Give your wallet a break with our picks for the best free activities for kids in Philadelphia! We've gathered our favorite places where you can enjoy family fun together - all without spending a penny. You might be surprised what else comes without a price tag like kids eat free or a free museum day.
Snyder's of Hanover Factory Tour
Juan L.: These in-house tours of Snyder's of Hanover Factory Store offer an inside look at how these iconic pretzels are made. The tour is free and lasts 30 minutes. At the end of the tour, you get a free bag of pretzels! Kids will especially like the finished goods warehouse, where they'll get to see Snyder's of Hanover's robotics at work.
Hershey's Chocolate World - Chocolate Tour
Offered continuously during operating hours.
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: Get ready for an exciting trip! Your 30 minute tour at Hershey's begins with exploring the cocoa bean harvesting process. Then, on the simulated factory tour ride, learn about the process for making Hershey's famed chocolates. End your tour with a free sample of creamy chocolate. After your tour, visit the gift shop, bakery, and food court.
For additional fees, guests can create your own candy bar, experience the 4D Chocolate Mystery, indulge in a chocolate tasting experience and take an historic trolley ride.
Blue Marsh Lake
Shila: This large man-made lake is a recreational haven for swimming, boating (3 boat launches), fishing, picnicking, hiking over 36 miles of trails, and more! No lifeguards are present.
There are even many events where your family can enjoy guided hikes, paddle boarding for beginners, geocaching, etc. Enjoy a recurring favorite, "Tower Tours," where you're treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the dam.
Mt. Cuba Astronomical Observatory
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: The Mr. Cuba Astronomical Observatory offers the Spitz SciDome, an all-digital planetarium, lecture hall, library and computer room to provide public education and resources to learn about the universe, planets and more. They offer public viewing nights and family programs to view the stars, moon and planets, hear discussions, tour the facility and talk with astronomy experts. Mt. Cuba is educational and fun for the whole family!
Linvilla Orchards - Barnyard Animals
Shila: Linvilla Orchards offers pick your own produce (e.g. apples, berries, peaches, etc.) and other fun attractions like family festivals, story time, mini golf, a playground, and seasonal hayrides. Animals such as white tailed deer, calves, goats, horses, sheep, emus, peacocks, and a pot-bellied pig (to name a few) welcome you to the barnyard. You may also catch an incubator full of eggs within the Garden Center. If you're lucky, kids can witness the hatching of chicks. No charge to enter the barnyard!
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: The Jenkins Arboretum offers a 1.2 mile walkway through a natural botanical garden setting of plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers. There is an Education Center open during peak times. The venue offers workshops, educational displays and arts and craft shows. There is a gift shop onsite.
Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: The Scott Arboretum is a blend of horticultural and botanical gems that feature the diversity of the Delaware Valley. Featured collections include magnolia, cherry, conifer and more. On the grounds of Swarthmore College, children will experience a view of the beauty that higher education can offer. Staff led tours are available and there are special events throughout the year such as seasonal celebrations.
Valley Forge National Historical Park
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: The site of the winter encampment during the Revolutionary War is home to Washington's headquarters, a beautiful memorial chapel, soldiers' huts and much more. It's easy to spend a day enjoying miles of trails, ranger-led tours, living history experiences and a renovated Visitor Center. If you're short on time, a drive along the tour loop can be done in as little as 20 minutes.
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: Pennypacker Mills takes you back in time to life in the early 1900s. This historic mansion contains antiques and artifacts collected by PA Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker and reflective of the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, Native Americans and German and Dutch settlers. The restored servant area allows guests to see the kitchen, laundry, work room and bedroom to see how life has changed over the past 100 years.
The venue features events, exhibits, nature walks and workshops throughout the year. Free guided tours are available.
Free Admission, Guided tours available for additional cost
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: The oldest surviving botanical garden in North America, the 45 acres of Bartram's Garden encompasses parkland, wetlands, plants, flowers, trees, meadow and historic buildings.
Family programs include Little Explorers, Homeschooler Days and Family Artists' Workshops. There are also musical performances and arts programs throughout the year. Check out Free Saturday Boating and Kayaking and other programs on the Schuylkill River.
Philadelphia Parks & Recreation
Vanessa M.: Did you know the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Department oversees 70+ Philly pools for families to splash, play, and swim in? Even better, admission is free! Their Swim Philly program has poured resources into several local pools for renovations, family programs, comfortable seating and umbrellas, and more. A few pools benefiting from Swim Philly include Pleasant Playground Pool, O'Connor Pool, and Lee Cultural Center Pool. Please note that a shortage in lifeguards means that some of these pools will not be opening for the season; updated information for each pool is available at the link above.
Red Bank Battlefield Park
Vanessa M.: If you venture across the bridge to NJ, you will be rewarded with this wonderful historic park. Red Bank Battlefield Park was the location of a Revolutionary War battle, and kids love to check out the cannons and cannonballs that are on display. The Ann and James Whitall House is perched atop the Delaware River, and is open seasonally for tours. Families enjoy the playgrounds, picnic areas, butterfly garden, children's garden, and access to the Delaware banks. Watch the boats come through, and the airplanes come into the airport at close view. Bathrooms and Park Rangers on site.
Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse
Age 12 & under
Shila: Smith Memorial Playground (outdoor) & Playhouse (indoor) offers a safe place for children to play. The 6.5-acre playground includes the Ann Newman Giant Wooden Slide & more than 50 pieces of unique, age-appropriate & accessible pieces of play equipment. The 16,000 square foot indoor Playhouse gives younger children a chance to drive the train, cook in the kitchen, ride tricycles in Smithville & much more.
