Guide: How to Get into Philly Museums for Free
Keep this list handy and experience Philly’s top cultural institutions for free!
It’s expensive to raise kids in the city, so we always look for ways to make it a little easier, and share our tips with you every week in our online events posts. But let’s do one better and give you a handy guide to how and when you can experience Philly’s top cultural institutions for free!
This past winter, the Free Library of Philadelphia announced the launch of the Experience Pass—allowing adult Philadelphia residents to use their library cards to check out passes to certain Philly attractions. However, the quantity is limited, you can only visit each attraction once per calendar year, and passes are released two months in advance on the first of every month until they are claimed (which, as you can imagine, happens quickly!), so this isn’t always the easiest option.
For teens (ages 14-19), the STAMP Pass is a must—it gets them free admission to virtually any Philadelphia museum you can imagine (the full list is available at phillystamppass.org). So, how can the rest of the family get in?
Dates to Watch
In addition to the museum-specific free days, there are a few big times to look out for. On Smithsonian’s Museum Day, select museums and cultural institutions across the country open their doors and offer free admission. Then, the week of July 4th, Wawa Welcome America returns to bring merriment, patriotism, and a week of free museum admission! Different days throughout the weeklong festival, different museums in Philly participate. Be sure to check our website for our annual guide to the event as details emerge, but we indicate below which museums typically can be expected to have free admission that week.
222 N. 20th St.
One night a month (almost always a Monday), come for Community Night. The free evening begins at 5 pm and includes access to permanent exhibits, special programs, and hands-on activities. Note that Community Night does not include free access to temporary special exhibits, but you can buy tickets to add that to your experience.
1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Come once a month (usually a Friday, though in summer they often switch to Thursdays) for Dinos After Dark from 4–8 pm. Not only will you enjoy pay-what-you-wish admission, but there are also special activities throughout the museum, and best of all the Dino Beer Garden! Taking place outside the museum in nice weather, and inside Dinosaur Hall in colder months, this gives you the distinct opportunity to drink under a T-Rex! Beer, cocktails, snacks, and tacos are available for these special events. The museum also traditionally participates in Free Museum Day in September, as well as the Experience Pass through Free Library of Philadelphia. You can also usually get in for free on Earth Day!
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Kids age 12 and under are free every day at the art museum! How about for their grownups? The first Sunday of every month, enjoy pay-what-you-wish admission (it used to be every Sunday, but oh well), which also includes a different themed Family Festival each month. You can also get pay-what-you-wish admission on Wednesday nights. They also usually offer free admission on MLK Day.
2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Like the larger art museum down the Parkway, the Barnes Foundation hosts free first Sunday family festivals, also themed for each month. The day typically involves live music, storytelling, art-making, and access to the galleries.
118-128 N. Broad St.
Every Sunday afternoon during the school year (switches to roughly once a month in the summer), come from 2–4 pm for PAFA’s free Family Art Academy where you get free admission and can participate in a different art project as a family each week. They also typically participate in Wawa Welcome America, Smithsonian Museum Day, and Philly Free Streets.
525 Arch Street
The Constitution Center doesn’t have regularly recurring “free” days, but there are certain holidays every year you can count on for free admission: MLK Day, Presidents Day, and Constitution Day (September 17). NCC also typically participates in Wawa Welcome America with a Free Museum Day—usually coinciding with Wawa Hoagie Day on its lawn, so your lunch is covered too!
4231 Avenue of the Republic
While not totally free, the first Wednesday of every month, admission to the Please Touch Museum is reduced to $2 from 4—7 pm, and usually includes some special programming and hands-on activities just for First Wednesday. PTM also typically has free admission on Martin Luther King Day, to coincide with its celebration.
701 Arch St.
One Saturday a month, the first 250 people get free admission on AAMP Family Fun Day! The day also includes themed activities like art projects and live performances perfect for ages 5 and up. AAMP also participates in Wawa Welcome America and Smithsonian Museum Day.
101 South Independence Mall East
You can usually get free admission to NMAJH on select holidays: MLK Day, Presidents Day, July 4th, Grandparents’’ Day, and Christmas. The past couple of years, they have taken it even further and made every day in February (and sometimes longer) free—just pre-register online! NMAJH also participates in Smithsonian Museum Day.
101 S. Third St.
This newest museum in Historic Philadelphia participates in the Free Library’s Experience Pass, as well as Wawa Welcome America.
Did you know some museums are always free in Philly? Of course, donations are always accepted at the door if you want to help support them, but here is where you can always get in for free!
147 N. 2nd St.
Located in a 1902 firehouse in Old City, this museum has everything covering the history of firefighting, from an antique horse-drawn fire carriage to a fire boat! Your kids can also try on fire coats and boots.
2151 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Iconic sculpture inside, and a gorgeous courtyard and grounds on the outside, the Parkway’s Rodin Museum is free every day.
1214 Arch Street
This contemporary art museum devoted to creating work in new materials and new media sometimes offers family programming with hands-on activities to allow families to get creative together.
640 Waterworks Drive
This historical building upon the Schuylkill River now houses educational facilities where adults and kids can learn about the watershed and participate in hands-on nature labs.
118 S. 36th St.
Founded in 1963 by the University of Pennsylvania, ICA has developed an international reputation as a leading venue for the latest in contemporary art and culture.
1700 West Montgomery Ave
This free Victorian science museum has been preserved since the 19th Century with thousands of specimens including fossils, shells, skeletons, and stuffed birds.
315 Chestnut Street
Formerly the Chemical Heritage Foundation, this museum brings to life the scientific discoveries that have changed our world.
Photographs by Laura Swartz.