18 Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy This Summer


Entertaining young children can be daunting, especially with the disconnect between young ’uns glued to their cellphones and parents and grandparents just discovering the wonders of emojis (the winky face with the tongue sticking out is a favorite among my parental textual exchanges).

But when day camp ends and those summer nights drag late into the evening, it’s important to keep kids busy and active.

Fortunately, the Greater Philadelphia area has tons to offer (and some things are free!).

This list — which isn’t designed to be exhaustive — gives plenty of options on any given day without sweltering in the summer sun.

Sesame Place

If you’re questioning how to get to Sesame Street, the commute isn’t too bad. Over in Langhorne, the beloved children’s show comes to life with roller coasters, water rides, shows and parades. Don’t miss out on a photo op with some of your favorite furry characters, either.

If you go:

100 Sesame Road, Langhorne • 215-702-3566 • sesameplace.com

(One-day tickets or season passes range from $50 to $155 per person.)

Dutch Wonderland

For slightly older kids, you can’t go wrong with an amusement park. Just east of Lancaster, the park’s theme is “Kingdom for Kids” — and the name says it all. There are rides for very little ones, too, and Duke’s Lagoon provides a way to beat the heat.

If you go:

2249 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster • 1-866-386-2839 • dutchwonderland.com

(A one-day pass is $41.99. Two-day passes and season packages are available. Ages 2 and under are free.)

Camden Children’s Garden

The Camden City Garden Club’s Children’s Garden offers a 4-acre garden across the Delaware River. It’s also near Adventure Aquarium and BB&T Pavilion, if you extend the day for another activity. The garden includes the Philadelphia Eagles Four Seasons Butterfly House, the Plaza de Aibonito, Ben Franklin’s Secret Workshop, as well as a dinosaur garden, maze and treehouse.

If you go:

3 Riverside Drive, Camden, N.J. • 856-365-8733 • camdenchildrensgarden.org

(General admission is $9. Ages 1 and under are free.)

Linvilla Orchards

A short drive outside of Philadelphia, Linvilla is the go-to place for pumpkin-picking in the fall, but in the summer, there are opportunities for fishing on the lake, hayrides, petting zoos, a farmers market, playground and indoor mini golf. There’s also a swim club — it’s not too late to sign your kid up — or you can just lounge by the pool.

If you go:

137 Knowlton Road, Media • 610-876-7116 • linvilla.com


Longwood Gardens

If you and your little one are willing to cover more ground, Longwood Gardens has more than 1,000 acres of gardens and woodlands to see. Numerous performances and concerts — some free — take place throughout the summer. And through Sept. 30, the Summer of Spectacle fountain show will dazzle daily.

If you go:

1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square • 610-388-1000 • longwoodgardens.org

(General admission: Adults 18 and up are $23; seniors 62 and up are $20; kids 5-18 are $12; 4 and younger are free.)

Outdoor movies

There’s nothing I love more than going to movies — especially when the movie is completely free! Enjoy the fresh air with free outdoor movie nights, located at different venues across the city, including Clark Park, Penn’s Landing, Franklin Square, Schuylkill Banks, Fringe Arts and The Schmidt’s Commons. It’s not too late to see Oscar-winning films — or Moana for the thousandth time.

Pizza Brain

When you’re a kid, nothing is more delicious than a saucy slice of gooey, cheesy pizza — actually, that holds true for adults, too. But Pizza Brain in Fishtown also includes a museum with the world’s largest collection of pizza-related items, per the Guinness Book of Records. (You might be tired of this go-to kid food, but it’s better than Chuck E. Cheese, right?)

If you go:

2313 Frankford Ave. • 215-291-2965 • pizzabrain.org

Adventure Aquarium

A rainy day is a perfect time to head out to the aquarium, just across the river in Camden. Kids can explore underwater life, especially the new “Piranha Falls” exhibit, which dives into the Amazonian species through multisensory experiences, virtually flowing down the Amazon River and into the largest rainforest on Earth.

If you go:

1 Riverside Drive, Camden, N.J. • 844-474-3474 • adventureaquarium.com

(One-day general admission starts at $28 for visitors 13 and up, and $21 for those 2 to 12.)


