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Philly Fun That’s Free (or Almost Free)

Want a great time without spending a ton? Our picks are perfect for thrifty fun.

So Philly isn’t the most expensive city around, which is one of the many reasons we love it so much. There are plenty of free (or almost free) places to go, so keep this list handy for when you’d like to save a little cash. 

Take a Walk Through History & Philly Landmarks:

American Philosophical Society Museum

104 S. 5th St.

While a $2 donation is requested, this museum with changing exhibitions that range from history, art, and science is a must-see, nestled right behind the East Wing of Independence Hall.

Benjamin Franklin Museum

317 Chestnut St.

After reopening in 2013, this museum celebrates Philly’s favorite founding father, Benjamin Franklin, with interactive exhibits and artifacts. Tickets for children 3 and younger are free. It’s $2 for children 4 to 16 and $5 for adults.

Betsy Ross House

239 Arch St.

Meet Betsy Ross — the woman who sewed an American flag for George Washington himself — and take a tour of her home. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for children, plus $2 for the optional audio tour. 

City Hall’s Observation Desk

Broad and Market Streets, East Market Street Portal, Room 121

Remain just below William Penn’s statue (for the more superstitious among us!) to see a lovely view of the city. Four-person tower tours take place on weekdays, every 15 minutes from 9:30 am to 4:15 pm, and cost $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $4 for students and children.

Comcast Center

1701 John F. Kennedy Blvd.

For 58 floors of one of the tallest “green” buildings in the United States, get the full Comcast Experience. Head over during dusk or during the evening to see the building lit up in all its LED glory.

The Edgar Allan Poe National Historical Site

532 N. 7th St.

Did you know Philadelphia was once home to the writer of The Raven? Visitors to the Edgar Allan Poe historical site can learn more about the man behind the writing. Free self-guided tours are available, as are tours led by a park ranger from Friday through Sunday.

Elfreth’s Alley

Between Front and 2nd Streets and Arch and Race Streets

This is the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the country. (Take that, NYC!) Guided tours are $5 per person, with family rates available, and children under 6 get in free! Elfreth’s Alley is open in the afternoons, from Friday to Sunday.

Independence National Historical Park (INHP)

Between 5th and 6th Streets and Market and Chestnut Streets

The Liberty Bell Center, the President’s House: Freedom and Slavery in the Making of a New Nation, and Independence Hall, the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, are all part of the INHP. Independence Hall tickets can be reserved in advance for a $1.50 fee per ticket, or picked up the day of the tour for free. All other attractions are free and no tickets are required.

Johnson House National Historic Site

6306 Germantown Ave.

Visit an old Quaker home owned by three generations of the abolitionist Johnson Family, which served as an important stop on the Underground Railroad. Check their schedule to see when they’re hosting lectures, art shows, and other programs, and take time to take an hour-long guided tour on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $4 for children 12 and under.

National Museum of American Jewish History

101 South Independence Mall East

The National Museum of American Jewish History is the home to the Only In America Gallery/Hall of Fame that celebrates the lives and accomplishments of 18 Jewish Americans, as well as a gallery of artifacts and special events. The Only In America Gallery is free to the general public.

Once Upon a Nation Storytelling Benches

13 locations around Old City 

Visit history right where it happened more than 200 years ago in Philadelphia. If you’re looking to make a day of it, children are encouraged to pick up a story flag and fill it with a star from each of the 13 locations to create their own flag, which then becomes a certificate and coupon that can be used at the Betsy Ross House and the Franklin Square Shop. Benches are open from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Pennsylvania Hospital

8th and Spruce Streets

Visit the nation’s first chartered hospital, founded in 1751. The hospital boasts a surgical amphitheater, which was used from 1804 to 1868, and many halls to explore. Guided and self-guided tours are available for free, with a suggested $5 donation. Tours can be scheduled ahead of time.

United States Mint

5th and Arch Streets

Ever wanted to see how U.S. currency is created? Now you can at the United States Mint. See coin production from 40 feet away and visit the nation’s first coining press (trust us, kids love it!). This is free and open to the public with audio and video stations guiding the tours.

Valley Forge National Historical Park

Route 23 and North Gulph Road, King of Prussia

With free family programming happening all the time, check out Valley Forge National Park’s (VNFP) website to see what they have coming up. VFNP offers a glimpse into Revolutionary War history, with monuments such as the National Memorial Arch and the Muhlenberg Huts. The park can be explored by foot, by bike, and by car. There’s a cellphone tour available by calling (484) 396-1018.

