With a permanent collection of over 850 wood objects from around the world, The Center for Art in Wood is one of the premier venues of this form of art and craftsmanship. The museum displays a wide variety of objects, from traditional functional pieces like spoons, cups, bowls, baskets, and vases to contemporary sculpture. The Center also offers artist residencies and hosts a research library with more than 25,000 images and books detailing the history of wood crafting. The Center's Community Outreach program works with students in the area teaching wood craft workshops. Open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is free.
Few artists portrayed 20th Century life in America as beautifully and convincingly as Norman Rockwell. That’s why some of his most famous paintings and illustrations are permanently lodged in our collective consciousness, like his depiction of a family’s Thanksgiving feast titled the Four Freedoms. The Norman Rockwell Museum boasts the world’s largest collection of the artist’s works, plus items from his studio, including personal memorabilia, books, art supplies, letters, and reference materials. Their Archival Collection is a comprehensive compilation of his personal papers and ephemera and includes thousands of photographs of people and scenes used in his artwork. Admission is $16 for adults, $14.50 seniors, $10 for students with I.D., and $5 for children ages 6 through 18. Open every day.
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Museum is connected to the fine arts school that was the first in the U.S. when it began in 1805. Housed in a gorgeous building designed by renowned architects Frank Furness and George W. Hewitt, the museum’s primary focus is early American painters like Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Eakins, Benjamin West, Thomas Hart Benton, and Washington Allston. More than 6,000 paintings are showcased in the permanent collection, plus a variety of special exhibits take place there, including student works from the academy. Open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 students and seniors, and $10 for youth 12 through 18. Children under 12 are admitted free.
This grand old theater is one of the oldest opera houses in the United States. Built in 1857, the Philadelphia Orchestra has called The Academy of Music its home for over a century. The opulent interior features carved plasterwork, gilt embellishments, a spectacular crystal chandelier, and plush velvet upholstery. As with many structures of this era, interior pillars can present viewing problems, but it’s still a wonderful place to experience the thrill of a live concert or play. Upcoming performances include West Side Story, Puccini’s Manan Lescaut by the Opera Company of Philadelphia, Les Miserables and the Philadelphia Orchestra in a variety of concerts.
In the four decades since its inauguration, the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts has enriched Philadelphia’s cultural landscape dramatically. Luminaries like Morgan Freeman, Glenn Close, and Jason Robards have graced its stage, along with the Phillip Glass Ensemble, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, and Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal. Located on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, the center has three state of the art theaters. The Harold L. Zellerbach Theatre seats roughly 1000 people, the intimate Harold Prince Theatre has room for 211 and the smallest of the three, the Bruce Montgomery Theatre, seats 111. Some upcoming performances include Dionne Warwick, Kurt Elling Sings Sinatra, Circo Comedia, and Momix. Check the website for more information.
If you’re a fan of sculptor Auguste Rodin, the largest collection of his works outside of Paris can be found in the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia’s Rodin Museum is a world-class collection of incredible visual art. Movie theater owner Jules Mastbaum began collecting Rodin works in 1923 with the idea that he would use them as the core of a museum, and within half a decade his collection was the largest in private hands in the United States. In addition to finished sculptures it includes sketches, plaster studies, prints, books, and more. Mastbaum died in 1926 and the Museum opened its doors three years later. Visitors are greeted by The Thinker, perhaps Rodin’s most famous work, in the entry courtyard. Inside, a huge variety of sculptures await the visitor, with some favorites including the Burghers of Calais and the Gates of Hell. This is one of Philadelphia’s most unique cultural institutions.
Philadelphia is rife with history, being one of the oldest cities in the United States. If you really want to take a trip back into the past, make a detour through Elfreth’s Alley. This is one of the oldest continually inhabited residential streets in the country, dating back to the early 1700s. Named after blacksmith Jeremiah Elfreth, the roadway is lined with Georgian-style townhomes that have weathered the test of time. In the 1930s, a preservation association was formed to ensure that the alley would remain intact for future generations to visit. The most interesting thing about Elfreth’s Alley is that it’s still a residential neighborhood – even though the buildings are centuries old, they’re all still inhabited. You can take a phone tour of the street to get some more information on its rich and fascinating history. Volunteer guides also staff the gift shop, which is interesting on its own accord.
126 Elfreth's Alley
Philadelphia, PA 19106
The Mural Arts Program was started back in 1984 to discourage graffiti, and ever since, the program has been adorning Philly urban areas with depictions of city life, messages of hope, and love letters. If you are enthralled by the gargantuan art pieces that decorate city walls, and want to learn the stories behind these paintings, take a Mural Arts Program Tour. Mural Arts provides ten tours which use different types of transportation and offer an array of viewpoints for the murals. The popular trolley tours visit varying neighborhoods depending on the week, while the leisurely bikes tours offer a fun-filled two hour journey throughout Fairmount and Spring Garden. If you want to enjoy some repast on your tour, sign up for the Ale & Arts or Mural & Meals tours. Or, you can cozy up to your special someone on the Love Letter Train Tour, or enjoy a day out with your family on an Experiential Tour that will get you painting! Check out the Mural Arts website to find schedules and book tickets!
Mural Arts Program Tour
1727-29 Mount Vernon Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Few things are as conducive to tranquility as the zen-like ambiance of a Japanese garden. That’s why you should take a break from the hustle and bustle with a visit to Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, a traditional Japanese home and exquisite garden in Philadelphia’s West Fairmount Park. The 17th century-style house was built in Japan and relocated to the city in 1958 after a brief stint at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Take a guided or unguided tour of the house to experience what Japanese décor and architecture is all about. The garden is landscaped with koi ponds, a tea garden, and cherry blossom trees. Check out their website for a calendar of special events. Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for seniors, children over age 3, and students.
Situated just outside of the museum district in Philadelphia, The Wagner Free Institute of Science offers a wonderfully comprehensive overview of the vast realms of science — for free! Curators at the Institute have brought in various unique specimens to create vivid, 3-D exhibits that enthrall everyone who visits. Adults and children, alike, will love checking out the collections of minerals, fossils, shells, and mounted birds and mammals. A few must-sees of the Institute are the assembled dinosaur skeletons, as well as the first American saber-tooth tiger. In addition, people of all ages can receive more in-depth instruction through free, hands-on classes — some are geared toward young students, while the introductory college level courses are for adults of any level. Other offerings include the weekly lecture series, group discussions, as well as family-friendly festivals. The Wagner Free Institute is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission is free.
The Wagner Free Institute
1700 W. Montgomery Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19121