– By Dan Lantz –
As parents of three active boys, ages 6, 11 and 13, my wife and I are constantly challenged to find excursions that everyone can enjoy. For our most recent trip to Philadelphia, the Franklin Institute seemed like a safe bet. It’s a science museum located in the heart of Philadelphia, famous for its numerous hands-on activities that both entertain and educate.
The Franklin is easy to find and there is a parking garage under the building. Be sure to bring your parking stub with you and get it validated at the admissions counter for an $8 discount. Otherwise, you’ll be cursing yourself like I did when I had to pay a full $20 instead of $12.
The entrance to the building is a rotunda with a massive statue of Benjamin Franklin accompanied by a multimedia presentation with lights, sounds and imagery. It’s a great way to get in the science mindset before you continue into the main atrium.
This is where things get complicated. There is the Science Museum, IMAX movie theater, Franklin 3D Theater, Sky Bike, Flight Simulators and the Special Exhibits. There is no “one ticket for everything” option, so you either have to buy a-la-cart or in a a partial combination. We chose the Special Exhibit Combo ticket ($25 adults/ $18 kids) and an IMAX Theater Ticket ($9 everyone).
With map in hand, we headed to the Franklin Air Show, an entire wing dedicated to the science of airflow and flight. It was incredible. Laid out more like a carnival than a museum, the kids went from station to station (and by kids, I mean mom and dad too). These were very interesting activities: balloon races, flight simulators, model planes, and standing in a wind tunnel, just to name a few.
We soon discovered that every gallery throughout the Franklin had some kind of hands-on, educational fun. There are several exhibits for constructing machines with gears, levers, cams and pulleys. There is a giant human heart that you can walk through. A full sized locomotive that actually rolls back and forth on the track. There is even a planetarium.
A pointer for when you visit: Bring plenty of hand sanitizer. It is the middle of winter and thousands of kids (many with colds) are touching all of these hands-on exhibits. A few hand sanitizing stations were scattered around, but not nearly enough. As Benjamin Franklin would say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
And speaking of Mr. Franklin, a science museum wouldn’t be complete without a gallery dedicated to his legendary experiment with a kite, key and lighting. Some of the “shocking” electricity exhibits include: creating a circuit with your hands, visualizing your mobile phone signal and zapping your friends with a harmless shock.
By days end, we barely scratched the surface. This place is huge and you could easily spend 2 or 3 days here. We will be coming back.
About the Author
Dan Lantz is a TV producer who lives in Philadelphia with his wife and three sons. Dan seeks out family friendly activities, destinations and travel tips that can be shared with readers.