33 Things to Do With Kids in Philly When It’s Cold Outside
Get our weekly picks of what to do this weekend and the latest on Philly's arts and entertainment scene.
One major challenge of parenting around these parts? January through March. But with a little creativity and planning, winter can be as fun as summer. Here, 33 ways to crush the cold.
Trust us — you haven’t done it all.
Visit a Museum You Haven’t Been to Before
Fireman’s Hall Museum
Benjamin Franklin formed the country’s first volunteer fire brigade in Philly in 1736. See his legacy firsthand at this free museum housed in a nearly century-old firehouse; kids can explore historic fire trucks and try on coats and boots. 147 North 2nd Street, Old City.
Wagner Free Institute of Science
This Victorian-era science museum is a treasure trove of more than 100,000 specimens, including seashells, insects and fossils. Check out the complete draft horse skeleton and bones from the first American saber-toothed tiger ever found. 1700 West Montgomery Avenue, North Philly.
The archaeology and anthropology museum recently reopened with Mexico and Central America and Africa galleries that are all new. But don’t miss the Egypt area, where you’ll find the largest sphinx in the Western Hemisphere. 3260 South Street, University City.
American Swedish Historical Museum
This under-the-radar museum showcases Viking history and has an entire room dedicated to Pippi Longstocking where kids can play dress-up or grab a map and embark on a gallery hunt. Bonus: a gift shop with sweet Scandinavian toys, textiles and snacks. 1900 Pattison Avenue, South Philly.
American Helicopter Museum
For budding aviators who can tell an Osprey from an Osage as well as toddlers who point to the sky anytime a chopper zips by. Dozens of rotary-wing aircraft are on display, and many can be boarded. 1220 American Boulevard, West Chester.
Or See Another Side of Your Favorite Museum
The Barnes Foundation
This true Philly treasure is surprisingly kid-friendly. At Toddler Time (every third Thursday of the month), there are book readings, crafts, and movement activities, while parents with babies up to 18 months can sign up for the regular 45-minute guided Stroller Tours. 2025 Ben Franklin Parkway, Fairmount.
The Franklin Institute
Through April 19th, the “Worst-Case Scenario: Survival Experience” is on, with interactive exhibits like upside-down tic-tac-toe, a train-car jump, and a pit filled with 76,000 balls. Or camp-in; you’ll get a souvenir patch that gives you free access to the museum for the rest of 2020. 222 North 20th Street, Logan Circle.
Sure, they’ve seen where the Declaration was signed, but are the kids official Junior Rangers? Download the free Independence Junior Ranger app, pick up the activity book at the visitors’ center, and complete activities to earn a badge and certificate. There’s even an induction ceremony. 520 Chestnut Street, Old City.
A ropes course, a zip line, the new nighttime “Luminature” show (which closes in early January), the opportunity to spend the night — clearly, animals aren’t the only draw at America’s oldest zoo anymore. 3400 West Girard Avenue, West Philly.
Academy of Natural Sciences
Unroll your sleeping bag to snooze next to lions, tigers or dinosaurs, and check out the live butterfly garden and giant T-rex without all the crowds. February 15th and March 21st; 1900 Ben Franklin Parkway, Fairmount.
Go on Cheap Dates
10 free (or nearly free) fantastic things to do around Philly.
1. Warm up in a giant greenhouse. Ott’s Exotic Plants, an unassuming garden center, is Longwood-ish — but gratis. The greenhouse is packed with plants, a waterfall, a pond with koi, and friendly cats that follow you around. Leave the coats in the car. 861 Gravel Pike, Schwenksville.
2. Get a bird’s-eye view of the city. Make like Willy Wonka and take the glass-walled elevator up to the 60th floor of the new Four Seasons for an unparalleled view of our town. 1 North 19th Street, Logan Circle.
3. Explore an arboretum. Take a self-guided tour of Awbury Arboretum, where you may also run into a herd of goats (part of the Philly Goat Project). It’s open daily all year. 1 Awbury Road, North Philly.
4. Hit up free museum days. Nearly all the big ones have them, including the Barnes and PMA — both on the first Sundays.
5. Play at the library. Besides the story times and, you know, free books, don’t miss “Our Five Senses,” the interactive exhibition with sensory stations that’s running at the main branch of the Free Library through February 1st. 1901 Vine Street, Logan Circle.
