7 Tips and Tricks for Visiting the Franklin Institute

I love this museum so much! I think the exhibits are extremely intentional and engaging. Each time we go to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, we go as early as possible (usually entering right as it opens at 9:30) and my kids stay till closing. And that leads me to my top tip.

Plan your visit for off -peak days and / or times if possible

During any given day, there will be field trips at the Franklin Institute. We recommend arriving right as the doors open, or staying until after 2 o’clock so you can experience the exhibits without crowds. If you are planning to see other sites in Philadelphia the same day, a good strategy would be to arrive to the Franklin after lunchtime or as it opens.

MOM TIP: The month of May seems to be a peak time for End of the Year Field Trips. During a recent May visit, there were quite a few large groups, and since these groups were older they stayed in the museum all day. If you are planning to go in May, avoid the field trip crowds and try to go to areas geared towards younger kids first.

Head Straight for the Special Exhibit if you get there early

The special exhibits are amazing. My kids loved the Terra Cotta Warriors of China (2017) and more recently, the Marvel Universe of Superheroes (2019). The Franklin sells tickets for special exhibit in time increments (usually every 30 minutes) to space out crowds, however they DON’T have a time limit for touring the exhibit. By choosing the earliest time slot (or an earlier time slot), you bypass any lingering visitors or groups.

MOM TIP: The special exhibit souvenirs are only available in the gift shop at the end of the exhibit. If you want to buy these special souvenirs, you have to buy them as you exit the exhibit or miss out!

The Top-Demand / Most Crowded daily exhibits are the Space Command with Virtual Reality and SportsZone

In my experience, a lot of children flock to the SportsZone and the virtual reality stations near the Space Command. Try to head those early or after the afternoon field trips leave.

During our recent visit in May, we went to the SportsZone throughout the day, but it was always packed! Around 3:30 the room cleared out, and was the kid’s favorite part!

KID TIP FROM G*: The virtual reality stations at Space Command has two lines. One line only has the underwater adventure (which is cool with the big whale), and in the other line you can pick two shorter adventures from a menu of choices. I recommend the shorter Musical Robots VR and the Tyrannosaurus Rex in the Museum VR!

Bring your own lunch and eat at the park

If it’s a nice day, bring a picnic lunch and eat at the Parkway across the street! I would suggest Logan Square and the Swan Memorial Fountain because it looked the coolest. During our last visit, the park was closed because they were setting up for the Science Fest Carnival. How cool is that? That event is on my radar for future visits for sure!

Setting up for the Science Festival in 2019

We ate at the Foodworks in the museum during our visits and enjoyed the cafeteria fare. I will say, not packing a lunch made this mom’s life easier! I did bring water and snacks for when my children said they were hungry (which was approximately every 5 minutes).

Don’t forget the Planetarium and Daily Events

You have to get a picture of the iconic Giant Heart!

When you get your tickets, make sure you get the daily schedule (or download the Franklin Institute app). We saw The Sky Tonight planetarium show and my kids enjoyed learning about different ancient cultures used stars to explain the world around them. I wouldn’t recommend this show for preschool children (just a little too much information), so be sure to ask a staff member which show would best suit your age-group.

The daily schedule will list all the fun daily activities, including the Ben Franklin Memorial Forever Show and the Tesla coil (both are usually at the top of every hour).

KID TIP FROM L*: If you see a learning station table, STOP! The staff at the Franklin Institute are so much fun, and make science facts easy to understand! My favorite things to learn about at the tables were the Franklin math squares, Number magic, Light Bending and Paper making!

Save on your Tickets

We bought discounted ticket vouchers from AAA before visiting the Franklin Institute. These vouchers can include the special exhibits or just the museum. Be warned, these vouchers do expire, so you need to make sure you have the trip in the books before you buy them so they don’t go to waste!

If you are spending a few days in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Pass includes quite a few attractions. Don’t forget to check out Living Social or Groupon to see if there are any discounted deals as well. While writing this post I found a limited time deal listed on Groupon, so it may be worth it to check!

KID TIP: Don’t forget to bring your quarters and shiny pennies for Pressed Penny Souvenirs Machines. We love collecting “pressed pennies” from all the different places we visit!

Street Parking or Garage…it depends on your plans

Getting there by vintage Air Force planes is not an option, but it should be ;).

Street parking was easy. This would be a cheaper option than the Franklin Institute Parking Garage if you are not planning on staying the entire day. I would download this MeterUp parking app and input your information before heading to Philadelphia to save time and sanity.

During the last visit the street was closed for the Science Festival, so we parked in the Franklin Institute Parking Garage for $20 (all day!) The elevator from the lot took us directly to the main lobby of the museum. This parking was very convenient, and reasonably priced.

MOM TIP: The Franklin has a coat room on the lower level where you can stash your coats (and maybe lunch bag) if you are wandering the city.

The Your Brain exhibit shows children in a kinesthetic way how the brain works!

For this post we focused on the logistical tips and tricks that would help you make the most of your time at the Franklin Institute. However, if you were curious about the events and exhibits for the Franklin Institute during your particular trip, I highly recommend downloading the Franklin app!

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