Fairmount Water Works Tour
Tim Ponisciak: Take a tour of one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in Philadelphia, Fairmount Water Works! While this national historic landmark no longer is an active source of water for the city, you can tour the facilities and learn the history of the building, its use and the city's local watershed. A short film is included as part of the tour.
Cost: Free, but donations are suggested
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Juan L.: I know what you're thinking. And no, this is not the most conventional sledding hill, but it's iconic in Philadelphia and a blast for adventurous older kids. Each year, even when the Museum is closed, hundreds of Philadelphians flock to the museum to sled down the looming front steps that become so packed with snow that they create a safe and fun man-made hill in the heart of the city. It's really a unique experience and as long as caution is exercised, it's a safe experience. Obviously this is probably not a great choice for younger children and toddlers.
Dilworth Park Fountain
Shila: The fountain at Dilworth Park is covered by a thin scrim of water with programmable three-foot-high spouts that create a dancing water feature throughout.
East Falls Glassworks
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: East Falls Glassworks is the only public access glassblowing studio in Philadelphia. Visitors can see artists working with 2000 degree molten glass and creating unique pieces. This is exciting and magical for children to see real artwork being created right before their eyes!
It is free to visit the studio. Call in advance to make sure someone is there to see them in action, even though they are typically there during the day Monday - Friday.
The Liberty Bell
Tim Ponisciak: The Liberty Bell is a symbol of American independence. Come learn about the two individuals who made the bell, Pass & Stow, figure out why there is a crack in the bell and how it came to have its historic meaning.
Franklin Square Playground
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: Located just a few blocks from the Liberty Bell, Franklin Square offers a fun interactive playground for kids to play and explore. Open year round, the playground has something for everyone!
While the playground is free, Franklin Square offers mini golf, carousel and restaurant for an additional fee. Franklin Square also holds special family-friendly events throughout the year.
Once Upon A Nation Storytelling Benches
Continuous Times on Select Days: Memorial Day - Labor Day
Shila: Throughout the summer, you will find 13 benches with professional storytellers ready to wow you with fun, historical facts about Philadelphia's past! Pop in to hear more about Betsy Ross, Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, etc. Each story time runs a brief 5 minutes.
Kids collect stars at each bench, and can redeem them for a free carousel ride at Franklin Square. The 13 signature benches are clearly marked with "Once Upon A Nation" and are located on a walking journey throughout Independence National Historic Park. You can locate each bench spot online, and verify hours. Free!
United States Mint
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: The United States Mint in Philadelphia is the Nation's First Mint and produces circulating coins, medals, commemorative coins and coin sets. It features exhibits on coin making on the self guided tour and visitors can view coins being made in the production facility. There is a short film on the history of coin making. The Mint also features the historic Tiffany Glass Mosaics.
Photography is not permitted inside the US Mint.
Admission is Free.
Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: Learn about the life and literary works of Edgar Allan Poe at the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site. Located in Old City, take a tour of his historic home, listen to his work narrated by famous actors, discover how his work influenced writers including Stephen King, and more. Kids can become a Junior Ranger and earn a badge by downloading and completing an activity book from their website.
Spruce Street Harbor Park
Vanessa M.: Spruce Street Harbor Park is a unique gathering space that comes alive in the summer months. The park is filled with colorful hammocks, floating gardens, beautiful lights, refreshing beer gardens, and food from popular Philly restaurants. The boardwalk boasts swings, hammocks, bocce courts, ping pong, shuffleboard, arcade games, and hammock lounges for a relaxing time together. Click here for hammock reservations.
Mr. B's Coffeehouse & Playzone
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: Mr. B's Coffeehouse & PlayZone, located inside Calvary Church, is a great place to meet with friends & watch the kids play in our indoor PlayZone. Kids up to 54 inches tall can jump and slide to their hearts content.
Byers' Choice Ltd.
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: It is always in season to experience the holiday magic at Byers' Choice. On weekdays, you can go on the observation deck to view artisans hand-crafting, painting and decorating carolers and other exclusive Byers' Choice figurines. The museum and display areas are open year round where it always feels like Christmastime. The Creche Room offers over 200 nativity scenes from around the world. Visit the gift shop to purchase your own figurine as a memento of your tour. Note: the display figurines are breakable and within children's reach.
Kids Castle at Central Park
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: This epic spot in Doylestown is one of the best playgrounds near Philadelphia, and is worth a drive to check out! The centerpiece is a multi-level wooden castle that kids love to explore, but there's plenty of modern equipment, too. You'll find a zipline, electronic game station, and play structure that's inclusive of all abilities.
Warminster Community Park
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: Warminster Community Park boasts a Safety Town depicted as a miniature town of Warminster complete with businesses, traffic signs and more. Kids can play and ride scooters, big wheels and tricycles throughout the fenced-in mini town. There are also playground structures, climbing equipment, spring animals and a basketball court.
Shila: Terhune Orchards Farm offers pick-your-own produce (e.g. apples, berries, pumpkins). Kids will enjoy the pedal tractors to play on, as well as meeting the many farm animals who live there year round... sheep, goats, donkeys, ducks, geese and chickens!
Mount Loretto Unique Area & North Mount Loretto State Forest
Joni Monacell: Mt. Loretto Unique Area offers more than 200 acres of forest, grasslands, wetlands, and coastal shoreline on the southern shore of Staten Island. This beautiful area has three hiking trails to explore: the Wetlands Trail, Grassland Trail, and Beach Loop.
Just North of this area is another North Mount Loretto State Forest which has 5 more hiking trails, one of which is paved and wheelchair accessible.
There is parking, the area is accessible via public transportation, and bathrooms are available.
Primary photo: Chris Benson on Unsplash
Upparent collects community-submitted recommendations and reviews, and any ideas that are shared reflect the opinions of individual contributors.