You know Philadelphia offers group travelers outstanding historical attractions. After all, this is the place that gave birth to America. But equally dazzling, if slightly less recognized, is the city’s art scene.
That includes the Museum Mile, as the stretch of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway boasting the finest of Philadelphia’s art institutions has become known as. Inspired by the Champs-Élysées in Paris, it features five superb visual art galleries and museums: the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rodin Museum, the Barnes Foundation, Moore College of Art and Design, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
“Each of the museums has great programs for hosting groups,” said Kimberly Barrett, communications manager for the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. “And Museum Mile is very walkable.”
Bring your art lovers to experience the best of Philadelphia at these museums.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Now amid a massive renovation by legendary architect Frank Gehry, the Philadelphia Museum of Art debuted its North Entrance, which features a soaring, vaulted ceiling made from Italian tile, in fall 2019. The space includes goodies for groups like a new restaurant, cafeteria, gift shop and espresso bar, but Gehry isn’t stopping there. According to Barrett, roughly 90,000 square feet of new public space and 23,000 square feet of new gallery space will open at the museum later this year.
Of course, the real star of the show remains the more than 240,000 pieces of art spanning 2,000 years. In a single afternoon, groups can see everything from impressionist paintings by masters like Monet to a 14th-century Buddhist temple. Among the biggest highlights is the museum’s Marcel Duchamp collection, the largest and most important on the globe.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art offers groups one-hour guided tours as well as special dining packages.
Tucked next door to the Philadelphia Museum of Art is another grand jewel in the city’s sparkling art crown: the Rodin Museum. Dedicated entirely to lauded sculptor Auguste Rodin, it features nearly 150 of his works, a greater concentration than found anywhere else, outside of Paris. Even the most casual art aficionado will immediately recognize the bronze cast of his famed sculpture The Thinker. Other can’t-miss treasures include the sensuous Eternal Springtime, and The Gates of Hell, inspired by Dante’s “Inferno.”
Though the museum also offers drawings, studies and paintings that give a fascinating peek into Rodin’s artistic process, groups might be tempted in warmer weather to spend much of their time in the garden. Built around a reflecting pool, the peaceful space also exhibits eight of the artist’s finest sculptures.
The Rodin Museum offers groups the opportunity for one-hour guided tours as well as group dining packages.
Moore College of Art and Design
The country’s first and only historical visual arts college for women, Moore College of Art and Design boasts 7,000 square feet of exhibition space that is open to the public free of charge. Down the parkway from the Barnes Foundation, the gallery gives groups an opportunity to encounter work from newer artists and those on the rise that they may not find anywhere else.
And what will that work look like? Moore does not have collections, and its exhibition schedule “varies from year to year,” said Gabrielle Lavin Suzenski, director of The Galleries at Moore. “But the bulk of our shows focus on the visual arts and tie into the academic programs at Moore, including animation and game arts, fashion design, film and digital cinema, fine arts, graphic design, illustration, interior design and photography.”
Groups will especially want to check out Moore’s excellent gift shop, which features handmade and original art, jewelry and gifts, all created by current students and alumni.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
If groups continue down the parkway from Moore toward Center City, they’ll encounter the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Founded in 1805 as the first art museum and school in the nation, it boasts an exquisite collection of American art from the 18th century to today that includes work from major names such as Thomas Eakins, Edward Hopper, John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer.
Equally worthy of attention is the academy’s National Historic Landmark Building, a superb example of Victorian Gothic architecture. Outside it sits Paint Torch, a 51-foot-high Claes Oldenburg sculpture of a jauntily angled paint brush and a fine example of Philadelphia’s exceptional public art collection.
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts offers group tours as well as a full-service cafe.
The third of the three world-class art repositories that sit clustered together at the top of the parkway, the Barnes Foundation is a museum quite unlike any other.
“The one-of-a-kind experience begins when you step off the tour bus,” said Colleen Delaney, Barnes Foundation sales manager, groups and events. “A walk along the beautiful reflecting pond, in view of the stunning architecture of the building, leads you into a massive, sunlit space that gives you a sense of the importance of the collection.”
The Barnes Foundation boasts a jaw-dropping 181 pieces by Renoir and 69 by Cézanne, both more than any other collection in the world, plus dozens of works by Matisse and Picasso. Amassed privately by Albert Barnes, these masterpieces are hung as he uniquely displayed them, “alongside African masks, native American jewelry, Greek antiquities and decorative metalwork,” according to Delaney.
The Barnes Foundation offers self-guided and docent-led tours to groups, as well as catering options like plated luncheons, high tea in the afternoon and a champagne reception at day’s end.