It is entirely fitting that the city that was home to one of America’s first scientists should now be the site of one of its best science museums. The city is Philadelphia and the museum is The Franklin Institute.
On Tuesday, we gave you day trip plans for seeing historic Philadelphia with kids; today we’ve got ideas for seeing its science and arts attractions. Combine the two days for a weekend or more, just don’t look to us for hotel recommendations in Center City. As in Boston and Baltimore, we stay only in budget-friendly hotels with a pool. In Philly, that means looking in the suburbs to the west or the Cherry Hill area. Now, on to the attractions.
Given what Ben Franklin did with electricity, you’d expect the Franklin Institute to have a great exhibit on electricity, and it does. Check out the Cell Phone Disco Board that translates the electrical signals from a text message into an LED light show, and the Sustainable Dance Floor. When the kids stomp on it, they generate electricity that eventually gets discharged from a giant Tesla coil overhead. Suffice it to say that, if one of these floors were installed in a Verona elementary school gym we would never pay another electric bill.
The Institute’s Giant Heart is still worth a stop, even if it is showing signs of age. But you will probably spend more time in the Airshow section or, if your kids are small, the Train Factory. If they are older, they will beg to pedal on the Sky Bike that crosses the museum’s lobby–20 feet or so in the air.
What’s this all going to cost? Admission prices start at $12 for kids and $15.50 for adults. But if you’re going to do the National Constitution Center and the science/arts scene in a weekend, or combine science with a trip to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, it probably makes sense to get a Philadelphia City Pass, which gets you in to all of these and more.
I’m going to be a heretic here and say skip the Philadelphia Museum of Art if you have kids younger than middle school. Ditto the Rodin Museum, unless you want to risk a long explanation about why “The Thinker” is not a statue of a power-lifter. Instead, go to The Insectarium in North Philadelphia, which, as far as I can tell, is the only museum devoted entirely to bugs. If your kids are older, then by all means make time for the art museum’s Temple Hall and its collection of Indian art. And if they are older, and ready to decide if the world’s best sculptor was a Frenchman or DaVinci, put them in front of the Gates of Hell at the Rodin Museum. That should seal the deal.
Rodin Museum photo courtesy bobistraveling, via Flickr.