Philadelphia, proud of her rich history and diverse culture, is home to countless museums, galleries and historic places to visit. The city is so thick with museums, in fact, that choosing which one to visit can be a daunting task, especially if time is limited. While many of the city’s painstakingly curated collections are noteworthy, there are a handful of museums — like these five — that simply shouldn’t be missed. The venues named here are in no particular order and are by no means the only ones that belong on this list, but we only had room for five. Please feel free to add your recommendations in the comments section. Note: It’s best to check online for hours and admission prices for each museum before heading out, as they are subject to change. It’s also worthy to note that many Philly area museums offer free or pay-as-you-go admissions on specially designated days throughout the year.
The Franklin Institute
222 North 20th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
The Franklin Institute is the consummate museum-field trip destination for Philadelphia area students and one of the most popular destinations in the city for families. Most of the exhibits are interactive and hands-on, and there is something for every age. One cannot visit the Franklin Institute without checking out – and walking through — the Giant Heart exhibit, and the planetarium and IMAX theaters also draw crowds. In addition to the dozen or so permanent exhibits, visitors to the Franklin Institute are treated to new, traveling exhibits each year.
Independence Seaport Museum
Philadelphia’s Independence Seaport Museum captures one of Philadelphia’s most defining characteristics – its waterfront. This museum holds an array of permanent exhibits as well as some that change regularly. From nautical art to interactive exhibits and workshops, as well as two historic ships to explore – one the oldest steel warship still afloat anywhere in the world and the other a WWII submarine – this museum is truly one-of-a-kind. In addition to the museum itself, the venue offers camps, field trip opportunities and other enrichment opportunities for children and adults, including the opportunity to actually take to the water in a rented kayak, tandem kayak or rowboat.
Related: Top Museums For Kids In Philadelphia
National Constitution Center
525 Arch St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
No visit to Philadelphia is complete without stopping by Independence Hall to see the spot where 56 courageous men came together in defiance of the crown to sign the Declaration of Independence, and there is no better way to round out the experience than following up with a visit to the venue’s partner, the National Constitution Center. This museum, the first in our nation dedicated to the constitution, takes the experience to the next level with interactive exhibits and theatrical performances. This museum is ideal for individuals, families and groups wanting to learn more about the constitution, and the museum is a favorite field trip destination among educators as it brings the constitution to life for students through hands-on experiences and follow up materials for the classroom. In addition to group tours, the museum offers programs, workshops and webinars that are tailored to educators and legal professionals.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Known the world over for that iconic staircase showcased in the movie “Rocky,” the Philadelphia Museum of Art is tops on many must-see lists. Once the urge to recreate famous movie scenes with the museum as a backdrop has been satisfied, visitors are sure to be just as pleased with the indoor attractions. With collections comprised of more than 227,000 pieces, the paintings, drawings, prints, and decorative arts in the museum’s main building alone attract tens of thousands of visitors each year, and for those wanting more, this venue doesn’t disappoint. In addition to the main building on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the museum includes the Rodin Museum – also on the Parkway – which is home to an extensive collection by French sculptor Auguste Rodin, and just across the street from the main building, the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building holds the museum’s library which includes over 200,000 books and periodicals.
Please Touch Museum
4231 Avenue of the Republic
Philadelphia, PA 19131
The young and young-at-heart love Philadelphia’s Please Touch Museum. Housed in Fairmount Park’s Memorial Hall, this venue offers the ultimate in hands-on learning and exploring. Not only are children allowed to touch the exhibits, they are encouraged to do so. With over 38,000 square feet and half-a-dozen interactive exhibit zones to explore, there is no shortage of potential for learning something new with each visit. A popular destination year-round for families, the Please Touch Museum has something for everyone, including the opportunity to ride the museum’s famous Woodside Park carousel, a century-old, fully refurbished, and completely accessible relic of days gone by.
Christy Ayala covers sports, recreation, the outdoors, and leisure activities in the Philadelphia area. She earned a masters degree in recreation administration from George Williams College and managed programs in the Midwest, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.