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When we take a road trip, it's most often to Philadelphia. Both of my sisters live there, so it's our go-to family vacation spot, and there's so much to do that we're always finding something new to explore. This time, we visited The Franklin Institute downtown. This was the museum we were trying to visit when we ended up across the river at the Adventure Aquarium. Again, we picked the busiest day of the year to visit (Friday of spring break). We still loved it.
First off, The Franklin Institute has a free planetarium! I appreciated that because most museums charge extra to attend a planetarium show. There were four shows to choose from; we saw Dark Universe, which was pretty tough to understand, even for us adults. My kids loved it, though. I think The Sky Tonight would be best for young kids, and we'll give that one a try on our next visit.
Your Brain was our favorite exhibit. It had everything we love about the TV show Brain Games: optical illusions, memory tests, and plenty of experiments to do on ourselves. The kids even got to climb up inside a neural network climbing structure with dynamic lighting and sound effects that simulates how brain waves are transmitted. We spent a lot of time doing all the tests.
One thing The Franklin Institute has done better than any other museum we've visited is the use of computers and technology. It wasn't there arbitrarily or to be “cool” to the kids. Tech was incorporated into some exhibits in ways I'd never seen before! With the magnet exhibit (above) in Electricity, the kids could see the effects of switching poles on bar magnets. In Amazing Machine, there was a domino-building exhibit that recorded what you made and attached it to the last 20 people's dominoes, for a cooperative domino rally.
Sir Isaac's Loft reminded us of the physics room at The Science Museum of Virginia. It was all hands-on ways to try out simple machine like levers and pulleys. We spent a lot of time with the pendulums, and the text on the walls illustrated how these experiences demonstrated Newton's Laws of Motion. This was the first museum I noticed my kids actually reading the walls; even though they were drawn to the materials, they wanted to understand why and how. I loved that!
And then there's The Art of the Brick, a temporary exhibit that will be there through September 6, 2015. I only took a zillion photos, and none of them capture how cool the sculptures were in three dimensions. My son and I have followed artist Nathan Sawaya for years, and we were thrilled to get to see these pieces in person. They were just amazing! I will truly never forget seeing this exhibit.
And now for the bad news, this is not a frugal trip. Admission prices are $19.95 for ages 12+ and $15.95 for kids 3-11. Adding The Art of the Brick special exhibit is another $10/adults and $9/kids. There are several ways to save: look for discount tickets at Certifikid and Groupon, and consider purchasing a family membership. I went ahead and got the membership, which was only $39 over what it cost the five of us for one day. By using that membership to visit any of the ASTC reciprocal museums in the next year, we'll have paid for it. Of course, I plan to do that and more!
Connect with The Franklin Institute on Facebook and Twitter, where they advertise events and specials. And, please check out my Mid-Atlantic Family Trips board on Pinterest for more Philadelphia and DC-area family travel spots.