The Absolute Best Museums in Philadelphia with Free Admission
These Free Museums in Philadelphia are a perfect option for anyone planning a short weekend getaway or even a longer vacation in Philly. Luckily, you don’t need to leave all of your wallet here, as there are lots of free activities to enjoy with your partner or your family.
Needless to say museums are a great way to find inspiration in an educational way. Especially when the weather outside is not all that pleasant. When a rainy or cold winter day doesn’t let you stay outside, museums can be such a nice retreat.
Most of the museums can normally be very expensive, especially if you have a large family. As you will see Philadelphia is loaded with Museums. You’ll be amazed as to how many of the top ones offer free admission. You just need to know when to go.
Thankfully, Philadelphia is a museum-friendly city, and its suburbs have a large number of free museums to choose from. Kids can play and learn, and adults improve their knowledge, see new things and unwind. There’s most definitely a free museum that fits everyones fancy. The best part?
They are fee-less. It’s true, not all of them have free admission every day, but as long as you know the details, you can plan ahead of time when you can visit these museums, free of charge.
From science to history to Art museums, Philadelphia has them all. Everyone can fulfill their interests, whatever their age or learning purpose. All the museums offer great exposure and learning opportunities for the visitors, however, some of them are really pricey.
This article is a compilation of free museum days and free museums in and around Philadelphia to visit, so everyone visiting the city can cross the threshold, without breaking the bank
More than 15 Philadelphia Museums to Visit for Free
Sometimes it’s hard to do research on your own. This is why we have made this work for you. As such, here is our selection of great museums you will have free access to in Philly.
Best Free Museum for Arts
Are you passionate about the arts? Then you cannot miss this magnificent gallery, where you can admire over 2,000 years of culture.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art dates from America’s first centennial in 1876 when it was first opened for the public. And since then, this museum remains the largest, yet the most impressive art gallery in the country.
You will be amazed since the entrance when you can admire the riverfront building, which is actually reminiscent of the Greek temples. Quite impressive, right? But the actual surprise comes as soon as you start visiting the Arts Museum, and the collection of over 240,000 art treasures, which come from different time periods.
You have all the movements in arts to see. Take your day and visit the 8-period rooms, upstairs, and also outdoors. Outside the building, you will get the chance to see a sculpture garden.
Of course, there are lots you should not miss as well, such as the Asian tea houses, the art deco building, but also the gallery which is dedicated all to the local Thomas Eakins.
If you don’t have much time for visiting the whole exhibition, you can get the consecutive two-day ticket, so you will know you will also see the iconic run and photo of Rocky steps and the Eagle’s Super Bowl.
Schedule: It’s always better to stay informed, so here is what you need to know about the museum’s program. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 5 pm.
Although the main building stays open until 8:45 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays. The first Sunday of every month comes with free tickets, while every Wednesday at 5 pm to close, you “pay what you wish”. During other days, the normal tickets cost $20.
Best Free Museum for Families
Are you going to town with your family and kids? Then you must find some activities that suit both the children and adults. As such, the Franklin Institute will offer the greatest chance of learning while playing. Kids are already excited?
If you are looking for a fun yet educational day, go to the Franklin Institute, and spend a whole day being amazed at the planetarium. Moreover, you have the chance to fly a Blue Angels flight simulator, hop aboard a 350-ton Baldwin steam train, and also attend a light show, while going to the Franklin Memorial.
The museum is very educational for the little ones, so they can do puzzling, even observing how doctors do a dissection of a cow’s eye. There are lots of exhibitions that change periodically, special events such as the present Game Masters exhibit, where your family can have an interactive gaming trip.
Schedule: make sure you carefully notate the program of the Franklin Museum before going in there. In order to get the tickets for free, you need to be a member, so check the website to learn how you can do it.
The Franklin Institute is open from 9:30 am to 5 pm every day. In case there are some special events on Saturday and Thursday, the last entry will be at 6:30. The usual tickets for adults are $23, while for children, the entrance fee is $19.
You must also know that tickets for special exhibits and other escape rooms will be limited, and not included in the general admission fee. As such, if you want to go to these events, purchase the tickets in advance.
