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6 Must-See Museums in Philadelphia
The best museums in Philly combine history, art and family-friendly offerings.
At the National Constitution Center, you'll find an original copy of the first public printing of the Constitution.(Getty Images)
Philadelphia is a city packed with history and culture. Thankfully, curators in and around the City of Brotherly Love have worked hard to preserve some of the most important documents in our nation's history – as well as some of the finest collections of art and other cultural and scientific oddities. A tour of the museums around the city will uncover something for everyone, even the kids. Local experts let U.S. News in on which Philadelphia museums stand out among the rest.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is filled with paintings by many familiar names – Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso and more – but that just scratches the surface. Located at the southern tip of Fairmount Park, the museum has a number of other collections, featuring arms and armor, British art and architecture, and Philadelphia illustrators, as well as a 1-acre outdoor sculpture garden.
Then, of course, there are the "Rocky Steps," which had a cameo in the 1976 classic boxing movie starring Sylvester Stallone. Tourists and local workout enthusiasts alike come to the museum's east entrance – where the steps are located – and can enjoy a tremendous view down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway toward Center City. Visitors can also stand in the exact spot Rocky famously completed his run and take selfies with his bronze statue.
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The Philadelphia Museum of Art is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The main building remains open until 8:45 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays. Admission is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, $14 for youths ages 13 to 18 and students with a valid ID, and free for kids 12 and younger. The museum also has "pay as you wish days" every Wednesday from 5 to 8:45 p.m. and the first Sunday of each month from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Franklin Institute
Located just off Logan Square along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, The Franklin Institute is as much of a Philadelphia staple as cheesesteaks or soft pretzels. A popular stop for school trips, the museum has a number of famous permanent exhibits like The Giant Heart, SportsZone and Your Brain.
"I love The Franklin Institute because it's great for all ages," says Daniel Vetrano, concierge at Sofitel Philadelphia. "Their temporary exhibits are consistently outstanding."
One currently on display is Jurassic World: The Exhibition, which immerses audiences in scenes inspired by the blockbuster movie.
The Franklin Institute is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission for adults is $19.95 and $15.95 for children ages 3 to 11.
Please Touch Museum
Another great museum for kids, the Please Touch Museum is located in West Fairmount Park just off Interstate 76. The concept for the museum started as a 2,200-square-foot pilot project in 1976 at what's now the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Today, the museum resides in Memorial Hall, which served as the art gallery for the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition.
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The permanent exhibits – including a replica of the Statue of Liberty's arm and torch made out of toys and other objects, and the Please Touch Garden – can keep kids entertained for hours.
But Roshid Milledge, concierge at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, says in his experience, it's the adults who actually end up having more fun at the Please Touch Museum.
The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Adults and kids can enter for $19, while infants get in for free. If you're in the city on the first Wednesday of the month, the museum stays open a little longer, and entry is just $2 from 4 to 7 p.m.
National Liberty Museum
"What makes it stand out to me personally, it reminds me of a museum for everyday people. … It's just a really simple, unique, cool museum," Milledge says.
The museum features a lot of glass artwork, though other exhibits of note include a three-story tribute to the heroes of 9/11, the interactive Welcome to Liberty Gallery and a collection of original White House china in Liberty Hall.
The National Liberty Museum is open seven days a week, but hours vary by season. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $5 for students, $2 for children ages 5 to 17 with an adult and free for children younger than 5.
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Located on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in the University City section of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has an extensive collection of pieces from ancient Italy, Greece, Egypt and China.
One of the museum's noted attractions is the Royal Tombs of Ur. Damien Infantino, event services manager at The Inn at Penn, A Hilton Hotel, says, "That's their big collection and those were dug up in Iraq [in collaboration] with the British Museum." Currently, the Royal Tombs are not on display at the Penn Museum, though they are expected to return in April 2018.
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Infantino says the museum offers a more intimate experience than some galleries. "You can approach people, and they'll have so much more information regarding that particular piece," he explains.
General adult admission is $15, seniors pay $13, children ages 6 to 17 and full-time students with IDs pay $10, and children 5 and younger are free. Museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays and open for extended hours on the first Wednesday of each month, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
National Constitution Center
The first museum dedicated to the U.S. Constitution, the National Constitution Center was established by then-President Ronald Reagan and Congress to disseminate information about the landmark document in a nonpartisan way. It is located on the north end of Independence Mall in Old City.
"The Constitution Center is a standout museum in Old City that does a great job of delving into the many aspects of freedom in America," Vetrano says.
The center contains a number of artifacts, including an original copy of the first public printing of the Constitution – it appeared in a newspaper two days after the document was signed. One of the most popular permanent exhibits is Signers' Hall, where 42 life-size bronze statues stand, representing each of the Founding Fathers present at the signing of the Constitution in 1787.
The National Constitution Center is open Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Admission to the National Constitution Center is $14.50 for adults, $13 for seniors as well as students with an ID, $11 for kids 6 to 18 years old, and free for children 5 and younger.
To experience more of what Philadelphia has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
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