January 23, 2018

Many of Philly's Finest Attractions Are Free Or Almost

Great Places To Experience For Visitors On A Budget

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The National Liberty Museum in Old City is known for its interactive exhibits and art glass collection. Photo by J. Fusco for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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Part of Independence National Historical Park, the Liberty Bell Center exercises freedom from admission fees. Photo by J. Fusco for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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The Benjamin Franklin Museum in Old City is dedicated to the life, times and legacy of Philadelphia's famous founding father. Photo by R. Kennedy for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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When it comes to visiting Philadelphia, some of the best things to see and do are free, or close to it. For families and budget-conscious travelers eager to explore the region, that’s great news. Check out the city’s many low-cost or no-cost attractions, including historic Independence Hall, student recitals at the Curtis Institute of Music and tours (and beer tastings) at the Philadelphia Brewing Company.

Historic Sites:

  • American Philosophical Society Museum – On 5th Street, next to the east wing of Independence Hall, Philosophical Hall (1789) was built by the American Philosophical Society, the nation’s first “think tank,” as the first U.S. museum and scientific society. Today, visitors can see exhibitions featuring treasures from the Society’s collections of over 13 million manuscripts and other historical objects. $2 donation requested. 104 S. 5th Street, (215) 440-3440, apsmuseum.org
  • Benjamin Franklin Museum – Next to the site of the Founding Father’s home, this museum celebrates Franklin’s legacy with artifacts, computer animations and interactive displays that explore the inventor-statesman-philosopher’s life and character. Day-of tickets are available at the door and cost $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 4 to 16. Admission is free for children 3 and under. 317 Chestnut Street, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov/inde
  • Betsy Ross House – At the pint-sized Colonial home of Betsy Ross, who is credited with sewing the first American flag at the request of General George Washington, visitors meet Ross herself as she works in her upholstery shop. In summer, visitors can start every day in the house’s courtyard with a free colonial flag-raising at 10 a.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for children, plus $2 for the optional audio tour. 239 Arch Street, (215) 629-4026, betsyrosshouse.org
  • City Hall Observation Deck – Those brave enough to journey to the top of the world’s tallest masonry building enjoy bird’s-eye views of Philadelphia just below City Hall’s William Penn statue. City Hall’s tower hosts four-person visits weekdays, every 15 minutes from 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., and select Saturdays. The cost is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $4 for students and children, and free for children under 3. City Hall Visitor Center, Broad & Market Streets, E. Market Street Portal, Room 121, (215) 686-2840 or (267) 514-4757, phlvisitorcenter.com
  • Edgar Allan Poe National Historical Site – At the home of the legendary author, who wrote short stories such as The Black Cat in Philadelphia, visitors explore Poe’s fascinating life and modern-day impacts. Tours are self-guided or led by a park ranger from Friday through Sunday. Free. 532 N. 7th Street, (215) 597-8780, nps.gov/edal
  • Elfreth’s Alley – The oldest continuously occupied residential street in the U.S. is a quaint cobblestone alley located in the Historic District. The Museum House opens Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons spring through fall, and for events and private tours in the winter. Admission for a guided tour of the museum and alley is $5 per person. Family rates are available and vary depending on size of family. Children under 6 get in for free. Between Front & 2nd Streets and Arch & Race Streets, (215) 574-0560, elfrethsalley.org
  • Independence National Historical Park (INHP) – The birthplace of our nation includes the Liberty Bell Center, The President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation and Independence Hall, the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Timed tickets for Independence Hall are available at the Independence Visitor Center on the day of the tour for free or reserved in advance online for a $1.50 reservation fee per ticket. No tickets are required in January and February. All other attractions are free, and no tickets are required. INHP attractions, between 5th & 6th Streets and Market & Chestnut Streets, (215) 965-2305, nps.gov/inde; Visitor Center, 6th & Market Streets, (800) 537-7676, phlvisitorcenter.com
  • Johnson House National Historic Site – This Germantown home served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Today, the house displays various slavery-era artifacts and hosts lectures, art shows and other special programs. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $4 for children 12 and under. Open for walk-in tours year-round 1-4 p.m. Saturday; February-June & September-November, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday & Friday and by appointment Monday through Wednesday. Group tours available by request. 6306 Germantown Avenue, (215) 438-1768, johnsonhouse.org
  • National Museum of American Jewish History – The ground-level Only In America® Gallery/Hall of Fame celebrates the lives and achievements of 19 Jewish-Americans. The space boasts some big-name artifacts, including Albert Einstein’s pipe and Steven Spielberg’s Super 8 camera. Free. 101 S. Independence Mall East, (215) 923-3811, nmajh.org
  • Once Upon A Nation – Memorial Day through Labor Day, history buffs of all ages enjoy storytelling benches at 13 locations around the Historic District. Children can obtain a story flag at any bench, collect a star from each storyteller and exchange the flag complete with 13 stars for a certificate and coupon that can be used at the Betsy Ross House and the Franklin Square Shop. Free. (215) 629-4026, historicphiladelphia.org
  • Pennsylvania Hospital – The nation’s first chartered hospital was founded in 1751. Today, visitors can explore its surgical amphitheater used from 1804 through 1868. Guided and self-guided tours are available with a suggested $5 donation; visitors can call to schedule a guided tour. 8th & Spruce Streets, (215) 829-5434, uphs.upenn.edu/paharc
  • United States Mint – Self-guided tours of this moneyed site include witnessing coin production from 40 feet above the factory floor and the nation’s first coining press. Audio and video stations explain coinage history. Free. 5th & Arch Streets, (215) 408-0112, usmint.gov
  • Valley Forge National Historical Park – The site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of General George Washington and the Continental Army offers a glimpse into the Revolutionary War with historic structures such as Washington’s Headquarters and commemorative monuments such as the National Memorial Arch. Visitors can explore the park by car, by bike or on foot guided by the park’s cell phone tour, obtained by calling (484) 396-1018. Free. 1400 N. Outer Line Drive, King of Prussia, (610) 783-1000, nps.gov/vafo