A Museum Dedicated to Auguste Rodin
This museum is actually a beautiful and significant collection of Auguste Rodin’s work, from the very start of its work to the final stage of his career. We recommend you to check the Beaux-Arts Architecture, as well as the formal French Garden.
We promise you your eyes will be delighted. Maybe you will be lucky enough to catch the special events and programs of the museum, which happened during the whole year.
Schedule: The museum is open from Wednesdays to Mondays, from 10 am to 5 pm. Only the members get free entrance. The usual fee for adults is $12, and for children under 18 is free.
The Money Factory
Visiting the nation’s first ever Mint is not a dream, but a true experience to check while visiting Philadelphia. Open to the public, the United States Mint in Philadelphia offers a great history lesson about coins and the process of making them, from the very first, to the last punching.
You get a chance to do a self-guided tour, where you will have interactive features to make. As such, you can design your own coin, while monitoring it and seeing the process on an electronic display, as well as a short film.
If you are passionate about old coins, the Mint displays some rare and flawed coins as well. But you are not allowed to take any pictures, so please note this.
Schedule: The general tours are taking place from Monday to Friday, from 9 am to 4:30 pm. All tours are all free and self-guided, and the approximate time is 45 minutes. You don’t need to make reservations in advance.
Display of France’s Most Talented Artists
You don’t need to go to Paris to admire the work of the World-class Impressionists. If you want to attend an impressive gallery of masterpieces you only dreamed about, go to Barnes Foundation.
If you are passionate about French art, the Barnes’ new Spring Garden is the actual home for great masterpieces, including 69 Cezannes, a more numerous collection than in actual France.
As such, you can admire Matisse, Degas, Picasso, Degas, and Renoir. In addition, you can see the early-modern African art as well.
This museum is uniquely organized, as Albert Barnes was teaching people to view art in immediate relation to the visual experiences. As such, the museum is nicely organized by this principle, of aesthetics concepts, such as colors, light, and lines.
You won’t get to see arts by region or genre. If you want to admire the outdoor landscape, then we recommend you come on a warm day and see the gorgeous building itself. It is a masterpiece, with a glass canopy and a green roof with both aesthetic and practical use.
Schedule: If you are planning your visit to the Barnes Foundation, you should know it is open from 11 am to 5 pm from Wednesday to Monday. Tuesdays are closed. You get free entrance only on the first Sunday of every month, when we recommend you to go early, so you won’t stay at longer lines.
The usual entrance fee is $25. Special events happen every first Friday of the month when you can attend live music, special talks, and cool exhibits, as well as some nice cocktails. Don’t miss this museum if you go to Philly.
Fireman’s Hall Museum
Fireman's Hall Museum
Also, a perfect activity to have with your family, the Fireman’s Hall Museum is located in a 1902 renovated firehouse, very close to Elfreth’s Alley. Children will be so excited to see the country’s fire fighting museum and also learn about the hard work of firemen during history.
The museum is focused on preserving Philadelphia’s fire history, and also offering a lesson about fire safety. The Fireman’s Hall Museum is currently operated by the Philadelphia Fire Department and its location is on the site of Engine Company Number 8.
Visitors will get to see all the old equipment used to save lives and buildings from fire, during history. You get to see also exhibits of recreation areas in a firehouse, as well as fire chief’s room, dressing rooms, and other exhibits that actually show how firefighters spend their time fighting fires.
Schedule: The Fireman’s Hall Museum is open from Wednesday to Monday, from 11 am to 5 pm. There are lots of free events that you can find out about directly from the website.
America’s History in one Museum
Independence National Historical Park
If you are interested in America’s democracy and the history of American Independence, well, go to the Independence National Historical Park. Known as INHP, this museum sits on a historical site by default, where many of the seminal events that formed the fledgling nation took place.
Moreover, the site is significant because it helped America gain its statute as a global leader and a symbol of democratic ideals.
The Independence National Historical Park gathers some of the most important highlights of America’s Independence, such as the Congress Hall, the Liberty Bell Center, Benjamin Franklin Museum, as well as the National Constitution Center.
