The Oval+ Returns, Expands Down the Parkway for ‘Double the Fun’
PLAY, MAKE, and HEAR! The Oval+ is back with new "blocks" of even more free family fun!
Kiddie dance parties! Drag Queen Storytime! A basketball court! A giant sandbox! This place has everything.
The Oval+ will pop up on the Parkway again this summer, beginning this Friday, July 19, and lasting until August 18. This colorful transformation of Eakins Oval (and beyond, hence the plus symbol) brings four weeks of fun for all ages to the Parkway, from a beer garden for grownups to storytimes for little ones, and so much more.
“We are thrilled to bring back The Oval+ for another year with more fun programming than ever before,” said Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell. “This year’s celebrations will bring countless new offerings for a wide, diverse audience. Kids, teens, and adults of all backgrounds and interests are guaranteed to find something to enjoy.”
Fun Features For Kids (and Grownups, Too!)
As always, The Oval+ is a colorful, artistic space with a bright, new ground mural. This year, the mural is created by Mural Arts Philadelphia artist Felix St. Fort and is inspired by sculpture– fitting, because this year’s space also features a series of bright, playful sculptures by the artist NDA that guests are sure to want to interact with. The sculptures can be found in the HEAR block, and are inspired by graffiti.
Since popping up in 2013, The Oval has always featured sand in some form. This year sees the return of the 800-square-foot sandbox– a sandbox so big that it contains little beach chairs and shade umbrellas. Look for the return of two other PORT-designed favorites: the Ribbon Garden and the 800-square-foot misting pavilion (awesomely named “Mr. Mister”) which really makes the park a true summertime oasis.
But what really sets this year’s Oval apart are the new “blocks” that can be found at other Parkway sites. These installations are highly interactive and will host free weekly events and activities for all ages:
The “PLAY” block, located in front of Von Colln Park, features a pop-up basketball court, tether ball, badminton, ping-pong tables, and bleachers.
Every Friday night from 6–8 pm, you can participate in a ping-pong tournament with SPIN (the tournament winner will receive a grand prize and participate in SPIN’s final match at LOVE Park in September).
And on Saturdays at 2 pm, PopUp Play will host weekly STEM-based art projects that will challenge kids and parents alike to build, create, and grow. Select Saturdays will also feature a visit from Fab Youth Philly Play Captains, who will bring jump ropes, parachute play, cone races and more.
The “MAKE” block, in front of the Barnes Foundation (2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway) is a place for all to create and appreciate art, featuring reading and music rooms, as well as a shipping container transformed into a maker space.
We are very excited to report that there will be weekly Drag Queen Storytime on Thursdays at 11 am! That’s right, our beloved Brittany Lynn will regale your kids with stories about love, diversity, friendship, and acceptance (plus, there’s always time for dress-up!) in a space that is welcoming and safe for all ages.
There will also be nature-themed storytimes with guests like Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and the Academy of Natural Sciences’ Marty the Moose. And if you visit when it’s not a designated storytime but still want to read, kids can borrow books donated from PNC’s Grow Up Great and the Free Library’s Read by 4th initiatives (and musical instruments from the Free Library’s music library, too!) so anytime can be storytime!
Partners such as DesignPhiladelphia will host design workshops from the shipping container as well. Look for Architecture + Design Play on Fridays from 3–5 pm. Other community partners planning visits to the MAKE block include Mighty Writers, Philly Reading Coaches, and more. Be sure to check the Oval’s schedule (and our weekly events posts) for all the can’t-miss events as they come! There will also be visits from the new Kensington bookstore The Head and the Hand, who will have a pop-up bookstore with plenty of kids’ books, and Philly Tarot cards!
The “HEAR” block, in front of the Rodin Museum (2151 Benjamin Franklin Parkway), is pretty amazing, with its retrofitted double-decker bus called the “Boom Box” that will function as a music venue and snack stand! Thursday evenings will feature a live performance series, featuring groups like BalletX, as part of The Oval’s Art and Culture Thursdays.
More Free Weekly Events
In addition to those three exciting new blocks, we haven’t even gotten to the events taking place at the actual Oval! Every day has a theme— from Wellness Wednesdays to Game Day Saturdays– with accompanying events taking place both at the blocks and at Eakins Oval.
We especially love Family Fun Sundays, where Let’s Rock Recess will return with a free family dance party every Sunday from 2-7 pm with prizes, a DJ, face painting, and games and activities.
And on Friday nights, stay up late for outdoor movies at 9 pm, with food trucks serving dinner starting at 5 pm. It all starts this week with Black Panther. Other planned movies include Hook, The Mighty Ducks, and more!
Food and Drink
The beer garden will be open Wednesday through Sunday with Thai food, wine, cocktails, “adult slushies,” and beer including the special Park’s Pale Ale. This is yet another kid-friendly beer garden in a city trend that we are one-hundred percent on board with. The beer garden will be open beginning at 5 pm on Wednesdays through Fridays, and 2 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
In addition to the beer garden, The Oval+ will host a rotating lineup of local food trucks, including dessert options.
Plus, new for this year, you can visit the HEAR block (in front of the Rodin Museum) where you’ll find more food and drink options, including Rita’s Water Ice, soft pretzels, draft beers by Mainstay Independent Brewing Company, and beverages by La Colombe. Plus, there is seating inside and on top of the double-decker bus! Like the beer garden, the snack stand at HEAR will be open beginning at 5 pm on Wednesdays through Fridays, and 2 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
The Oval+ is located at Eakins Oval, at 2451 Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. The park pops up on July 19, and runs through August 18, from 11 am—11 pm. While it is walkable from many parts of the city, the most direct public transportation option is the Phlash bus, on which The Oval+ is stop number 13.
Cover photograph by Albert Yee. Additional photographs by Laura Swartz.