Cultural Attractions:

  • CityPASS ticket booklet – Offering serious savings on Philadelphia’s most popular attractions, this booklet includes four tickets to Philly favorites. Visitors choose between Adventure Aquarium and The Philadelphia Zoo; the Big Bus Company and Philadelphia Trolley Works, The Franklin Institute and One Liberty Observation Deck are always included. The fee: $55 for adults, $35 for children ages 2 to 12—45% cheaper than full-price admission costs. (888) 330-5008, citypass.com/philadelphia
  • Science History Institute, formerly the Chemical Heritage Foundation – A Civil War-era bank building houses this museum and its permanent and rotating exhibitions that showcase hundreds of 18th– to 20th-century artifacts that tell the stories of the successes, astonishing failures and strange surprises behind the scientific discoveries that changed our world. Free. 315 Chestnut Street, (215) 925-2222, sciencehistory.org
  • Mummers Museum – South Philly’s Art Deco outpost celebrates a centuries-old Philadelphia parade whose roots go back to Swedish settlers who brought to the Colonies their Christmas custom of dressing in costume and performing pantomimes. The annual event began on New Year’s Day 1901 in South Philadelphia and has grown into 10,000-person, all-day tradition. The museum features a collection of Mummer memorabilia. Admission is pay-what-you-wish. 1100 S. 2nd Street, (215) 336-3050, mummersmuseum.com
  • National Liberty Museum – Visitors remember the fragility of freedom through 78 imaginative and interactive exhibits, including an expansive collection of glass art and the stories of 2,000 heroes who have made a difference in protecting liberty. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $5 for students with I.D., $2 for children ages 5-17 and free for children under 5; family rates also available. 321 Chestnut Street, (215) 925-2800, libertymuseum.org
  • Please Touch Museum® Philadelphia’s children’s museum offers families discounted admission the first Wednesday of every month. From 4-7 p.m., admission to this little kid heaven is only $2 per person and includes access to all permanent and feature exhibits, the city’s only year-round children’s theater, interactive activities and more. 4231 Avenue of the Republic, (215) 581-3181, pleasetouchmuseum.org

Art & Gardens:

