The Philly Summer Bucket List
Why sit in Shore traffic when you can have a great time in the city?
Not going away this summer? We don’t blame you. Summertime in Philly is so iconic, it earned itself a DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince tribute. There is just so much to look forward to right here in the city. Here is everything you’ll want to do to make the most out of every summer day!
If you and your kids don’t have much time to visit all the great museums during the school year, use your free time to catch up on all the exhibits, and see some new ones too! On Memorial Day Weekend, the Please Touch Museum debuts “Hello from Japan!” (May 26—September 3) and the Academy of Natural Sciences debuts “Xtreme Bugs” (May 26—January 21).
Then, the Museum of the American Revolution will unveil its long-anticipated Revolution Place, which will be a permanent exhibit just for kids. Not enough history? Head over to the National Constitution Center, for an exhibit all about Alexander Hamilton (now through December 31) that examines the rise and fall of our “ten dollar Founding Father” and the conflicts that shaped our nation.
If you haven’t caught the Franklin Institute’s massive interactive “Game Masters” exhibit (now through September 3), it’s a must-do for any video game fan (young and old), and a great option to while away a steamy afternoon indoors.
Of course, one of the highlights of the summer is the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s ArtSplash programming (June 30—September 3), with drop-in studio projects and more. New this year, there will be Wednesday Night Family Studio time from 5—7 pm starting mid-July through August!
Outside Pop-Ups and More
From skating by the river to splashing at Sister Cities Park, there are some fabulous outdoor spaces that come to life in the summer, making Philly that much more vibrant and fun. Who needs to sit in Shore traffic when we’ve got a boardwalk right here, and a waterfront with so much to do? Check out our guide to these special outdoor spaces to plan where to go and learn what’s coming next!
Gardens and Environmental Centers
In addition to our fun pop-up spaces, there are opportunities to experience some natural splendor right inside our city limits.
Morris Arboretum is always a kid favorite for its “Out on a Limb” treehouse adventure exhibit featuring a treetop canopy and giant bird’s nest to climb into. The Garden Railway is also not to be missed, and the little log cabin is also a fun visit.
Don’t forget to visit the natural materials playground space Adventurewoods at Awbury Arboretum, while you’re at it.
Or check out Bartram’s Garden, which runs kids’ programs all summer long, and offers boating and outdoor movies too. On a nice day you can even take a Schuylkill River cruise from Center City to the garden for some added fun.
At John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, you can grab binoculars and check out the birds, or rent a fishing pole (it’s free!) and see what you can catch. The refuge hosts walks, talks, and kayak tours, too.
There are also some wonderful environmental education centers that host lots of events and activities for kids to learn and explore the world around them. Check out the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, the Wissahickon Environmental Center, and the Pennypack Environmental Center for weekly hikes, activities, and more opportunities nature exploration as a family.
And if all that’s not enough, cross the river to Camden Children’s Garden, which includes several themed gardens, a butterfly house, a sprayground, and fun rides.
Drinking Outdoors (with Kids in Tow!)
You know how else you can enjoy summertime outdoors? Day drinking!
Summer means the return of Parks on Tap, the roving beer garden that pops up at a different park every week, bringing food, drinks, and a family-friendly environment (including games for kids). It is not just a brilliant way to plan an adult evening with your kids, but it’s a great way to discover all the amazing parks and neighborhoods in all corners of our city.
There are also great locales like the PHS Pop-Up Gardens (South Street and University City), Independence Beer Garden, Morgan’s Pier, and of course the Delaware River Waterfront attractions, all of which have fun and laidback environments that make room for both craft beers and sippy cups.
Don’t miss Thursday evening Pairings on the Parkway, which combine BYOB nights with live music at Sister Cities Park.
Speaking of live music, Pairings on the Parkway is just one of many opportunities to partake in nice weather and good tunes as a family.
Live concert series like the Mann Center’s Young People’s Concerts, the Philadelphia Zoo’s Rock ‘n’ Roar concerts, and Smith Memorial Playground’s Kidchella are especially crafted for kids, but parents will love them too!
We also love the 40th Street Summer Series in University City, the Clark Park Music and Arts Festival in West Philly, Pastorius Park Concerts in Chestnut Hill, and Gorgas Park Summer Concerts in Roxborough.
New for this summer, Franklin Square will host a Summer Sounds on the Square series for seven summer Saturdays starting in July. To kick off the series, the square will host a day in partnership with the Philly POPS on July 21, during which soloists will perform in four locations throughout the park.
On the Delaware River Waterfront, you can look forward to Summer Sounds in the Historic District—from Sunday afternoon jazz at Spruce Street Harbor Park to the PECO Multicultural Series at Penn’s Landing, and much more.
More Outdoorsy Fun
Hike or bike on the Schuylkill River Trail or Forbidden Drive for some incredible scenic paths right inside our city limits! Or for some real outdoor thrills, check out the new Treetop Quest adventure course in Fairmount Park.
A final reason to not participate in the exodus from the city during weekends and holidays: Philly knows how to party, and we take advantage of pretty much any opportunity for outdoor revelry in nice weather.
Summer kicks off with the incredible PIFA Street Fair on June 9, bringing performers, food, and even a giant Ferris wheel to Broad Street to close out the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. Other highlights include the Odunde Festival on June 10, East Passyunk Car Show and Street Festival on July 29, and the 2nd Street Festival in Northern Liberties as summer begins to wind down on August 2. You can even brave the crowds at a Night Market if you’re feeling extra ambitious.
Of course holidays, from the July 4th Welcome America culminating in the Party on the Parkway, to the fabulous Bastille Day celebration outside of Eastern State Penitentiary are uniquely Philadelphia. Where else can you go to have Tastykakes rain down on you from atop a former prison?
Photographs by Laura Swartz.