The Philly Family Guide to the 2020 Philadelphia Flower Show
Thinking of taking the kids to this year's spectacle? Here's everything you need to know.
The Philadelphia Flower Show is back with “Riviera Holiday,” which celebrates the world’s exotic Mediterranean gardens, culture, and natural beauty. Visitors to the show — running February 29 through March 8– can experience floral and garden design on a larger-than-life scale as they walk through the different displays. Kids will love that there are lots of little surprises, hands-on opportunities, and ways to learn.
Whether you’re picking up some gardening tips or just taking in the colorful artistry, here’s what you’ll want to see, do, and plan for your visit.
Designers have interpreted this year’s “Riviera Holiday” theme in many different ways. From a charming French café scene to the citrus groves of the Côte d’Azur, the lush displays evoke the colors, fragrances, and diversity of the region. The Entrance Garden is not only a gorgeous array of color and texture, but it also smells heavenly thanks to the canopy of lemons that you’ll see if you veer left at the beginning of your adventure. If you need a break, take a seat under the olive tree in the middle of the garden and take in the orange and pink architecture rising in front of you.
The Princess Grace Rose Garden is a clear standout, recreating the Monaco landmark and honoring one of our most famous Philadelphians, Princess Grace Kelly. The garden features a replica of her iconic wedding dress, as well. You can see the wedding dress in action, as a screen placed amongst the roses shows footage from her 1956 wedding to Prince Rainier III. Around the garden, personal ephemera and quotes from her book “My Book of Flowers” are presented under glass domes to give you a glimpse into her character and how important gardening was throughout her life, both in Philadelphia and Monaco. Kelly was even a judge at the Flower Show back in 1976!
One clear kid-favorite display in the main hall is from the South Eastern Pennsylvania Garden Railway Society. This expansive and intricate display contains an entire town and countryside, as well as many motorized trains constantly traveling the yards and yards of track. As always, they’ve added little touches to fit in with the theme of the show.
Prepare to devote a good chunk of time (likely more than you would think necessary or possible) to watching this magical railroad.
The very best addition to this year’s Flower Show is the Home Gardening Hub, located in the very middle of the show. The Hub features three different “Demonstration Gardens” to expand visitors’ understanding of horticulture and how it can provide food, well-being, and a closer sense of nature. This is where you can come to ask gardening questions of PHS experts, but also where your kids can learn and get hands-on!
Kids can play “Plant-Tac-Toe,” learn about pollinators and flower names through giant manipulatives, send postcards about their Flower Show experience, stamp their own garden, and even get messy in the Grow and Tell section. When we visited, my daughter dug through dirt to play with worms under a magnifying glass. A PHS expert on hand showed her compost and explained how worms play a role in garden health. There are also large photo backdrops in this section to create some fun memories– our favorite was the giant butterfly!
In addition to the hands-on activities, the Home Gardening Hub also has a stage with different Garden Chat topics throughout the day. Every day will be different, and the schedule will be posted so you can make sure to come back for the topics that interest you. One day you may be learning how to make seed bombs, the next day you may be doing garden yoga! Tips for gardening with kids, propagating house plants, and so much more will be explained with Q&A sessions throughout the day.
Before the show opened we had the pleasure of speaking with Julia Thomé, Director of Gardener Engagement at PHS, who filled us in on all of the features and goals of the Hub, so definitely check that piece out to learn even more and get inspired!
Step inside a fully immersive habitat housing more than 1,000 butterflies of over 20 domestic and exotic species, as well as the plants native to their environments. Kids will love to watch the butterflies flutter around and maybe even land on their shoulder — don’t worry, there’s someone to give you a once-over at the exit to make sure a butterfly friend doesn’t stow away!
More than just beautiful, this experience allows you to walk through a pollinator garden, learn about the butterfly life cycle, and even feed the butterflies nectar! This exhibit is located away from the main hall, down the Grand Hall Concourse in 204B, and requires an additional $5 ticket.
