March 14, 2013
Philadelphia is a great place to be on a budget. Many of our museums, theaters and historical landmarks often offer discounted tickets and cheap events on certain days. Plus, many of our great attractions are just inexpensive — or free! — to begin with.
No matter what your budget is, this list encompasses plenty of spots all over the city (and even into the suburbs) that won’t leave your wallet empty.
Check out our roundup of our top picks of affordable attractions in Philadelphia, below:
• The Betsy Ross House: Check out the place where Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag at the request of General George Washington. Admission for Betsy Ross’ Colonial home is only $5 for adults and $4 for children.
• City Hall Observation Deck: This one’s a hidden gem, for a bird’s-eye view of Philadelphia, head to City Hall’s observation deck, which sits just below the William Penn statue. Four-person tower tours take place every 15 minutes from 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. and cost $6 for adults and $4 for seniors and children.
• Edgar Allan Poe National Historical Site: Edgar Allen Poe’s former home is now a spot for visitors to explore his fascinating life and learn how is influence is still evident in the literary world today. Tours of the Edgar Allen Poe National historic site are either self-guided or led by a park ranger. Admission to the author’s home is free.
• Elfreth’s Alley: Elfreth’s Alley is a little cobblestone street located in Old City. It is the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the United States. Admission for a guided tour of the Museum House is $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 6 to 12. A family pack costs $12, and children under 6 get in for free.
• Independence National Historical Park: Check out free historic attractions such as 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. Tickets for Independence Hall can be picked up at the Independence Visitor Center on the day of the tour or reserved in advance online. A $1.50 reservation fee per ticket applies.
• Johnson House National Historic Site: The Johnson House National Historic Site is a Quaker home in Germantown owned by four generations of the abolitionist Johnson family. It was once a stop on the Underground Railroad. Today, the house displays various slavery-era artifacts and hosts lectures, art shows and other special programs. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for senior citizens and $4 for children 12 and under, and hour-long guided tours are available.
• National Museum of American Jewish History: Located right on Independence Mall, the National Museum of American Jewish History invites people to enjoy one of its most popular exhibitions for free. The Only In America Gallery and Hall of Fame celebrates the lives and achievements of 18 Jewish-Americans. Plus, the ground-floor gallery boasts some big-name artifacts like Albert Einstein’s pipe and Steven Spielberg’s Super 8 camera, among others.
• Pennsylvania Hospital: The Pennsylvania Hospital, which was founded in 1751, is America’s first hospital. Today, visitors can explore the historic hospital, including the amphitheatre operating room used from 1804 through 1868. Tours are self-guided with a $4 donation, or visitors can call to schedule a guided tour.
• United States Mint: During free self-guided tours of the United States Mint, visitors watch coin production from 40 feet above the factory floor and see the nation’s first coining press. Audio and video stations explain currency’s history.
• Valley Forge National Historical Park: The site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of General George Washington and the Continental Army, Valley Forge National Historical Park offers a glimpse into the Revolutionary War with historic structures such as Washington’s Headquarters and commemorative monuments such as the National Memorial Arch. The huge park is explorable by car, bike or foot. There’s even a free cell phone tour. Admission to the park and to Washington’s Headquarters is free.
• CityPASS Ticket Booklet: For some serious savings on Philadelphia’s most popular attractions, tour-goers can snag a CityPASS ticket booklet, which includes access to six Philly favorites, including Adventure Aquarium, The Franklin Institute and Philadelphia Zoo. The booklet costs for $59 for adults and $39 for children. The Philadelphia CityPASS is valid for nine consecutive days beginning with the date of first use. Bonus – it even allows holders to skip the main entrance ticket line at most attractions.
• The Chemical Heritage Foundation’s Museum and Conference Center: Located in a former Civil War-era bank building, the 10,000-square-foot Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum houses the permanent exhibition Making Modernity, showcasing hundreds of 18th to 20th-century artifacts, including scientific objects, artwork, rare books and everyday objects that tell the stories of discoveries that shaped the modern world. Best of all, this attraction is free of charge.
More picks below.
