Philadelphia has some of the finest museums in the country. It is a very easy city to visit with plenty of parking, good public transportation and streets that are easy to find and to navigate. Unlike most big cities getting around in Philadelphia is not difficult at all. Here are a few of my favorite museums to visit alone or with the family.
This is more than just a museum it is a sound and light show within a museum. You are taken on a journey through the history of the American Revolution and beyond to the writing of the Constitution in the show called “Freedom Rising”. After the show, you visit the museum where you get to walk among life-size statues of the men who drafted the Constitution. The surprise is who is there and who isn’t.
Children will love being able to walk into a voting booth and actually place a vote. The three branches of government are explained in detail in an interesting and interactive fashion. The museum is filled with fascinating exhibits, allow two hours to see the show and view the hands-on exhibits. This museum will be interesting for adults and children. Entrance fee charged.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The front of this building is one of the most recognizable buildings in Philadelphia thanks to the movie Rocky. The actual entrance is on the other side of the building. The Phlash bus will drop you off right at the museum or they do have limited parking available. Sundays are free, well not exactly free they want a donation, you get to pick the amount. Headphone tours are offered ($) including the director's tour which highlights the director's favorite pieces.
This is a world-class art museum with fantastic old world master, impressionist, sculpture including a very famous bust of Benjamin Franklin. I love the rooms that have been preserved from houses both in this country and Europe. The grandchildren loved the oriental art and the Temple of the Attainment of Happiness. There are special programs offered for children, a visit to their website will tell you exactly what is being offered and when. Two very good restaurants and a great gift shop complete a visit here. Allow several hours minimum.
The History Museum of Philadelphia
This is a small museum near Independence Park that tells the history of Philadelphia through her people and not just the famous ones. This is a museum of immigration and industrialization. You get a good look at what has made Philadelphia into the city it is today. This goes way beyond the twenty or so years of the American Revolution. It includes exhibits on the Native Americans and a very interesting Rogues Gallery of photos. One of its treasures is a complete collection of the Saturday Evening Post illustration by Norman Rockwell. Allow about an hour, there is an entrance fee.
Franklin Museum of Science
If you are visiting Philadelphia with children this is a must-see museum. Not to imply that adults won’t find it interesting but children will be in their glory. There is a planetarium, an IMAX theater and exhibits that run the gamut from a heart that can be walked through to the latest in NASA technology. Want to know what you will look like when you are 90? This is the place to see your transformed image. Some exhibits constantly change so this never gets old. Allow 3-4 hour or more for a visit. The Phlash bus has a stop right across the street.
Academy of Natural Science
This is another Museum that will fascinate children. They can see the first mounted dinosaur skeleton, dig for fossils or if they want to have a good laugh, get eaten by a dinosaur. There is a theater with a live animal presentation, the last time we were there , it was some very large snakes. There are also displays of stuffed animals as well as a section with live animals. Allow an hour or two for this museum, even the tweens loved it. Entrance fee
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
This is one of my favorite museums. It has wonderful Moorish architecture and some very fine works of art. Docent lead tours are offered and they are very interesting. We were the only ones on our tour so it was very personal. You can also choose to take a headphone tour. Expect to be delighted with the great collection of American paintings by the likes of Gilbert Stuart, the Peales, Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins and much, much more. There is a monumental painting by Benjamin West that will greet you as you walk up the stairs. Allow an hour, more if you enjoy American artists. Or if a special exhibit is going on. Entrance fee.
College of Physicians and Surgeons
If you are traveling with teens or tweens this is a must. It has the greatest collection of weirdly fascinating medical information that I have ever seen. Want to see Eng and Chang’s shared liver? It’s here. Grover Cleveland’s tumor, yes it’s here too. There are cases of all sorts of body parts, limbs, internal organs, skulls and skin. It’s gross, the kids will love it. Plan to spend at least an hour maybe more. Entrance fee.
The next time you visit Philadelphia allow some time to visit her many museums. This article is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what is waiting. After many visits, I am still discovering new museums to visit on every trip.