From a re-creation of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland to child-size versions of hospitals and grocery stores, Please Touch Museum seems like it emerged right from a child's imagination. Rightfully so, since the museum caters to families with children. For over three decades, the museum has helped kids (and their parents) expand their minds through playful exhibits and activities.
Size: Two floors of interactive exhibits
Eye Catcher: A 40-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty's torch made from colorful objects such as toys and a baseball bat
Crown Jewel: Centennial Exploration, which houses some of the inventions shown during the 1876 Centennial Exhibition as well as a 20'x30' model of the 1876 Exhibition grounds
Don't Miss: A trip around the more than century-old restored carousel (not included in admission)
Hands-On Activities: Play musical instruments, race miniature sailboats, or build and launch foam rockets
Special Programs: Art workshops; performances in the Playhouse Theater
Pro Tip: A few areas are set aside for toddlers ages 3 and under
Elmwood Park Zoo
It all started with a farmer's generosity. In 1924, a civic-minded citizen handed over 16 acres of lush farmland and a small group of critters to the Borough of Norristown. Today, the Norristown Zoological Society welcomes guests to Elmwood Park Zoo in hopes of creating a future stock of wildlife lovers and conservation advocates.
Size: A menagerie of over 100 species primarily indigenous to the Americas—including jaguars, howler monkeys, timberwolves, and eagles both bald and gold—and more than 15 species that are threatened or endangered
Don't Miss: Amazing creatures from other continents, such as the giraffes that retrieve lost frisbees from the rooftops
Hands-On Activities: Be one with nature's winged creatures at the "Birds of Paradise" interactive sun conure exhibit or experience feeding live bison (not included in admission)
Special Events: Boo at the Zoo, a series of trick-or-treat stations and themed attractions that take place every weekend through October 26 from noon to 3 p.m.
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) celebrates art from America's entire history. Its galleries take visitors on a chronological trip through the country's ever-changing aesthetic landscape, with special attention paid to sculptures, paintings, and paper works. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts also trains the next generation of artists, with full-time degree programs at the bachelor and masters levels.
Size: two buildings—The Historic Landmark Building and the contemporary Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building
Eye Catcher: Gilbert Stuart’s 1796 painting George Washington (The Lansdowne Portrait)
Permanent Mainstay: Gallery 128, which showcases a rotating collection of works from current students, alumni, and faculty
Visiting Exhibit: Spiritual Strivings: A Celebration of African American Works on Paper, which encompasses more than 90 works (through October 12, 2014)
Don't Miss: Highway—George Tooker's 1953 painting depicting the challenges of living in New York City
Pro Tip: artists can bring a sketchbook (pencil only) into the the Historic Landmark Building, provided it doesn't exceed 12” x 16” or erupt with trumpet fanfares when opened
Special Programs: art-history lectures, evening gallery events, and continuing-education programs in drawing, painting, sculpture, and other mediums
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.
The American Swedish Historical Museum celebrates the cultural, artistic, architectural, musical, scientific, and technological contributions of the Swedish and Swedish-American peoples. Although the museum focuses the Delaware Valley's New Sweden colony of the 17th century, it also features contemporary contributions, preserving culture and tradition for future generations.
Size: 12 permanent galleries, plus one gallery devoted to temporary exhibits.
Eye Catcher: The recreated interior of a Swedish farmhouse—a stuga—which provides insight into the living conditions of immigrants who arrived in the mid to late 1800s.
Permanent Mainstay: The balcony level's displays of wood block prints, oil paintings, watercolors, and handmade greeting cards, all by Swedish artist Sven Birger Sandzén.
Don't Miss: An entire gallery dedicated to the beloved storybook character, Pippi Longstocking.
The Building: Swedish-American architect John Nyden drew inspiration from Ericsbergs Slott—a 17th-century Swedish mansion—and George Washington's Mount Vernon. Sweden's Crown Prince personally placed the museum's cornerstone on June 2, 1926.
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.
From the signing of the Declaration of Independence to the creation of the Constitution, Philadelphia has been home to some of America's biggest historical events. The Philadelphia History Museum celebrates the full gamut of the city's more than 300-year legacy through creative and friendly exhibits and events. Mere steps from the Liberty Bell, the museum's eight renovated galleries spotlight artifacts and artwork from a collection of more than 100,000 items. With topics spanning from early America to sports, this assemblage includes George Washington's writing desk, John Brown's musket, and Joe Frazier's championship boxing gloves.
The museum includes plenty of interactive elements, too, such as the world's largest map of Philly, across which visitors can walk or fulfill their dreams of doing the worm through every neighborhood. Besides its exhibitions, Philadelphia History Museum hosts a rotating schedule of programs and events, ranging from insightful lectures to concerts. Museum is handicap accessible.