Wanted: Boston and Philadelphia Travel Tips

Photo: vera46

The boy is entering fifth-grade, which concentrates on American history (finally!). And so we are road-tripping to Boston and then Philadelphia to see what we can see. As you all have given me fantastic advice re Vegas, D.C., and Beijing, I turn to you once again for tips about things to see, do, eat, avoid, and celebrate in these two wonderful American cities. All advice appreciated; no ideas too absurd (or commonplace). I’ll send some swag to whoever supplies the most valuable tip in each city. Thanks!


The constitution center in Philly is fantastic. Must see.

Valley Forge is also good. Pretty amazing to walk up the stairs of the main house and think that you're putting your hand where Washington did every day...


1 - Castle Island and Pleasure Bay in the South Boston (http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll=37.0625,-95.677068&spn=42.174768,60.117188&z=4 ) you should definetly see! Enjoy the Logan Airport airplane landings and takeoffs!
2 - Ofcourse Harvard Yard! and Harvard Square! Enjoy the JP Licks ice cream!
have fun..


Nice. My twins are also entering 5th grade and we'll be doing Philadelphia in October. Looking forward to seeing what tips folks offer about Philly, so we can steal some of them! Here's my tip for Boston: the Freedom Trail is awesome, and can easily be walked in one day, but in order to really spend time and "absorb" all the history along the way, you might want to allow a couple of days to get it done.


Independence Hall is the obvious jumping off point, surrounded by the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross house, George Washington's recently excavated house, Elfeth's Alley, America's Oldest Street. For military history try Fort Miflin, an intact fort from the American Revolution minutes from center City or40 minutes away is Valley Forge. But for me Philly history is Ben Franklin. US History.org has a great page for Franklin history in Phila. Make sure to send a postcard from Ben Franklin's post office. The postage is canceled with a reproduction of the stamp he used, Will B Free. http://www.ushistory.org/franklin/philadelphia/index.htm


If the USS Olympia is still open in Philadelphia, definitely see that. Completely unique as a preserved ship from that time period.


The Franklin Institute in Philly is really great. They have some really good traveling-exhibits and the observatory is always fun.
They also have their, "Sports Challenge"
I haven't been to it yet, but it is supposed to be fantastic.


In Philadelphia, the historical stuff is a must see, especially for a youngster. The liberty bell, constitution center, and independence hall are favorites. You can also see Betsy Ross's house, the mint, and Christ Church where many of the founding fathers attended. Also, you've got to eat a cheesesteak obviously, the best place is Tony Luke's on Oregon Avenue. In both cities, I'd recommend seeing a baseball game, they're the two best baseball cities in the country right now. Also, I'd check out the King of Prussia mall, Penn's Landing, and all that center city has to offer.


In Philly -- Check out the National Constitution Center, Franklin Square (for Philadelphia-themed miniature golf!), the Franklin Institute, the Magic Gardens, and the Rare Book Department of the Free Library. The Mutter Museum has fantastic medical oddities.

Also, go to Franklin Fountain in Old City for a vintage ice cream experience.

Peter Glover

No trip to philly can be complete without a visit to the Mutter museum. It houses a large collection of medical oddities including the "mego colon". In terms of American history...it has part of John Wilkes Booth's brain. Just make sure you eat after (not before) your visit.


Don't miss Fenway Park for a tour and a game and Faneuil Hall. If you want to get some history for yourself, a trip to Sam Adams Boston Brewery should be planned. Your son is never too young to learn where great beer comes from.
Visit the Boston Public Library (and its murals), Trinity Church, and Beacon Hill. While on Beacon Hill, take a look/tour of the State House, designed by Charles Bullfinch.


As has already been mentioned, the Freedom Trail in Boston is practically must-see for history. If you want something a little more off the beaten path, though (i.e.: not as clogged by busloads of camera-wielding tourists), I would suggest the JFK museum; you can also visit the house in which he grew up in Brookline. Salem is a good spot, especially if your son has studied the Salem witch trials at all. And then for the baseball enthusiast, there are fantastic tours of Fenway Park loaded with historical fact (and local lore...depending on which tour guide you get). Even if you're not baseball fans you'll probably still enjoy the tour; my wife isn't a huge fan but she loved it.

Jim Kimmel

Philly tips: Don't ride the Ducks. Definitely spend time at Independence Hall (do the tour!), the Liberty Bell (check out the Presidential House excavation if you can see any of it), Constitution Center, etc. Eat at City Tavern (Colonial Food/atmosphere). Definitely drive out to Valley Forge and see the park/tour the information center....


For Philadelphia,
(1) Eastern State Penitentiary tour (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_State_Penitentiary)
(2) Mutter Museum of medical oddities (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%BCtter_Museum)
(3) Scavenger hunt for Toynbee tiles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toynbee_tiles)


For a historical perspective of Boston, you can walk the Freedom Trail (a red line around the city that takes you to various historical sites). The Duck Tours also take you by many of the locations for a quicker spin and generally have entertaining guides. Outside the city, you can visit the Revolutionary War sites at Concord and Lexington, and visit Thoreau's home at Walden Pond. In Salem, you can learn about the witch trials and see the House of Seven Gables that Hawthorne wrote about. To go further back in time, you can learn about the Pilgrims at Plimoth Plantation or in Provincetown (both a bit of a trek from the city, though).

Other fun activities: the Museum of Science, a meal in the North End (old Italian neighborhood), walking through the Public Garden, or a Red Sox game. Enjoy your visit!


I have some restaurant recommendations for you.

Boston: Kingfish Hall

Philly: White Dog Cafe, Monk's Cafe


Definitely worth scheduling the Old North Church behind the scenes tour. You can go in for free and see the inside of the church, but if you schedule the behind the scenes tour (only a few bucks) you can climb to the bell tower, see where Paul Revere worked as a bellringer while a child, and where he climbed to hang the famed lanterns. You also get to see the crypt, and get a guided tour of the public spaces. Really interesting stuff.


Philadelphia historical scavenger hunts for kids (maybe Boston too):


After you've had enough of the freedom trail and colonial history, take the water taxis near the aquarium out to Georges Island and Fort Warren. This is an old civil war era fort that was used as a POW camp during the civil war. Great view of the Boston skyline, as well.


If you're only looking for history-related sites/sights then the suggestions already made are top-notch. Philly has really made an excellent destination out of the things that we were dragged to as kids for class trips. Definitely hit http://constitutioncenter.org and see Freedom Rising. Go to Independence Hall. See the Liberty Bell. Good stuff.

If you're interested in other activities too then I would recommend http://muralarts.org/tour (we recently took the trolley tour of North Philly and *loved" it), http://www.usmint.gov/mint_tours/?action=philadelphia (self-guided, so lots of reading), and http://www.herrs.com/SnackFactoryTours.html (if you have a car + extra time). There's always http://www.philadelphiazoo.org, too.



In Boston:

The Fogg Art Museum on the campus of Harvard is a gem, although maybe not for a rising fifth-grader.

The Bunker Hill Monument Park (nice diorama of the battle scene and a climb up the monument tower) and the USS Constitution might be more attractive.

The observation deck of the Prudential Center (a/k/a, The Pru) on clear day.

A duck-boat tour.