As simple the idea of going to a ballgame is, kids can spend the day getting their fill of hotdogs and popcorn, plus who doesn’t love the Phillie Phanatic?

If you go:

Citizens Bank Park • philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com/phi/ballpark/

(Home games vary. Tickets start at $20 per person.)

Please Touch Museum

What’s more kid-friendly than this museum? A new exhibit is running until Sept. 10 that is sure is please your bibliophile babies. Storyland: A Trip Through Childhood Favorites! explores interactive scenes from kid classics, including The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, The Snowy Day and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

If you go:

4231 Avenue of the Republic • 215-581-3181 • pleasetouchmuseum.org

(Adults and children 1 and older are $19. Members and children under age 1 are free.)

Escape the Room

Have you ever gotten to the point where you just need to, um, lock your kid in his or her room? Well now’s your chance! Small detail: You’ll be locked in with them. While this idea is best for older children (while supervised), escape rooms are the recent craze, putting groups of 10 in a locked room for one hour. The group has to solve a series of puzzles and riddles in order to escape. (Don’t worry, even if you don’t solve the puzzle they let you out … eventually.)

If you go:

1528 Walnut St. • 267-603-4355 • escapetheroomphilly.com

($28 per person.)

Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse

If you need a bit more space than an enclosed room, Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse has 16,000 square feet — that’s six football fields — of free play for ages 10 and younger.

If you go:

3500 Reservoir Drive, East Fairmount Park • 215-765-4325 • smithplayground.org


Free outdoor story time

Another free option is outdoor story time sessions across the city. Momo’s Tree House has story time Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m.; Barnes and Noble in Rittenhouse Square Wednesdays at 4 p.m. and sometimes Saturdays at 11 a.m.; Smith Playground & Playhouse at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays for ages 5 and under; and Head House Books Fridays at 11:15 a.m. (Days and times are subject to change.)

Momo’s Tree House: 205 Arch St. • 267-457-2803

Barnes and Noble: 1805 Walnut St. • 215-665-0716

Head House Books: 619 S. Second St. • 215-923-9525


In addition to story time, many of the Free Libraries of Philadelphia offer children’s programming, including a play area with toys, puzzles, computer games and books (obviously). Depending on the branch, some offer preschool yoga, cooking classes and family play groups both during the week and weekend.


Sister Cities Park

A swath of green is available right here in Center City surrounding the Sister Cities fountain. Kids can enjoy playtime in the Discovery Garden, inspired by the Wissahickon Valley, or the Sister Cities Plaza with its fountains.

If you go:

210 N. 18th St. • 215-440-5500 • centercityphila.org/parks


The Franklin Institute

New at the Franklin Institute this summer is the Mirror Maze exhibit, exploring the mathematical patterns of the natural world. And if you get through that, the escape room trend has reached this museum, too, starting June 14, for ages 8 and up at $28 a ticket.

If you go:

222 N. 20th St. • 215-448-1200 • fi.edu

(General admission is $20 for adults, $16 for children ages 3 to 11.)

Morris Arboretum

Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania’s Garden Railway is officially open for the season, celebrating its 20th year, featuring a quarter-mile of track with seven loops and tunnels, 15 rail lines, two cable cars, nine bridges and model trains. From July 1 to 9, Circus Week comes to the garden, and on July 15 and 16, Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends will take over the tracks. The garden and subsequent events are included in general admission.

If you go:

100 E. Northwestern Ave. • 215-247-5777 • morrisarboretum.org

(Members, PennCard holders and children under 3 are free. Kids 3 to 17 are $9. Adults are $17. Seniors 65 and up are $15. Students, active and retired military are $9 with ID. If you walk or bike there, it’s $9 for adults and $5 for kids.)

Once Upon a Nation

Once Upon a Nation storytelling and reenactments brings the city’s rich history to life (you might see some familiar faces along the way, too). There are 13 storytelling benches located in and near Independence National Historic Park — they are clearly marked with a “Once Upon a Nation” sign — and are all free. The stories are just a few minutes long but are told continuously throughout operating hours. (Days and times may vary.)

If you go:

Independence National Historic Park • 215-629-4026 • historicphiladelphia.org/once-upon-a-nation/what-to-see



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