27 April 2010

Five fantastic tips to make your Franklin Institute visit better

The Franklin Institute Science Museum is always a fun and educational trip to take. However, many visitors at the museum easily lose their way, miss out on shows, and generally get grumpy when caught up in a crowd. In this article you will find five tips to help you easily navigate the museum’s halls, avoid crowds, and make the most of your visit to the Franklin Institute.

Tip #1: Making an entrance
There are several different ways one can enter the Franklin Institute. For those who drive, there is garage parking. The parking garage has an elevator (and stairs) that will drop you off in the Atrium, or lobby. A key thing here is to remember that parking garage access is on the second floor, not the first or fourth as many assume. Were you to walk or take public transportation to the museum, you would most likely walk up the big staircase out front of the building and enter via the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial. This, again, means a second floor entrance, and you will find the Atrium located behind the memorial. Should you require a handicapped accessible entrance, one can be found to the right of the big staircase at the front of the building. This is the only instance in which general public will enter or exit the building via the first floor.

Tip #2: The map is your friend
For whatever reason, many people have issues carrying a map in their hands as it gives the impression that they do not know where they are going. Well, if you are not familiar with the building, you more than likely do not know where you are going, so get a map. Maps are available in the Atrium, where you purchase your tickets. One can also view the map here on the Franklin Institute’s website. Another important item to pick up in the Atrium is the daily schedule, which will let you know the schedules for shows and live demonstrations.

Tip #3: Go against the flow
About 90% of visitors at the Franklin Institute start their visit on the second floor, either rushing to the Giant Heart exhibit or the recently revamped Electricity and Changing Earth exhibits. From there, they will scurry up the Pendulum Stairs to Sports Challenge and run amok. The best way to avoid these crowds is to start on either the first or fourth floors. On some days, the Observatory will be open on the fourth floor, and is a great place to stop by early in your visit when it is at its least busy point of the day. Should that be closed, start your day on the first floor all the way in the back of the building where you can ride the Baldwin 60000 locomotive without a crowd of screaming children or check out shows at the Franklin Theater or Planetarium. Save the popular exhibits such as the Giant Heart and Sports Challenge for lunchtime or the end of your day.

Tip #4: Go in with a game plan
Plan ahead! This is a key element to fully enjoying your Franklin Institute experience. Check the website at www.fi.edu and see if there are any major events that may lead to extra crowds. Go over the map, as mentioned above, and plan out which exhibits you would like to see the most. Call ahead to reserve tickets for any shows you may want to see, and ask if anything special is happening on the day on which you plan to attend. Familiarize yourself with the current traveling exhibit. If it is in its first or last week, there will be extra crowds on hand.

Tip #5: Know your surroundings
There are times when the museum can be a bit crowded due to a lot of field trips or any other number of reasons. When this happens, it’s helpful to know the area around the museum. Peak filed trip time is between 11AM and 2PM. If you find the building too crowded, you can visit the Free Library, which is right across the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. If Ben’s Bistro is too crowded, you could get some pizza at Little John’s, which is behind the museum at 21st and Race Streets, or grab a beer and a sandwich at Cherry Street Tavern, which is about two blocks behind the museum at 22nd and Cherry Streets.

Hopefully these tips will make your next visit to the Franklin Institute run smoothly. For more information on Franklin Institute events, you can keep checking this column and become a fan of the Franklin Institute on Facebook.

*From Patrick Wittwer's page on Examiner.com

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