14 Museum Exhibits in Philly to Check Out Before They Disappear

A bucket list of must-sees for locals and tourists alike.

There’s a reason that our city is one of the best for museum-going tourists and locals alike. Whether you could get lost in a history museum for hours or would rather spend the afternoon on a guided tour at an art museum, you’re bound to be bombarded with talent, information, and entertainment at Philly's finest museums.

As exhibits constantly change and fresh new works come into view, each visit to a Philly museum is almost like a brand-new experience. So plan a date night or round up some friends who want to explore the city and check out the coolest, most exciting museum exhibits in Philly right now—before they’re gone for good.

From Indigenous practices to 1960s motorcycle gangs, humans have inked their bodies for thousands of years. This exhibit centers on the last 150 years of American tattooing through the lens of influential tattoo artist Amund Dietzel, a Norwegian immigrant who became one of the most important tattoo artists during the early 20th century.
Dates: Now through May 1
How to visit: The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Walk up admission is available.

We all know the Rube Goldberg illustrations: Delightfully complicated and wacky contraptions that accomplish a simple task. See these inventions come to life through this interactive exhibit at the Please Touch Museum. Kids can move balls and pull ropes to trigger chain reactions and examine how each apparatus works or draw their own cartoon in the art studio, and adults can get in on the action too.
Dates: Now through May 8
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Advanced tickets are required.

PAFA The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
PAFA The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

For more than a century, art students at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts have had their work displayed to the public in the school’s museum galleries. This year, third- and fourth-year undergraduate students and second-year graduate students will display (and sell) their finest paintings, illustrations, and drawings to adoring viewers.
Dates: May 13 through June 5
How to visit: The galleries are open Thursday through Sunday. Advanced tickets are recommended.

The Barnes Foundation
The Barnes Foundation

Philadelphia art collector Albert Barnes’ chartered the Barnes Foundation in 1922 and it’s full of an impressive assortment of impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern paintings. The museum’s latest exhibit Water, Wind, Breath: Southwest Native Art in Community spotlights historic pottery, textiles, and jewelry made by Pueblo and Diné peoples that Barnes collected in Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, during the 1930s. The pieces are shown alongside work from contemporary Native artists to show the parallels between the past and present.
Dates: Now through May 15
How to visit: The museum is open Thursday through Monday. Advanced tickets are recommended.

Clothes are much more than functional fabric for our bodies. They tell a story of time, place, and identity. Through 250 pieces of clothing and accessories spanning 2,500 years, The Stories We Wear connects history, culture, identity, and adornment. See satin robes Chinese opera performers wore in the 19th century, crowns donned by Buddhist priests in the 16th century, and much more.
Dates: Now through June 12
How to visit: The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Advanced tickets are recommended.

Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is home to the world’s largest collection of works by Marcel Duchamp, a 17th-century Chinese reception hall, and the second largest collection of arms and armor in the United States, but this exhibit zooms in on works created between 1900 and 2000. Elegy: Lament in the 20th Century features pieces by artists like Charles White and Juan Soriano, exploring how we deal with tragedy and grief, and commemorating those who have passed.
Dates: Now through July 24
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Advanced tickets are recommended.
​​https://www.facebook.com/philamuseum/photos/a.10150607030337054/10152452169787054

The Academy of Natural Sciences
The Academy of Natural Sciences

It’s hard to believe, but there are still deep sea creatures scientists didn’t know existed until fairly recently. The Academy of Natural Sciences’ latest exhibit showcases all the frights and delights of the depths of the ocean, teaching visitors how life is sustained so far away from sunlight and real specimens from down below. Other features include a model deck of the Titanic and a robotic arm of a replica of the submersible Alvin guests can use to pick up lava rocks and clams.
Dates: Now through July 24
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Advanced tickets are recommended.

National Liberty Museum
National Liberty Museum

Artist and director of the Center for Hispanic Excellence: La Casa Latina at the University of Pennsylvania, Johnny Irizarry, explores the idea of “la brega” which loosely translates to “the struggle.” The exhibit features mixed media works tackling issues like colonization and its legacies and the disproportionate impact of climate change and gun violence.
Dates: Now through August 15
How to visit: The museum is open Thursday through Monday. Advanced tickets are recommended.

The African American Museum in Philadelphia
The African American Museum in Philadelphia

New York-based artist Derrick Adams drew inspiration from The Negro Motorist Green Book, the Jim Crow-era guidebook which identified safe places for African Americans to eat and sleep as they traveled. This exhibit of 50 works of mixed-media collage, assemblage on wood panels, and sculpture presented reimagines safe destinations for the Black American traveler during the mid-20th century.
Dates: Now through August 28
How to visit: The museum is open Friday through Sunday. Advanced tickets are required.

At a museum dedicated solely to the colonial goings-on during the American Revolution, you can expect to see tons of artifacts from the time of British rule from the weapons used during the war to clothing from the period. However, in this temporary exhibit visitors are able to actually envision what the Revolutionary War looked like through meticulously-researched paintings of the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill, General Washington’s 1776 attack on Trenton, and more.
Dates: Now through September 5
How to visit: The museum is open daily. Advanced tickets are recommended.

The Franklin Institute
The Franklin Institute

Wizards and muggles alike are invited to explore the immersive Harry Potter exhibition, making its world premiere here in Philly at the Franklin Institute. Featuring replicas of key scenes and rooms throughout Hogwarts, like the grand staircase, you’ll have a hard time believing you’re still in Philly. Plus, original costumes and props from both the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchises will be on display.
Dates: Now through September 18
How to visit: The museum is open daily. Advanced tickets are recommended.

Eastern State may be known for legendary Halloween programming and excellent audio tours (hosted by Steve Buscemi) through the historic cell blocks, but the historic space’s art installations are worth a visit as well. The pieces examine the realities and injustices of mass incarceration. Their latest, a sound installation from Mark Menjivar, features the music David Lee Powell created while incarcerated on death row.
Dates: May 6 through December 31
How to visit: The penitentiary is open Wednesday through Sunday. Advanced tickets are recommended.

Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Eerily topical, the Mütter’s latest special exhibit, Spit Spreads Death, an exhibit about the 1918 flu pandemic, opened in the fall of 2019, less than six months before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The exhibit traces the disease’s spread throughout Philadelphia neighborhoods a century ago and how the pandemic impacted the city with artifacts like photos, newspaper clippings, and more.
Dates: Now through 2024
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Monday. Advanced tickets are required.

National Constitution Center
National Constitution Center

That lofty document known as the Constitution and its values, interpretations, and amendments are explored in great detail at the National Constitution Center, naturally. This semi-permanent exhibit examines the 19th Amendment—the one which granted women the right to vote—and the road to its ratification. Out of the near 100 artifacts, expect to see a rare printing of the Declaration of Sentiments from the first women’s convention at Seneca Falls, a ballot box used to collect women’s votes in the late 1800s, Pennsylvania’s ratification copy of the 19th Amendment, and various “Votes for Women” ephemera.
Dates: Semi-permanent, no end date announced
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Advanced tickets are recommended.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Allie Volpe is a writer based in Philadelphia. She hasn't slept in days. Follow her on Twitter: @allieevolpe.