Penn Graduate Student Center

Philadelphia for Less

Low-Cost Arts & Culture Options

We don't profess to know all the arts & culture opportunities Philadelphia has to offer, but we have compiled a useful list of options for graduate students on a budget. Hopefully, you'll be able to experience the great arts & culture in Philly without breaking the bank!

If you have suggestions for other great low-cost arts & culture options, please let the Gnome know!


Check out the Arts at Penn to find what's happening in arts and culture at Penn today and throughout the semester. Many campus offerings are free or discounted with your PennCard. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology and the Morris Arboretum are two notworthy examples!

Most local museums and theaters give student discounts. Always show your Penn ID to qualify!

The Philly Fun Guide provides a comprehensive list of all things happening in the Philadelphia region. It also includes free and cheap stuff to do. Sign-up for the weekly FunSavers email to receive exclusive discounts and specials on everything from museum exhibits, theater tickets, and concert tickets. The FunSavers email often provides the best discounts and deals by far!

Check out—the official visitor site for Greater Philadelphia—for wonderful suggestions of free things to do in Philly! Their pre-made lists of Itineraries & Tours offer everything from seasonal highlights to advice on how to do "Historic Philadelphia on a Budget."

Feeling more adventurous? Check out uwishunu Philly (pronounced "you wish you knew"). A diverse group of in-the-know Philadelphia bloggers have contributed more than a thousand Philly secrets to the site. You can browse the categories at the top of the page to find activities related to your interests. There's also the equally oddly named, but strangely entertaining, UWISHUNU what to do thingymabob. Just answer their quirky and inventive questions and they'll create a personalized Philly itinerary. Or as they say, "It’s the Internet yo, it pretty much runs itself."

The Visitors Center has lots of area information!

If you're looking for something else, you should also check the PhillyWeekly, a free newspaper you can pick up all over the city. Not only does it have the best apartment and real estate listings in the city, it's also the place to get information on all the hottest cultural attractions in the city, especially the "fringe" stuff.

And when you're looking for cheap eats, check out 18 and Under: The Guide to Reasonable Dining and Entertainment in Philadelphia by Marc Kravitz. You can pick this up at any bookstore in Philly for about $10 and it's really worth it. For a city with so many world-class restaurants that even New Yorkers have been known to make trips here for the food, it can be difficult for those of us on a less than average salary to find good eats. This book will help!

Performing Arts

One of the best places in town for performing arts of all kinds—and we do mean all, from classical chamber music to the Drummers of Japan—is right here on campus! The Annenberg Center offers an amazingly varied program of theater, music, dance and more. Student rush tickets are available on a limited basis and the Grad Center offers several groups of reduced price tickets each semester.

The Opera Company of Philadelphia performs in the oldest opera house in the United States, the Academy of Music (Corner of Broad and Locust Streets). Two hours prior to performance time at the Academy of Music Box Office, students with a valid ID pay $5 for Amphitheatre seating (or pay half price to sit anywhere else in the house). Amphitheatre seating is located on the sides, but actually, the Amphitheatre has the best acoustics in the house and the performance venue isn't actually so big that you can't see.

The Philadelphia Orchestra performs at the Kimmel Center, 260 South Broad Street on the Avenue of the Arts. They offer a variety of innovative ways for students to attend at greatly discounted prices. Options include: the eZseatU College Tickets Program (students pay a one-time $25 membership fee and get access to 100+ concerts all season at no cost per ticket—students just log-on, reserve a ticket, and walk in the door); $10 online student tickets in advance; $8 student tickets at the door (tickets can be purchased at the Kimmel Center Box Office 90 minutes prior to the concert’s starting time). Full details, including the occasional Free Concert for College Students, are available from The Philadelphia Orchestra's College Students webpage.

Great classical music can be even cheaper at the Curtis Institute of Music, 1726 Locust Street. This is one of the best music conservatories in the world and offers opera, symphony and chamber music performances. The Student Recital Series is free and open to the public. Family Concerts are $5 for adults and free for children twelve and under. Tickets for Curtis Symphony Orchestra performances are occasionally available with a student discount or as rush tickets. Call the Curtis Ticket Office at 215-893-7902 for details.

Presenting cutting-edge music, dance, cabaret, performance art, theater and more, the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe run from late August to mid-September each year in various venues throughout the city. Students with ID get $2 off each ticket and there are also on-line specials. If you look for events by date, you'll see that some are free!

Visual Arts

The wonderful Philadelphia Museum of Art, 26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, is "pay what you wish" on the first Sunday of the month and every Wednesday after 5:00 p.m. If you haven't checked out the fabulous collections of French Impressionism, Early American furniture or the Pennsylvania Dutch sections, you musn't delay!

The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 118 North Broad Street, houses the oldest art museum in the country and offers $8 student admission to the permanent collection, featuring works by artists such as Eakins, Wyeth, and Cassatt. Free discussions of American art and culture are also offered weekly.

The University City Arts League, 4226 Spruce Street, has something for everyone: stimulating and affordable classes and workshops for people of all ages; exhibits featuring emerging and established local artists; and special events —field trips, concerts, summer camp, and the annual auction.


The Rave Cinema, at 4012 Walnut Street, offers discounted student tickets.

Landmark Theatres—including Ritz at the Bourse, Ritz East, and Ritz Five; all located near Independence National Park—offer discounted student admission (with ID) for $6.75 (valid any time except Saturdays & Holidays); on Wednesday all shows are $6.

International House, 3701 Chestnut Street, regularly presents repertory film programming, independent premieres and cutting edge, avant-garde cinema from around the world. Many screenings are free; ticketed films are $5 for students.


Don't forget all the U.S. History you learned—attractions in Independence National Historical Park are free, including Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

The Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks offers $4 student admission for tours of historics homes such as the Powel House and the Physick House—both located within blocks of Independence National Historical Park.

The National Constitution Center, Independence Mall - 525 Arch Street, regularly hosts prominent national speakers who discuss current Constitutional issues and the balance of powers within the U.S. government. Many talks and panel discussions are free, but require prior registration; others can be attended at a reduced student admission price.

Original photograph by Flickr user timwilson; licensed through Creative Commons.

Common Room Hours:

Monday-Thursday: 9AM-8PM
Friday: 9AM-6PM
Saturday-Sunday: 12PM-6PM

Graduate Student Center

3615 Locust Walk
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia PA 19104-6221