• The Mummers Museum: It’s no secret that the Mummers are a huge part of Philadelphia culture and the Mummers Museum celebrates a centuries-old Philadelphia tradition. Learn about the history of all that is the Mummers and check out a huge collection of Mummer memorabilia. Admission is $3.50 for adults, $2.50 for seniors, students and for children ages 6 and up. Children under 5 are free.
• National Liberty Museum: Through imaginative and interactive exhibits, the National Liberty Museum reminds visitors of the fragility of freedom. This message is illustrated by an expansive collection of glass art and the stories of 2,000 heroes of all walks of life who have made a difference in protecting liberty. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $5 for students, $2 for children ages 5 to 17 and free for children under 5. The museum also offers a special family rate of $15, which includes two adults and their children.
• Please Touch Museum: On the first Wednesday of every month, the Please Touch Museum offers discounted tickets for family fun. From 4-7 p.m., admission is only $2 per person and includes storyelling, live puppet shows, interactive activities and more.
• The Fabric Workshop and Museum: Stop into the Fabric Workshop and Museum, a contemporary art museum that is devoted to creating new media and work in new materials in collaboration with artists from diverse artistic backgrounds. The museum has an extensive permanent collection, in-house and touring exhibitions and comprehensive educational programming. Admission is $3 for adults and free for children under 12.
• The Moravian Pottery and Tile Works: Located in Bucks County, the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works history museum gives guests a firsthand view of the production of decorative tiles using methods employed by Henry Mercer’s crew beginning in 1898. The tiles produced, available in the museum’s shop, are of Mercer’s original line. A video and self-guided tour cost $5 for adults, $4.50 for seniors and $3 for children ages 7 to 17. Talk about a deal!
• Philadelphia Museum of Art: Every Wednesday night starting at 5 p.m. on February 13 the Philadelphia Museum of Art is open to visitors for a great price. Guests are invited to pay what they wish and explore the entire main building, showcasing works by Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí, Himalayan artists and local luminaries such as Thomas Eakins. Budget-conscious art lovers can also pay what they wish on the first Sunday of every month. In addition, the museum offers free cell phone tours that add perspective to the collections.
• Philadelphia Magic Gardens: Using items such as recycled glass and ceramic, mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar constructed one of the city’s most eye-catching displays of public art, the Philadelphia Magic Gardens. Offered every day, self-guided tours through the gallery space and massive sculpture garden are $7 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, $3 for children ages 6 to 12 and free for children under 6. Guided tours provide insights to the methods, references and materials within the artwork and are offered year round. Prices for walking tours are $10 for adults and $6 for children 12 and under. Reservations are recommended for the guided tours.
• The Rodin Museum: Housing the largest collection of works by Auguste Rodin outside of Paris, the recently rennovated Rodin Museum 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. An $8 donation is requested.
• Shofuso: Japanese House and Garden: The Shofuso: Japanese House and Garden sits on the Horticultural Center grounds in Fairmount Park and includes a main house, a tea room, an ornamental garden and a landscaped pond filled with koi. Admission to Shofuso, which is open to the public May through September from Wednesday through Sunday (but weekends only in the months of April and October), includes a tour and costs $6 for adults and $4 for seniors, children ages 3 to 17 and college students with student I.D.; children under 3 get in for free.
• The Arden Theatre Company: Before each mainstage performance officially debuts, the Arden Theatre fulfills its commitment to making the theater accessible to diverse audiences by opening the final dress rehearsal to the public. Attendees pay what they can to see the full cast, full costumes and full scenery at this sneak preview with proceeds benefiting a Philadelphia charity. For regular performances, students with I.D. can pay $10 cash for available seats five minutes before the show begins.
• Curtis Institute of Music: Attention, music lovers! You can scope out future stars at the Curtis Institute of Music, where students perform solo and chamber works most Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings during the school year, as well as many weekends, as part of the free student recital series.
• Helium Comedy Club: The Helium Comedy Club features local and international comics and offers a $5 discount to students with I.D. for most shows on Wednesday through Friday evenings. Those who sign up on Helium’s website receive four free tickets to a Wednesday or Thursday night show during their birthday month. Happy Birthday indeed!
