After an afternoon at The Franklin Institute, we left knowing we had barely scratched the surface. The hands-on science and technology institute immediately captured the imagination of the three children (ages 6, 10 and 13) on the review team. Walking into the Memorial Hall, the 20 foot tall marble statue of Benjamin Franklin made a huge impression that we were about to have a unique experience. That expectation was definitely exceeded.
The 10 and the 13 year olds immediately made their way to the SkyBike: a bicycle on a tight-wire which patrons can ride over the Atrium three stories up. The rides cost $3.00 each (in addition to the price of admission) and gives riders the opportunity to go back and forth across the wire two times at their own pace. While there are nets to prevent any mishaps, the ride can get a bit nerve-wracking because the bike tilts ever so slightly and the rider has to balance.
One word to the wise, it was not clear at the admission line where the rides were paid for that there is a height restriction (4’8″) to ride the SkyBike – a fact that led to great disappointment on the part of the 6 year old. While the line was long and relatively slow moving, both older reviewers said enthusiastically that they would do it again.
While the older children were waiting in the SkyBike line, the 6 year old and adult member of the review team checked out the Sports Challenge Room – testing their reflexes in a race car situation, experimenting to find out whether throwing arms up improves jump height for basketball, and competing for speed against other patrons in wheelchair races.
The Electricity Room was fascinating, although the darkened room with electric lights might be overwhelming for some sensory-sensitive kids. The younger member of the review team loved to see the electrical activity in his own muscles and the other members were fascinated to learn about the electrical grids in the country.
The six year old’s favorite part of the Institute was the two-story heart model in which patrons can walk through, learning about the blood flow and other cardiology facts. The surrounding health and fitness exhibit detailed Heart Anatomy and Physiology, Health and Wellness, Blood, and Diagnostics and Treatment. The adult reviewer was mesmerized by the operating room exhibit that displayed a video of open heart surgery.
Some of the exhibits which we did not have time to explore included the CSI exhibit, the Franklin Airshow featuring a 1911 Wright Model B Flyer and flight simulators (an additional $5/ride), and a space command center. The Franklin Institute also has an IMAX theater ($6/ticket), the Fels Planetarium and the Joel N. Bloom Observatory.
Admission for the museum alone was $16.50 for adults and $12.50 for kids; there were combination tickets if patrons wanted admission to the museum plus the CSI and/or dinosaurs exhibit at an additional cost. There is a slight discount for admission on Friday and Saturday evening (5pm to close). Tickets for the Franklin Institute can be purchased on line and picked up at Will Call. For ticketing and further information, visit their website.
While we opted for on-street parking, there is a garage for the museum located behind the building at the intersection of 21st Street and Winter Street. The Franklin Institute’s Garage Parking Rates are: up to 1 hour: $9; 2 to 5 hours: $15; 5 to 12 hours: $20; max: $25.
A couple of things to note. If you are planning to visit more than one attraction during your stay in Philadelphia, consider purchasing a CityPASS which will give you a combined discounted admission to the Franklin Institute, the Please Touch Museum or the Eastern State Penitentiary, the Philadelphia Zoo, a Philadelphia Trolley Works Tour and the Big Bus Company, National Constitutional Center or the Academy Natural Sciences, and the Adventure Aquarium. Currently the prices are $59.00 for an adult and $39.00 for a child. For more information, you can visit their website.
Best advice: you cannot see all of what the Franklin Institute has to offer in one day. Spend time on their website to prioritize what exhibits are top interests. The quality of the exhibits is excellent, so consider spending the extra money for admission to the additional activities. The Franklin Institute was fun, fascinating and well worth the time and money spent. We can’t wait to go back!
Photos courtesy of Sarah Weingast.