Unique Philadelphia Museums:

Chemical Heritage Foundation

315 Chestnut St.

See hundreds of artifacts from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries at this museum located in a former Civil War-era bank building. See the stories behind scientific developments, from epic failures to triumphant discoveries! This museum is free and open to the public.

Fireman’s Museum

147 N. 2nd St.

Ever wanted to learn more about the firefighters of Philadelphia? Learn their history, see what they’re doing to keep the city safe now, and enjoy changing exhibitions and programming.

The Mummers Museum

1100 S. 2nd St.

The Mummers tradition near and dear to our Philly hearts has its own museum, which is a pay-what-you-wish destination for Philly families. See the history of the parade and the tradition of dressing up in costume itself as well as a huge collection of Mummer memorabilia.

National Liberty Museum

321 Chestnut St.

A collection of glass art, stories of over 2,000 heroes, and 78 interactive exhibits make up the National Liberty Museum. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $5 for students with I.D, and $2 for children ages 5 to 7, with free admission for children under 5.

Please Touch Museum

4231 Avenue of the Republic

On the first Wednesday of every month from 4 to 7 pm, the Please Touch Museum offers a discounted rate of $2 per person which includes story time, live puppet shows, activities, and more.

Take a Walk Through the Garden/Park:

Buckingham Valley Vineyards

1521 Route 413 (Durham Road), Buckingham

Visit for self-guided tours and free tastings on Tuesdays through Fridays at the Rushland Ridge Vineyard and Winery. (Tastings are $5 on weekends.)

Franklin Square

6th and Race Streets

This park is a gorgeous addition to historic Philadelphia, and hosts free events and programs year-round. They also offer mini-golf in the warmer seasons, for $9 for ages 13 and up, $7 for ages 3 to 12. The carousel is also $3 for ages 3 and up.

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

8601 Lindbergh Blvd.

Get out of the city and take a hike at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. Pack some water and wear comfortable shoes for a day of lovely sights just outside the city.

Linvilla Orchards

137 W. Knowlton Road, Media

It’s free to explore the orchards themselves, and there are minimal costs for activities year-round, from fruit picking, to animal petting, to golf, and more family-friendly activities. Check the website for festivals and the schedule for the popular Halloween and Christmas events. 

Philly Magic Gardens

1020 South St.

From June 5 to 10, admission is free to the Philly Magic Gardens for Philadelphia Residents and students with proper ID. Walk through the amazing mosaic gardens, see music performances, and enjoy activities taking place throughout the week. Tickets can be obtained in advance to avoid lines.

Shofuso: Japanese House and Garden

Lansdowne and Horticultural Drives

Nationally-known Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, open Apil through October from Wednesday to Sunday, offers a traditional look at Japanese culture in Philadelphia. Take a tour for $8 for adults and $5 for seniors, children ages 3 to 17 and college students with student I.D.; children under 3 get in for free

Art Museums:

The Barnes Foundation

2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway

The home to one of the largest and most important collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modern paintings in the world. The museum offers free admission on the first Sunday of every month. This free day includes access to the collection, free audio tours, ARTime Storytime programs, and more.

The Fabric Workshop & Museum

1214 Arch St.

This free museum boasts contemporary art that is entirely devoted to creating new media work with new materials! They have artists in residence who create the works in the collection. There are in-house tours, exhibitions, and educational programs to see.

The Institute of Contemporary Art

118 S. 36th St.

The Institute of Contemporary Art, thanks to a generous grant, is free for all to explore, interpret, and interact with in University City.

The Moravian Pottery & Tile Works

130 E. Swamp Road, Doylestown

If a drive up to Bucks County is on your to-do list, be sure to stop into the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works. See methods of making decorative tiles that have been used since 1898. You can purchase tiles at the museum’s shop, too. A video and self-guided tour cost $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for children ages 7 to 17.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Wednesday evenings and the first Sunday of every month at the Philadelphia Museum of Art are pay-what-you-wish! See the amazing works on view at the museum; on Wednesdays, check their calendar for special events. 

Rodin Museum

2151 Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Who needs Paris when you can see Rodin’s works right here in Philly? The museum features the Gates of Hell (don’t worry, the kids won’t be scared!) and a bronze cast of the Thinker. There is also a garden surrounding the museum to enjoy when the sun is out. Admission is pay-what-you-wish.