• InterAct Theatre Company: Penny-pinching culture vultures catch InterAct Theatre Company’s thought-provoking shows at a discounted price of $20 for preview performances, scheduled before the official opening night.
• The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts: Music-philes can enjoy concerts of all genres during the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts’ Free at the Kimmel series, offered intermittently throughout the year. In addition, $10 community rush tickets are available for every Kimmel Center Presents performance. Tickets are available at the box office beginning at 5:30 p.m. for evening curtain times and at 11:30 a.m. for matinees. Limit one ticket per person. Free building and theater tours, offered Tuesday through Sunday at 1 p.m., give visitors a behind-the-scenes look.
• Macy’s: Center City’s Macy’s not only offers the signature shopping experience customers expect, but it also provides visitors with the sounds of its spectacular Wanamaker pipe organ. Debuting at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, the organ was originally purchased by famous merchant John Wanamaker and enlarged by his store’s own pipe organ shop to include 28,677 pipes. In the Grand Court of this National Historic Landmark building, visitors can enjoy free 45-minute concerts twice daily except Sundays.
• Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts: PAFA After Dark at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts takes place on six Thursdays each year from 6-9 p.m. Visitors will experience the museum’s gorgeous galleries under the provocative blanket of night. Tickets are $10 in advance; $15 at the door; free for members.
• The Walnut Street Theatre: Check out some of the blockbuster shows at the Walnut Street Theatre for a bargain prices. At the start of the season, 11 mezzanine seats are available for $10 each for every mainstage performance. On performance day, select tickets are sold for half-price to the general public, when using promotion code GPTMC. Youth tickets are available for those who are 24 years old and under for $20 at the box office.
• Funsavers: The one-stop shop for cultural savings comes from the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance’s free Funsavers emails. Every Thursday, subscribers receive half-price ticket offers for dozens of the most popular shows and events in the Philadelphia region, including theater, music and dance performances, museum exhibitions and more.
Special-Interest Tours and Attractions:
• Buckingham Valley Vineyards: Part of the Bucks County Wine Trail, family-owned Buckingham Valley Vineyards offers tours and tastings six days a week that are self-guided and self-poured at no charge. Founded in the Philadelphia suburbs in 1968, Rushland Ridge Vineyard & Winery focuses on chambourcin, cabernet franc and chardonnay grapes and provides free tastings Thursday through Sunday.
• Comcast Center: Philadelphia’s spectacular 58-floor Comcast Center is one of the tallest green buildings in the country and features the popular Comcast Experience. This stunning blend of art and technology depicts realistic nature imagery, urban landscapes and much more on the largest four-millimeter LED screen in the world—with five times the resolution of a high-definition television.
• Franklin Square: Along with two playgrounds and plenty of open space, Franklin Square, a revitalized city park named in honor of Ben Franklin, features a fountain, Philly-themed miniature golf and the Philadelphia Park Liberty Carousel. The prices are low, guests ages 13 and up can play mini golf for $9 and guests ages 3-12 can play for $7 each; while the carousel is $2.50 for all ages.
• Herr’s Snack Factory: The Herr’s Snack Factory is a snackers paradise. The free factory tour finishes with samples of chips, just out of the cooker.
• Linvilla Orchards: Nature lovers who tour Linvilla Orchards, a fully functioning, 300-acre farm, can pick up some fresh goods at the year-round market, spot barnyard animals and head to the fields to pick fruits.
• Museum Without Walls: AUDIO: Museum Without Walls: AUDIO gives people a fun way to experience 51 outdoor sculptures along Kelly Drive and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Passersby can listen to three-minute interpretive segments for free by using their cell phones and the program’s mobile app or as audio downloads or streaming audio from the website. About 100 people personally connected to the works reveal the untold histories of the art.
• Yards Brewing Company and Philadelphia Brewing Company: Beer lovers can sip suds at two local breweries, the Yards Brewing Company and Philadelphia Brewing Co. Guests explore the facilities and learn how draughts go from barley to beer. Guided tours run on Saturday afternoons and begin and end in the tasting rooms.