  • Barnes Foundation – The home of one of the world’s most important collections of impressionist, post-impressionist and early modern paintings offers free admission and programming on the first Sunday of every month. It also has family tours on the second and third Sundays of each month that are free with collection admission, and free ArtTime Storytime programs suited to ages 2-5. 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 278-7000, barnesfoundation.org
  • The Fabric Workshop and Museum – This contemporary, cutting-edge art museum has an extensive permanent collection, in-house and touring exhibitions and comprehensive educational programming. The museum also offers guided tours of its onsite printing studios seven days a week. Free. 1214 Arch Street, (215) 561-8888, fabricworkshopandmuseum.org
  • The Moravian Pottery & Tile Works – This working history museum in Bucks County welcomes visitors to watch the production of decorative tiles using methods employed by Henry Mercer’s crew beginning in 1898. A video and self-guided tour cost $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for children ages 7 to 17. 130 E. Swamp Road, Doylestown, (215) 348-6098, buckscounty.org/mptw
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art – Every Wednesday night starting at 5 p.m. and on the first Sunday of every month, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway’s crowned jewel offers pay-what-you-wish access to the entire main building, showcasing works by Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí, and many others. Many special events are free with museum admission, and the museum offers free cell phone tours that add perspective to the collections. 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 763-8100, philamuseum.org
  • Rodin Museum – The repository of the largest collection of works by Auguste Rodin outside of Paris features treasures such as The Gates of Hell and a bronze caste of The Thinker. The surrounding gardens are also a great place to find artistic inspiration. Guests pay what they wish to explore. 2151 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 763-8100, rodinmuseum.org
  • Shofuso: Japanese House and Garden – West Fairmount Park’s Japanese house and delightful garden reflects the history of Japanese culture in Philadelphia. Shofuso is open to the public late March through October from Wednesday through Sunday. Admission ($10 for adults; $5 for seniors, children ages 3 to 17 and college students with student I.D.; ages 3 and under) includes includes a tour. Lansdowne & Horticultural Drives, (215) 878-5097, japanesehouse.org

Performing Arts:

  • Arden Theatre Company – This modern-leaning, Historic District theater fulfills its commitment to making theater accessible to diverse audiences by opening final dress rehearsals to the public. Attendees pay what they can to see the full cast, full costumes and full scenery at this sneak preview on the main stage the Wednesday night before the show opens, when proceeds benefit a Philadelphia non-profit. For regular performances, students with I.D. can pay $10 cash for available seats 30 minutes before the show begins. 40 N. 2nd Street, (215) 922-1122, ardentheatre.org
  • Curtis Institute of Music – Music lovers have the opportunity to take in over 100 solo and chamber performances most Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings and many weekends during the school year, thanks to this highly selective conservatory’s exceedingly gifted students and their free Student Recital Series. Free. 1726 Locust Street, (215) 893-7902, curtis.edu
  • FringeArts – The first Monday of every month is Scratch Night, a fast-paced sampling of contemporary theater, dance and performance art—an inside look at works in progress. All Scratch Nights are followed by a family-style artist meal prepared by FringeArts’ onsite restaurant La Peg, providing an opportunity to eat and chat with the artists that just shared their work. Dinner is only $5, but the meals are limited capacity and sell out fast. Free. 140 N. Columbus Boulevard, (215) 413-1318, fringearts.com
  • Helium Comedy Club – On Wednesday and Thursday evenings, and anytime, if you’re a student with I.D., this Rittenhouse comedy stop stages local and international funny folks for only $5. What’s more, birthday-month celebrants who contact the box office can receive four free tickets to a Wednesday or Thursday night. (Special events excluded.) 2031 Sansom Street, (215) 496-9001, heliumcomedy.com
  • InterAct Theatre Company – Penny-pinching culture vultures pay what they wish for a performance of thought-provoking shows at the last dress rehearsal before the beginning of each run. The company’s Inter/HALF Tix deal offers a limited number of same-day tickets at half price, at the box office. The Drake, 302 S. Hicks Street, (215) 568-8079, interacttheatre.org
  • Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts – The Free at the Kimmel series showcases all manner of genres intermittently throughout the year. In addition, discount community rush tickets are available for many Kimmel Center Presents and Broadway Philadelphia performances. Limit one ticket per person. Free building and theater tours, offered daily at 1 p.m., give visitors a behind-the-scenes look. 300 S. Broad Street, (215) 893-1999, kimmelcenter.org
  • Macy’s – Amid the classic department store experience is an unexpected one: Live performances on a spectacular pipe organ. Debuting at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, the organ was originally purchased by merchant magnate John Wanamaker and enlarged by his store’s own pipe organ shop to include 28,750 pipes. In the Grand Court of this National Historic Landmark building, visitors can enjoy 45-minute concerts twice daily except Sundays. Free. 13th & Market Streets, (215) 241-9000, visitmacysusa.com
  • Walnut Street Theatre – At the start of the season, a limited number of mezzanine seats are available for $20 for every Mainstage performance. On performance day, select tickets are sold for half price to the general public using promotion code WSTDAY. For youth (24 and under), Mainstage day-of-show tickets are available for $25 at the box office with valid I.D. Independence Studio on 3 day-of-show tickets are available to the general public for $25 with promotion code WSTST. 825 Walnut Street, (215) 574-3550, walnutstreettheatre.org
  • Funsavers – The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance offers the ultimate in one-stop shopping for cultural savings. Every Thursday, e-subscribers receive half-price ticket offers for dozens of the hottest shows and events in the Philadelphia region, including theater, music and dance performances, museum exhibitions and more. Sign up to receive Funsavers emails or view this week’s offers online at phillyfunguide.com or call (215) 399-3521.

