In these pandemic-ish times, there’s really no way to know what fall in Philadelphia will actually look like. (I mean, look at what Delta did to our summer.) The good news is that this city is at least planning for a somewhat normal autumn, with tons of fun things to do now through Thanksgiving.
Keep reading for ideas on where to spend Oktoberfest and Halloween in Philadelphia, which annual block parties are returning for the first time since the pandemic, and where to go when you want to get out of the city to do all the quintessential fall things, such apple-picking, hay-riding, cider-chugging and hiking.
MORE IDEAS FOR WHAT TO DO THIS FALL IN PHILLY
As an added bonus, you’ll be supporting a local business or grassroots group that put hard work and dedication into making these events happen—whether it’s an emerging local artist at a craft fair, an upstart PR rep helping to spread the word, or a Philly restaurant or bar doling out food and drinks for your merriment.
Make sure to check Covid protocols wherever you go. Chances are you’ll need masks and proof of your Covid-19 vaccination. And keep coming back to this list, I’ll be updating as the season moves along.
THINGS TO DO THIS FALL IN AND AROUND PHILADELPHIA
The FringeArts Festival, now through October 3
FringeArts has released the full lineup for its 25th annual Fringe Festival taking place September 9 through October 3 in venues across Philadelphia. The itinerary includes a whopping 179 productions and experiences by some of the city and world’s most inventive artists and groups, such as The Bearded Ladies Cabaret, Nichole Canuso Dance Company, Pig Iron Theatre Company, New Paradise Laboratories and Elevator Repair Service. Check out a trailer for Mariana Valencia’s Air, and Arcadia Exhibitions’ visual opera Sun & Sea here and here.
Fall activities outside the city, now through November 7
For the ultimate autumnal experience, travel outside the city to visit some farms and villages throughout the region.
- Pumpkin- and apple-picking, hayrides and more await at Fall Fest at Shady Brook Farm (Sept. 11–Oct. 31) and Pumpkinland at Linvilla Orchards (Sept. 11–Nov. 7).
- You could also rub shoulders with hundreds of scarecrows (while tasting delicious seasonal drinks and fare) at Peddler’s Village’s 42nd annual Scarecrows in the Village festival (Sept. 6–Oct. 30).
- Later on, from November 6 to 7, enjoy all the benefits of the fruit-picking season at Peddler’s Village’s Apple Weekend, which feeds visitors with all the apple-based things you can imagine: apple pies, apple fritters, apple cider, apple butter and the list goes on and on … 🍎
Center City Restaurant Week kicks off on September 18. | Photo by J. Fusco / Visit Philadelphia
Center City Restaurant Week, September 18–30
Dozens of restaurants have signed up to take part in Center City Restaurant Week, which brings prix-fixe dinner deals to local eateries from September 18 to September 30. In an effort to support restaurant recovery, organizers have raised the prices ever so slightly this year. Here’s the deal: three-course dinners are $40 per person, and lunches, where applicable, are $25. At some spots, deals extend to takeout orders, too. And if you’re curious, here’s a list of participating restaurants with outdoor seating.
Oktoberfest celebrations in Philadelphia, starting September 18
In an awesome beer city like Philadelphia, Oktoberfest celebrations are plentiful—and they even start before October even begins!
- Nearby neighbor Ardmore is also hosting a big one, on September 25, from 5 to 8pm, along with its annual Picnic in the Plaza hoopla.
- Craft Hall takes the festivities into the month of October and stretches it out for a whole 10 days of deals and themed decor from October 1 to 10.
- Pay $45 to get into Morgan’s Pier’s Oktoberfest bash on October 9 to get access to open beer bar, unlimited soft pretzels and a beer stein for the first 200 guests.
Explore changing leaves and a Philly sunrise in Fairmount Park
Fairmount Park is an idyllic spot to spend a warm Saturday or Sunday afternoon this fall. You could just show up and set out on one of its many hiking trails, or plan your day around some events. Here’s an idea: Veteran hike leader Brad Maule leads a once-monthly Morning on the Meadows hike to view the sunrise over Philly from the Belmont Plateau. This digital guide will tell you all you need to know to get the most out of the park.
Philly Fashion Week, September 21–25
Models and clothing designers from around the world showcase their latest fashions at Philly Fashion Week, which encompasses five days of events throughout the city. Look out for a kickoff party in the Fashion District on September 22, and two runways shows on the 24th and 25th at 2300 Arena.
Northern Liberties Night Market, September 23
2nd St Festival debuts its brand new NoLibs night market series on 2nd Street between Fairmount and Poplar streets, where you’ll find an energetic hub of food trucks, live music, circus performances, lawn games and more. Going forward, the series will continue on a biannual basis, with gatherings happening each spring and fall.
Halloween at Eastern State Penitentiary, September 24–November 13
In lieu of its annual haunted attraction Terror Behind the Walls, Eastern State Penitentiary is hosting a festival-style event called Halloween Nights (Sept. 24–Nov. 13), where 15 different attractions—including two haunted houses—are spread throughout 10 acres of prison yards and spooky hallways. The experience is enhanced with state-of-the-art sound and light shows, live performances, and no less than four themed bars and lounges.
Fall Fest at Morgan’s Pier, September 24–October 30
If you’re aching for a quick dose of fall fun, head to waterfront beer garden Morgan’s Pier during its five-week-long fall festival, which finds the breezy oasis decked out in haystacks, seasonal flowers and foliage, and autumn-perfect brews galore. For $5 to $10, you can even head into the Pier’s Pumpkin Patch to grab a gourd that you can carve while you sip your adult bevvies (yes, I said bevvies).
