PHILADELPHIA, February 1, 2018 – When it comes to visiting Philadelphia, some of the best things to see and do are free, or close to it. For families and budget-conscious travelers eager to explore the region, that’s great news. Check out the city’s many low-cost or no-cost attractions, including historic Independence Hall,student recitals at the Curtis Institute of Music and tours (and beer tastings) at the Philadelphia Brewing Company.
American Philosophical Society Museum – On 5th Street, next to the east wing of Independence Hall, Philosophical Hall (1789), built by the American Philosophical Society, served as the nation’s first “think tank”—the first U.S. museum and scientific society. Today, visitors can see exhibitions featuring treasures from the Society’s collections of over 13 million manuscripts and other historical objects.
Benjamin Franklin Museum – Next to the site of the Founding Father’s home, this museum celebrates Franklin’s legacy with artifacts, computer animations and interactive displays that explore the inventor-statesman-philosopher’s life and character.
Ross House – At the pint-sized Colonial home of Betsy Ross, who is credited with sewing the first American flag at the request of General George Washington, visitors meet Ross herself as she works in her upholstery shop. In summer, visitors can start every day in the house’s courtyard with a free colonial flag-raising at 10 a.m.
City Hall Observation Deck – Those brave enough to journey to the top of the world’s tallest masonry building enjoy bird’s-eye views of Philadelphia just below City Hall’s William Penn statue. City Hall’s tower hosts four-person visits weekdays, every 15 minutes from 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., and select Saturdays.
Edgar Allan Poe National Historical Site – At the home of the legendary author, who wrote short stories such as The Black Cat in Philadelphia, visitors explore Poe’s fascinating life and modern-day impacts. Tours are self-guided or led by a park ranger from Friday through Sunday.
Elfreth's Alley – The oldest continuously occupied residential street in the U.S. is a quaint cobblestone alley located in the Historic District. The Museum House opens Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons spring through fall, and for events and private tours in the winter.
Independence National Historical Park (INHP) – The birthplace of our nation includes 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 the U.S. Constitution. Timed tickets for Independence Hall are available at the Independence Visitor Center on the day of the tour for free.
Johnson House National Historic Site – This Germantown home served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Today, the house displays various slavery-era artifacts and hosts lectures, art shows and other special programs.
National Museum of American Jewish History – The ground-level Only In America® Gallery/Hall of Fame celebrates the lives and achievements of 19 Jewish-Americans. The space boasts some big-name artifacts, including Albert Einstein’s pipe and Steven Spielberg’s Super 8 camera.
Once Upon A Nation – Memorial Day through Labor Day,history buffs of all ages enjoy storytelling benches at 13 locations around the Historic District. Children can obtain a story flag at any bench, collect a star from each storyteller and exchange the flag complete with 13 stars for a certificate and coupon that can be used at the Betsy Ross House and the Franklin Square Shop.
Pennsylvania Hospital – The nation’s first chartered hospital was founded in 1751. Today, visitors can explore its surgical amphitheater used from 1804 through 1868.
United States Mint – Self-guided tours of this moneyed site include witnessing coin production from 40 feet above the factory floor and the nation’s first coining press. Audio and video stations explain coinage history.
Valley Forge National Historical Park – The site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of General George Washington and the Continental Army offers a glimpse into the Revolutionary War with historic structures such as Washington’s Headquarters and commemorative monuments such as the National Memorial Arch. Visitors can explore the park by car, by bike or on foot.
CityPASS ticket booklet – Offering serious savings on Philadelphia’s most popular attractions, this booklet includes four tickets to Philly favorites. Visitors choose between Adventure Aquarium and The Philadelphia Zoo; the Big Bus Company and Philadelphia Trolley Works, The Franklin Institute and One Liberty Observation Deck are always included.
Science History Institute, formerly the Chemical Heritage Foundation– A Civil War-era bank building houses this museum and its permanent and rotating exhibitions that showcase hundreds of 18th– to 20th-century artifacts that tell the stories of the successes, astonishing failures and strange surprises behind the scientific discoveries that changed our world.
Mummers Museum – South Philly’s Art Deco outpost celebrates a centuries-old Philadelphia parade whose roots go back to Swedish settlers who brought to the Colonies their Christmas custom of dressing in costume and performing pantomimes. The annual event began on New Year’s Day 1901 in South Philadelphia and has grown into 10,000-person, all-day tradition. The museum features a collection of Mummer memorabilia.
National Liberty Museum – Visitors remember the fragility of freedom through 78 imaginative and interactive exhibits, including an expansive collection of glass art and the stories of 2,000 heroes who have made a difference in protecting liberty.
Please Touch Museum® – Philadelphia’s children’s museum offers families discounted admission the first Wednesday of every month. From 4-7 p.m., admission to this little kid heaven is only $2 per person and includes access to all permanent and feature exhibits, the city’s only year-round children’s theater, interactive activities and more.
Art & Gardens:
Barnes Foundation – The home of one of the world’s most important collections of impressionist, post-impressionist and early modern paintings offers free admission and programming on the first Sunday of every month. It also has family tours on the second and third Sundays of each month that are free with collection admission, and free ArtTime Storytime programs suited to ages 2-5.
The Fabric Workshop and Museum – This contemporary, cutting-edge art museum has an extensive permanent collection, in-house and touring exhibitions and comprehensive educational programming. The museum also offers guided tours of its onsite printing studios seven days a week.
The Moravian Pottery & Tile Works – This working history museum in Bucks County welcomes visitors to watch the production of decorative tiles using methods employed by Henry Mercer’s crew beginning in 1898.