Performances & Theater:

Arden Theatre Company

40 N. 2nd St.

The Arden Theatre Company makes theater accessible by offering pay-what-you-wish for the debut of their main-stage productions at sneak previews. Students with ID can also get rush tickets for $10 cash for any seats left 30 minutes before the performance begins.

Curtis Institute of Music

1726 Locust St.

See free student recitals at the Curtis Institute of Music on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings throughout the school year. Check their schedule for more details.

Fringe Arts Scratch Night

140 N. Columbus Blvd.

See works in progress for free! Scratch Night is held the first Monday of every month, and hosts fast-paced samplings of contemporary theater with dance and performance art.

Helium Comedy Club

2031 Sansom St.

Students with proper ID can see most shows for $5 (call ahead!) on Wednesday through Friday evenings. Also, if your birthday is coming up, you can call the box office for free tickets to a Wednesday or Thursday night show.

InterAct Theatre Company

1512 Spruce St.

Performances are pay-what-you-wish for the beginning of each performance’s run at the InterAct Theatre Company. Check their website for more details on dates.

Kimmel Center

300 S. Broad St.

The Free at the Kimmel series is offered at select times throughout the year, so check their website for dates and information. Community rush tickets are available for $10 for many Kimmel Center Presents performances, available at the box office at 5:30 pm for evening performances and 11:30 am for matinees, but are limited to one ticket per person. Also available at the Kimmel Center are free building and theater tours, which are offered daily at 1 pm.

Macy’s Center City

13th and Market Streets

If you want to listen to free performance on an organ with 28,750 pipes (that originally debuted at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair), you’re in luck. Visit the Grand Court and enjoy a twice daily 45-minute performance (except Sundays.) After the performance is over, the console loft is available to explore if time permits.

Settlement Music School

Multiple locations

Join Settlement Music School for their free performance hours that their young talent puts on every month. Check their calendar and call ahead to see which performance hours are upcoming.

Walnut Street Theater

825 Walnut St.

At the beginning of every season, a limited number of mezzanine seats are offered for $20 for every Mainstage performance. Rush rickets are also available; on performance day, select tickets are sold for half price with the promo code WSTDAY. People 24 years old and under can buy Mainstage day-of-show rush tickets for $20 each at the box office with valid ID.

Philadelphia Special Attractions:

Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center

640 Waterworks Drive

If you want to learn about our city’s rivers and their impact on our fair city and the surrounding wildlife, this is a great place to start, and it’s free.

Herr’s Snack Factory

Route 272 and Herr Drive, Nottingham

The one-hour Herr’s Snack Factory tour ends with a sample of fresh chips. Reservations are required, and as of June 2016, a small fee will be required as well, so get there now!

Museum Without Walls: AUDIO

Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Experience and learn the stories of 65+ outdoor sculptures along Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Fairmount Park any time you want, day or night. Listen to three-minute segments on your cellphone on the program’s free mobile app, or downloads streaming from their website.

Pizza Brain

2313 Frankford Ave.

Everyone loves pizza, and this free Fishtown location is the world’s first and only pizza museum (Italy, where have you been?). It’s filled with all pizza-related artifacts, from toys to comic books and records.

Yard Brewing Company & Philadelphia Brewing Company

901 N. Delaware Ave. (Yards) 2440 Frankford Ave. (Philadelphia)

These two local breweries allow guests to explore the facilities and learn how beer is made! Free guided tours are offered in the early afternoons during the weekend at Yards, and Saturdays at the Philadelphia Brewing Company.

Reading Terminal Market

51 N. 12th Str.

Not only is Reading Terminal Market a great place to get some amazing food for your upcoming dinner parties, it’s a Philly staple that is free to enter. Show the kids the architecture and then roam around looking for treats!

Discounts:

CityPASS

Snag some serious savings with CityPASS to get 45 percent off Philly attractions, including the Philadelphia Zoo, Adventure Aquarium in Camden, Philadelphia Trolley Works, Franklin Institute, and the Philly Observation Deck. The cost is $59 for adults and $39 for children ages 2 to 12, and is valid for nine days from its first use.

Funsavers Emails

Every Thursday, subscribers to the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance’s Funsavers emails receive half-price ticket offers for varied performances and attractions around Philadelphia.

 

Photo courtesy of Visit Philadelphia.

Jes@familyfocusmedia.com

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

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