Sail Philadelphia: Tall Ships Will Arrive at the Delaware River Waterfront May 24
Kick off Memorial Day Weekend with the festival of tall ships including tours, cruises, and lots of family fun!
The tall ships are coming! On May 24, nearly a dozen majestic ships will sail into our city from ports as close as New Jersey, and as far off as Portugal. Sail Philadelphia is a five-day celebration honoring the sailing community as well as Philadelphia’s history as a maritime city (the Navy did begin here, after all).
From a family-friendly waterfront festival on land to engaging cruises of the Delaware River aboard one of these amazing ships, there is so much to do and see during the long weekend.
Opening Day: Parade of Sail
May 24, 3—5 pm
The festival kicks off with the Parade of Sail on Thursday, May 24. This is a free event where everyone in attendance can see the tall ships arrive to Penn’s Landing in a stunning display of maritime pageantry. Each ship gets its moment to shine in the parade before docking.
The event is free, though if you really want to live it up, you can participate in the parade with a Sail Away ticket, which (for $150) offers an exclusive three-hour experience on the water complete with views of the arriving ships. Don’t worry—if you miss out on this cruise, there are other cruise opportunities throughout the festival.
You can also take a cruise on one of five tall ships throughout the festival. Choose from a 90-minute day sail for $90, or a 120-minute twilight sail for $125.
Tip: Paddle Penn’s Landing will also be open, so—while a kayak or swan boat is very different from boarding a 200-foot ship for hours—there is a more wallet-friendly option for the family to get in the water during the festival.
On Deck: Ship Tours
May 25—28, noon—7 pm (Early Entry tickets available for 11 am tours)
You can choose from six of the ships in the festival to tour—when you buy tickets you can select the ship you would like to tour, but not all of the ships in the festival are open for tours. These tours allow guests to board the ship, learn how the ships were crafted, how they function, and how their crews live and work.
The tours are self-guided, but tickets are timed to cut down on crowds. A new ticket is required for each ship you tour, and they recommend you leave at least an hour in between tours so you have time to explore. Tickets (per ship) are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and military, $7 for kids age 3-12, and free for kids 2 and under. VIP Early Entry tickets are available as well, bringing those group’s prices up to $65, $55, and $50 (kids age 2 and under are free).
On Land: The Waterfront Festival
May 25—28, 11 am—7 pm
Landlubbers rejoice! Even if you don’t step on board any of the ships, there is even more fun to be had without leaving the shore. Penn’s Landing will host the Tall Ships Waterfront Festival where guests can get up-close views of the ships, participate in interactive and educational family-friendly activities, see live performances, and enjoy food and drink options (including three special beer gardens). Tickets also include same-day admission to the Independence Seaport Museum, which will host even more activities indoors.
Jugglers, stilt walkers, and magicians will entertain throughout the weekend, as well as a full schedule of musical acts on the Great Plaza’s main stage, from maritime folk to a Beatles tribute band. Kids can visit Maritime Village, where there will be face painting and carnival booth games, as well as waterfront safety lessons from the Coast Guard and seafaring pointers from SailTime Philadelphia.
Inside the Seaport Museum, there will be lots of hands-on activities and more family fun. Some of the favorite activities you might remember from a Seafarin’ Saturday event will be there—making your own telescope, learning about signal flags, building a cork boat, and more. The curator will also be on hand for questions and discussion. The Citizen Science Lab will also be in full operation, with experiments like aquatic acidification, explosions and more!
And if you need a little break from all the hands-on learning, the museum will also be showing kid-approved sea-themed movies in the afternoon! Every day, you can watch Finding Nemo at 1 pm and Pirates of the Caribbean at 4 pm.
Festival-only tickets are available for $7 per day ($5 for kids 3-12, free for kids 2 and under). Tickets include admission to the Independence Seaport Museum as well (but boarding the Cruiser Olympia and the Submarine Becuna are still extra).
Free Concert and Fireworks!
May 26, 7:30—9:30
On Saturday, the U.S. Air Force Band Full Spectrum will put on a free concert at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing. This high energy group of Active Duty musicians will perform their pop and hip-hop concert from 7:30—8:45 pm. Immediately following the concert, a spectacular (and free) fireworks show will illuminate the Delaware River.
Sail Philadelphia will be held at Penn’s Landing on the Delaware River Waterfront from May 24—28. During the festival, waterfront attractions Spruce Street Harbor Park and RiverRink Summerfest will remain open, so make a whole day of it! Tickets range from $5–$125. For cruises and tours, it is highly recommended you book online to get the exact ship and time you want.
Parking is available on the streets, as well as in lots located at Market Street, Walnut Street, and Lombard Circle at Columbus Boulevard. The waterfront attractions are all accessible via SEPTA bus lines and the Market-Frankford line with minimal walking. You can also take the Phlash bus, which stops directly at Penn’s Landing. If you prefer biking, there are multiple Indego stations as well as bike parking on site.
Lead photograph by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia.