I feel compelled to clue you in on a secret. On the first Sunday of each month, when most of the city is in bed or just rallying the troops to get to their favorite brunch spot before the crowds, those who are in the know are headed to the Barnes. Because the first Sunday of each month is free, you see.
The ticket booth opens at 9:00 am. Rookies like ourselves show up at 11:00. You give your name, zip code, and e-mail address, and are handed two tickets. The number of people who can be at the gallery at once is limited, so you are given a specific entry time.
While you wait, you can spend time enjoying the special exhibit, which I like to visit first anyway. In this case, it was the Picasso exhibit (now until May 9). This exhibit was beautiful, thought-provoking, and so engaging. It was a mix of media, just the right amount of stimulation for art novices like ourselves.
Meanwhile, in the center of the museum as well as on the subterranean level, there are dozens of activities set up for children; Though adults will wish they could participate,too. On stage, a music group from Temple University played using a combination of their personal instruments and their computers as synthesizers. The room was quite literally buzzing.
There is a coffee bar and a separate pop-up area serving all sorts of baked goods and drinks. You can, however, bring your own food and toss it in a locker downstairs (free of charge) and enjoy outdoors or else at one of the tables inside.
When it’s your turn to visit the main gallery, I urge you to take your time. It is a beautifully laid out collection, that’s part of the joy of it. And be sure to grab an audio guide on the right as you walk in if you’re into that sort of thing. Our hope is to return a couple of times and focus on certain sections of the main exhibit as not to exhaust ourselves- the beauty of living in town, in opposed to that urgency I feel when we’re visiting another city.
The Barnes is without a doubt one of my favorite (alright, top two!) museums in Philadelphia. It has the ability to make you forget where you are in the city, really. It is approachable for those of us who are not well versed in art while being magnificently complex and curated for true art-lovers.
If you are very ambitious and perhaps only in town for the day, the Philadelphia Museum of Art right up the street has pay-what-you-wish admission on the first Sunday of each month, too! It’s a culturally rich bargain day, I’ll tell you what.
Nearby, you can spend time walking the Schuylkill Trail or else wandering in Fairmount Park. In summer, “The Oval,” a green space right in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum, comes alive with events and activities for kids.
If you don’t pack a snack or lunch, the dining possibilities are becoming more expansive in this area. In just a few blocks you have Whole Foods, Pizzeria Vetri, Buena Onda (fish tacos), and Sabrina’s ( a brunch staple).
So mark your calendars, and head over to the Barnes on the first Sunday of next month. In fact, if you make it there in May, you’ll be spoiled with the last weekend of the Picasso exhibit.
For breakdown of six other free days at area museum, check out my list over here.
2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19130
Free every Sunday, first come-first served
Note: Tickets are limited and were gone by about 1:00 pm.