Family travel snap: learning about prisons in Philadelphia

It's not often we talk about kids exploring prisons but this month's family travel snap is taking us on an unusual adventure. Amanda from Hot Mama Travel and her two kids tell us all about their time at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.

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What’s the story behind this photo?

It's Day 21 of our 60-day road trip across America and we're in downtown Philadelphia. After visiting all the classic sites, like the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and so on, we spotted what appeared to be a medieval castle rising from the urban jungle. When we realised it was a historic and possibly haunted prison, we couldn’t wait to get inside and explore. We soon found ourselves inside the dilapidated ruins of an old prison cell in Eastern State Penitentiary.

With their audio guides, Keeley (six) and Kevin (five) listened to captivating stories about prison life witnessed by these stone walls throughout the many decades. They were both intrigued and nervous while standing in the cell, careful not to touch the walls. This was one of the rare opportunities for our children to get a safe first-hand experience of what it’s like inside a real prison. Travel experiences like this can teach kids things they would never otherwise learn in school.

Kids’ perspective:

Keeley: 'I remember that it was rusty and we heard a lot of different stories. I wasn’t allowed to touch anything and it made me a little bit nervous, but I found it really interesting. It was also kind of sad to hear some of the stories about dead people.'

Kevin: 'I remember that if I touched something I would be kicked out. I remember pressing a button and hearing stories about the prison. It was a really cool place and I think other kids should go there.'

Amanda's tips for visiting the Eastern State with kids:

1) Prep your kids well: they will not be allowed to touch anything at all. These are historic ruins and you will have to sign a waiver before your tour because of potential exposure to hazardous materials if anything is touched. As a side note, my own kids are often touchy and a bit hyper, but they had no problem heeding this advice.

2) Bring your own snacks and water as we didn't find anywhere to buy food and drink on site.

3) If you have teenagers who like to get scared, book your trip during Halloween season to experience 'terror behind the walls'.

Where’s next on your family travel bucket list?

Hopefully Ireland and Scotland for two weeks later this year to see live music with our kids, which is kind of our shtick. We also really want to experience the Halloween activities and witch trial history in Salem, Massachusetts.

Lastly, complete the sentence:

When we shut the front door ready to go and travel as a family, we always make sure we have…

…room on our credit card!

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