Baby’s Test Flight brought us to America’s First Capital City
Here we go, our first foray into “Family Travel”! Our son, Liam, is 8 weeks old and we took him on a little adventure before I return to work from maternity leave. The birthplace of America seemed a good place to start. An easy 1 hr. 40 min. flight was great practice and he handled it like a champ; I guess he’s a keeper.
Sites in Downtown Philadelphia
America’s founding city has so much to offer. What really made it a great city for baby’s first trip was that it was so walkable.
Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell
Originally the Pennsylvania State House, Independence Hall was suitably renamed as it is the true birthplace of America. This is where many familiar historical figures (Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Franklin, Hancock, etc.) gathered to establish and sign the Declaration of Independence as well as our Constitution.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”Declaration of Independence snippet
Tours of Independence Hall are free, but definitely make a $1.50 pp reservation in advance to guarantee your spot. It was 30 minutes in duration and the tour guides really made the building and our forefathers come back to life! (Quite stroller friendly as well, only 5 steps in/out of the building.)
The Liberty Bell previously resided in the tower of Independence Hall and famously chimed on the day that the Declaration of Independence had its first public reading on July 8, 1776. It’s well recognized crack has been there since first arriving to Pensylvania (the correct spelling at the time.) The last time it chimed was in 1846 in celebration of George Washington’s birthday. That chime caused the mended break to crack again, irreparably.
There aren’t formal tours of the Liberty Bell, you simply wait in line (free) to access the building in which it is housed. (Or, if you prefer, there’s a window on the east side of the building that you can view the bell without waiting.)
After our tour, we went to the Independence Beer Garden for surprisingly affordable food and drinks in a great atmosphere.
The Wanamaker Building
A must see. Walk into the “lobby” to find the most incredible organ; made up of over 28,000 pipes! Macy’s currently fills many of the floors of this building.
Betsy Ross House
En route to Elfreth’s Alley from Independence Hall you’ll pass Betsy Ross’s house. Spoiler alert, while she was commissioned to sew over 50 flags by the US government, there’s no evidence that she truly created the FIRST American flag.
One of our country’s oldest and largest markets, there’s coming for everyone! This is a great spot to try local favorites.
If you don’t pick up a Cheesesteak in the Market, or wait in the long lines at Gino’s or Sonny’s, we enjoyed Jim’s Steaks on South St. The staff was especially friendly as well.
Check their event calendar for the dates of your trip to see if there are any festivities in the park. We had the chance to wander and admire some incredible artisans’ work at the Fine Craft Fair.
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
An interesting stop. After finding it had an entry fee of $10 per person though, we opted to just peek in from the street.
When William Penn drafted the city plans for Philadelphia, he saved plenty of room for the city center buildings. City Halls would not be completed for 200 years after his plans, but it now stands as the largest municipal building in the country! It’s an architectural treasure and well worth a visit.
The oldest residential street in America where tenants still reside today is Elfreth’s Alley. It’s a short walk from Independence Hall so it is definitely worth the visit.
Exploring Philadelphia’s Surrounding Area with Baby in Tow
Valley Forge National Park is where George Washington’s troops camped during the Revolutionary War, in the winter of 1777-1778 when conditions were too harsh to resume fighting. It’s location gave the army a strong vantage point on a hill as well as proximity to British-held Philadelphia which could be reached in a single day on foot.
It is a free park about 45-60 minutes outside of Philadelphia. You should plan for approximately 2-3 hours to visit (depending on whether you want to explore the full Visitor Center Museum.) We enjoyed their informational video in the theater before taking the Cell Phone Tour at our own pace which is ideal when traveling with a baby. After grabbing a park map from the counter, we dialed 484-396-1015 for information at each of the stops within the massive park to hear a description of its significance.
Traveling with Kids Tip: We learned a valuable parenting lesson during this tour to never go anywhere without spare clothes. 40 minutes into our tour his blowout left him in nothing but his skivvies in the stroller for the remainder of our tour.
One notable stop on our way to the park was Tired Hands Fermentaria (& Brewery) in Ardmore, PA. Their food was outstanding and we liked every beer we sampled.
Exploring Baltimore, Maryland with Baby
About 90 minutes from Philadelphia (without traffic), Baltimore is another early American city with fascinating history.
It was the city with the first: Post Office, Telegraph Line (from D.C.), Dental School, Catholic Cathedral, and the first bloodshed of the Civil War during riot downtown. It is the place where Francis Scott Key wrote our National Anthem, while captive on a British ship in the harbor, watching the attack on Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. The city served as the 2nd largest port of entry into the US for immigrants in the 1800s.
After many of our friends advised not to stray far from the Inner Harbor for safety reasons, we spent most of our day there before checking out Fort McHenry.
You can’t leave Maryland without having crab cakes! They are super overpriced on the harbor, but about a one mile walk up the north side of the harbor we found Bertha’s. They had great Crab Cake and Mussels too! Plus, they are in a quaint little neighborhood called Fells Point.
Day Trip to Jersey
Baby’s First Boardwalk
Since we were touring with a baby in a stroller, daytime was our preferred time to see the historic Atlantic City Boardwalk. We enjoyed finding remnants of what the boardwalk was like in its golden age; Prohibition in the 1920s.
Our son got to dip his toes in the sand and ocean for the first time too!
We started off at the very point of South Jersey, where we found Cape May light house and a state park. On the beach is a WWII bunker that guarded the mouth of the Delaware River.
Cape May was such a captivating little town. I got some retail therapy in their downtown shopping area while Troy pushed Liam around for a stroller nap.
Interesting New Jersey laws we came across:
- It is unlawful to pump your own gas. Attendants are readily available at all gas stations. It is the last state in the US to have this law.
- Breweries are required to show their customers their equipment before serving them any of their beer.