Philadelphia Museums – Seaport, Art, Science, History, and More

Philadelphia museums

We'd recommend that you click directly on the photo, in order to fully appreciate its quality by enlarging it. This is the first musical instrument invented in America, by Benjamin Franklin in 1762 (one of his many inventions). Franklin named it the "Glass Armonica", after the Italian word armonia, meaning "harmony". This is on display at the underground museum at Franklin Court, Market Street between 3rd and 4th Streets.

There are an extraordinary number of Philadelphia Museums, and all are of high quality.

While this page is still under construction, there will eventually be guides to each of Philadelphia's myriad museums. A visit to any single one, could easily consume an entire day.

Accordingly, Enjoying Philadelphia will endeavor to prioritize them for you, depending on how long you will be in Philadelphia. Your choices will also depends on your interests, of course. But eventually, there will be a guide to Philadelphia, if you have one day, one weekend, one week, etc.

In addition, to save your precious time, they will be grouped geographically, so that way you can enjoy museums that are in close proximity - and thus get more out of your visit to Philadelphia.

This is only a partial list of the museums which Philadelphia offers the visitor, student, or resident. More Philadelphia museums will be added, as Enjoying Philadelphia continues to be constructed.

A Partial - But By No Means Universal - List of Philadelphia Museums

Independence Seaport Museum offers the chance to tour two vintage Navy ships, as well as to explore the rich, unparalleled, maritime history of Philadelphia.

Franklin Court is a fascinating, largely underground museum on the life of Benjamin Franklin - the greatest Philadelphian, who has ever lived.

Speaking of Franklin, you can visit the American Philosophical Society Museum - which, despite its name, is a great treasure trove of history, natural sciences, and artwork. Franklin founded it - the oldest surviving learned society in America - in 1743, back when scientists were referred to as "natural philosophers". And the name has remained to this day.

The National Constitution Center has a cutting-edge, brand-new interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, debated and adopted in 1787 in what is now Independence Hall.

If natural history, dinosaurs, and the like are up your alley, then The Academy of Natural Sciences is, absolutely, the right place for you.

Just down the street from the dinosaurs, The Franklin Institute, for about a year or so, opted to rebrand itself as simply The Franklin, presumably as a way of keeping up with the increasing trend of shorter names for institutions.

We found this puzzling at the time, mainly because of the Franklin Institute's prestige and status among generations of Philadelphians. The name was - and is - a great brand, to use the trendy term. What point would there be in changing it?

And even if it were to be changed - the phrase The Franklin, unadorned by other words, invited confusion, from residents and visitors alike.

Fortunately, in June 2009, the Franklin decided to abandon the idea of its new, truncated name, and quietly resumed its traditional identity, as The Franklin Institute.

Even though for a year, the Franklin Institute had (at least officially) a shorter name, it always continued to have a "big heart", both literally and figuratively - and it always will. The giant heart replica, through which visitors can walk through the human heart, in the same way blood flows through it, remains an iconic experience for all Philadelphians.

And in spite of the (fortunately, temporary) name change, the Institute remains what it always has been: a fantastic science museum, named after the revered, illustrious Philadelphian - who was a great scientist, long prior to becoming a great statesman and Founding Father.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art offers world-class art collections and exhibits. And, of course, the Rocky steps made famous by the 1976 film Rocky - played and directed by Philadelphia native Sylvester Stallone - as well as the Rocky statue at the base of the steps, and off to the right. The statue was prominently featured in the third installment of the series, Rocky III.

Eastern State Penitentiary is the eeriest of the major Philadelphia attractions. Built in the 19th century, it resembles a fortress in enemy territory, awing the visitor - and that design was not by accident.

The Second Bank of the United States - If you're fortunate enough to be in Philadelphia, during the 12 hours that it's open, it has an impressive portrait gallery. And even if it's closed, it's still worth seeing for its highly influential Greek Revival architecture - and it's right in the midst of the other historic Philadelphia attractions.

Added Wednesday, August 4, 2010...

You can see a bronze casting of The Thinker - one of the most famous sculptures in the world - in front of the Rodin Museum - which is the home to 124 sculptures by the great French artist Augustin Rodin, the largest collection of works by him outside of Paris - as well as visit their beautiful Rodin Gardens and Reflecting Pool on the Parkway.

Added July 16, 2010 -

If you love antiquities and ancient empires, the place for you to visit is the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology - which is often known, for short, as the Penn Museum, or less commonly, the UPenn Museum. Founded in 1887, it has launched over 400 archaeological expeditions worldwide. And it has a unique treasure trove of artifacts from 2500 BC, from Mesopotamia - the "cradle of civilization". It also boasts the third-oldest Sphinx ever unearthed, from Memphis, in Egypt.

Museums That Are Uniquely Philadelphian, If You're Visiting From Out of Town

Let's face it. It would take several lifetimes, to fully explore every museum that Philadelphia has to offer.

So - if you're visiting the city for the first or only time, and if you're from out of town-

These are our recommendations, for seeing those museums that are uniquely Philadelphian - experiences that you're not likely to find anywhere else.

Philadelphia Museum of Art/Rocky Steps and Statue - 26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway

You won't have time to actually go into the entire museum, which is world-class and would take many visits. But this is the only place in the world, by definition, where you can run up the steps and take a picture of the statue at the base of the steps. So a quick hit to go up the steps, and then you're on your way...

National Constitution Center - 525 Arch Street, between 5th and 6th Streets

The only place where you can see the shrine, for the most successful and long-lived form of government that has ever existed, anywhere in the world. The Constitution is a living, breathing document, the museum is first-rate and state-of-the-art, and it's worth the $12 to get in. You'll see the live performance of Freedom Rising, mill about with the Constitution's authors in Signers' Hall, and enjoy the breathtaking view of Independence Hall, from the Scenic Overlook. You won't regret your visit.

Franklin Court - 314-322 Market Street

Unfortunately, Benjamin Franklin's actual house was demolished in the early 19th century. But this intriguing, underrated, underground museum, located beneath the site, offers fascinating insights into the greatest Philadelphian. You won't find it anywhere else.

Independence Hall - Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th

The birthplace of freedom - found nowhere else on earth. But make sure you get your timed ticket early!

Liberty Bell Center - Market Street between 5th and 6th

The symbol of freedom - a relic of incomparable value. Plus, you can at least see the Liberty Bell, 24 hours a day, outside of the normal visiting hours.

Added, Thursday, July 29, 2010...

The Philadelphia Masonic Temple is an incredible work of architecture, which has to be seen to be believed. And it's right in the heart of the city, across the street from City Hall.

A Map of Philadelphia Museums, With Some Indicated By Teardrops

View Philadelphia Museums in a larger map

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