When a day without a music lesson, soccer game, dance class, or scout meeting presents itself, Philly parents must be ready with ways to keep the kids entertained. Thankfully, the Delaware Valley offers an abundance of day trip options for Philly families. From amusement parks to educational museums to outdoor gardens, there is something for everyone. We have rounded up some of our very favorite day trip destinations. Read through our list to find some ideas for your next day trip, and don't forget to share this post with a friend who might need inspiration of their own.
Lancaster County, PA
Drive about 90 minutes from Center City and escape to the time of horse and buggies in Amish County. Families can take an Amish farmhouse and village tour which includes seeing a one room schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, and farm at The Amish Village. Stop by Lancaster Central Market for delicious eats. After refueling, visit Strasburg Railroad to see the trains, The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania to learn about locomotive history, and consider extending the stay with an overnight at The Red Caboose Motel.
Photo courtesy of The Amish Village
History buffs are sure to enjoy a visit to Gettysburg. Start at the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center to see the cyclorama film which gives guests an overview of the 1863 battle. Families can then take a guided tour with a park ranger or chose to do a self-guided tour. Be sure to visit the National Cemetery to see where Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address. Head into town ad you might be lucky enough to see Abraham Lincoln going for a stroll.
The state capitol is always a great, educational experience for elementary age children through young adults.However, there is more to Harrisburg than just politics. Take in a show at Popcorn Hat Players Children's Theater, learn about firefighting at The PA National Fire Museum, or see how chocolate is made at Hershey Park, the sweetest place on Earth.
Lehigh Valley, PA
Just over an hour's drive north from Center City, the Lehigh Valley offers families plenty of fun. Kids can participate in hands-on scientific exploration at Da Vinci Science Museum, see the animals at the Lehigh Valley Zoo, take in a minor league baseball game to see the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (oink, oink), or see how crayons are made at the Crayola Experience.
Photo courtesy of Crayola Experience
For city dwellers, this may not fall in the day trip category. However, for those living in the suburbans, the City of Brotherly Love is a wonderful excursion. Filled with amazing museums, a phenomenal zoo, and unique gardens, the city offers plenty of options for even the pickiest cherub. And of course Philadelphia is a town brimming with history so be sure to check out the Liberty Bell, Once Upon a Nation Benches, Independence Hall, Benjamin Franklin Museum, and Betsy Ross House. If you're looking to have fun on a budget, be sure and check out some of our favorite Philly finds that are free.
Preschoolers are sure to love a sunny day visit to Sesame Place. Filled with all the familiar characters found in the beloved children's television show, this amusement park leaves kids squealing with delight. The park features 11 amusement park rides, theater shows, special character dining, and parades. If visiting in warm weather, don't forget to pack a bathing suit to partake in the water park offerings. Sesame Place also just became the world's first theme park to be named a Certified Autism Center so for families looking for low sensory fun and trained staff to help kids make the most of the day, this is a great option.
A short ride south takes Philly families to The First State in the country, Delaware. In the city of Wilmington, visitors can find lots of entertainment. Younger children can explore the hands-on Delaware Children's Museum or see a kid-friendly show at The Delaware Children's Theatre. Sports lovers can watch a minor league baseball game at Blue Rocks Stadium, play a round of mini-golf on the Riverfront, or try Bump and Play soccer. Budding artists can be inspired at the Delaware Art Museum or the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts.
You can be in Baltimore in under two hours, giving you the whole day to explore charm city. Stick to tourist favorites and hit up the Inner Harbor to visit the Baltimore Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, and grab a bite to eat at the Rusty Scupper for classic Maryland crab cakes. If you like to go off the beaten path, check out Remington for fine and modern art either at the Baltimore Art Museum or in the public art popping up around the neighborhood. Stay for some of the best eats in town, including the original Ace of Cakes where kids can take cake-decorating classes from the pros every Saturday! Visit Sandlot for a unique outdoor dining experience where kids can get in some beachy sand fun or head to Druid Hill to check out the zoo and conservatory.
Cross over the bridge for some fun in The Garden State. Camden's Adventure Aquarium is the perfect place for children to see sharks, penguins, eels, terrapins, stingrays, and frogs. Get outside and wander through the beautiful Camden Children's Garden making sure to see the butterflies, take a ride on the carousel, and see Storybook Garden. Afterwards, those interested in history can explore the Battleship New Jersey and its museum. Extend the fun by participating in an overnight onboard the vessel.
Photo courtesy of Camden Children's Garden
West Berlin, NJ
Does your kid know the difference between an excavator and a backhoe? Then, Diggerland should be a must-do for your little builder. Just a few minutes past Camden, families can find an amusement park unlike any other. Family-run and operated, Diggerland offers rides such as Argo Off Road, Mini-Diggers: Treasure, Operation Battle Trucks, and Elevation Station. There are special abilities nights offered throughout the year too!
Once you have cleaned the dirt from Diggerland out of the car, get ready for sand at the Jersey Shore! Of course, playing in the waves and building sand castles is always fun. But, consider visiting Lucy the Elephant on the Atlantic City boardwalk and seeing the animals at the Atlantic City Aquarium or Popcorn Park Zoo. Kids under 10 are sure to love a trip to Storybook Land, filled with fairy tale characters, rides, food, and special events.
New York City
Getting out of Philly and into the big apple is easy, the hard part is choosing where to go once you arrive. To make the most of your day trip, pick a neighborhood that is easy to get in from the highway, like Brooklyn where you could spend a day playground hopping in Prospect Park. Or go for a classic experience at Coney Island if you are up for a slightly longer drive. The museums in New York are some of the best in the country, so if you are looking for a cultural experience, we love the kid-friendly American Museum of Natural History, or select from dozens of kid-friendly plays.
Updated June 2019.