Philadelphia Museum of Art – Every Wednesday night starting at 5 p.m. and on the first Sunday of every month, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway’s crowned jewel offers pay-what-you-wish access to the entire main building, showcasing works by Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí, and many others. Many special events are free with museum admission, and the museum offers free cell phone tours that add perspective to the collections.
Rodin Museum – The repository of the largest collection of works by Auguste Rodin outside of Paris features treasures such as The Gates of Hell and a bronze caste of The Thinker. The surrounding gardens are also a great place to find artistic inspiration.
Shofuso: Japanese House and Garden – West Fairmount Park’sJapanese house and delightful garden reflects the history of Japanese culture in Philadelphia.Shofuso is open to the public late March through October from Wednesday through Sunday.
Arden Theatre Company – This modern-leaning, Historic District theater fulfills its commitment to making theater accessible to diverse audiences by opening final dress rehearsals to the public. Attendees pay what they can to see the full cast, full costumes and full scenery at this sneak preview on the main stage the Wednesday night before the show opens, when proceeds benefit a Philadelphia non-profit.
Curtis Institute of Music – Music lovers have the opportunity to take in over 100 solo and chamber performances most Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings and many weekends during the school year, thanks to this highly selective conservatory’s exceedingly gifted students and their free Student Recital Series.
FringeArts – The first Monday of every month is Scratch Night, a fast-paced sampling of contemporary theater, dance and performance art—an inside look at works in progress. All Scratch Nights are followed by a family-style artist meal prepared by FringeArts’ onsite restaurant La Peg, providing an opportunity to eat and chat with the artists that just shared their work.
Helium Comedy Club – On Wednesday and Thursday evenings, and anytime, if you’re a student with I.D., this Rittenhouse comedy stop stages local and international funny folks for only $5. What’s more, birthday-month celebrants who contact the box office can receive four free tickets to a Wednesday or Thursday night. (Special events excluded.)
InterAct Theatre Company – Penny-pinching culture vultures pay what they wish for a performance of thought-provoking shows at the last dress rehearsal before the beginning of each run. T
Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts – The Free at the Kimmel series showcases all manner of genres intermittently throughout the year. In addition, discount community rush tickets are available for many Kimmel Center Presents and Broadway Philadelphia performances.
Macy’s – Amid the classic department store experience is an unexpected one: Live performances on a spectacular pipe organ. Debuting at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, the organ was originally purchased by merchant magnate John Wanamaker and enlarged by his store’s own pipe organ shop to include 28,750 pipes. In the Grand Court of this National Historic Landmark building, visitors can enjoy 45-minute concerts twice daily except Sundays.
Walnut Street Theatre – At the start of the season, a limited number of mezzanine seats are available for $20 for every Mainstage performance. On performance day, select tickets are sold for half price to the general public using promotion code WSTDAY. For youth (24 and under), Mainstage day-of-show tickets are available for $25 at the box office with valid I.D. Independence Studio on 3 day-of-show tickets are available to the general public for $25 with promotion code WSTST.
Funsavers – The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance offers the ultimate in one-stop shopping for cultural savings. Every Thursday, e-subscribers receive half-price ticket offers for dozens of the hottest shows and events in the Philadelphia region, including theater, music and dance performances, museum exhibitions and more.
Special-Interest Tours & Attractions:
Buckingham Valley Vineyards – As part of the Bucks County Wine Trail, this family-owned and folksy vineyard offers self-guided tours and free tastings Tuesday-Thursday.
Comcast Center – One ofthe country’s tallest LEED-certified buildings features The Comcast Experience, a lobby video projection that blends art and technology to depict realistic nature imagery, urban landscapes and much more on one of the largest four-millimeter LED screens in the world.
Franklin Square – Enjoyment of two playgrounds, a fountain and plenty of open space is free in the revitalized city park named in honor of Benjamin Franklin. For a small fee, visitors can also enjoy Philly-themed miniature golf and the Parx Liberty Carousel. The park also hosts free events and programs throughout the year.
Herr’s Snack Factory Tour – Potato chips, pretzels and more are part of a one-hour tour that finishes with free samples, right out of the cooker. Tours take place Monday through Friday, and reservations are required.
Linvilla Orchards – This fully-functioning, 300-acre farm offers agri-tainment at its finest: barnyard animals, pick-your-own fruits—or cut-your-own-Christmas tree—plus a playground and a year-round market.
Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO – The Association for Public Art offers an engaging way to experience more than 65 outdoor sculptures along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and in Fairmount Park and Center City. Both art enthusiasts and recreational passersby can listen to three-minute segments using their cell phones, via the program’s free mobile app or as audio downloads or streaming audio from the website.
Pizza Brain – This Fishtown pizzeria houses the world’s first and only pizza museum, filled with anything and everything pizza-related. The collection ranges from pizza-themed toys and comic books to records about cheesy, saucy pies.
Rushland Ridge Vineyard & Winery – This mainstay of the Philadelphia suburbs since 1968 focuses on chambourcin, cabernet franc and chardonnay grapes and provides tastings seasonally from Thursday through Sunday.
Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse – Dating to the late 19th century, this Fairmount Park indoor-outdoor venue is a year-round favorite for little kids. Smith’s 16,000-foot house has three floors of play areas designed for kids five and under. The playground, situated on its original historic landscape—6.5 acres of open fields, wooded terrain and sloped hills—is home to the century-old Ann Newman Giant Wooden Slide, along with modern pieces of play equipment.
Philadelphia Brewing Co. – Guests explore the facilities and learn how draughts go from barley to beer at this local brewery. Free guided tours run noon-4 p.m. on Saturdays.
VISIT PHILADELPHIA® is our name and our mission. As the region’s official tourism marketing agency, we build Greater Philadelphia’s image, drive visitation and boost the economy.