Time Traveler’s Guide: 15 Must-Visit History Museums in Philly!

Philadelphia, one of the oldest cities in the United States, has a rich and fascinating history. From the founding of the nation to the Civil War and beyond, Philadelphia has played a significant role in shaping American history.

The city is home to some of the best history museums in the country, where visitors can learn about the city's past and the people who lived there.

These museums offer a unique opportunity to explore the history of Philadelphia and the country as a whole. They showcase artifacts, exhibits, and interactive displays that bring the past to life.

Whether you're interested in the American Revolution or the Civil War, the industrial revolution or the fight for civil rights, there is a museum in Philadelphia that will satisfy your curiosity.

The museums in Philadelphia are not just for history buffs. They are also great places to take children who are learning about American history in school. Many of the museums offer programs and activities that are designed to engage young visitors and make learning about history fun.

With so many museums to choose from, it can be hard to decide which ones to visit. In this blog post, we will explore some of the best history museums in Philadelphia, so you can plan your next visit with confidence.

1. Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary
2027 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130 (Google Maps)

Eastern State Penitentiary is a Gothic-style prison that has been converted into a historical landmark and museum.

The prison offers an immersive experience that allows visitors to explore the lives of inmates, including famous prisoners like Al Capone.

The museum offers a 35-minute audio tour that takes visitors through various cell blocks, departments, and notable areas of the prison, including death row, the hospital, and the synagogue.

Additionally, visitors can learn about the history of the prison system and its evolution over the years. The museum is well preserved and offers a unique perspective on the past.

2. Museum of the American Revolution

Museum Of The American Revolution
101 S 3rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19106 (Google Maps)

The Museum of the American Revolution is an impressive history museum that covers the revolutionary period in America very well.

The exhibits are a great mix of classic diorama and technology, with plenty to engage visitors of all ages.

The presentation of the American story is top-notch, facing tough questions about the country's founding candidly and with scholarship and perspective. The staff is knowledgeable and happy to chat and answer questions.

The museum strikes a good balance between a classic museum and a more modern style, making it fun and engaging for everyone. It is definitely worth a visit!

3. The Franklin Institute

The Franklin Institute
222 N 20th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103 (Google Maps)

The Franklin Institute is a lively and interactive history museum that offers a variety of exhibits and displays.

From hands-on activities to live demonstrations, visitors of all ages can learn about science, history, and technology. The planetarium is a must-see for those interested in astronomy.

The museum is perfect for families with children, as there are plenty of activities to keep them entertained and engaged.

The staff is friendly and helpful, making the experience even more enjoyable. The Franklin Institute is a great destination for anyone looking for a fun and educational experience.

4. Penn Museum

Penn Museum
3260 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (Google Maps)

Penn Museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in human history. The museum boasts an incredible collection of historical artifacts from all over the world. The sphinx in the entrance alone is worth the cost of entry.

The collections are well curated and organized by geographic and historical date, making it easy to follow history as it occurred. The museum provides a fascinating look into different cultures and periods, with displays of jewelry, Roman glass, and Native American and African artifacts.

The museum is also home to an original piece of the Gilgamesh epic. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and short briefs on specific pieces occur throughout the day.

The museum is accessible by train or car and has a parking garage within a block. The architecture and landscaping of the building itself are lovely. Whether young or old, teacher or student, there is much to be gained from a visit to Penn Museum.

5. Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History

Weitzman National Museum Of American Jewish History
101 S Independence Mall E, Philadelphia, PA 19106 (Google Maps)

The Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History is an impressive museum that covers the history of Judaism in the United States from the 1600s to modern day.

The museum is well-organized and features interactive exhibits for younger visitors.

The top floor is dedicated to different artists, such as Rube Goldberg and Leonard Bernstein.

The guided tour is recommended as it covers most floors and provides a comprehensive overview of the museum's exhibits. The museum shop is also worth checking out.

6. American Swedish Historical Museum

American Swedish Historical Museum
1900 Pattison Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19145 (Google Maps)

The American Swedish Historical Museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in Swedish history and heritage. This museum showcases various categories of Swedish historical events and famous people, including cabinetmakers and singers.

The museum houses a vast collection of paintings, furniture, glass, and stories about famous Swedish people from the past.

The galleries are modeled after a 17th-century manor house, giving visitors a unique experience. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, providing visitors with valuable insights into Swedish history.

The American Swedish Historical Museum is an excellent destination for anyone looking to explore the history and culture of American-Swedes.

7. Science History Institute

Science History Institute
315 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106 (Google Maps)

The Science History Institute is a hidden gem that offers free admission to the public. The museum features a well-organized display of various scientific devices, books, and other science-related historic artifacts.

The exhibits are detailed and well-explained, making it an excellent place to learn about the history of chemistry and physics.

