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Top Kid-Friendly Picks for PIFA 2018

From jaw-dropping performances to the epic street fair, here are our family-friendly picks for the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts.

The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) returns May 31, bringing 11 days of unique performances from around the world—seriously, there’s everything from a 24-hour cabaret to acrobatics to a performance starring a flock of sheep!


Also, don’t forget to stop by Commonwealth Plaza in the Kimmel Center throughout the duration of PIFA to see French studio TILT’s “Lampshade Bouquets” illuminate the lobby with changing colors.


There are so many different ways to experience PIFA, but what is right for your family? We’ve scoured the schedule and picked out our top five shows for families—and that’s all before the incredible PIFA Street Fair takes over Broad Street!

‘Water on Mars’

June 1—3
Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad St., Philadelphia


Hailing from Stockholm, Water on Mars combines bold athleticism and acrobatics into a circus of dizzying tricks and gravity-defying stunts. The show promises comedy and “airborne geometry” in an unforgettable multi-sensory experience. Tickets are $19-$39.

‘Cristal Palace’

June 1—10, 8 pm
Kelly Drive at Fountain Green Drive, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia


Compagnie Transe Express returns for the first time since their thrilling finale to PIFA 2011. This time, they will perform for 10 days on the banks of the Schuylkill River, with the world premiere of Cristal Palace, a high-flying, 360-degree immersive event featuring a human chandelier as the centerpiece for what they are calling an “aerial dance party.” Nobuntu — the world-renowned, all female a cappella quintet from Zimbabwe — will open the show with a 20-minute performance including Zimbabwean music, Afro Jazz, and gospel. The event is rain or shine. Tickets cost $25.

‘Doggie Hamlet’

June 3, 10 am and 6 pm, and June 4, 6 pm
Belmont Plateau, 2000 Belmont Mansion Drive, Philadelphia


We’re going to admit, when we heard this title, we were already intrigued. This 70-minute production stars a flock of sheep, three herding dogs, and five performers; and no, it does not retell Shakespeare’s tragedy with them.


Instead, Doggie Hamlet weaves dance, music, visual, and theatrical elements in what they are calling a “3D pastoral poem.” So, grab a hay bale to sit on, and dress for the elements because this truly unique event is rain or shine. Tickets are $20-$25, depending on which performance you choose.

‘SEA – Singular Extreme Actions’

June 5—7, 7 pm
Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad St., Philadelphia


In a performance combining dance, acrobatics, gymnastics, and daredevil stunt work, SEA will put the laws of physics to the test. These “action heroes” will perform through, around, and above invented hardware designed by action architect and MacArthur “Genius” Award-winner Elizabeth Streb. Tickets are $29-$39.

‘Tape Riot’

June 5—8, 5:30 pm and 7:30 pm
Mystery Center City Location, Philadelphia


Tape Riot begins at a secret location in Center City Philadelphia, which will only be revealed to ticketholders through a communication before the performance. Audiences will then be guided by quartet of performers who combine electronic soundscapes, improvised dance, and graphics. This performance art tour accomplishes its goal of “infiltrating urban public spaces” by leaving traces of tape along the way. While this is for all ages, it is not recommended for young children or parents pushing strollers due to the all-weather, all-terrain traveling nature of the performance. Tickets are $20.

PIFA Street Fair

June 9, 11 am—7 pm
Broad Street from City Hall to South Street, Philadelphia


As PIFA comes to a close, seven blocks of Broad Street (from City Hall to South Street) will be transformed into an epic street fair! This free block party includes a full day of public performances, food vendors, carnival rides, interactive experiences, and much more. It is one of the biggest, best street festivals Philly has, and it only happens every few years, so it is not to be missed!


Photographs courtesy of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

Contributing Writer