Special-Interest Tours & Attractions:

  • Buckingham Valley Vineyards – As part of the Bucks County Wine Trail, this family-owned and folksy vineyard offers self-guided tours and free tastings Tuesday-Thursday ($5 on weekends and is refundable with a half case purchase; complementary wine glasses included). Buckingham, 1521 Route 413 (Durham Road), Buckingham, (215) 794-7188, pawine.com
  • Comcast Center – One of the country’s tallest LEED-certified buildings features The Comcast Experience, a lobby video projection that blends art and technology to depict realistic nature imagery, urban landscapes and much more on one of the largest four-millimeter LED screens in the world. Free. 1701 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, visitphilly.com/comcast
  • Franklin Square – Enjoyment of two playgrounds, a fountain and plenty of open space is free in the revitalized city park named in honor of Benjamin Franklin. For a small fee, visitors can also enjoy Philly-themed miniature golf ($9 for ages 13 and up, $7 for ages 3-12) and the Parx Liberty Carousel ($3 for ages 3 and up and free for ages 2 and under). The park also hosts free events and programs throughout the year. 6th & Race Streets, (215) 629-4026, historicphiladelphia.org
  • Herr’s Snack Factory Tour – Potato chips, pretzels and more are part of a one-hour tour that finishes with free samples, right out of the cooker. Tours take place Monday through Friday, and reservations are required. Fees are $4 for adults, $3 for students and children ages 4-17, free for children ages 3 and under. Route 272 & Herr Drive, Nottingham, (800) 284-7488, herrs.com
  • Linvilla Orchards – This fully-functioning, 300-acre farm offers agri-tainment at its finest: barnyard animals, pick-your-own fruits—or cut-your-own-Christmas tree—plus a playground and a year-round market. Minimal fees for activities. 137 W. Knowlton Road, Media, (610) 876-7116, linvilla.com
  • Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO – The Association for Public Art offers an engaging way to experience more than 65 outdoor sculptures along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and in Fairmount Park and Center City. Both art enthusiasts and recreational passersby can listen to three-minute segments using their cell phones, via the program’s free mobile app or as audio downloads or streaming audio from the website. Free. (215) 399-9000, associationforpublicart.org
  • Pizza Brain – This Fishtown pizzeria houses the world’s first and only pizza museum, filled with anything and everything pizza-related. The collection ranges from pizza-themed toys and comic books to records about cheesy, saucy pies. Free. 2313 Frankford Avenue, (215) 291-2965, pizzabrain.org
  • Rushland Ridge Vineyard & Winery – This mainstay of the Philadelphia suburbs since 1968 focuses on chambourcin, cabernet franc and chardonnay grapes and provides tastings seasonally from Thursday through Sunday. Free. Rushland, 2665 Rushland Road, Jamison, (215) 598-0251, rushlandridge.com
  • Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse – Dating to the late 19th century, this Fairmount Park indoor-outdoor venue is a year-round favorite for little kids. Smith’s 16,000-foot house has three floors of play areas designed for kids five and under. The playground, situated on its original historic landscape—6.5 acres of open fields, wooded terrain and sloped hills—is home to the century-old Ann Newman Giant Wooden Slide, along with modern pieces of play equipment. Free, but donations accepted. 3500 Reservoir Drive, East Fairmount Park, (215) 765-4325, smithplayground.org
  • Philadelphia Brewing Co. – Guests explore the facilities and learn how draughts go from barley to beer at this local brewery. Free guided tours run noon-4 p.m. on Saturdays. 2440 Frankford Avenue, (215) 427-BREW, philadelphiabrewing.com

VISIT PHILADELPHIA® is our name and our mission. As the region’s official tourism marketing agency, we build Greater Philadelphia’s image, drive visitation and boost the economy.

On Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com, visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.

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