Vacation View: Philadelphia – The Franklin Institute and The Art of the Brick

Earlier this summer we visited Philadelphia for a conference that my husband was attending. My husband and I both grew up in the Philadelphia region and still have family that we visit yearly. However, we rarely visit the city’s tourist attractions. This year the conference gave us more days (4 days on top of the 5 we usually spend with family (plus 2 for driving), so we made it a point to visit the city’s tourist attractions.

The Franklin Institute

Near the top of our list to visit was the Franklin Institute. We ended up visiting on Saturday win my brother’s family. In addition to my 9.5 year old, my 5 and 7 year old nieces were with us. All of the kids enjoyed the Franklin Institute and found fun activities at their level.

Franklin Institute Entrance

Franklin Institute Location

The Franklin Institute is located at 271 N. 27th St in downtown Philadelphia. We used public transport (a train) to reach downtown from my brother’s house and walked from the station. The Franklin Institute is open daily from 9:30a-7p for the summer of 2015 with some galleries closing earlier on certain days.

Franklin Institute Admission

Admission to the Franklin Institute is $19.95 for adults and $15.95 for children ages 3-11. We received free admission to the museum through the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) Reciprocal program with our Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum membership. The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History also participated in the ASTC program and a membership will also give you free admission to The Franklin Institute.


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Franklin Institute Exhibits

We explored many of the regular exhibit areas. The walk-through heart was a favorite of my older niece. My daughter really enjoyed the climb through brain-network followed by the optical illusions such as the spinning room and the sideways room. We also enjoyed the room with gears and levers where you could build a domino trail, navigate a marble through a tilt table maze, or manipulate a crane.

We all had a great time at the museum. My husband and daughter’s only disappointment at The Franklin Institute was that the Silence Do Good letters that are featured in the movie National Treasure are not on display. They love the movie and were hoping to see the letters.

Walk Through Heart at Franklin Institute

We also spent a few days in Downtown Philadelphia while my husband was attending a conference. My daughter and I had two hours free on our last morning while my husband was attending sessions. Our hotel was only 3 blocks from the Franklin Institute, so we decided to return and visit the galleries we had missed on our first trip – and for my daughter to ride the SkyBike. We had skipped the Sky Bike on our first visit since my nieces were not tall enough.

Riding the Sky Bike a the Franklin Institute

Dining at The Franklin Institute

There are two dining options at The Franklin Institute. The Franklin Foodworks Express and Franklin Foodworks. The Express is located in the main atrium with the ticket booth and offers beverages and light snacks…soft pretzels, popcorn, pastries, fruits, and beverages. The Franklin Foodworks is located near the front of the museum and is a cafeteria offering pizza, grill items, soup, and pre-made sandwiches and salads. We had an early dinner reservation so we opted for a light lunch. My daughter had a slice of pizza while my husband and I shared the sandwich special – pesto chicken. We also split a fruit cup and had drinks. My daughter enjoyed her pizza and the sandwich was large and delicious. I found the prices fairly reasonable for a tourist destination although the fruit cup was a bit expensive.

The Art of the Brick

The Franklin Institute is currently hosting a special exhibit, The Art of the Brick featuring the LEGO art of Nathan Sawaya. My daughter loves LEGO, so I knew the exhibit was something that we had to do! I was a little unsure of how my youngest niece would like the exhibit, but everyone declared it one of their favorite parts of the visit.

The Art of the Brick features LEGO interpretations of famous paintings and sculptures as well as original LEGO art work. The recreations include some paintings that were recreated in 2D and others that were reinterpreted in three dimensions. Some of my favorite recreations were The Scream and the Rose Window from Chartres which was made with transparent blocks so that the light could shine through. My daughter’s favorite recreation was The Liberty Bell (repaired in multi-colors with LEGO bricks).

Liberty Bell in The Art of the Brick Exhibit at The Franklin Institute

The original artwork of Nathan Sawaya was equally impressive. My favorite piece was The Music with faces on musical notes. My daughter and nieces liked the peace sign and the man ripping open his chest with LEGO bricks pouring out.

The video below captures some of our favorites from the exhibit:

The Art of the Brick requires a timed ticket that is an upgrade to base admission. With our reciprocal admission, we did have to pay extra for admission to The Art of the Brick ($10 for adults and $9 for kids). It was well worth the extra admission fee and I definitely recommend it to all visitors.

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Ann Arbor with Kids is your go-to source for Ann Arbor Family Fun. It got its start in an activity list that I was compiling for the playgroup I ran at our church. When my daughter started preschool, the other moms were thrilled to hear about my list. I decided to take the list public in 2009.

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