The Franklin Institute houses one of Philadelphia’s finest museums. Here’s how to plan your trip there, including information on opening hours, transport and tickets to ensure your trip’s a great one.
Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute is more than an homage to Benjamin Franklin. Although it houses a national memorial dedicated to the great statesman, it is the science museum component of the building that leaves a far greater legacy. The Franklin Institute Science Museum serves to inspire minds, both young and old, with the achievements of previous generations in science, technology and other forms of ground-breaking innovation.
Benjamin Franklin is one of those characters of US history who you have to constantly remind yourself wasn’t actually ever a President. His life was utterly fascinating though, and his list of achievements is considerable. Foremost among them was his role as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He is one of only two non-presidents whose face is on a US dollar bill, the $100 (the other is Alexander Hamilton, who is only on the $10 bill, but he has got an awesome musical to his name now, so it’s considered even).
When he wasn’t busy founding nations, Franklin was pursuing one of his many other creative and scientific passions. Known as a polymath (somebody skilled and knowledgeable over a wide number of subjects), Franklin was, among many other things, a newspaper editor and printer, a scientist, a writer, a political philosopher, and even an inventor. On that latter point, we can thank Franklin for not getting killed so much by lightning (he invented the lightning rod), for better vision (he invented bifocal eyeglasses), and for adding to our love of music (he invented an instrument called the glass armonica).
Which brings us back to The Franklin Institute Science Museum, which is aptly dedicated in his honor. Among the excellent permanent exhibits, you’ll discover model flyers and workshop instruments used by the Wright Brothers, from when they were figuring out how to conquer the skies. The Electricity exhibition takes up from Franklin’s own early work in the field, through to modern-day uses and challenges of the energy we take for granted when charging our phones or using the internet.
Among the many other highlights, there is the Joel L. Bloom Observatory, with five telescopes; the Fels Planetarium; Changing Earth which explores the natural elements and our relationship to them; and The Giant Heart, a huge, walk-through heart (exactly as it sounds, really).
Hours, Directions & Parking
Hours: The Franklin Institute is open five days a week: Weds–Fri 10am–5pm, and Sat–Sun 10am–6pm. The institute is closed Mon–Tues, although will occasionally open on one of those days if it happens to be a national holiday like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. For as long as COVID is upsetting the apple cart, please be sure to check The Franklin Institute website (www.fi.edu) for the latest opening hours.
The Franklin Institute (222 N 20th St, Philadelphia) can be reached on foot via a 15-minute walk from Philadelphia City Hall. In fact, it is situated directly between the city hall and Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Parking: For those who plan to arrive by car, the museum has its own parking garage at 271 N 21st St, which is near the junction with Winter St. Prices are pretty steep at $20, but there are plenty of other parking lots nearby, including Edgewater at 2301 Race St, close to the Schuylkill River.
Public transport: There are no Metro stations in the immediate vicinity of The Franklin Institute, but there are plenty of bus stops nearby. The stop at 20th St and Race St is served by three buses: 33, 38 and 49. The stop at 21st St and Race St has two additional buses: the 7 and 48.
Buying a ticket for The Franklin Institute in advance is mandatory, especially if you are planning to visit during the peak tourism seasons during the summer or Christmas holidays. There’s a set number of tickets available each day and once they’re gone, they’re gone. In the time of COVID, advanced booking is imperative to ensure that social distancing measures can be maintained through the allocation of specific time slots.
At the time of writing: tickets cost $23 for adults and children over the aged 12 and over. Tickets for children aged 3–12 cost $19, while senior citizens and military personnel can enter for $21 each. All tickets include admission to both the Franklin Institute’s museum and Fels Planetarium. You can book your tickets on the museum’s website or book via Viator.com, here.
If you are looking to visit multiple major sites in Philadelphia during your trip – and there are dozens of world class museums and numerous excellent sights across the city – it might be worth looking into The Philadelphia Sightseeing Pass, which costs from $59 to $129 per person, for a one-day to five-day pass.
This pass allows you free admission to a hop-on, hop-off bus and access to at least 35 different Philly attractions, including The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the National Museum of Jewish Heritage. In addition to these excellent inclusions, you can also join up with one of around 15 tours. For more information on this great value for money option, and to buy your pass, head over to Getyourguide.com.