When winter’s chill sets in, there’s no better way to spend a day than by immersing yourself in the warmth and beauty of an art museum. And one of the region’s cultural centerpieces, just an easy drive away in the City of Brotherly Love, is the Philadelphia Museum of Art. At first glance, many people may initially recognize its exterior as the scene from the movie “Rocky,” where the boxer played by Sylvester Stallone triumphantly races up the wide steps and looks out, arms raised, across the Philadelphia skyline. But for visitors who venture inside, the museum is a magnificent and perfectly manageable day trip that will leave you feeling just as exuberant as the prize fighter. It boasts a world-renowned collection that initially sprang from the great Centennial Exhibition of 1876 that was held in Fairmount Park before eventually moving, in 1928, to its current landmark building. Its ongoing mission is to presents art, in all its forms, in imaginative and memorable ways to a worldwide audience.
The museum website provides helpful details for visitors, particularly those coming for the first time. Handy downloadable guides offer information about must-see works of art. Convenient calendars make it easy to find the dates of exhibitions and special events to best schedule the timing of your trip. There are links you can follow that will assist you in planning a variety of itineraries, based upon whether you’re visiting for just a few hours, for the whole day, or for two or more days.
If you have only a few hours to spend at the museum, it will be well worth your while to take one of daily tours that are offered for free with your admission ticket. The tours are led by personable and knowledgeable volunteer guides who have undergone extensive training and clearly enjoy the chance to share their love of the museum with visitors from all around the world. The Highlights of the Museum tour, in particular, is a fantastic way to get an overview of the entire complex. The one-hour tour begins near the base of the Great Stair Hall in the main building and touches upon, if only briefly, almost every wing of the museum. It is packed with interesting and insightful details about various exhibits, giving just enough information to entice you to explore further on your own once the tour is over. Additional tours and exhibits, also included with your museum admission, delve deeper into specific topics, themes, and collections to appeal to every taste.
Highlights at the Philadelphia Museum of Art include the world’s largest collection of works by Marcel Duchamp, the greatest collection outside of Europe of sculpture by Constantin Brancusi, the finest public collection in the country of sculpture by Auguste Rodin, and outstanding Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro and Edgar Degas. There are wings for prints, drawings and photographs; modern and contemporary art; medieval, early Renaissance and impressionist European art; and Asian art. Of course, no museum in the heart of such an historic U.S. city would be complete without extensive displays of American painting, sculpture, furniture, silver and ceramics. Among them are works by the Shakers and Pennsylvania Germans, illustrating their long history in Philadelphia and the surrounding area.
Fully furnished and elaborately decorated period rooms, as well as reconstructed architectural settings such as a Japanese teahouse and a French medieval cloister, provide museums-within-the-museum, transporting visitors to another place and time. A favorite among younger guests is the gallery of arms and armor, and on fair-weather days, you can explore the outdoor large-scale sculpture garden.
Regular hours for the Philadelphia Museum of Art are Tuesday from 10 am to 5 pm, Wednesday from 10 am to 8:45 pm, Thursday from 10 am to 5 pm, Friday from 10 am to 8:45 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. The museum is closed on Mondays. Regular admission is $25 for adults, $23 for seniors age 65 and older, $14 for students with valid ID, $12 for museum member guests, and free for youth age 18 and under and for museum members. Various discounts are available for military personnel and for PA ACCESS and EBT cardholders. Additionally, the museum offers Pay What You Wish Admission, in person only, on the first Sunday of the month from 10 am to 5 pm and every Wednesday night from 5 to 8:45 pm.
Every Friday night from 5 to 8:45 pm, there is live jazz, folk, and international music and gallery access, accompanied by cocktails and tapas-style dishes. Admission to the Friday night events is free with your museum admission; Friday Night Plus tickets are also offered and provide reserved seating near the stage, a chef’s tasting dish, and parking for up to four adults.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is located at 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. For more information, visit PhilaMuseum.org or call 215-763-8100