Keep the kids learning, and enjoy a great weekend in Philadelphia at the Omni Hotel at Independence Park. The location couldn’t be better for exploring Philadelphia’s historic area. A few days isn’t long enough to see it all, but here are my top picks for a family weekend in Philadelphia.
Location, Location, Location
The Omni Hotel at Independence Park is just steps away from, well, everything you should see with your family.
Exit through the lobby’s revolving doors, and you’ll be able to see Independence Hall. My family loved hearing the bell at Independence Hall ring at the top of the hour. It’s loud enough to hear by day, but not loud enough to wake you at night.
Camp Omni Perks
My kids enjoyed the Camp Omni backpack they received when we checked into the hotel. Once we made it into the room, they didn’t waste any time inspecting the goodies inside. Young guests are also invited to do a scavenger hunt that takes them to various points in historic Philadelphia.
A little history overview will give you and the kids a better appreciation of Philadelphia. Liberty 360 is a 360-degree, 3-D panoramic movie hosted by none other than Benjamin Franklin at the Historic Philadelphia Center. (Just across from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.) The 15-minute show is long enough to cover the basics and short enough to hold younger attention spans.
Travel back to 1776
Independence After Hours brings history to life, with the help of some of Philadelphia’s more dramatic and well know colonial folks. The evening walking tour, that is really very light on walking, also begins at the Historic Philadelphia Center.
After walking a few blocks, you’ll run into printer John Dunlap. Hired to print the first 200 copies of the Declaration of Independence, he’s hunting for Thomas Jefferson to get the final draft of the famous document. Remember, you’ve traveled back in time to 1776.
He’ll lead you to City Tavern, the oldest operating restaurant in the United States and while he continues to hunt for Jefferson, you have time to enjoy a typical colonial meal. Be sure to taste the sweet potato and pecan biscuits, made from one of Jefferson’s favorite recipes.
The highlight of the evening is when Dunlap convinces the night watchman at Independence Hall to give you special tour. Independence Hall without crowds is a rare treat. Throw in the added plus of meeting Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams and you can’t go wrong. The tour ends outside Independence Hall, less than a block from Omni Hotel at Independence Park.As you make your way back to the hotel, take a minute to walk by the Liberty Bell. It shines at night.
Good Night Treat
The sweet reward for a busy day of exploring will be waiting when you arrive in your room. It’s my kids’ favorite part about staying at Omni Hotels – the bedtime cookies. The portions are pretty generous, so even parents can indulge. It’s amazing how a chocolate chip cookie can virtually assure a positive ending to even the most stressful travel day.
Liberty Bell Center
The iconic bell takes on an entirely different look in the daylight and visiting this famous relic of American history is one of the easiest things to do in the city of Brotherly Love. No planning is required because no tickets are needed. Just pass through security and the mighty cracked bell will be waiting. See if you or the kids can find the spelling mistake on the Liberty Bell.
National Constitution Center
When you leave the Liberty Bell, give the kids a break and let them run in the grassy park outside. The National Constitution Center, the first and only museum dedicated to the history of the U.S. Constitution, is just two short blocks away, and you can make most of the trip through the grass. Not the type of attraction the typical kid is begging to visit, but once you get them there, be prepared to stay for at least a few hours.
The Core Exhibition begins with a timed entry to see Freedom Rising. It’s not a movie. It’s a performance really. Using a 360 degree screen, a live actor tells the story of the Constitution from its creation to today.
If you have to wait any longer than 15 minutes for the performance to begin, head upstairs to Signers’ Hall, where you can walk among 42 life-sized bronze statues of the 39 delegates who signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787, and the 3 who refused. My tween zeroed in on Ben Franklin, and she’s not the first to do so. The oldest delegate, he’s also the one with the shiniest head, thanks to the thousands of visitors who rub and polish his forehead everyday!
After you see the Freedom Rising presentation, you’ll exit into an actual exhibition area loaded with family-friendly interactive exhibits that highlight how the Constitution still plays a role in our daily lives. Kids and adults can take the Presidential Oath-of-Office, try a judge’s robe on for size and cast a vote at the Center’s Election Central voting booths.
It’s also worth checking out what temporaryexhibitions are at the center. If you’ve ever eaten a Girl Scout cookie (who hasn’t?) you’ll enjoy the exhibition celebrating 100 Years of Girl Scouting. I smiled ear to ear as I walked my girls through the Bruce Springsteen exhibit created by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
Dinner in the Square
If the weather is cooperating, when you leave the National Constitution Center, walk the quick block to Franklin Square. It’s all about kids and kids at heart. Along with great playgrounds, you’ll find the Franklin Square fountain, thePhiladelphia Park Liberty Carousel, a Philadelphia-themed miniature golf course, and SquareBurger. The burgers are tasty and if you’ve got a sweet tooth, give the Cake Shake a try. It’s a combination of vanilla ice cream and a locally baked cupcake-like creation called a TastyKake Butterscotch Krimpet.
Just a warning, Tastykakes come in an assortment of flavors and can be addictive. You may find yourself making room in your suitcase to take some home. The Omni concierge will be more than happy to give you directions to the market, so you can pick some up on the way out of town. I’m told every now and then, the hotel even has some handy.
Rooms at the Omni Hotel at Independence Park range from $189 USD to $329 USD per night.
For a taste of what our weekend was like, check out some fun video highlights.
Dana and her family received complimentary accommodations at the Omni Hotel at Independence Park and complimentary tickets from Liberty 360, Independence After Hours and the National Constitution Center, but as always, her thoughts and opinions are her own. Photos by Dana Rebmann