Philadelphia is celebrating Martin Luther King Day with an array of events. Some of the city’s most popular museums are open for free or for a discounted rate, and many are pairing up with the Martin Luther King Day of Service and hosting events to improve the lives of those in need in the Greater Philadelphia area.
Whether you want to listen to a reading from the iconic, I Have a Dream speech, create art for a good cause, or discover the life and work of Dr. King through performance, we’ve got something for you. Head out and honor one of the most influential and celebrated Civil Rights activists in our history.
Bonus: There will also be a celebrity gracing UPenn with his presence in honor of Dr. King (!!!).
We’ve compiled a list of our top picks of Martin Luther King Day events in the city, below:
• MLK Day and Inauguration Day at the National Constitution Center: In honor of Dr. King and the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, the National Constitution Center is welcoming guests to the museum for free all day long. There will be live music, trivia, service projects, interactive exhibits and more. There will be activities relating to the two holidays all day long. Also listen to local actors and college students read the powerful I Have a Dream speech at 1 p.m. There will also be a live-feed of the President Barack Obama’s inauguration on televisions throughout the building. The celebration runs from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
• Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service Arts & Service Workshop at the Philadelphia Museum of Art: The Philadelphia Museum of Art is normally closed on Mondays, however, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Art Museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, January 21 AND the Art Museum will be featuring Pay-What-You-Wish admission to everyone all day long. After checking out the museum’s collection, create your own works of art at the museum’s day-long arts and service workshop. Guests of all ages and skill sets are invited to create their own masterpiece. Artwork will then be donated to Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA) and the Cascarones Por la Vida Art Fund. In addition to arts and crafts, listen to a reading by illustrator E.B. Lewis whose books focus on service and love.
• Sharing the Heritage! Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Commemoration & Day of Service at the African American Museum: The African American Museum in Philadelphia is pairing up with the Citizens Bank Foundation to present guests with a day of service and celebration of the life of Martin Luther King. Discover MLK’s legacy through a break dance workshop and explore exhibits and presentations throughout the day. The museum will offer free admission all day long, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
• MLK Family Day at the National Museum of American Jewish History: Enjoy free admission at the National Museum of American Jewish History for the duration of the day. Take part in crafts with esteemed Philadelphia muralists during a workshop from 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., watch a video about the museum’s latest exhibit, From Swastika to Jim Crow and listen to Steve Fischler, the films director speak about his experience creating the film.
• John Legend Lecture at the University of Pennsylvania: On Wednesday, January 16, Grammy winning artist, John Legend will be giving a special lecture at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. We’re excited. Legend will be delivering the 12th annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture in social justice. This cool event is free and open to the public; and it starts at 5:30 p.m. It will be located in the Irvine Auditorium. While tickets are free, there are only a limited number available, so stop by the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts box office now to reserve your spot. (Note: this event takes place prior to MLK Day.)
More MLK Day activities below.
• GroundSwell: A Celebration of Arts & Community at Arden Theater: Head out to the Arden Theatre for an evening of free fun and MLK celebration. the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance is teaming up with the Arden Theatre, With Art Philadelphia, Art-Reach and First Person Arts to bring you GroundSwell, an event celebrating Martin Luther King through service, arts and performances. The events will start at 5:30 p.m.
• 11th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute at the Kimmel Center: From 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Friday, January 18, The Kimmel Center is hosting their annual tribute to Dr. King in the Perelman Theater. The performance brings together more than 100 participants hailing from more than 500 area high schools and middle schools. The afternoon performance will include a show from D/3, PHILADANCO’s youth ensemble, a performance from Girard academic music program and many other live performances. The performance is free and open to the public.
• MLK Jr. Day of Service at the Franklin Institute: From 11 a.m.-2 p.m. the Franklin Institute is providing guests with a slew of activities to commemorate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King. Guests will be invited to participate in an African American Scientists Scavenger Hunt throughout the museum and are encouraged to get a little crafty and participate in the I Have A Dream craft where a wall of dreams will be created throughout the day. Also listen to the powerful words of Dr. King as his I Have a Dream speech is played on the walls of Franklin Hall at the top of each hour. The Martin Luther King Day activities are free with regular admission.
• Martin Luther King Weekend at Eastern State Penitentiary: Eastern State Penitentiary is offering guests a look at one of the most influential letters written by MLK, the Letter from Birmingham Jail. As the name states, the letter was written while MLK was incarcerated, so the folks at Eastern State Penitentiary are opening their own prison doors for a weekend honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Listen to actors read the Letter from Birmingham on Saturday, January 19, Sunday, January 20, and Monday, January 21 at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The readings are free for the public. In addition to the readings, Eastern State Penitentiary’s standard guided tours will be available all weekend, but will include a Civil Rights perspective. Guests will learn how the Civil Rights movement affected prisoners at Eastern State Penitentiary, and how the prisoners responded to Dr. King’s assassination. Regular admission prices apply.
• MLK Day at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens: At 11 a.m. on Martin Luther King Day, come out to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens to create tiles fit for the Magic Gardens themselves. At 11 a.m., learn how to create the tiles on display at the gardens and make one to take home. Also, go on an exclusive tour of the Magic Gardens and check out areas that are not normally shown to the public. Cool! From noon-5 p.m., learn how to recreate the styles on display at the gardens, and create tiles that mirror your dreams for change. At 2 p.m., explore the ins-and-outs of the Magic Gardens with a tour.
• History Makers Weekend at the Historic Philadelphia Center: The Historic Philadelphia Center is celebrating big names all weekend long. Their celebration combines Martin Luther King Day, Inauguration Day and Ben Franklin’s birthday and is offering events of all sorts to attendees. From 12-3 p.m. on Friday, January 18 to Monday, January 21, take part in family-friendly crafts and storytelling.
• Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Cliveden: On Monday, January 21 from 3-5 p.m., head over to Cliveden in Germantown for an afternoon honoring Dr. King. Enjoy snacks provided by Little Jimmie’s Bakery Café and listen to live music from Sol Unlimited Orchestra. This free event will be hosted by internet personality, Serena Sol Brown.