Philadelphia Zoo
Hey there, tiger.

After he finished working, Rockford picked us up in from of the museum and we went to the Philadelphia Zoo, which was hosting “Boo at the Zoo” and was thus packed impala-to-ibis with costumed kids and their oft-irritated parents. By which I mean our timing for going to the zoo was pretty awful, but it was a nice zoo anyway.

The Philadelphia Zoo isn’t the biggest zoo I’ve ever seen, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They make excellent use of the space available. My favorite feature there was the Big Cat Crossing — a tiger walkway suspended above the people walkway. You don’t realize just how ginormous a tiger is until there’s one taking a stroll above your head. The zoo has similar setups for monkeys and lemurs and the larger primates, but we didn’t see any animals in those spots.


Colonial Rockford
Colonial Rockford
I’d already downloaded the NPS Independence Mobile App, and the kids had fun earning their junior ranger badges on it before we even left the hotel. The parks service did a tremendous job with the app, too. In addition to some entertaining and informative activities for the kids, there are a selection of walking tours that are very easy to follow. That’s key for the directionally challenged.

After a quick trip to the visitors center to pick up the kids’ badges, we stopped in to see the Liberty Bell, checked out Independence Hall and then set off on the Road to Revolution tour. We saw the location of Benjamin Franklin’s house, the Ben Franklin Museum and Ben’s printing office, where there were park rangers on hand to demonstrate how the printing press worked. We stopped the NPS tour there, though, due to extreme squirrelly behavior from the small people.

I will admit that I was a little disappointed not to be able to take my time and savor the “boring history stuff.” I’d like to go back again sometime and explore on my own.


I spent the morning packing and loading the car, and once Rockford had finished working we hit the road. And we spent hours and hours and hours in the car.


We spent several hours on the road Wednesday. The kids had their art class when we got home, but otherwise we didn’t do any schoolwork.


Poppy had a cough and a fever yesterday, and what with the Halloween festivities tonight I decided to let her spend the day resting rather than doing school. I believe this was her first sick day of the year.

(Pete didn’t do school either, because I’m trying to get their schedules back in line and he would’ve gained yet another day on her if he hadn’t taken the day off.)


A lot of our subjects build on themselves over the course of the week, and since this was really the first day we’ve been home and well to “do school” we opted not to start a new chapter of history or science, etc. So today’s been a very light day. There has been a lot of math review, though, mostly in the form of reading the clock and calculating the hours until Trick Or Treating.

How was your week?

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