Indianapolis and Philadelphia
Hit the Streets Who would have thought that the Indianapolis Children's Museum is the largest in the world? Plan to spend the whole day there checking out its five levels with 15-plus exhibit areas (including ones on dinos and trains). And there's something for grown-ups to look at too: A special Avatar exhibit is coming to the museum from June 22 to September 22, with props and costumes from the popular film ($18.50 for adults, $13.50 for kids ages 2 to 17, free for younger kids). For car lovers of any age, race to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, which has 75 cars on display ($5 for 16 and up, $3 for kids ages 6 to 15, free for younger kids). Often overlooked by tourists who focus on White River State Park downtown, Indianapolis also has an art and nature park called 100 Acres. "It's free and you can take in some fantastic art while your children have fun climbing on the 20 fiberglass benches that make up the 'Funky Bones' sculpture or swinging from a giant-chopstick sculpture," says local mom Lindsay Parker Williams.
Hit the Sheets Families flock to the Omni Severin Hotel, which greets tiny travelers with a backpack filled with games and crafts and delivers milk and cookies to their room. (Rates for a room with two queen beds, including breakfast and tickets to the family-friendly Indianapolis Zoo, start at $159 per night; omnihotels.com.) Or consider staying at the SpringHill Suites Downtown, which offers free breakfast, family board games in the lobby, and balloons at check-in. (Rates for rooms with two queen beds start at $129 per night. Get a 15 percent discount with promo code P91; marriott.com.)
Hit the Streets Start with the historic attractions because you can't see those anywhere besides Philly. Make your home base the National Constitution Center, which has hands-on exhibits and ever-changing kid programming ($14.50 for adults, $13 for kids 13 to 18, $8 for kids 4 to 12, free for younger kids). From there, walk two blocks to see the Liberty Bell; displays include an X-ray of the famous crack. Betsy Ross's House is also nearby, where kids will learn about the famous flagmaker's life and meet a woman pretending to be Betsy herself ($5 for 12 and up, $4 for younger kids). If you have children age 7 and under, plan to visit the Please Touch Museum, a lovingly restored children's museum that's home to a railway exhibit ($16 for kids and adults, free for babies under 1). Have older kids? Then opt for The Franklin Institute, where a giant walk-through heart, a sports challenge, and a new spy exhibit will blow their minds ($16.50 for 12 and up, $12.50 for kids ages 3 to 11, free for younger kids). You'll also enjoy the Philadelphia Zoo's new KidZooU, a combo wildlife academy and petting zoo that's filled with interactive features ($20 for 12 and up, $18 for kids ages 2 to 11, free for younger kids). End your visit with a trip to a local fave: Philadelphia's Magic Gardens dishes out funky folk-art fun for the whole family ($7 for 13 and up, $3 for kids ages 6 to 12, free for younger kids).
Hit the Sheets In the heart of downtown, the Loews Philadelphia Hotel caters to families with loaner baby gear, childproofing kits, and healthy kid menus. (Newly renovated rooms with two queen beds start at $179 per night. Get a 10 percent discount by using the promo code READER; loewshotels.com.) The Rittenhouse Hotel greets kids with a toy from its treasure chest. Stop by the lobby on Fridays and Saturdays from 2 to 6 P.M. for free chocolate-covered strawberries, cookies, and champagne. (Rooms with two queen beds start at $249 per night. Use the promo code N28C for a 10 percent discount; rittenhousehotel.com.)
Originally published in the August 2013 issue of Parents magazine. This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and availabilities are subject to change. Please contact each hotel and attraction for up-to-date rates and information before taking your trip.