Arts On a Budget in Philadelphia
Philly is a big arts town. One of the 30+ reasons why I love Philly is because you’re surrounded by stunning art everywhere you walk in this city. On cold, rainy days I opt to hide away inside museums finding solitude among paintings and figures while contemplating their meaning.
With The Met in New York City revising their admissions policy to keep the center of arts and culture inaccessible to non-privileged folks, I thought I would share the many ways you can experience the best of Philly's arts scene on a budget.
Open art galleries during First Fridays
One of the first adventures I was introduced to when moving to Philly was touring Old City's plethora of art galleries with friends during First Fridays. Here's the skinny: all year round (generally speaking), every first Friday of the month, starting at 5 p.m., you can tour up to 40 open house art gallery shows around Philadelphia’s coolest creative ‘hoods like Old City, Callowhill, Fishtown, and Kensington. Doors are open and free to the public, and sometimes snacks and drinks draw in crowds looking to meet local artists showing off their latest pieces, such as interactive digital and visual arts, drawings, sketches, and performance art. The cool thing is you get to step inside spaces you may not even realize are homes to creatives or centers of creativity, and you have a unique opportunity to be up and close with artists themselves. It's a neat way to experience art in an intimate way.
One of my favorite First Friday visits was the former Indy Hall Arts to check out the exhibit ‘Spirits and Beasties’, an imaginative take on monster-like creatures that roam inside local artists’ minds. Arts in the Age, a Warby Parker annex slash retail outlet fit for an outdoorsman, is also a shop I often visit to collect unique objects that either end up on my keychain or plastered on my walls. One time I walked out with a one-of-a-kind Philadelphia print.
Pay-What-You-Wish Wednesday Nights & First Sundays
Every first Sunday of the month and Wednesday evenings are the best excuse to get off your couch and get cultured. The Philadelphia Museum of Art offers visitors the chance to pay what they choose (think of it as a donation) every Wednesday from 5-8:45pm and on the first Sunday of every month, all day.
A must-see collection that forced my lazy Sunday habits to take a hike was the Philadelphia Museum of Art paintings of Christianity inside the European Art section, which feels like having entered an ancient monastery.
6 More 'Pay What You Wish' Museums in Philadelphia
The Phila. Art Museum isn't the only one offering first Sundays and Wednesday evening discounted admissions. Check out these other institutions where it won't cost you much to bring the whole family:
The Barnes Foundation (free on 1st Sundays)
Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts Museum (free 'Art at Lunch' live lecture series, Wednesdays, 12 to 1 p.m.)
Brandywine Art Museum (free on 1st Sundays from February until November)
Woodmere Art Museum (free every Sunday, plus live music on Friday nights)
The Franklin Institute (free on select Community Nights)
Please Touch Museum ($2 on First Wednesdays)
Don't forget to check about discounted admissions if you're a student, have young children or are a member of the military.
Hang out after hours at the Barnes Foundation
Over the winter I found myself spending a Friday night with friends at a VIP-esque Barnes Foundation event. Picture a classy, dressed up party inside one of the country’s finest private art collections, with young single people eyeing each other in between sips of expensive drinks – plus Picasso and Matisse sketches line mansion walls and a live cover band plays on stage. This is a real thing that happens frequently. Get tickets for the next event.
See a live show at the Kimmel Center
Though I lived in New York for over five years, I never saw a live Broadway show (I know!). Leave it to me to wait until I move to Philadelphia to gain a soft spot for the ballet, opera, and jazz. On the docket this year is seeing the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra, singers from the MET Opera, and even comedian Brian Regan do stand-up!
More Arts & Entertainment Deals
Score last minute deals to popular theatre shows and events across the Philadelphia area by signing up for TodayTix, a mobile app that lets you enter ticket lotteries, buy rush tickets, set show alerts and more. I've scored $19 orchestra seats to see The Marriage of Figaro, a sold-out Opera here in Philadelphia and it was magical! Enter my code PMILM at checkout and you'll save $10 off your first show on TodayTix!
Sign up for the Philly Fun Guide Funsavers newsletter which shares free activities everything from live jazz concerts to museum tours to the performing arts and theater.
Use a valid SEPTA Key, TrailPass, TransPass, or One Day Independence Pass and receive additional discounts to select museums and popular institutions. SEPTA passes grant you access to public transit including city bus and subway systems, which will make it that much easier to get around. View the full list of SEPTA perks here.
Explore free and low-cost events and performances on CreativePHL.org's Arts Access Calendar here.