Free Museums: When It's Free to Visit Philly Museums, Zoos & Gardens

Admire vintage fire engines at Fireman's Hall. Photo courtesy of J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia
Admire vintage fire engines at Fireman's Hall. Photo courtesy of J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

A trip to the museum makes for a great family outing, so you might as well pick a day when you don't have to pay. Without a membership, admission prices can add up quickly, especially for larger families. Thankfully, Philadelphia and its suburbs are home to several great free museums, family-friendly zoos, and beautiful gardens where kids can learn and play at no cost. 

Whether your little ones are interested in art, science, history, or nature, these unique spots have something to satisfy everyone and save your wallet. Looking for more free fun? Don't miss our Free Activities Guide.

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Many venues are operating with limited capacity, and require masks or proof of vaccination. Always check directly with the venue for guidance before arrival. 

Philly Science Museums with Free Admission

The Franklin Institute—Philadelphia

2022 Update: Free Community Nights are currently paused, but the museum hopes to bring them back soon. Check the website for the latest updates. Masks are required for all guests ages three and up, and proof of vaccination is required to dine indoors.
The massive interactive science museum opens its doors for free on Community Nights which are held on select Mondays from 5pm-8pm. Kids can get a firsthand look at the inner workings of everything from the human body to the weather.

The Science History Institute—Philadelphia

2022 Update: The museum plans to reopen on January 20, 2022, following a temporary closure. Masks are required indoors.
Formerly the Chemical Heritage Foundation, science lovers can gleefully geek out here, as they take in historical artifacts highlighting milestones in scientific breakthroughs. The Science History Institute is one of Philly's perpetually free museums, with hours on Thursdays-Saturdays from 10am-5pm. The Institute regularly hosts family programs and guided tours, so keep an eye on their event calendar for the latest happenings.

Wagner Free Institute of Science—Philadelphia

2022 Update: The museum plans to reopen on January 10, 2022, following a temporary closure. Masks are required indoors.
Here you’ll find three floors of natural history, from dinosaur fossils to centuries-old insects and everything in between. Admission is always free, Tuesday-Friday from 930am-430pm, and the first Saturday of every month from 12pm-4pm. On Saturdays, Wagner runs special programming with activities like scavenger hunts and crafts. Suggested donations are $10 for adults and $5 for college students and children.

RELATED: 21 Philly Museums You've Probably Never Heard Of

Learn more about the exhibits on display with interactive features at the Barnes. Photo courtesy of R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

Philly Art Museums with Free Admission

Brandywine River Museum of Art—Chadds Ford

2022 Update: Free First Sundays for Families is currently paused. Face masks are strongly encouraged when visiting the museum and guests must make timed ticket reservations online.
Under normal circumstances, Brandywine River Museum hosts First Sundays for Families from February to November. Families can enjoy the American art on display as well as featured artworks by local students and frequent children’s programming. 

Barnes Foundation—Fairmount

2022 Update: Starting January 21, 2022, the museum will require proof of vaccination from all guests ages five and older. Adults 18 and older must also show a valid ID. Masks are required at all times except when eating or drinking.
On the first Sunday of the month beginning in February, the Barnes, right in the middle of the city’s Arts District, is the place to be. In addition to cost-free admission through PECO Free First Sundays, the museum, which combines art and horticulture, offers special programming and interactive features.

Fireman’s Hall Museum—Old City

2022 Update: Online reservations are required and masks are strongly recommended. 
If your little one is fascinated by firetrucks, this museum is a must-see. One of the city's most kid-friendly free museums, Fireman's Hall has an array of historic equipment from the Philadelphia Fire Department and encourages visitors to play dress-up with firefighter gear. The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9am to 4pm, with late closing on Fridays until 9pm.

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art—Center City

2022 Update: Masks are required inside, social distancing is strongly encouraged, and proof of vaccination is required to enter the cafe. Please make reservations online.
America's first combined art museum and school is always free for children 12 and under. Marked by stunning Gothic architecture, PAFA showcases diverse works of art across various mediums. The museum regularly hosts family-friendly programming. Museum hours are Thursday-Friday, 10am-4pm, and Saturday-Sunday, 11am-5pm.

Philadelphia Museum of Art—Fairmount

2022 Update: Starting January 24, 2022, the museum will require proof of vaccination from all guests ages five and older. Adults 18 and older must also show a valid ID. Masks are required at all times except when eating or drinking. Online reservations are strongly recommended.
Kids 18 and under are always free at this Philly landmark, and adults can enjoy discounted admission on Fridays from 5pm to 845pm and the first Sunday of the month from 11am-5pm. During those times, admission is Pay What You Wish.

RELATED: Free Perks That Come With Your Philly-area Library Card

Enjoy pay-what-you-wish nights at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo by Elizabeth Leitzell

Rodin Museum—Fairmount

2022 Update: The museum plans to reopen on February 4, 2022, as it prepares for its next exhibit.
Philly's Rodin museum is the only one outside of France dedicated to the famous sculptor. The Rodin features an eye-catching collection of work from some of the world’s leading sculptors and is always Pay What You Wish, with suggested donations for guests over 18 years old.

The Fabric Workshop and Museum—Center City

2022 Update: FWM requires proof of vaccination from all guests ages five and older or proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 24 hours. Masks are required at all times. Online reservations are strongly recommended.
Future fashionistas will love FWM, a contemporary art museum focusing on textiles, with ample kids’ programming. Admission is always free, but the museum suggests a $5 donation. FWM is open Tuesday-Friday from 12pm-6pm, and weekends 12pm-5pm.

