Philadelphia is so close to New York, that when my husband proposed a summer vacation road trip, this seemed like a a natural, easy drive destination. I had been there as a kid, but this was a first for my son, and there’s a boatload to do….literally….including taking a Duck Boat Tour.

We are Duck Boat fans, having taken it in other cities, so we were delighted to come on board in Philadelphia.

Seth and Dancing Fred

Seth and Duck Boat Dancing Fred

RIDE THE DUCKS Philadelphia is a land and water sightseeing tour.  For 90 minutes, you see landmarks in the historic Old City and Museum District, narrated by a good-humored guide, in this case Dancing Fred (with the duck socks), and then the vehicle converts to take to the water for a brief cruise on the Delaware.  At the end, you get a whistle that quacks — my son can’t get enough of the quacker.  Dancing Fred made it very lively, as he engaged with the tourists, and you laugh as you learn.  It’s a great introduction to the city.

Philadelphia is a wonderful walking city, but taking a tour helps give you the lay of the land.

bigbusNext up was a ride on the BIG BUS COMPANY.   This is a convenient way to get around, as you can exit at any stop and get back on at a later point.  The ride is narrated, so you get all the scoop on each of their designated stops.

An economical way to take in key sights is to purchase a Philadelphia Pass.  You get free entry to over 40 attractions, and passes are available for single or multiple days.  It makes entrance easy, and you save money.  This is a totally worthwhile purchase!

monacodoorWe stayed three nights at the lovely Hotel Monaco, a boutique Kimpton hotel, located in the Historic District.  It is walking distance to key historic sights, and is elegant with a modern, eclectic flair, which I love.  The bed was very comfortable, and Seth made himself right at home in his own space, as we had a corner suite that was quite spacious.

Bathroom -- open shower and deep tub

Bathroom — open shower and deep tub

A highlight for me was the bathroom.  It was by far the best hotel bathroom I’ve ever experienced…so much so that I had to take a photo.  The hotel has a well-equipped fitness center, and in-room spa services are available.  There is free wi-fi if you sign up, and valet parking is available for a nightly fee.  They have a complimentary wine reception in the evening in the lobby, and it’s a lovely place to relax, read and sit by the fireplace.  You feel like you’re in Europe.


Outside Red Owl Tavern

The Red Owl Tavern attached to the hotel is a a wonderful place for breakfast…and other meals.  But, our favorite was breakfast.  The eggs were light and fluffy, and the turkey sausage was the perfect complement.  We also ate there for dinner, and the Seafood Bouillabaisse was delicious.  Marc had key lime pie cheesecake for dessert, and raved about it.  And, Seth and I got addicted to their ice tea — served with Stevia — a welcome natural sweetener.  Service was excellent, and it has a comfortable, casual vibe.

Aside from the Liberty Bell, The United States Mint, and Simeone Car Museum (my son loves cars), highlights for us included The Franklin Institute, Eastern State Penitentiary and the Philadelphia Zoo. Each was highly impressive — even more so than I anticipated.

The Franklin Institute is a must-see destination, especially if you have kids, and it’s great on a steamy day to be able to spend time indoors — you can make a full day of it or at least an afternoon.  The Franklin Institute has 12 core exhibit galleries, with many interactive opportunities. This summer, they are featuring two exhibitions, franklinlegosThe Art of the Brick and Genghis Khan: Bring the Legend to Life. If you child loves LEGO, you don’t want to miss The Art of the Brick, and adults will like it too. The brain exhibit has the most amazing indoor climbing maze, and the heart exhibit — which they are known for — is very well-presented and informative.


Al Capone’s Cell

I did not know what to expect of the Eastern State Penitentiary, and honestly, were it not for my son’s curiosity, I would likely not have chosen to visit.  But, I’m so glad we did.  It was way more interesting than I expected, including having an opportunity to see the cell where Al Capone spent many a year.  The history here is fascinating, and you are given headphones as you walk around and can hear an audio narration about the Penitentiary and what took place there.  Very well done!

The Philadelphia Zoo is one of the most appealing zoos I have visited.  There was lots to see without feeling overwhelming, and places to sit when walking grows tiresome.  Being a bird-loving family, we especially liked the lorikeet exhibit, and you have a chance to feed them.



zooapeThe Z00360 Animal Exploration Trails gives you an opportunity to get up close to some animals, and it was a particular thrill to rub noses, so to speak with a gorilla.





Note: Thanks to the Hotel Monaco for the one night stay and media rate, and we were given tickets through PHILADELPHIA PASS for the featured attractions.  Thanks also to Ride the Ducks for arranging.

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