Free in Philadelphia

Short on cash flow? That shouldn't stop you from partaking in fun cultural events throughout the city. Every day of the week, some of the city's most venerable institutions offer free tours, entertainment and educational activities, meaning that you can no longer beg off a trip to a museum by crying poor. (Verizon Hall photo courtesy of Kimmel Center)

Updated: November 06, 2009

Easy on the Wallet


Free Library Of Philadelphia

1901 Vine St Ste 111, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Funny, back in the day before libraries were common, Ben Franklin felt the need to alert people to its status as a free public amenity by identifying it as the Free Library. In Philly, the name has stuck, while its services have expanded well beyond book lending. Authors and book-writing politicos of the highest caliber speak frequently at the Central Branch (recent lecturers include Howard Dean, Tom Ridge and Ralph Nader), while dozens of business workshops, dance performances, expert chats and kids activities take place monthly around the system. Further, the Rare Book Collection curates extensive exhibitions like the noted one in 2008 that showcased items that once belonged to Edgar Allan Poe. And what's better? You don't even have to show your library card.


National Constitution Center

525 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Some of the world's most noted experts in topics broad and arcane exercise their freedom of speech at this monument to the American constitution. It seems there's a mind-boggling free event here practically every night of the week--everything from themed town hall meetings sponsored by Philadelphia magazine to documentary screenings presented by globally acclaimed directors to international awards bestowed on past presidents are regular occurrences. To give an example, your humble Citysearch editor can remember, off the top of her head, meeting Ken Burns, John Ashcroft, Tom Brokaw and Bill Clinton after speaking engagements they gave within these legendary walls.


Philadelphia Museum Of Art

Art Museum Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19101

Pay what you wish on the first Sunday of every month at one of the most well-respected art museums in the world. Don't feel guilty about spending all day frolicking among the canvas gardens of the Impressionist masters, or studying every intricate detail of the swords in the Arms & Armor galleries; when you don't have to pay more than you want, you don't have to feel pressured to see all 225,000 works of art contained within the 133-year-old building. Of course, if you want to contribute to the legacy of artistic creation and its display, the curators won't object to you leaving a small donation on your way out.


Reading Terminal

12th St & Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Far more than a market full of food stands, this haven for local and global food has burgeoned in its educational and entertainment offerings, if not in its more than 100-year-old physical space. Live music accompanies patrons? lunch in the Center Court most days during the week, from piano to flute to guitar. Sports pep rallies, cookbook signings, kids? Halloween costume parties, cooking demonstrations and harvest festivals spring up from time to time to liven up what already is usually quite an adventurous excursion.


The Piazza at Schmidt's

1011 N Hancock St, Philadelphia, PA 19123

Since it opened in the spring of 2008, this Italianate-style outdoor courtyard that spans a full Northern Liberties block has loaded its schedule with free events that aim to draw visitors to its shops and restaurants. Football and baseball fans who are decidedly ?over? the typical sports bar scene slap on their jerseys and fly here instead to watch games on the larger-than-life flat-screen TV that's mounted on the side of a building. Movies are shown on the same TV practically every night that there's not a big game, and farmers markets, crafts shows, holiday festivals and goofy public parties (the end of summer party featured about a zillion pounds of sand dumped onto the cobblestones) bring Center City professionals, Fishtown hipsters and Main Line retirees here to share in the spirit.