Bring a little piece of the Flower Show home with you, with your very own handcrafted creation. Visit the Make and Take area of the concourse, select your own materials, and receive guidance from DIY experts to create a one-of-a-kind craft. This year’s craft choices include a recycled-material container (complete with succulent), lavender or rosemary with a recipe card in a recycled-material container, and a small DIY mosaic tile.
You’ll likely need to assist little ones, but you’ll have so much fun experimenting with all the different materials to make something amazing. This activity requires an additional $10 ticket.
Plan Your Trip
The Philadelphia Flower Show runs from February 29 through March 8 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, at 12th and Arch streets in Philadelphia. Here are some helpful tips to help with your visit.
Tickets are available online, and cost $42 for adults, $26 for Young Friends ages 18 — 29, $17 for kids ages 5 — 17, and free for children ages 4 and under (plus service fees). Prices are higher at the door. There are also discounted tickets available at major SEPTA ticket offices.
If you live in the city, you probably don’t need my help. You have feet, a SEPTA card, possibly a car, and I’m guessing you know exactly how to use them. Just in case, though, the Convention Center is a quick walk from City Hall (if you’re coming on the Broad Street Line) and 13th Street Station (on the Market-Frankford Line).
If you’re coming from the suburbs, it also could not be easier. For those of you who prefer to drive, you are in the heart of parking garage heaven, so act like you’ve been there and don’t let me catch you posting “where can I park for the Flower Show?” in the Main Line Parent Community!
You can even reserve a spot in advance via SpotHero, with whom the Flower Show has partnered to help make your drive in worry-free. If you do choose to take SEPTA, just take the Regional Rail to Jefferson Station — which sits directly below the Convention Center — and follow the signs to the Convention Center when you get off the train!
What to Eat
It’s very safe to say you will not go hungry on your Flower Show adventure. Inside the Flower Show itself, you’ll find some Philly favorite goodies like Termini Brothers — including some beautiful flower cupcakes. DiBrunos also has a little mini market right inside the show, so you don’t even need to leave the room to get a sandwich, salad, or treat!
For a fancier sit-down experience, reserve a spot at the new Bloomin’ Brunch, which features a three-course menu inspired by the Riviera– think quiche, baguettes, and macarons! A vegan menu alternative is available as well. Seatings are offered twice daily at 11 am and 2 pm. Tickets are $35 in advance online (or $45 at the door).
And of course, you are right across the street from Reading Terminal Market, so come lunchtime, we recommend you go get your hand stamped for re-entry, and cross Arch Street for that culinary wonderland!
Bringing the Kids?
There’s nothing wrong with getting a babysitter and having a much-deserved adult day — or night, since the Flower Show is open until 9 pm every day except for March 8 (the last day of the show). Maybe you just want a girls’ night where you can take selfies and have some wine…did we mention there is a wine store at the Flower Show? Go for it! If you are thinking of taking your kids, there are many things for them to see and do at the Flower Show (as we’ve detailed above!), so you’re sure to have fun if it’s a family visit too.
You know deep down whether your kid is the one who will excitedly (but respectfully) marvel at the spectacle, or whether you’ll be spending your visit chasing around a bobbing-and-weaving mastermind, just praying he’s not destroying the art that a team of designers spent the better part of a year creating. And you know what? There is nothing wrong with that second kid. If kids get restless or frustrated that they can’t touch anything or run on the tempting (but purely aesthetic) paths in the installations, head to the Home Gardening Hub where they can touch everything and regroup a little bit before heading back to the displays. Or if you are going with another parent, split up and bring the more active kids to activities while the calmer members of the family “ooh” and “aah” over florals and fountains.
But, do yourself and everyone around you a favor: if you are coming at a high-traffic time (especially weekends), please don’t bring a stroller. Your kids won’t really be able to see much from that angle, and pushing a kid through that crowd is just unpleasant for all involved. Weekday mornings are the best time to go without a massive crowd making your family visit more stressful. And be sure to grab a Flower Show map so you can hit up all our must-dos (and also so you know where all the family restrooms are — rest assured, there are lots!), take a million pictures, and most importantly, have fun!
Photographs by Laura Swartz.