Most of these central places are free for visitors to explore, so you won’t spend a dollar, but improve your knowledge with such precious information
Why Go to INHP?
Well, maybe these statistics say a lot. During the years, there is a general average of 4.5 million visitors per year. People all around the world stay in line to get the chance to visit the park’s most visited and popular attraction in America.
Maybe you didn’t know yet, but at Independence Hall, in 1776, all the Founding Fathers met here to sign the Declaration of Independence. Eleven years after this moment, the representatives from lots of states came here together to write down the framework of the U.S. Constitution.
The building we discuss is the centerpiece of the Independence National Historical Park, so you can take one of the available tours and learn more about the important event in American history.
A More Spiritual Museum
This is your chance to admire the Georgian Colonial architecture, which is beautifully displayed in the Christ Church building. This place is mesmerizing, and it is surrounded by a small park, a cobblestone alley, and a tree-lined brick path, so details that will enhance the beauty of this church.
Moreover, the tower and steeple of the church made this building the tallest one until 1856. The historical charge is even more prominent, as lots of history-makers, like William Penn, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, or Betsy Ross had their home here.
However, the activity of Christ Church has not ended, but it remained an active Episcopal Church and continued to hold lots of weekly services.
Schedule and tours: the 300-plus year history building continues to have guided tours, where people can learn about the important role of this church during the American Revolution.
The church welcomes its visitors during normal operating hours, but they can vary sometimes, depending on each day of the week. We would recommend anyone to check the official website first, for getting more information about admission fees, as well as the current hours.
In order to have a beautiful walk too, guests who come to Christ Church can purchase their very own map, as well as the guides that are available for the 20-minute tours.
A Lesson about Architecture
This building was actually completed in September 1774, the year when it hosted the First Continental Congress.
Ok, but how did everything start and how was the Carpenter’s Hall created? Well, everything started with Benjamin Franklin, who wanted an architect to build his future house. So he called Robert Smith, from Carpenter’s Company to master the future building. This talented architect-designed even the headquarters of the Carpenters’ Hall.
Let’s get to know more about the Carpenters’ Company. The company was founded in 1724, in Philadelphia, and the main objective of this organization was to make the art of building more visible, and people to share information about the value of this work.
In a nutshell, Carpenter’s Company wanted to help the indigent craftsmen more. For over 275 years, the Carpenters’ Company has been simulating trade guilds, as such, it became the oldest trade guild all over the country.
Going to the Carpenters’ Hall will be a great opportunity for the visitors, and they will get the chance to see Gilded Frame membership Boards, the Fan Window, the Model of Carpenters’ Hall, Banners or the East Wall, the Officers’ Furniture, the Painting of Washington, right at the entrance, as well as The Display of First Continental Congress Chairs.
The Carpenters’ Hall is open to the public daily, from 10 am to 4 pm.
Edgar Allan Poe Historic Site
Edgar Allan Poe
One of the most popular and original American writers, Edgar Allan Poe lived between 1809 to 1849. Not a long life, we would say. Most of his career was spent in this red-brick home, next to his beloved wife, Virginia.
Interesting is that Edgar Allan Poe wrote The Black Cat during this time, a work which describes parts of the basement of his home, this historic site we are talking about.
While visiting the Edgar Allan Poe Historic Site, you can see the stark rooms, and then the cellar of the three-story home, the places where Poe put his great imagination on paper. Now, this historic site or house is displaying some of Poe’s literary contemporaries.
The exhibition is more interesting due to the theater where you can watch an eight-minute informative film about the author’s work.
The Schedule: One of the most interesting exhibits you can see during your stay in Philly, this house will show you parts of Poe’s life, including some of his famous voice readings on his work.
Moreover, the guests can explore the home of the writer on their own, or just participate in the ranger-led tours, that will take, step by step, how Poe was dealing with poverty, with his wife’s grave illness, and also his own personal demons.
You might not see as much furniture you would expect, maybe because Poe sold them to move to New York But despite this fact, the tours and exhibits will make your trip to this museum worth every minute.
The Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site is open from Friday to Sunday. Make sure about the schedule and the possible admission fees directly from the website above.
A Modern Art Museum
Shortly said, the FWM is one of the contemporary art museums in Philly, which is kind of innovative due to its principle of working. As such, the museum is looking for creating work in new materials and also new media from the prosperous and creative collaboration with artists coming from very different backgrounds.
Actually, the FWM is the only museum of this kind in the whole world, and it has some permanent exhibitions that expose some of the most popular and famous names. Needless to say more about architects Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, photographer Carrie Mae Weems, or the sculptor Louise Bourgeois.
All of them work in different mediums, but art brings them together. Of course, there are many other unique exhibits during the year, so don’t be surprised to find some artist-specific or themed galleries during the year.
If there are artists-in-residence working, go and watch them. The experience will be unique. You can also buy unique gifts from the museum shop, which offers scarves, napkins, umbrellas, even artist-designed canvas bags.
This museum was firstly the Ryerss’ family home and art collection, built on 85 acres of land, in 1859. After some time, this art collection was donated to the City of Philadelphia in 1905, so it could be used as a museum and a library.
The best part? This library-museum is “free to the people forever”, as the donors always wanted. As such, the Ryerss Museum and Library has been open since 1910, and it is under the Fairmount Park Commission administration.
Visitors who come here can admire the rear galleries, which were created to bring together objects collected from all over the world.
There is no single pattern of art here, so we can easily say that Ryerss Museum has a really eclectic collection of sculptures, paintings, decorative art, but also a vast array of Asian art and artifacts.
You can also visit the Ryerss’ Library, which brings together lots of children’s books, current bestsellers, popular non-fiction, or some of the most popular periodicals.
Coolest Trends in Modern Art
Some are passionate about Picasso or Van Gough, some prefer modern art. As such, since 1965, the Institute of Contemporary Art is displaying the coolest, craziest, yet the most modern contemporary art.
The ICA is famous because it was the very first one to open exhibits of Warhol, Agnes Martin, Robert Indiana, or Laurie Anderson.
The building itself is amazing, due to the very open-spaces, as well as the endless high ceilings on the Penn campus. Ever since 1991, this museum has been the coolest one, as it embraces artists that express their work via multimedia installations, they are hung and scatter all around the galleries.
Schedule and Events: The ICA comes with eclectic exhibits, such as the ones of Tony Conrad or the fashion icon Rudi Gernreich. There are lots to see and different events during the year, as well as regular lectures and great gallery tours that will make people easily connect with the artists. Check the ICA schedule for more information and entrance fees.
Free Museum for Science
If you are passionate about science, you might have heard about William Wagner, who lived in Philadelphia in the 1840s. His name is very popular, as there have been lots of informal lectures during the years, as well as many extended exhibitions.
Wagner, also named as a “gentleman naturalist”, has lectures that increased so much in popularity, that the Philadelphia merchant decided it was the time to turn his name and works into a museum.
Called the Wagner Free Institute, this museum is set in a beautiful building, a Victorian one, where there are lots of exhibits and natural history collections. You will get the chance to visit the lecture hall as well, where Wagner used to offer free lectures to his public. The museum was completed in 1865, and it still stands as the ideal of education.
Schedule: Make sure you check the schedule on the website, to see the program, as it depends on the times of the year.
A Bit of History
This museum is special, as it is all dedicated to one of the most important institutions in America’s history: the U.S. Constitution. Dedicated to four of the most powerful pages in all the history of America, the museum displays amazing exhibits and artifacts.
Moreover, the museum-goers can visit the 360-degree live theatrical production, as well as walking next to the 42-life-size bronze statues, which stand for the Founding Fathers.
What you see: The building is huge, as it has 160,000-square-foot, and it was built all from American materials. You can go with your kids too, as they will learn about the U.S. Constitution, with the high-tech exhibits, interactive displays, and artifacts.
Needless to say there are so many educational activities to do while visiting Philly. These are lots of museums that offer free admission to their visitors. However, make sure you check their websites first, so you know the final schedule, as well as the events you can participate in without paying any fee.
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