the joyful traveller

A whirlwind trip through the Franklin Institute and the City of Philadelphia

How could we pass up on a trip to Philly when the great city was only 90 minutes away from our Long Beach Island, Jersey shore, summer rental.  My daughter and I, on our annual beach week did the calculations and it was so worth the drive, and to see what we could see.

We opted for the Franklin Institute and Science Museum on Ben Franklin Parkway and North 20th Street, exactly 90 minutes from door to parking garage.  The Franklin Institute was so chosen as it explains somewhat difficult scientific theories to guests as if they were in kindergarten, the same level as our brains while on beach vacations.  We wanted to learn in a fun, un-stressful way, much like how we wanted our summer vacation.  Easy-peasy.

Housed in a majestic stone building, the Franklin Institute Science Museum’s origins date back to 1874 when the idea to start such a cultural center was considered.  It’s immense.  And this morning, not too crowded.   Why? The yellow school busses carrying summer campers hadn’t arrived yet, but come 11 am, they’d start piling in, like tiny little storms in bright tee-shirts: neon orange, royal blue, hot yellow.  You can’t miss them.  So, our advice is to get to the museum when it opens at 9:30am, visit the popular or new exhibits first before the little hurricanes make their appearance.  On this day, the exhibits included activities that illustrated how the brain works, and how the heart works, both wonderfully explained with colorful displays, and lots of experiments to try, and screens and buttons to press.    

Then, as the little storm clouds start to gather about you, go off to the quiet corners. And, yes, there are some. Like the stunning National Geographic photo exhibit featuring some very up-close photos of nature at its best; jaw-dropping once in a lifetime kind of shots, like the museum worker dusting off one of the collection’s sheep, or the monkey holding a large leaf as an umbrella.  The lights are dim, and comfortably cool which provides a pleasant environment with which to wander the halls and consider these amazing photos.

Also, start at the top, the 4th floor and head down.  That way, you will be heading down as the kids head up to the upper floors via stairs or elevator.  Now, since it was near noon, and the kids had pretty much taken over the place, my daughter and I, with our wrist tickets still in place, left the museum to visit a few notable and walkable Philly icons, like the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul.  These were free sites and something to see.  Lunch was a tasty burger and lobster salad at a large, enclosed food court on the way back and with outdoor covered seating, we had a break from the sun and heat. One more stop before heading back to the Museum, and that was the resting place of one of our most notable historical figures: Benjamin Franklin, alongside his wife, Deborah.   The cost to enter the cemetery was $3.00, but we got to see the marble grave marker with the Lincoln pennies laying on the surface.   We paid our respects through wrought iron gate.   

It was near 3pm when we got within a block from the museum, and spied a line of yellow school busses parked in front and groups of tee-shirt-clad little ones heading down the museum steps. Perfect!  Back inside, we enjoyed the welcome quiet and coolness for a bit more wandering and a rest stop before heading to the parking garage.  Now the museum has a ton of stuff to do, like a few 3

D movies, a planetarium, Virtual Reality experiences, mirror mazes, and a whole lot more.  Had my kid been younger, I’d surely would have visited them all.  But, museums are meant for return visits.  Trying to see it all in one day is not the best way, one is left over-stimulated, and headachy.  We wandered as we liked, with no pressure to see everything.  And, by 4:30pm, we’d seen enough, and were cruising on the Ben Franklin Parkway, a little head of rush hour traffic, and back on Long Beach Island by 6pm.  We even had a bit of late afternoon sun on the beach before calling it a day and heading off to dinner.  END


9:30am to 7:00pm


A Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature

9:30am to 7:00pm

*Additional Fee **Last admission at 6:00pm

On most evenings July 5 through September 2, 2017, the museum and A Mirror Maze will have extended hours, remaining open through 7:00pm.
**Last Mirror Maze admission at 6:00pm
Exceptions to Summer Hours
Dates where the museum and A Mirror Maze will close at 5:00pm are:
July: 12, 15, 19, 22
August: 5, 6, 11, 12, 16, 19, 22

The Franklin Institute will be closed on the following days:
November 24: Thanksgiving
December 24: The museum will close at 3:00pm
December 25: Christmas Day
January 1: New Year’s Day

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