DSC 0914With its history, its cultural and that statue of Rocky, Philadelphia is high on the list of “must see” destinations when it comes to family travel. And sure, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the country’s first zoo are all good reasons to travel to my hometown. But this year is poised to be the best year ever for visitors here. Check out these attractions – all new or returning favorites – and then schedule a visit to the City of Brotherly Love:

1) The winter and spring exhibits at The Franklin Institute. Okay, total disclosure – my kids love the Franklin Institute so much, we’re members. Where else can they create their own weather, engineer a locomotive, or walk through a giant heart? But this winter and fall, The Franklin Institute is bringing on the kid-appeal in a big way. Like, as big as a T-Rex! Giant Mysterious Dinosaurs are lurking in the Mandell Center at the Franklin in the form of the largest collection of dinosaur skeletons assembled. Visitors can examine the skeletons, view robotic dinosaurs and find fossils in the hands-on dig pit. The exhibit will be around until April 15 (I guess tax day is scary for prehistoric reptiles,too).

If you miss that exhibit, your little history buffs may enjoy May’s showing of The Dead Sea Scrolls, with a display of the 2000 year old documents. More than 500 artifacts from the Biblical to the Byzantine Period in Israel are also featured. More into present-day endeavors? Design your own skate ramp, dance routine or roller coaster at The Design Zone through April 1.

2) The Academy of Natural Sciences turns 200. Hey, we love a birthday, and this is one worth celebrating. Beginning March 24, the birthday exhibit The Academy at 200: The Nature of Discovery will allow visitors to discover how scientists discover new species, learn how humans are impacting their environment and find out how to help the Academy fulfill its mission to shape a sustainable future. And there will be cake on opening day! Also check out the regular exhibits, including life size dioramas of animals in their environment and the live animal center.

3) Philly history will come alive beginning in May, when The Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent reopens after renovations. In the Main Gallery, a giant floor map of the city will detail the journey from the Liberty Bell to soft pretzels, highlighting all those beloved Philly icons. My boys, who are big Eagles and Phillies fans, can’t wait to check out Played in Philadelphia, which explores the culture of Philadelphia fandom. Other exhibits are under development, but are sure to please history buffs, sports fans and everyone else!

4) Want to see fireworks of the very artistic kind? Bring the kids to Longwood Gardens to see the very first American showing of Light: The Art of Bruce Munro. Munro is a renown British light designer, and his work will shed new light on the indoor and outdoor gardens beginning June 9. Kids will also be enthralled by the heights of the treehouse area, the buzzings at the Bee-Amazed Children’s Garden and the honeycomb maze of hexagonal rooms.

5) Or, if you’re interested in that other Bruce, check out the latest exhibit at the National Constitution Center. Bruce Springsteen will be returning to the streets of Philadelphia, through the exhibit From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen. We were fortunate enough to see this exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, and my sons and I are so excited to see the family photos, handwritten lyrics, and guitar collection – among other things – that detail the Boss’s evolution from Jersey shore singer to American Icon. Other American icons – including the Constitution itself – are also spotlighted, and the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are within walking distance, making this a perfect day trip location.