Museums in Darby

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Children with parents in tow come in droves to squeal with delight at the amazingly expansive Please Touch Museum, housed in the soaring Memorial Hall that was built in 1876 for the Centennial Exhibition. The hands-on play areas are clever, cute and decidedly age-appropriate. On the main floor, kids can bang on musical instruments in a rainforest-themed space, race sailboats in rivers (splash aprons provided!), build and launch foam rockets or pretend to drive a bus. The lower floor features an Alice in Wonderland-themed area, complete with distortion mirrors and mazes, plus a foam-block construction zone, a tiny grocery store and a little hospital. A few areas are set aside for toddlers three and younger, and an extra three dollars at the entrance buys a ticket to ride the more than century-old restored carousel.

4231 Avenue Of The Republic Ave
Philadelphia,
PA
US

When Samuel Vaughan Merrick and William H. Keating brought The Franklin Institute to life in 1824, it was to honor the life and achievements of Renaissance man Benjamin Franklin. In the decades since, the Institute has hosted further forward thinkers such as Nikola Tesla, who demonstrated wireless telegraphy in 1893, and helped advance science and technology, hosting the first public demo of an all-electronic TV system in 1934.

  • Size: three floors give voice to human ingenuity—past and future—with hundreds of interactive exhibits
  • Eye Catcher: the two-story-tall, 5,000-square-foot Giant Heart, which teaches children about cardiovascular health while they crawl through its chambers
  • Permanent Mainstay: Fels Planetarium, the second oldest planetarium in the nation, complete with a rooftop observatory and a 60-foot seamless aluminum dome
  • Hands-On Experiments: construct an interplanetary rover in the Space Command, complete an electrical circuit with your body, and launch a cannonball in Circus! Science Under the Big Top
  • Honor the Man: swing by the 20-foot-tall, 30-ton marble statue of Benjamin Franklin in the rotunda to see what the genius looked like and thank him for your bifocals
  • Don't Miss: the Maillardet Automaton, a boy-like drawing machine that inspired the film Hugo
222 N 20th St.
Philadelphia,
PA
US

The National Museum of American Jewish History's core exhibition traces more than 350 years of American Jewish history, documenting their triumphs and struggles since first settling in 1654. Spread across 25,000 square feet on five floors, the exhibition's historical objects and lifelike environments cover subjects such as the late 19th-century Jewish immigration and the involvement of American Jews in the Civil Rights Movement. As the exhibition moves into the present day, visitors can share their own stories and opinions in two of the museum's interactive stations: It's Your Story and the Contemporary Issues Forum. After sharing their own journeys, guests can explore the Only in America Gallery/Hall of Fame, where multimedia displays and original artifacts highlight the lives of prominent Jewish Americans, including Irving Berlin and Estée Lauder.

Cups of Old City Coffee, baked goods from LeBus, and vegetarian and dairy cuisine from Di Bruno Bros. reenergize museum-goers at the Pomegranates Café; kosher fare is also available. Additional museum programming includes educational opportunities for adults and kids, as well as live events such as lectures, discussions, and concerts.

101 S Independence Mall E
Philadelphia,
PA
US

It's more than a collection of exhibits, galleries, and glass works—though it's all of those things, too. Above and beyond housing art, the National Liberty Museum aims to serve as a mirror to the unique kaleidoscope that is the United States. Visitors to the museum explore eight galleries, each organized to highlight a particular aspect of what it means to be American. Liberty Hall, for instance, houses a selection of White House fine china alongside medals awarded to members of the armed services, while Heroes Hall showcases glass sculptor Dale Chihuly's massive Flame of Liberty installation in celebration of brave individuals.

Regardless of how visitors tackle the museum—although they should never tackle it literally, due to the high volume of glass—they'll likely find themselves intrigued by the thought-provoking collection. When Irvin J. Borowsky founded the museum in 1995, he did so with just this intent, seeking to inspire others to pursue more peaceful lives. But Borowsky may never have envisioned the scale it would one day reach: 78 exhibits, 179 works of contemporary art, and thousands of stories vividly told.

321 Chestnut St
Philadelphia,
PA
US

Since its founding in 1976, the African American Museum in Philadelphia has worked to preserve and honor African Americans' heritage through exhibitions, collections, and cultural programs. Four galleries contain exhibits delving into themes including the African diaspora, African American life in Philadelphia, and contemporary African American narratives. The core exhibition, Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia 1776–1876, showcases a timeline detailing how African Americans lived in that era, and brings key historical figures to life through 10 life-size video projections. Visitors can interact with each of the projections, listening to their stories and requesting further topics of discussion, such as the Internet's role in their lives. Another gallery focuses on African American life post-emancipation leading up to the modern day. In addition to engaging exhibitions, the museum also boasts an extensive collection of historical artifacts, including Negro league baseball memorabilia, records, musical instruments, photographs, and the time machine that was used to retrieve each item.

701 Arch St
Philadelphia,
PA
US

By most people’s standards, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is old — founded in 1812, it’s the oldest natural sciences institution in the Western Hemisphere. But the Academy is a baby compared to the specimens it houses, some of which date back more than 350 million years.

Explorers Stephen Long and Ferdinand Hayden’s series of western wilderness expeditions formed the foundation of the Academy's 18-million-item collection, which it began displaying to the public in 1828. Over the subsequent 60 years, the Academy grew to three times its original size through donations, museum purchases, and daily doses of multivitamins. Now situated at 19th and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Academy houses more than 35 dioramas of plants and animals collected during global wildlife expeditions, a live animal center with ceiling-to-floor observation windows, and nearly a hundred mollusk specimens. A tropical garden hosts live butterflies from around the world, while Dinosaur Hall contains skeletal mounts of more than 30 Mesozoic species, including a 42-foot-long T. rex.

1900 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy
Philadelphia,
PA
US