Philadelphia: It’s the City of Brotherly Love and the cradle of our country’s quest for independence. Known for its rich history, thriving arts and culture scenes, and of course, those unforgettable cheesesteaks, Philadelphia has plenty to see and do. Here are a dozen of our favorite museums — some well known, others a bit more obscure, but all fantastic — worth checking out on your next trip to Philly.
Philadelphia Museum Of Art
Yes, you will walk up the 72 stairs made famous by Rocky, but that’s just the beginning of the wow factor at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The permanent collection is an absolute treasure trove, with works by Impressionist masters like Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, and van Gogh. It also includes art by the Shakers and Pennsylvania Dutch who helped settle the Philadelphia region. Rotating exhibits feature works in all mediums by artists from around the globe. Grab a bite at the Frank Gehry-designed restaurant, and make sure to stop in the gift shop!
The museum is open seven days a week, and admission costs $20.
If you’re in the mood for more art, the Rodin Museum is also a gem. It opened to the public in 1929 and features nearly 150 works by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. In fact, it’s one of the most comprehensive public collections of his artwork outside Paris. While the Philadelphia Museum of Art administers the collection, the Rodin Museum has its own distinctive feel, with its Beaux-Arts architecture and formal French garden.
The museum is open every day but Tuesday, and admission costs $10. Park in the nearby Philadelphia Museum of Art’s garage and take in both spots.
The Franklin Institute, named for and dedicated to Benjamin Franklin, America’s first scientist and Philly’s famous Founding Father, offers hands-on, experiential access to science and technology with a variety of dazzling displays and exhibits. It’s one of the leading science centers in the country, and it serves as both an educational and a cultural resource. Featuring an IMAX theater, a planetarium, live presentations, and even escape rooms, this place is the perfect combination of learning and playing and will delight budding scientists of all ages.
The Franklin Institute is open seven days a week; general admission costs $23.
Benjamin Franklin Museum
To learn even more about the life, times, and legacy of Benjamin Franklin, head to the other spot that bears his name. The Benjamin Franklin Museum is administered by the National Park Service. The exhibits are located in five rooms, with each one focusing on one of Franklin’s legendary traits. Through videos, touch-screen interactives, and artifacts, you’ll learn about the man who was a prolific writer, printer, scientist, and freedom fighter. Fun pro tip: Look for the small squirrel figurines hidden throughout the exhibit rooms. Franklin loved squirrels and kept them as pets, so this is a delightful nod to his furry friends.
The Benjamin Franklin Museum is open seven days a week; admission costs $5.
Betsy Ross House
If Benjamin Franklin is Philadelphia’s most beloved son, the city’s most beloved daughter is Betsy Ross. Learn more about the legendary seamstress who left her own indelible mark on the city by visiting her home, which has been converted into a museum. This is the spot where our country’s flag was born; Ross first stitched the stars and stripes at this 300-year-old house. The legend goes that George Washington, then the head of the Continental Army, personally asked Ross to design and sew the first American flag.
The Betsy Ross House is open daily during the spring and summer and closed Mondays during the winter. General admission costs $5. Keep in mind that, since this is a historic home, it is not entirely accessible to guests with mobility issues.
Museum Of The American Revolution
Philadelphia and its residents were central players in the American Revolution. The Museum of the American Revolution opened in 2017 to help tell the stories of those who fought in and lived through the war for American independence from the British. Of course, you’ll learn about the battles, but you’ll also learn about the ideas and people behind the war, and how they helped to form a new nation after the fighting finally stopped. Stroll through on your own, or opt for a guided tour to get the most out of your experience.
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and general admission costs $21.
Please Touch Museum
If you are traveling with little people, perhaps grandchildren, to Philadelphia, the Please Touch Museum is a must! The kids won’t be bothered by docents imploring them to keep their distance; the point of this place is to touch, feel, and sense everything on display. The museum’s two floors encourage curiosity and creativity with water adventures, pint-sized cottages and stores, a please-touch garden, and an imagination playground. Daily activities are also on offer and are free with general admission. This is a great place to roll up your sleeves, burn off a little steam, and have a terrific time!
The museum is open daily, and general admission costs $19. Be sure to take a spin on the antique carousel just outside the museum before or after your visit.
National Museum Of American Jewish History
This Smithsonian-affiliated museum, located in a contemporary building on Independence Mall, celebrates Jewish people and their culture and history in America. The exhibits and their 30,000 artifacts are carefully curated and focus on several themes, including immigration, art, charity, and civic service. The focus here is on storytelling, and the museum beautifully illustrates the choices made and challenges faced by Jewish people who decided to come to America. Be sure to check out the Only in America Gallery and its hall of fame to learn more about extraordinary individuals including Irving Berlin, Albert Einstein, Sandy Koufax, and Estée Lauder.
The museum is open every day but Monday, and admission costs $15.
Fireman’s Hall Museum
For generations, Philadelphia’s firemen have fought to keep the city — both its people and its places — safe from fire. In fact, Philadelphia is home to one of the oldest fire departments in the country, so it’s only right that it offers one of the finest museums focused on firefighting in America. Located in an old firehouse in historic Old City, the Fireman’s Hall Museum honors the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect others. The museum examines the history of firefighting in Philadelphia and houses a fascinating collection of artifacts and documents. You’ll learn more about the city’s first fire brigade, which was made possible by none other than Benjamin Franklin back in 1736. You can also try on authentic firefighting coats and boots, learn how firefighting methods have changed over the years, and see the stained glass window created to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to keep their city safe.
The museum is open from Tuesday through Saturday, and admission is free.
Opened in 1976 during the city’s bicentennial, the Mummers Museum takes a look at the mysterious and quirky club that is an enduring Philadelphia tradition. Simply put, mummers are costumed citizens who take part in a parade and ensuing antics on New Year’s Day. The tradition has ancient roots — mummers say they can trace their folk celebrations back to ancient Greek times. Europeans brought the tradition to Philadelphia when they immigrated. Today, the group is divided into different brigades for the annual strut down the streets, which tens of thousands of Philadelphians turn out for. The parade is rather similar to the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans.
This museum is worth a stop to get an insider’s glimpse at this Philadelphia tradition. It’s open year-round from Wednesday through Saturday; admission costs $5.
Ryerss Museum & Library
To take a trip back to Victorian-era Philly, consider a visit to the Ryerss Museum & Library. Joseph Ryerss built this magnificent home back in 1859, in a spot that was then considered the country. The family loved to travel and decorated their mansion with souvenirs, art, and artifacts that they brought back from their adventures. The family left the home, gardens, and library to the city of Philadelphia in 1905, and the back parts of the home were added to accommodate the collection. At the Ryerss Museum, you’ll see items from Japan, China, India, and Tibet and ceramics and marbles from all over Europe. The library is an independent circulating library where local residents can check out books.
Both the museum and library are open from Friday through Sunday, and both are free, although donations are welcome.
Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site
Edgar Allan Poe’s stories have terrified generations of readers and inspired the horror novels and films of today. He lived in Philadelphia for six years, and the home where he lived with his beloved wife is open to visitors. You can wander the rooms where he wrote and learn how he pioneered literary genres including horror, detective stories, and even science fiction.
The home is open from Friday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is free.
Photo Credits: f11photo / Shutterstock