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The Oval+ Returns to the Parkway, Bigger and More Kid-Friendly Than Ever

This summer, the Oval+ promises “More PARK, More PLAY.”

Kiddie dance parties! Mobile farming! A giant sandbox! This place has everything.


The Oval+ will pop up on the Parkway again this summer, beginning this Friday, July 20, and lasting until August 19.  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 a sandbox for little ones, and so much more.


Last year, Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation asked visitors to The Oval for feedback, and more than 40 percent of respondents said they wanted more family activities. To that end, Mayor Jim Kenney explained in a press release, “this  year,  we’re  making  the  Oval  more  family-friendly  than  ever  before.”

A Safer Oval

Not only does “more family-friendly” mean there’s more for kids to do at The Oval+ but also that there have been more safety measures put in place. Parents with small children were concerned about having to cross multiple lanes of traffic to get to the park, so this year The Oval extends beyond the perimeters of Eakins Oval, taking up an additional 22,000 square feet of space, and closing the two outer lanes of Parkway traffic (from Eakins Oval down to the Parkway Central Library) in the process.


In place of this traffic—as well as covering the park—will be an unprecedented 56,000 square feet of artwork. A spectacular ground mural installed by Mural Arts Philadelphia celebrates the city’s character, from skyscrapers to Boathouse Row. “The Parkway is the backbone of our city,” explained Jane Golden, Executive Director of Mural Arts Philadelphia, at the opening. The mural illustrates “the transition from park to city and back again.”

Fun Features For Kids (and Grownups, Too!)

Since popping up in 2013, The Oval has always featured sand in some form. This year really expands on that, with an 800-square-foot sandbox! The sandbox is so big that it contains little beach chairs and shade umbrellas.


Around the sandbox, there is ping-pong, oversized building blocks, and giant Connect Four. Walk off the concrete to the shaded grassy area and you’ll find more oversized lawn games (including a giant chess board), as well as cornhole and nine holes of miniature golf (get clubs and balls at the table near the food trucks).


In addition to the sandbox and games, kids will love design elements like the ribbon pavilion, colorful ground mural, and a giant multi-tiered play structure perfect for climbing. If you climb up to the top of the giant pink structure, you’ll not only have a great view of the park, but you’ll find a fun surprise: it’s bouncy!


And on hot summer days, no one will be able to resist the 800-square-foot misting pavilion, awesomely named “Mr. Mister.” This playful feature really makes the park a true summertime oasis.


Further down the Parkway, the Barnes Foundation will host an interactive outdoor installation called The Canopy to complement The Oval+ and keep the fun going. The Canopy (named for the mesh canopy providing shade to the installation) will have picnic seating, family-friendly lawn games (including a bocce court), a big box of pool floats for lounging, and even live jazz on Thursdays at lunchtime.

Free Weekly Events

The Oval+ will host free programming from Wednesday through Sunday each week. There will be plenty of adult activities like Quizzo on Saturdays and free fitness classes on Wednesday nights, but for the most kid-friendly events, your best bet is to come on a Friday or Sunday.


Fridays from 11 am—4 pm, The Oval+ will host Greener Partners’ Farm Explorer, which is a living, hands-on mobile farm that features garden beds and a mobile kitchen! Farm Explorer teaches families about how plants grow, seasonal eating, and how to prepare simple healthy recipes.


Then on Friday nights, stay for outdoor movies at 9 pm, with a DJ spinning tunes and food trucks serving dinner starting at 5 pm. On opening night (July 20), the movie is The Greatest Showman, and The Oval+ will celebrate with performances by the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts throughout the park beginning at 6 pm.


On Sundays from 2—7 pm, come for Let’s Rock Recess! Each Sunday afternoon, the beer garden at The Oval+ will transform into a family zone with kid-friendly dance music, face painting, balloon animals, and more!


That is not to say the other days are not kid-friendly. Thursdays will be “Arts and Culture” days, with free arts performances along the Parkway; and of course, every day at The Oval+ has fun play activities in place. Be sure to check their schedule of events for updates and more information.

Food and Drink

The beer garden, Eakins Tavern, will be open Wednesday through Sunday with a great selection of beers, grilled cheese, and best of all, boozy water ice! 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 begining 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.

The Oval+ is located at Eakins Oval, at 2451 Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. The park pops up on July 21, and runs through August 19, 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.


Photographs by Laura Swartz.

Contributing Writer