Parents are always telling their kids not to do things: Even when “no” isn’t always the best response, it’s just too hard to resist when an enticing stove, knife, or questionable pigeon is just in reach of your child’s curious hands.
So when the Instagram hype around Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia came to a fever pitch, my boyfriend, daughter, and I packed up our gear and jumped the next Amtrak to the City of Brotherly Love to experience this new-fangled children’s attraction. The prospect of a museum inviting my family to put our hands all over it was too good to miss.
When we tumbled out of our cab and onto the grand steps, everything about the place felt different than your average children’s museum. It felt old-worldy and imposing. Nothing patronizing or garishly plastic about it. (It was originally built in 1876 for the United States Centennial and World’s Fair.)
The philosophy of the museum is just as impressive as its facade. It claims to be in the business of building brains and the motto is refreshing: “where lifelong learning begins, curiosity is encouraged, and every child is always welcome.” If you’re eager to check it out with your family, here are some ways the museum is truly like nothing else out there.
1. It has all the make-believe faux-grown-up stuff your kid could want.
A tot-sized city sprawls over two floors of interactive fun to the left as you walk in the museum. Replete with a well-stocked kiddie supermarket, a hospital with MRI machines, a bistro, bus and bus stop, ice cream shop, and a metro car, it helps kids practice motor skills and gives them a glimpse into the world of adulting.
2. You can weave in a trip to the theater.
The Playhouse at the Please Touch Museum had some legitimately entertaining improv artists (yes, even for parents) who took to the stage to plenty of “oohs” and “ahs” and “he’s behind you”s from the crowd. Be ready to get in line plenty of time before the performance. It’s free with a ticket to the museum, and they have a limited number of seats.
Courtesy of Visit Philadelphia
3. Go down the rabbit hole.
My daughter’s all-time favorite part of the museum is the Alice in Wonderland section which is housed under a giant pretend tree (home to the Cheshire Cat, of course). There’s a hedge maze to navigate, a hall of mirrors filled with plenty of optical illusions, and a Fairytale Garden area for toddlers.
4. Water is a major feature.
Your kiddo can practice their STEAM skills in a mini version of Philly’s Schuylkill River that S-curves by the museum cafe (with convenient bathrooms if you have to do a quick splash change). Kids can pump, switch locks and dams to adjust water flow and play with a plethora of toy boats and ducks. The Nature’s Pond Toddler area is perfect for littler ones. The area (thankfully) comes fashioned with hand dryers and smocks to keep messes at bay.
5. It has a creative arts studio.
If you’ve got an art fiend on your hands, they’ll love this spot where kids of all ages (even adult kids) can get creative with arts and crafts materials. Keep an eye out for the art programming scheduled throughout the day.
6. Schedule-in storytime.
The museum has its own storytime cabin tucked away in the corner, filled with favorite books and a faux fireplace. If group activities are more your thing, check the schedule for read-aloud storytime or sing-songs activities that take place here, too.
- RELATED: 7 Fun Cities to Visit With Kids
7. Hitch a ride on the indoor carousel.
The Park Dentzel Carousel was once the darling of the now-no-longer Woodside Amusement Park. Over 100 years old, your child can take a spin on a piece of history by jumping on a horse, a rabbit, or even a goat. If they’re carousel-averse, there are sleigh seats that also go round and round so your $5 unlimited pass (available when you buy your museum ticket) won't go to waste.
8. It has something for history buffs.
Check out the miniature recreation of the World’s Fair (see if you can spot the very building you’re standing in), set up a wooden train set, and ring the train bell in the Centennial Exploration section.
Courtesy of Visit Philadelphia
9. It teaches your kid about money.
The brand-new Cents and Sensibility Fun with Money exhibit gets your kiddo thinking about cash-money before they can say “where’s my allowance?”
10. Stroll among corn stalks in the urban garden.
When the weather is warm enough, the cafe patio shares space with the museum’s fruit and vegetable garden (which it uses for the kitchen). Run through the canopy, check in on the tomatoes, and help your kid identify herbs by sense of smell.
11. There’s a parade everyday.
Meet at the Torch at the end of each day for the daily parade design to let every kid get in touch with their inner groove before heading home.
If you’re looking for things to do in Philadelphia or thinking of a visit with your fam, do it. (Philadelphia is home to all the good kid stuff—Franklin Institute, The Academy of Natural Sciences, a fountain you can swim in.) The trouble will be whether you can keep your kids’ hands off the next museum you visit. #sorrynotsorry
Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia hours: 9am-5pm every day except Wednesday (10am-5pm) and Sunday (11am-5pm). Tickets: $19.95; PleaseTouchMuseum.org.
- RELATED: 10 Best Vacations for Kids Under 10