For a declaration of fun, the place is Philadelphia

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Philadelphia offers an abundance of family attractions, many of which prove the adage "learning can be fun."

The many historic sites, attractions and museums bring history to life before your eyes. Philadelphia offers an authentic memorable learning experience for everyone in your family.

Within a two-hour drive of Baltimore, Philadelphia's fascinating history is something every family should explore.

What to do

Independence Visitor Center (Sixth and Market streets, 800-537-7676) is a great place to begin your visit. Across from the new Liberty Bell Center, the Visitor Center offers information on more than 4,000 regional attractions. Historical characters greet visitors, and there are interactive exhibits and video presentations.

Independence National Historical Park is the area that encompasses more than a dozen of the nation's most historic attractions. This one-square-mile area includes the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Congress Hall, Old City Hall, Second Bank of the United States, Carpenters' Hall, City Tavern, Benjamin Franklin Post Office, Christ Church and Christ Church Burial Ground, where Ben Franklin is buried. Free timed tickets are available for tours of the historic buildings by calling 800-967-2283.

National Constitution Center (525 Arch St., 215-409-6600) is the only museum in the world dedicated to honoring the U.S. Constitution. Take the presidential oath of office and sign today's Constitution on your visit.

Lights of Liberty Show (Sixth and Chestnut streets, 877-GO-2-1776) takes visitors on a moonlit walking journey to relive the American Revolution with five-story projection screens and 3-D sound heard through individual headsets. Listen to rifles, cannons and the words of Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Abigail Adams. Adult and child headsets are available. Whoopi Goldberg narrates the children's version.

The Franklin Institute Science Museum (222 N. 20th St. 215-448-1200) features a full city block of kid-friendly exhibits. There is an IMAX theater, planetarium and 3-D theater. The Sports Challenge is an exhibit held in an arena setting, and Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition is a traveling exhibit at the Franklin Institute through Jan. 2. Visitors will view more than 300 original Titanic artifacts, meet the passengers and crew through written passages and touch an iceberg.

Ride the Ducks (Sixth and Chestnut streets, 215-227-DUCK): Just like the Duck tours offered in Baltimore, the Philadelphia Duck tour is a great way to experience the city on land and sea. The ride takes you through the Old City, the South Street Shopping District, along the Delaware River and past Betsy Ross' House.

Philadelphia Museum of Art (26th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 215-763-8100) offers visitors a tour of one of the finest collections of art in the country. Sunday is pay-what-you-wish day.

The Betsy Ross House (239 Arch St, 215-686-1252): Visit this Colonial home of Betsy Ross, who sewed the first American flag at the request of Gen. George Washington.

Elfreth's Alley (Second Street between Arch and Race streets, 215-574-0560) is the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the United States. It is a quaint cobblestone alley located in Old City.

Where to shop

South Street (South Street between 10th and Front streets): Nearly 150 stores, boutiques and galleries encompass this hip and eclectic eight-block area.

Bourse (111 S. Independence Mall East, 215-625-0300): This Victorian building near the Liberty Bell is a great place to purchase souvenirs. The large food court is a terrific spot to take a break while touring the Historical Park area.

King of Prussia Mall (160 N. Gulph Road, 610-265-5727) is about 25 minutes from downtown Philadelphia in King of Prussia, but it is worth the trip. There are eight major department stores, including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale's. There are more than 365 specialty shops and 40 restaurants and eateries. No tax on clothing is an added bonus.

Where to eat

Jones (700 Chestnut St., 215-223-5663): One of famed Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr's places, Jones is decorated in a retro '70s style reminiscent of the Brady Bunch house. The menu offers "American Comfort Food," which includes a variety of seafood entrees and a side of homemade macaroni and cheese. Jones offers a varied choice of desserts, including chocolate shish kabobs, assorted chocolate desserts (brownies, truffles, cookies) served on a skewer with peanut butter and raspberry dipping sauces.

Cuba Libre (10 S. Second St., 215-627-0666): Enjoy a tropical brunch at Cuba Libre among the palm trees on the open-air porch. Sip a cool mojito, a Cuban rum drink flavored with watermelon or passion fruit. Order the tropical fruit appetizer and enjoy the sweet papaya, mango, kiwi and passion fruit as you await your main entree. Open for brunch and dinner. Monday evenings, Chef Guillermo Veloso offers a tasting menu featuring 33 tastes for $33.

Jon's Bar and Grille (Third and South streets, 215-592-1390): Enjoy lunch while taking in all the South Street sights. This establishment's claim to fame is that Larry Fine, one of the Three Stooges, was born in the building that is now Jon's. Fine's face is everywhere - on menus and painted on the building and on inside murals. The menu has everything from burgers and pizza to pasta and fajitas. Try the Pretzerellas, a mozzarella stick with pretzel coating (you are in Philadelphia!) served with spicy mustard.

Jim's Steaks (400 South St., 215-928-1911): The line around Jim's Steaks is never-ending. However, it moves quickly, and everyone in line agreed the celebrated cheese steaks are well worth the wait.

Getting there

Philadelphia is about two hours from Baltimore. Interstate 95 north will take you directly to the South Street area of Philadelphia.

More information

Visit www.gophila.com for further information or to order a visitor's guide.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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