Originally published January 18, 2018
The Franklin Institute is one of those places that always conjures fond memories for me. I remember going as a young student so excited to run through the “giant heart,” eat astronaut ice cream, watch the pendulum swing, and see who could attract “lightning” with their hands. With all the fun toys and interesting material, it’s no surprise that the Franklin Institute is a hallmark of Philadelphia tradition and tourism. Taking my daughter for her first visit to the FI the other week was a special experience.
Our purpose was to visit the Terracotta Warriors exhibit, and it was super cool. After all, how often do you get to stand next to statues created 2,000 years ago? For history buffs, it’s pretty surreal. The exhibit holds several authentic Terracotta Warrior statues from China’s first emperor. You get fairly up-close and personal (no – you’re not allowed to touch them, but they are exposed). The statues range in roles from generals, soldiers, musicians, etc. and there’s plenty of signage to help visitors learn about the differentiation of design. There are even some horses and coaches included. Also on hand are tons of archeological artifacts. I personally enjoyed one display that showed how the figures would be constructed by a team of artists.
I’ll admit one caveat of the trip: taking a preschooler to an exhibit like this is nerve-wracking (FYI: my kids are young). It’s definitely designed for quiet introspection and appreciation (a.k.a. adults or older kids who can entertain the content). After a timed entrance, the exhibit opens with a short film for historical overview. Getting a preschooler to stay quiet and interested when it isn’t a cartoon is always a challenge! And let’s note the fragility of the exhibit. While you can’t make physical contact with the actual Terracotta Warriors – there’s that overwhelming sense of concern that a squirmy child will sneak under the rope. It’s quiet inside (for obvious reasons) too.
But I was thankful that there were a few interactive displays integrated throughout the exhibit to keep the younger ones happy. And maybe the adults too 😉. My daughter really enjoyed the “Build a Warrior” station and “Mass Production” where you can experiment with the print method used for early weaponry creation. It was enough to entertain her for a little while one of us could wander around to read. We made it through unscathed because we had more adults in the group than children. If possible, I would recommend that if you intend to bring little ones.
A trip to the Franklin to see this is worth it. After visiting Terracotta Warriors, you can spend the rest of the day exploring all this museum has to offer. It’s amazing how quickly time flies! We had been there several hours and hadn’t seen it all. But I would recommend checking out the Franklin Air Show, Electricity, the Giant Heart, and Sports Zone! Those were our favorites. No matter which section you visit, there will be tons for kids and adults to enjoy.