Philly History Museums with Free Admission 

Carpenter’s Hall—Old City

2022 Update: Masks are required in the building at all times.
This little-known gem in Philly’s Historic District allows visitors to walk through the halls of an 18th-century mansion to see furniture, architecture, and art dating back hundreds of years. The building hosted the first Continental Congress in addition to housing Franklin's Library Company, the First and Second Banks of the United States, and The American Philosophical Society. Carpenter's Hall gives directions to an hour-long historical walking tour of Old City and Society Hill, available to anyone online. Visit Carpenter's Hall Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-4pm. It's closed Tuesdays in January and February.

Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site—Old City

2022 Update: This site is currently closed.
Your kids may or may not read Poe in school, but they can definitely see where the literary great lived. Poe’s former home has been converted into a museum that shows how the city impacted his work.

Independence Hall—Old City

2022 Update: Masks are required regardless of vaccination status. Social distancing measures and reduced building capacity limits are in effect. Entrance to Independence Hall is by tour only. No tickets are required except for MLK Weekend and President's Day Weekend.
Take a walk back in history and show your kids where the nation’s founding documents were signed. An original draft of the Constitution is on view, along with the original inkstand used to sign the Declaration of Independence. Don't miss George Washington's "rising sun" chair while you're there. Tours are offered daily from 9am to 5pm on a first-come, first-served basis.

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Inspire your little historian with a trip to see the Liberty Bell. Photo courtesy of National Park Service

Liberty Bell Center—Old City

2022 Update: Masks are required for all guests and social distancing measures should be observed. Capacity is limited.
See the world-famous bell and explore rotating exhibits about Philly’s place in history—a must-see for budding history buffs. The center is currently open from 9am to 5pm daily. 

Polish American Cultural Center Museum—Old City

2022 Update: Masks are required indoors.
Located in the heart of Old City, this museum explores the rich Polish heritage in the area. The Cultural Center and Museum Exhibit Hall highlight customs, traditions, folk art, and historic information from the last thousand years. This museum is open from 10am to 4pm Monday through Friday from January through April. From May through December, the museum opens on Saturdays.

Ryerss Museum—Northeast Philadelphia

2022 Update: The museum is open.
This Northeast Philly gem once served as the home of the wealthy Ryerss family. The museum preserves the family's huge collection of international artifacts and art, with an adjoining library that bookworms will love. Parking is free as well. Ryerss is conveniently situated within the 65-acre Burholme Park, which has ball fields, a playground, miniature golf courses, and picnic areas to enjoy after exploring the museum. Tours are available by request whenever the museum is open. Hours are 10am-4pm, Friday through Sunday.

SEPTA Transit Gift Store—Center City

2022 Update: Masks are required indoors.
This one's not technically a museum, but kids love visiting the SEPTA Transit Gift Store to see its models and learn about the history of the city’s transit agency. Displays teach children firsthand about the inner workings of trains, trolleys, and buses. After some train education, pick up a transit-themed souvenir. The museum hours are Wednesday-Saturday, 10am-3pm.

Temple University Shoe Museum—Center City

2022 Update: Masks are required.
If you thought your kids’ closets were crowded, check out Temple’s Shoe Museum. Families will find more than 1000 shoes here, displayed throughout exhibits like Mummer Shoes, Shoes that Serve, and Shoes in the Arts. Guests take self-guided tours with educational audio clips provided by QR codes that can be scanned with a cell phone. This off-the-beaten-path museum is a little-known treasure that showcases history and fashion. Admission is free, but visits must be scheduled in advance by emailing the museum curator.

United States Mint—Old City

2022 Update: This location is currently closed.
Money, money, and more money! Learn how coins are made at the United States Mint located in Philadelphia. Visitors can expect to see the factory, view the first coin press, and meet Peter the Mint Eagle during free tours.

Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History—Old City

2022 Update: The museum is currently closed.
Typically held on certain holidays, Family Days at the National Museum of American Jewish History offer free admission to all visitors. Exhibits allow kids to explore the history of Jewish communities around the nation. The first-floor gallery is always free to the public. Traditionally every day in February offers free admission too.

Philly Zoos and Gardens with Free Admission

Brandywine Zoo—Wilmington, DE

2022 Update: Face masks will be required indoors regardless of vaccination status. This includes the gift shop, administration building, and education classrooms.
Zoo enthusiasts know that winter is a great time to visit the animals since the crowds are way smaller and families can often score discounts. The Brandywine Zoo offers free admission from January through mid-March, in part because fewer animals are visible. However, kids can still see over 20 different animals that don't mind coming out in the cold. Winter hours are Friday-Sunday, 10am-4pm.

Awbury Arboretum—Germantown

2022 Update: Please keep yourself and others safe by masking and maintaining social distance.
Take a nature walk through Awbury's grounds, which are free and open to the public every day from sunup to sundown. The arboretum features family-friendly programs year-round, including visits with the Philly Goat Project for furry family fun. Keep an eye on their event calendar for the latest updates.

Bartram's Gardens—South Philadelphia

2022 Update: The Welcome Center and public restrooms are operating on limited winter hours. Please keep yourself and others safe by masking and maintaining social distance.
There is no cost to visit Bartram’s independently, and it’s open 365 days a year from sunup to sundown. Check the schedule of events to keep up with kid-friendly offerings.

This post has been updated for 2022.

Places featured in this article:

Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts Museum

Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site

Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum

Polish American Cultural Center Museum
Parkway Pals Storytime
Sister Cities Park - 10:30 AM Pick
Hay Maze on the Greenfield Lawn
Dilworth Park - various times Pick
Scarecrows in the Village
Peddler's Village - 10:00 AM
Hellerick's Family Farm Fall Harvest Festival
Hellerick's Family Farm - 10:00 AM
Fall Picking & Hayrides at Johnson's Corner Farm
Johnson's Corner Farm - 10:00 AM
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