The Museum of Illusions Philadelphia is now open – and open your eyes – Philadelphia magazine | Candle Made Easy

Get ready to pose, ponder and be amazed at this new attraction in the Old Town.

Photo by Laura Swartz

A new interactive space is now open in Philly — and it’s likely taking over your social media feeds. The Museum of Illusions is the latest installment of immersive “experience” spaces with a STEM twist. The museum is highly Instagrammable and full of exhibits that play with how the eyes and brain perceive reality.

Philadelphia is the latest in the Museum of Illusions franchise, which began in Zagreb, Croatia in 2015 and has since expanded to over 30 cities worldwide. If you’ve already been to an existing location, you’ll be familiar with most of the exhibits, although some unique Philly-specific elements have been added: One of the first rooms features a slightly spooky mural of Ben Franklin with eyes appearing to follow you wherever you go you go too Elsewhere, you can “climb” a terraced house on Elfreth’s Alley and snap upside-down photos at a diner decorated with The Philadelphia Story and Rocky movie posters.

The upside-down room features posters of Philadelphia films. / Photo courtesy of Museum of Illusions Philadelphia

With admission times spanning morning and late evening, the museum is equally suited to family outings and date nights — and its prime Old Town location makes it easy to fit into larger plans. Here’s what you need to know about this brand new attraction.


The museum’s website describes the 5,000-square-foot space as having more than 60 “exhibits,” which is true if you count every single item — including wall art and small brain teasers — as exhibits. “Experiences” might be a more accurate term, but there are about a dozen major showstoppers and opportunities to learn along the way. Generally expect just over an hour at the museum, although your mileage may vary depending on how obsessed you are with solving the brain teasers you’ll encounter in the games room (more on that later).

With the dual intent of “edutainment” (her word, not mine) and doing it for the gram, the museum draws selfie-seeking adults alongside families looking for a weekend getaway (and, let’s be honest, selfies, too). on. While some visitors will no doubt view the museum as an elaborate series of photographic backdrops, each feature has accompanying wall posters to explain the science behind the illusions. It’s like a bigger, trendier version of the optical illusion-filled street in the Franklin Institute’s brain exhibit, but with a lot more poses.

Enjoy your meal! / Photo by Laura Swartz

The experiences reflect this dichotomy; and yes, many are designed to maximize social media appeal. From your head on a platter to gravity defying feats, you can fill your camera roll with all kinds of weirdness. Some installations have graphics on the floor telling you exactly where to stand to get the best shot, and the Ames Room (named after its inventor, psychologist and ophthalmologist Adelbert Ames Jr.) even has a tripod for your use phone so you can capture the perfect visual impact. In fact, some of the optical tricks — like the upside-down room (you’ll have to rotate the photos in post) and the classic Beuchet chair — are only fully achieved if you snap a picture.

You’ll quickly discover that many of the optical illusions are achieved using lights and mirrors – fitting given the museum’s focus on selfies. The Infinity Room and Kaleidoscope are made entirely of mirrors, while the Clone Table allows you to sit down to a deck of five reflections of yourself.

Photo by Laura Swartz

While there are plenty of those splashy photo ops, there are just as many fun and challenging elements to keep you busy. The vortex tunnel might look interesting on camera, but the sensory experience is impossible to translate. There, the walkway stays completely stationary, but lights spinning around you will affect your balance and make walking difficult. (Note: Due to the risk of falling, the exhibition is not recommended for those who are pregnant or prone to photosensitivity, motion sickness, and other health conditions.)

At the center of the museum is what is called the Smart Playroom, a series of riddles, brain teasers, and other games to test your problem solving, spatial relationships, and various cognitive skills. Depending on your interest (and stubbornness), this can significantly lengthen your visit. It’s also a great change of pace and a hit with all ages. If you give up (or really have to go already), many of the games are available in the gift shop on your way out.


The Museum of Illusions is now open at 401 Market Street in Old Town. The museum is open Monday to Thursday (off-peak hours) from 10am to 9pm, Friday from 10am to 10pm, Saturday from 9am to 10pm and Sunday from 9am to 9pm. Tickets are sold online in time slots and online advance booking is recommended as popular times sell out.

The Vortex Tunnel remains stationary, but confusing swirling lights make it appear different. / Photo by Laura Swartz

Tickets start at $20 for adults; $18 for seniors and military members; $15 for children five to 12; and free for children under the age of five. Prices are higher on weekends and other peak periods. A discounted family rate (from four people) is available online.

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