The Family Guide to the Philadelphia Science Festival
Nine days of STEM fun for the whole family! Get Nerdy!
The Philadelphia Science Festival is bringing nine straight days of STEM fun from April 26—May 4. This citywide celebration includes over 60 events in collaboration with top local science, cultural, and educational establishments. To top it all off, the festival ends with a giant Science Carnival on the Parkway, with an entire day of free demonstrations, experiments, entertainment, and more for the whole family!
And if you’re looking for some grownup fun, get your childcare lined up, because there are plenty of adults-only outings you won’t want to miss. There is so much to do, that it’s hard to know where to start, so we’re breaking it down with our top picks to get curious and “Get Nerdy.”
Evening of April 26
The Philadelphia Science Festival kicks off in spectacular fashion, engaging all areas of the city (and suburbs) in the Star Party. Local astronomers will bring telescopes– and their expert knowledge of the cosmos– to more than 20 stargazing sites across the region. Of course, guests are invited to bring their own telescopes as well. And be sure to bring a picnic blanket and make a night of it under the stars!
In addition to stargazing, some locations have extra special activities to celebrate the night. The Academy of Natural Sciences is pairing their Star Party with their popular Dinos After Dark, including pay-what-you-wish admission, the Dino Drafts beer garden, live animal shows, and more! The Penn Museum is partnering with The Woodlands for the West Philly Star Party. The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum’s Star Party will also include wildlife walks and crafts. Awbury Arboretum is getting the party started early, with hands-on activities and snacks before stargazing at night. Wyck Historic House will include tours of the house and crafts for kids at their party.
This party is happening beyond the city limits as well, to places like Riverbend Environmental Education Center (they’ll be building a campfire, too), Haverford College, and more. Be sure to check the Franklin Institute’s list of Star Party locations to see all the special activities planned near you.
April 27, 10 am — 2 pm
Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, 8480 Hagy’s Mill Road
Celebrate Earth Day with science and environmental art activities, hikes, nature exploration, and crafts. The event will also have food trucks, music and dance, face painting, and a fort-building competition. Dozens of environmental groups will also be there to lead science and art activities.
Teach your kids the fundamentals of curiosity and experimentation as the community comes together to delight in the science that surrounds us every day. There will be an afternoon full of fun hands-on science activities at two different parks, in partnership with many scientific and educational institutions.
And on May 2, bring your fourth and fifth graders to Independence National Park for more hands-on science (this time, examining the connection between history and science).
Philly’s premier research institutions, hospitals, universities, and museums open their doors for a very special hands-on day where kids and adults can learn from experts in their fields. There is truly something for everyone, whether you’re interested in medicine, wildlife, engineering, and more. The events take place all around the city and surrounding suburbs, so check their schedule for all the options.
There are so many experiences to choose from. Our personal favorite is the Teddy Bear Clinic, offered at Jefferson Hospital locations throughout the Philadelphia area (including Abington and New Jersey). Your child will “scrub in” and put their beloved stuffed animal through triage, radiology, and more while they learn about being a doctor in the most adorable way you can imagine.
Some of the locations for Be a Scientist Day require admission to participate, but those are also some of the best. Top picks include the Philadelphia Zoo (for “Be a Zoologist“), the Please Touch Museum (STEAM programs for preschoolers), and the state-of-the-art MakerSpace activities at Independence Seaport Museum.
April 28, 11 am–1 pm
The Rail Park, 1100 Block of Callowhill Street
New for this year, one of our favorite new public spaces is throwing a family-friendly bubble fest! Create bubble watercolor art, blow bubbles using a variety of tools, make bubble mix, and even step inside a giant bubble made by a hula-hoop! Plus, Murals on the Move– a colorful van stocked with art supplies and equipped with talented teaching artists from Mural Arts Philadelphia– will be there for community art-making!
April 29–May 1, 3:30 — 5:30 pm
Various Free Library branches, check schedule.
Local engineers, scientists, and other experts will visit various neighborhood branches of the library to lead free after-school programs, including experiments, animal encounters, and other hands-on activities for kids.
May 3, 6–8 pm
White Rock Baptist Church, 5240 Chestnut Street
Come for a free evening of hands-on STEM challenges, explorations and activities that will inspire kids to think critically, work collaboratively, innovate, and invent.
May 4, 10 am — 4 pm
Benjamin Franklin Parkway
The Philadelphia Science Festival ends with a free day of family-friendly entertainment, live performances, experiments, demonstrations, and so much more by more than 150 partners filling the Parkway. There are activities for all ages, including some specifically for kids. Practically every university, hospital, research facility, and cultural institution you can imagine from the Philadelphia area will be in attendance, with hands-on science fun. There is truly something for everyone. Also, foodtrucks galore, because it’s not a carnival without plenty of good eats.
For little ones, there’s a special Tot Lot by PNC Grow Up Great; and don’t forget to visit us at the Philadelphia Family table for a fun experiment!
If this all gets to be too much sensory stimulation, you can take a break inside the Franklin Institute’s Cool Down Space, a quiet environment with tactile tools and a safe place to take a break. This will be open and free to the public throughout the Carnival.
Finally, don’t miss the grand finale at 3:45 pm: the Trash Can Salute! See what happens when you try to contain ultra-cold liquid nitrogen as it heats up under thousands of green and black squishy balls (hint: see the photo at the top of this article). Let’s just say, it’ll be a blast!
Lead photograph courtesy of Philadelphia Science Festival.