The Franklin Institute brings hands-on science fun at Pennsylvania's most visited museum. Spanning three floors, the Institute gives a voice to human ingenuity—past and future—with hundreds of interactive exhibits such as The Giant Heart, Changing Earth, and Sports Challenge, as well as explosive live science shows, an indoor SkyBike ride, and the city's tallest IMAX theater,which is 5 stories high. Though now filled with a range of space-age attractions, the Institute began with single purpose.
Samuel Vaughan Merrick and William H. Keating established The Franklin Institute in 1824, to honor the life and achievements of Benjamin Franklin. In the following decades, the Institute hosted forward thinkers such as Nikola Tesla, who gave a demonstration on wireless telegraphy in 1893. In 1930, the board decided to expand the space into a new science museum—and raised the funds in 12 days. The museum opened to the public in 1934—and in the same year hosted the first public demonstration of an all-electronic TV system.
A visit to The Franklin Institute’s includes access to three floors of permanent interactive exhibits including the iconic, two story tall Giant Heart. Other exhibits include Space Command, which invites visitors to recover an unmanned space probe and examine real astronaut equipment. At Changing Earth, visitors create their own weather patterns, play with steams of water, and build structures that can stand up to earthquakes or all-elephant 5Ks.
At various daily showtimes, the Franklin Theater’s high-contrast screen displays 3D films on animals, earth ecosystems, and human history. In the recently renovated Fels Planetarium, the second oldest in the nation complete with a rooftop observatory, audiences witness projections of weather and space spread across a 60-foot seamless aluminum dome. Daily live science shows draw an enthusiastic crowd, and interactive science carts invite visitors to observe a live heart dissection or try their hand at paper-making.
Rising six floors above the historic Strip District, the Senator John Heinz History Center's handsome, redbrick exterior houses 275,000 square feet of exhibits and materials devoted to Western Pennsylvania. Long-term exhibits include From Slavery to Freedom, which traces the quest for equality from the antislavery movement to the modern struggles for Civil Rights, using indenture, manumission, and freedom papers from the Allegheny County recorder of deeds as starting points. Pittsburgh: A History of Innovation highlights the land's original inhabitants, the journey of Lewis and Clark, and the modern superhighways, whereas the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum delves into the history and lore of local athletics, from the Steelers’ Immaculate Reception to Bill Mazeroski's title-clinching home run in game seven of the 1960 World Series. The museum also hosts nationally renowned traveling exhibits; its current offering is 1968: The Year That Rocked America which explores this decade-defining year using evocative objects, multimedia displays, and more than 100 artifacts related to 1968’s seminal moments.
Facing down winds of up to 78 mph. Controlling a robotic dinosaur with the same hydraulic technology behind amusement park rides. Such experiences only skim the surface of the 100-plus attractions available in Da Vinci Science Center's 10,000-square-foot, two-story exhibit space. Here, other hands-on activities run the gamut from assembling models of carbon nanotubes to navigating a 72-foot tunnel in complete darkness or with the aid of a friendly firefly.
But exploring exhibits isn't the only way to interact with science at Da Vinci Science Center. For visitors of all ages, the center sponsors nearly three-dozen programs including Science on the Move, which brings experiments directly to schools and community centers. In addition, Da Vinci Science Center hosts several events throughout the year such as Ice Cream Wars, where participants create tasty treats using liquid nitrogen as a freezing agent.
The Erie County Historical Society doesn't preside over just one museum—it maintains five of them. Of course, four of the museums are relatively small-scale, seeing that they're housed in former homes. Two homes from the Civil War era, known as the Battles Museums of Rural Life, feature historical gems as well as gardens and outdoor trails. Alternatively, the Cashier's House showcases relics related to the CFO of Erie's federal bank branch, who built the townhouse in 1839. At Watson-Curtze Mansion, the resplendence of the industrial era in Erie shines. And the Museum of Erie County History, exhibits pay homage to local history from pre-settlement to present day.
Framed by unfiltered wilderness and the occasional supports of a crossing bridge, the Schuylkill River is a secluded getaway for water lovers looking to float down nature’s slow-motion roller coaster. Reading Rivertribe shuttles aqueous adventurers to chosen points along the river for leisurely kayaking, canoeing, or tubing, with each trip ending where it started: in the stomach of a dreaming whale or next to a CPR-certified shuttle driver.
Lackawanna River Heritage Trail's picnicking spot. The University of Scranton's hallowed halls. The Hill Section's architectural marvels. Touring these popular sites on foot would take hours, but Segway of Scranton offers sightseers a more efficient way to pound the pavement. Sensitive to the body's movements, the two-wheeled segway speeds up and slows down based on how its helmeted rider shifts and can reach speeds of up to 12.5 miles per hour. The vehicles glide collectively on guided tours that pass filming locations for The Office, navigate Nay Aug Park's paths, and head to tranquil spots such as quarry outlooks. Along with conducting group tours, Segway of Scranton rents its rides for self-guided excursions, corporate events, or private get-togethers.
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