20 Philly Museums You Can Visit for Free
Museums are a great way to spend a family weekend, especially during the winter. But if you don't have a membership, admission prices can add up quickly, especially if you have a large family. Thankfully, Philadelphia and its suburbs are home to a number of museums where kids can learn and play for FREE. (Not every museum offers free admission every day so make sure to check for details about dates and times).
Whether your little ones are interested in art, science, history, or even shoes, Philly’s museums have something to satisfy them (and you). Looking for more Philly museums or free fun? Then be sure to check out our Philly Museums Guide and Free Activities Guide.
Please keep your family safe by wearing a mask and respecting social distancing measures. Currently museums are operating with limited capacity. As a result, it is important to check directly with the venue to determine ticketing procedures. Many require reserved, timed tickets so visits need a bit of advance planning. If a venue appears too crowded, try using the “nearby” search feature on our event calendar to find something else to do.
Prefer to stay home? Remember to check out Poppins@Home. Philly teens can learn how to make healthy lunches while young ones can play some Minecraft, or explore science. Kids can also get the wiggles out with a dance lesson or movement session.
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Science Museums with Free Admission in Philly
The Franklin Institute—Philadelphia
2021 Update: This venue is open; however, Community Nights has paused during the pandemic. Visitors are asked to check back for updates.
The massive interactive science museum opens its doors for free on Community Nights which are held on select Mondays from 5 pm-8 pm . Kids can get a firsthand look at the inner workings of everything from the human body to weather.
The Science History Institute—Philadelphia
2021 Update: This museum is currently closed.
Formerly Chemical Heritage Foundation, science lovers can gleefully geek out here, as they take in historical artifacts highlighting milestones in scientific breakthroughs.
Wagner Free Institute of Science—Philadelphia
2021 Update: This museum is currently closed, but planning a 2021 reopening.
Here you’ll find three stories of natural history, from dinosaur fossils to centuries-old insects and everything in between. Admission fo rall educational events is free. A donation for visiting is suggested.
Enjoy pay-what-you-wish nights at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo by Elizabeth Leitzell
Art Museums with Free Admission in Philly
Brandywine River Museum of Art—Chadds Ford
2021 Update: The museum is open, but the free admission event, First Sundays for Families, has gone virtual.
Under normal circumstances, Brandywine River Museum hosts First Sundays for Families on the first Sunday of the month 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. This program is currently being offered virtually for the time being.
2021 Update: Beginning in February, Barnes hosts its PECO Free First Sundays. Tickets must be secured in advance.
On the first Sunday of the month, the Barnes, right in the middle of the city’s arts district, is the place to be. In addition to free admission, the museum, which combines art and horticulture, offers special programming and interactive features.
Fireman’s Hall Museum—Philadelphia
2021 Update: This museum is currently closed.
If your little one is fascinated by firetrucks, this is a must-see. The museum features an array of equipment from the city fire department's history, and encourages visitors to play dress-up with firefighter gear.
Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts—Philadelphia
2021 Update: This museum is open; however, PAFA's Family Arts Academy, which is free, is not offered.
Normally, PAFA’s Family Arts Academy hosts free workshops that are fun for the whole family on Sundays from 2 to 4 pm. Each week, local artists lead little ones and their parents in igniting their imaginations and seeing art in a whole new light. This programming is not being offered at this time.
Philadelphia Museum of Art—Philadelphia
2021 Update: This museum is currently open with new hours from Friday to Monday.
While not free, families have an opportunity for discounted admission to the famed Philadelphia Museum of Art every Friday evening from 5 to 8:45pm and the first Sunday of the month from 11am-to 5pm. Patrons are asked to pay what they wish for admission, starting with a donation of at least a penny.
2021 Update: The museum is closed through spring 2021.
Rodin features an eye-catching collection of work from some of the world’s leading sculptors and is always pay-what-you-wish.
The Fabric Workshop and Museum—Philadelphia
2021 Update: Capacity is limited so timed tickets are required and can be reserved online.
Future fashionistas will love FWM, a contemporary art museum focusing on textiles, with ample kids’ programming.
Inspire your little historian with a trip to see the Liberty Bell. Photo courtesy of National Park Service
History Museums and Culture Centers with Free Admission in Philly
2021 Update: This historic spot is open but can only accommodate 10 people, including staff, at a time.
This little-known gem in Philly’s Historic District allows visitors to walk through the halls of the 18th-century mansion to see furniture, architecture, and art dating back hundreds of years.
Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site—Philadelphia
2021 Update: This site is currently closed.
Your kids might read Poe in school. Now they can see where the literary great actually lived. Poe’s former home has been converted into a museum that showcases how Philly impacted his writing and work.
2021 Update: This historic site is open.
Take a walk back in history and show your kids where the nation’s founding documents were signed. Tours are offered daily from 9am to 5pm on a first-come, first-served basis.
Liberty Bell Center—Philadelphia
2021 Update: The center is currently open from 9am to 5pm daily. Capacity is limited to 20 people at a time.
See the world-famous bell and explore rotating exhibits about Philly’s place in history — a must-see for budding history buffs.
National Museum of American Jewish History—Philadelphia
2021 Update: The museum is currently closed.
Typically held on MLK Day, Presidents' Day, July Fourth, Grandparents' Day, and other days, Family Days at the National Museum of American Jewish History offer families free admission while exploring the high and low points that have shaped Jewish communities around the nation. The first-floor gallery is always free to the public. Traditionallly, every day in February features free admission too.
Polish American Cultural Center Museum—Philadelphia
2021 Update: This museum is open from 10am to 4 pm Monday through Friday during January, February, March, and April. From May through December, the museum opens on Saturdays.
Located in the heart of Philly’s 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.
2021 Update: This museum is open.
This Northeast Philly gem served as the home of the wealthy Ryerss family. The museum preserves their huge collection of international artifacts and art, with an adjoining library that bookworms will love. Parking is free as well.
SEPTA Transit Museum—Philadelphia
2021 Update: This venue is currently closed.
All aboard! Learn about the storied history of the city’s transit agency and see firsthand the inner workings of trains, trolleys, and buses.
Temple University Shoe Museum—Philadelphia
2021 Update: The museum is currently closed and tours have been canceled.
If you thought your kids’ closets were crowded, check out Temple’s Shoe Museum. With more than 900 pairs of shoes, this is an off-the-beaten-path museum that showcases history and fashion. Admission is free; however, visits must be scheduled in advance.
United States Mint—Philadelphia
2021 Update: This location is currently closed.
Money, money, money, money! Kids learn how coins are made at the United States Mint located in Historic Philadelphia. Visitors can expect to see the factory, view the first coin press, and meet Peter the Mint Eagle during these free tours.
This post was originally published in 2018. Writer Kristen Sullivan contributed to this 2021 update.