Quick. Think of Philadelphia. What’s the first museum that comes to mind? Probably the Philadelphia Museum of Art? Maybe the Franklin Institute? For out of town visitors looking to get the most of the city, there are lots of things to see that might ordinarily be overlooked. For locals, there are places that you might have heard about but never made time to go visit. Regardless of the reason, there are plenty of museums to inspire, entertain and pique your curiosity. But now is the time and go visit! Here are 5 Philadelphia museums off the beaten path that you shouldn’t miss!
Philly is a rich art city but there is a lot of competition for your eyes. But sandwiched between the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation, the Rodin Museum is easy to overlook. The museum houses the largest collection of Auguste Rodin’s work outside of Paris, France. It was recently renovated in 2012 after originally opening in 1929. It is set in a building with wonderful natural light and beautifully landscaped gardens surround it. However, the small collection is easily worth the time.
Hidden away in West Fairmount Park, not far from the baseball diamonds and athletics fields, it may surprise you to know that there is a 17th century-style Japanese house and garden. The house is a gift from Japan. It was built in 1953 in New York. However, the building moved to the City of Brotherly Love in 1958. Visitors can wander through the house (sans shoes). Or, you can sit and admire the traditionally manicured garden and koi-filled pond. Shofuso holds special events throughout the year such as tea ceremonies.
Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum
Gearheads take note: Philadelphia has an impressive car museum. The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum houses over 65 racing cars collected over the decades by Dr. Frederick Simeone. But these aren’t all mint condition boxes. These cars all have a history of road racing and, rather notably, have their original components. Twice a month, the museum holds demonstration days when they take some of these impressive automobiles out for a spin in their parking lot. The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum is one of the special Philadelphia museums off the beaten path.
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (aka the Penn Museum) is an impressive and notable museum on the campus of the Ivy League university. The museum was founded in 1887 by the then-provost, William Pepper. Since then, the museum has been showing off a large collection with artifacts from around the world as well as special exhibitions. Visitors can marvel at exhibits such as a 15-ton granite sphinx, a rotunda full of large-scale Chinese art, or African objects. It is simply a must see.
Admittedly, the secret is kind of out about the Mütter Museum. But the museum hasn’t gone completely mainstream just yet. Part of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the museum houses a collection of preserved “anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments.” The artifacts on display include all sorts of items from organs preserved in jars to a collection of 139 human skulls. Ever wanted to see pieces of Albert Einstein’s brain? This is one of only two places in the world where you can! The most famous artifact, arguably, is the death cast of “Siamese Twins” Chang and Eng Bunker. However, those with weak stomachs take note: you might want to skip the Mütter Museum.
Have you been to any of these Philadelphia museums off the beaten path? Do you have a favorite lesser known museum?
Photos of Rodin Museum, Shofuso, Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum and University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology are my own. Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia photo (Death Cast of “Siamese Twins” Chang and Eng Bunker) by George Widman, 2009.