6. Visit the U.S. Mint. The nation’s first mint offers free self-guided tours; you can watch coins being made from 40 feet above the factory floor. 151 North Independence Mall East, Old City.
7. Do a doughnut tour. Round (ha!) up your gang and plot a course to sample the best doughnuts Philly has to offer. To get you started: Frangelli’s, Beiler’s, Hello Donuts, Federal, Flow State CoffeeBar, Suraya …
8. Be a playground tester. For a few bucks, kids can “road-test” the for-sale wooden swing sets, trampolines, basketball hoops, and other playground equipment — all indoors! — at Superior Play Systems. 2554 Industry Lane, Norristown.
11. Compete for family dominance. Board-game cafes like Thirsty Dice (1642 Fairmount Avenue, Spring Garden) and Queen & Rook (607 South 2nd Street, Queen Village) charge a small fee for access to hundreds of games and hours of play. Plus, they serve good beer.
10. See a Steven Spielberg-produced flick. This headset-free immersive experience is a no-charge seven-minute show inside the giant white orb at the Comcast Technology Center. Afterward, get hot chocolate at Vernick Coffee Bar. Tickets required. 1800 Arch Street, Logan Circle.
Get Some Energy Out
Let them go (age-appropriately) nuts.
With a giant indoor play structure, ball pits, and cars to push and ride, it’s nearly impossible to get the tykes to leave Kids at Play (3502 Scotts Lane, suite 711, East Falls). At Phield House (814 Spring Garden Street, Callowhill), five-and-unders can play with hula hoops, balls and parachutes during the Little Jawn open-gym time. As a bonus, coffee is flowing for mom and dad.
Inside their 35,000-square-foot warehouse, the geniuses at Craft Hall (901 North Delaware Avenue, Northern Liberties) put a playground, games, bunnies, and a chicken named Waffles, plus cheese boards and pitchers of beer. Bowling alleys like South Bowl, Bowlero and Lucky Strike (various locations) have weekday and weekend hours, lane bumpers and kid-friendly eats.
Find trampolines, obstacle courses and playgrounds as far as the eye can see at Urban Air (various locations); daredevils can try the Sky Rider indoor coaster to fly over it all. Philadelphia Rock Gym (various locations) hosts Kids Night on Fridays, with two hours of unlimited top-rope climbing for ages six to 15. Parents can drop off, too.
Five events worth building a weekend around.
1. The Snow Queen
Root for Gerda in her journey to free her friend from the Snow Queen in this show based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. Through January 26th at the Arden Theatre.
2. “Getaway at the Greenhouse”
Pretend it’s summer, if only for a few hours, with sandboxes, food trucks and live music. February 1st to 16th at the Horticulture Center in Fairmount Park.
3. The Flower Show
This year’s theme is “Riviera Holiday,” so prepare to be transported to the Mediterranean. February 29th to March 8th at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
4. Philadelphia Orchestra’s “Carnival of the Animals”
This family-friendly concert has music, dancing, and a pre-show adventure. March 7th at the Kimmel Center.
5. Grace for President
All the girls (and boys) who are outraged that we still haven’t had a female president will love watching Grace navigate student government. February 1st to 9th at the Walnut Street Theatre.
Three mini getaways to try.
Great Wolf Lodge
Stay in newly renovated rooms (some have bunkbeds) at this Poconos resort, and get two days of zipping down waterslides and lolling in the lazy river in the 84-degree indoor water park. At night, kids get in their PJs and listen to story time by the fire. 1 Great Wolf Drive, Scotrun.
Kids can hit the arcade or climb through a three-story indoor obstacle course at Giggleberry Fair; ride the historic New Hope Railroad; and hike through Ringing Rocks. The Golden Plough Inn in Peddler’s Village makes a perfect home base, with two-story suites and close proximity to Skip’s Candy Corner.
Check into the Ocean Casino Resort, which has an indoor pool and sweeping views of the Atlantic. Activities that don’t involve gambling: pelting fake zombies with balls at Topgolf Swing Suite; scoring milkshakes and burgers at Walhburgers; shopping for retro candy at Rocket Fizz; and visiting the nearby A.C. Aquarium and Absecon Lighthouse.
Published as “Out of the Cold” in the January 2020 issue of Philadelphia magazine.