The museum also has a small art gallery in the back and a relaxed atmosphere that allows visitors to leisurely enjoy the science history.

The staff is courteous and friendly, and the museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 AM to 5 PM.

8. Faith and Liberty Discovery Center

Faith And Liberty Discovery Center
101 N Independence Mall E, Philadelphia, PA 19106 (Google Maps)

Faith and Liberty Discovery Center is a top-notch history museum that offers a unique perspective on the relationship between faith and liberty in America's founding.

The exhibits are interactive and engaging, making it an enjoyable experience for visitors of all ages. The museum features rare historical documents, artifacts, and immersive presentations of famous historical figures.

The presentation of faith is well-balanced and accessible to visitors of different faith backgrounds. The museum's "light saber" allows visitors to customize their tour and save presentations for later review.

If you're interested in learning more about America's founding and the role of faith in it, Faith and Liberty Discovery Center is a must-visit attraction.

9. Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion

Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion
200 W Tulpehocken St, Philadelphia, PA 19144 (Google Maps)

The Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion is a beautifully restored Victorian house museum. Guided tours are available to visitors who want to learn about upper middle-class Victorian life.

The ground floor is restored to its original 1859 decor, while the second floor reflects the stylistic changes of 1875.

The knowledgeable staff provides visitors with insights into the history of the mansion and its former occupants. The mansion also hosts plays, lectures, craft workshops, and period events throughout the year.

The neighborhood around the museum is filled with historic Victorian houses that are worth exploring. A visit to this museum is a must for anyone interested in history and architecture.

10. Germantown Historical Society

Germantown Historical Society
5501 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19144 (Google Maps)

The Germantown Historical Society is a must-visit museum for anyone interested in learning about Philadelphia's early history.

With a vast collection of local artifacts, visitors can delve into the area's past and get a glimpse of what life was like in the early days.

The Lest We Forget Slavery Museum is particularly enlightening and educational, shedding light on a dark period in American history.

The staff is knowledgeable and friendly, making for a pleasant and informative experience. If you're looking to get off the beaten track and learn about the history of Germantown, this museum is strongly recommended.

11. Arch Street Meeting House

Arch Street Meeting House
320 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19106 (Google Maps)

Arch Street Meeting House is a historic Quaker church that doubles as a museum.

The austere architecture and exhibits provide insight into Quaker values, history, and contributions.

The staff is knowledgeable and friendly, making the experience worthwhile.

It's a great place to learn about Philadelphia's rich history and the Quaker religion.

12. Johnson House Historic Site

Johnson House Historic Site
6306 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19144 (Google Maps)

The Johnson House Historic Site is a must-visit for history buffs and families alike. This historical landmark and museum offers an educational and entertaining experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

The exhibits are well-curated and informative, providing visitors with a glimpse into the past.

The knowledgeable staff is always happy to answer questions and share interesting facts about the site's history.

The Johnson House Historic Site is a great way to connect with our nation's past and gain a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices made by those who came before us. Highly recommended!

13. Hill-Physick House

Hill-Physick House
321 S 4th St, Philadelphia, PA 19106 (Google Maps)

The Hill-Physick House is a hidden gem of a museum that offers an insightful glimpse into the life of a prominent physician in early America. The two-story house features period furniture and a display of early medical surgery tools that are sure to pique the interest of any history buff.

The original owner of the house made his fortune importing Madeira, and Dr. Physick, who later bought the house, is considered the father of modern American surgery.

One can learn about his inventions and contributions to the early US. The house is also a popular venue for weddings and other events, with its beautiful grounds and well-kept garden.

Though not widely known, the Hill-Physick House is definitely worth a visit for anyone interested in American history.

14. National Constitution Center

National Constitution Center
525 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19106 (Google Maps)

The National Constitution Center is an interactive museum dedicated to the history of the United States Constitution.

It features a variety of exhibits and rare artifacts, including life-sized statues of the delegates who signed the Constitution.

Visitors can enjoy a multimedia presentation, live theater performances, and interactive exhibits, including a voting booth and the opportunity to sign the Declaration of Independence.

The museum is suitable for all ages and offers a great learning experience for both adults and children alike. It's definitely worth a visit if you're interested in American history.

15. Elfreth's Alley Museum

Elfreth's Alley Museum
126 Elfreth’s Alley, Philadelphia, PA 19106 (Google Maps)

Elfreth's Alley Museum is a charming and innovative history museum that offers visitors a glimpse into America's oldest Alley.

The well-preserved houses and exhibits are cleverly designed, making it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts. The staff are friendly and enthusiastic about their job, adding to the overall experience.

The museum is closed currently, but the picturesque alley is still worth a visit, especially during the holiday season.

The audio tour is recommended for a more immersive experience. This historic landmark is a free of charge attraction and is walking distance from Penn's Landing.