Philadelphia’s diagonal Benjamin Franklin Parkway stretches one mile from just beyond City Hall to the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the edge of Fairmount Park, acting as the home of museums, cultural institutions and other attractions. Planner Paul Philippe Cret and designer Jacques Gréber, both French, modeled the parkway after the Champs-Élysées of their native country, creating a beautiful thoroughfare here in Philadelphia.
After a long planning and construction process, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway officially opened in October 1918. The arduous yet bold vision ushered in a new era of urban design in America: the City Beautiful Movement.
For the last century, the attractions, green spaces and public art of the Parkway Museums District have captivated residents and visitors alike. The buildings on the Parkway’s borders are a who’s-who of culture, and the stretch is street-party central, with massive events such as the annual Fourth of July concert, the Budweiser Made In America Festival and the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Even Pope Francis knew the Parkway was the best place to deliver Sunday mass during his 2015 visit.
Read on to learn more about the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
One of the largest art museums in the U.S., the Philadelphia Museum of Art rises majestically at the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and houses vast collections, including Renaissance, American and impressionist art. A one-acre Sculpture Garden extends the galleries to the outdoors. Across the street, find the 1927 art deco-designed Perelman Building, which showcases selections from the museum’s costume and textile collection as well as modern and contemporary design and photographs.
Where: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Seventy-two steps lead art aficionados, exercise enthusiasts and millions of film buffs up to the East Entrance of the esteemed Philadelphia Museum of Art by way of what’s been coined the Rocky Steps. Meanwhile, just down below, the Rocky Statue, originally commissioned for Rocky III, draws lines of visitors seeking photographs alongside the larger-than-life interpretation of the triumphant fictional boxer for which it’s named.
Where: The Rocky Statue and Steps, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
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This National Historic Landmark was constructed in the early 1800s and provided safe, clean drinking water to a growing city. Now, Fairmount Water Works is dedicated to fostering stewardship of shared water resources by encouraging informed decisions about the use of land and water. Guests discover the past, present and future of water through interactive exhibitions, hands-on programs and guided tours.
Where: Fairmount Water Works, 640 Waterworks Drive
Some of Philadelphia’s most iconic statues and sculptures line the Benjamin Franklin Parkway alongside unsung and gorgeous works of public art. From the bronze Aero Memorial glistening just outside of The Franklin Institute to the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Memorial on Logan Square to Deinonychus, a reconstruction of a 100-million-year-old dinosaur, free art opportunities await for all to explore. For a self-guided tour, check out the Association of Public Art’s guide to the Parkway.
Where: Various locations including the Amor Sculpture, 210 N. 18th Street
The Rodin Museum houses one of the largest public collections of works by master sculptor Auguste Rodin outside of Paris and greets visitors with bronze casts of The Thinker and The Gates of Hell. The gallery collection includes a stunning marble copy of The Kiss, while the garden features the cast of The Burghers of Calais.
Where: Rodin Museum, 2151 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
The Barnes Foundation is home to one of the world’s most impressive and important collections of African sculpture, impressionist, post-impressionist and early modern paintings (including 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes, 59 Matisses, 46 Picassos and seven Van Goghs), all displayed as the late collector intended. The gallery space is part of a 93,000-square-foot building, which also includes a changing exhibition gallery, conservation lab, auditorium, library, cafe and gift shop.
Where: Barnes Foundation, 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
The Franklin Institute is dedicated to creating a passion for science by offering access to hands-on learning through blockbuster exhibitions, engaging theatrical experiences, compelling permanent exhibits and widely respected community outreach. In the entrance lobby, a massive memorial dedicated to Philly’s favorite Founding Father (Benjamin Franklin) welcomes curious visitors.
Where: The Franklin Institute, 222 N. 20th Street
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A gorgeous Beaux-Arts building serves as the heart of the Free Library of Philadelphia system, which includes more than 50 libraries throughout the area. The Parkway Central Library invites book lovers to check out its massive collection, explore its notable rare book department, sit in on author readings and lectures, enjoy special exhibitions and events and celebrate the glory that is free literature.
Where: Free Library of Philadelphia - Parkway Central and Rare Book Department, 1901 Vine Street
As the oldest natural history museum in the Americas, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University invites people of all ages to experience natural science in a fun and engaging way. Visitors can stroll through a tropical butterfly garden, touch live animals, get face-to-face with a towering T. rex, dig for fossils, explore dioramas and even meet scientists.
Where: Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Founded in 1848, Moore College of Art and Design is the first and only women’s visual arts college for undergraduates in the country, and it offers programs for both men and women through its graduate studies, continuing education and workshops. Art appreciators can browse The Galleries at Moore, where admission is free, to see works by established and emerging artists and designers, and then visit The Art Shop to take home original artwork by Moore students and alumni.
Where: Moore College of Art and Design, 1916 Race Street
This park gives the neighborhood its name, and for good reason. One of city founder William Penn’s original five squares, the park contains one of the most striking features of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway — the Swann Memorial Fountain, where large Native American figures symbolize the area’s major local waterways: the Delaware River (a man), the Schuylkill River (a woman) and Wissahickon Creek (a girl). On sunny afternoons, find groups of visitors admiring the sculptures and the fountain’s 50-foot geyser from the benches scattered around it.
Where: Logan Square, 200 N. 19th Street
This landscaped public space stars a Children’s Discovery Garden, a boat pond, the Logan Square Café, an eco-smart branch of the Independence Visitor Center, a pint-sized hill that evokes the Wissahickon Valley and a programmed fountain that pays tribute to Philadelphia’s 11 sister cities. Sister Cities Park is also home to the AMOR sculpture, the sister sculpture to the famous LOVE Statue.
Where: Sister Cities Park, 18th Street and Logan Square
The largest brownstone Catholic church in Pennsylvania, the Cathedral Basilica was modeled after the Lombard Church of Saint Charles (San Carlo al Corso) in Rome and built in the Roman-Corinthian architectural style. Inside, visitors stand in awe of various shrines, altars, statues and paintings by Constantino Brumidi, famed painter of the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC.
Where: Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, 1723 Race Street
LOVE Park recently added more green space, a modern visitor center, a new water feature, concession areas and a spruced-up LOVE sculpture. Although its official name is John F. Kennedy Plaza, locals and visitors know it as LOVE Park thanks to its centerpiece sculpture by Robert Indiana. It’s a popular spot for food trucks, photo-ops, entertainment or just relaxing by the fountain.
Where: LOVE Park, 1500 Arch Street
At the foot of Philadelphia’s City Hall, the Dilworth Park plaza welcomes pedestrians, commuters and visitors with tree groves, benches, a cafe and areas for outdoor events and performances. A large programmable fountain offers children a place to romp and splash in warm weather. During the winter, an ice rink brings skaters to the park.
Where: Dilworth Park, 1 S. 15th Street
Philadelphia’s City Hall stands as the nation’s largest municipal building, and its elaborate architecture makes it one of the most spectacular. The carved sculptures and allegorical figures that adorn the exterior and the iconic statue of William Penn that tops the building were created by Alexander Milne Calder. Tours of the building’s 14.5 acres of floor space offer visitors a peek at the building’s interior architecture, and timed trips to the top of the tower provide panoramic views of the city.
Where: Philadelphia City Hall, Broad and Market Street
Book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package for stays through November 30, 2018 and get FREE hotel parking as well as free tickets to the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art, a $25 gift card to the must-visit Reading Terminal Market, free Philly-themed mini-golf at Franklin Square and a $10 Lyft credit.