See great art at local museums, various dates
Local art hounds can look forward to several cool art exhibitions this fall.
- “Blood Moon,” at the Fabric Workshop and Museum from September 24 to February 20, 2022, spotlights the darkly humorous video works of artists Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley.
- The Barnes Foundation debuts a collection of paintings by groundbreaking French artist Suzanne Valadon in “Suzanne Valadon: Model, Painter, Rebel,” from September 26 to January 9, 2022.
- The Philadelphia Museum of Art is teaming up with the Whitney in NYC for “Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror,” a massive retrospective of the American painter that’s spread across nearly 30,000 square feet of gallery space between the two museums. Running September 29 to February 13, 2022, the exhibition will feature more than 500 works of painting, sculpture, drawings and prints.
Two new Philadelphia brewery openings, TBD
Philadelphia is getting two new watering holes this fall: Victory Brewing Company is slated to open a 14,000-square-foot taproom and brewery on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and Other Half Brewing is moving into the former Goose Island Brewhouse in Fishtown. No official opening dates have been announced yet.
Theater at the Kimmel Center, all season long
The Kimmel Center is raring up for a season full of flashy shows, including Hamilton, which runs October 20 to November 28. The season also features an oh-so-Jewish cabaret by Alan Cumming and Ari Shapiro (Oct. 17); a culinary variety show starring Alton Brown (Oct. 23); a two-hour homage to The Beatles (Oct. 29–31); and lush Broadway musical Anastasia (Nov. 23–28). For fans of comedy, make plans now to see humorist David Sedaris and comedian Fortune Feimster on September 30 and October 8, respectively.
Rittenhouse Row Festival, September 25
The popular Rittenhouse Row Festival returns for a post-Covid romp on Saturday, September 25. More details are forthcoming.
Philly Tailgate Games at Wells Fargo Center, September 25
The South Philly stadium complex will be hopping on Saturday, September 25, with its first-ever official tailgate- and block party-style event. The day promises competitive tailgating games, drinks, food, live music and more.
Take in endless nature in Wissahickon Park
You could live in Wissahickon Park for an entire year and never run out of things to do—whether it’s hiking one of its 50 miles of rugged, breathtaking trails, biking along Forbidden Drive, horseback riding, spin and fly fishing in Wissahickon Creek, or trying to find as many of the 200 species of birds that live in the park as you can. We also recommend Sunday brunch at the oh-so-homey Valley Green Inn, which sits at the base of several hiking trails and streams to explore.
Fall for the Arts Festival, September 26
Philly’s lovely neighbor to the northwest marks the autumn season with a daylong festival that welcomes more than 150 artists from around the country to sell their wares along Germantown Avenue. Besides the chance to shop and browse all the art you can imagine, the 2021 Fall for the Arts Festival features live music on two stages, makers villages where you can make your own masterpieces, and of course seasonal food and drinks galore.
Mural Arts Month, October 2021
Mural Arts Month is back in Philadelphia all October long with the theme of “Resilience” and an emphasis on recognizing “the power of art to keep Philadelphia inspired and moving forward.” Mural Arts Philadelphia is hosting several events throughout the month, including the dedication of two important new murals created by artists who have been impacted by the criminal justice system.
Fall Fun at Dilworth Park, all season long
The urban park on the grounds of City Hall celebrates autumn with a host of family-friendly activities, including the Hay Maze on the Greenfield Lawn (October 1–10); a three-day Harvest Weekend (October 8–10) with live entertainment, pumpkin carving, circus performers and more fall-themed fun; and the Made in Philadelphia Fall Market (October 8–10), which features local vendors selling their paintings, jewelry, clothing and more.
Reading Terminal Fall Market, October 2
America’s best public market brings the farm to the city this autumn with its annual fall market. Filbert Street will be transformed by piles of haybales, scarecrow stilt walkers, delicious farm stand food and drinks, live animals and more. Catch it all going down on October 2 from 10am to 4pm.
Night of Lights in Chestnut Hill, October 8–17
From October 8 to 17, historic photography and films will be projected onto buildings and in storefront windows in Chestnut Hill to offer passersby a visual history of the neighborhood’s past.
Broad Street Run 2021, October 10
Registration is closed for the 2021 Broad Street Run (unless you want to do it virtually), but for most of us slouches, the best part about the annual event is standing on the sidewalk watching and cheering as the intrepid runners zoom down Broad Street from North Philly to the Navy Yard. Set your calendar: This year’s event happens October 10.
Dine Latino Restaurant Week, October 11–15
Capping off Hispanic Heritage Month, Dine Latino Restaurant Week is a perfect opportunity to check out all the amazing Latin-owned dining establishments in town. The deal? Diners will get one free appetizer or dessert with the purchase of two dinner entrees. The list of restaurants will be announced soon, but what we do know for sure: It’s happening from October 11 to 15.
Go for a hike outside the city 🥾, all season long
Philadelphia is surrounded by breathtaking places to get out around trees, open land, rivers and streams. Check out this guide by local nature hound Jared Brey for ideas on where to go hiking near Philadelphia—including Tohickon Valley Park, Hickory Run State Park and that place where the rocks actually sing to you.
Halloween events for kids 🧙♀️
Sister Cities Park concludes its weekly Parkway Pals Family Saturdays series on October 16 with the Trick-or-Treat Scavenger Hunt, which features pumpkin painting, spooky stories, circus performances and, of course, bucketloads of treats. Everyone is encouraged to come in costume so they can flaunt their duds in a Halloween parade. Hold onto those costumes for a trip to Boo at the Zoo, happening select weekend days from October 16 to 31. The Philadelphia Zoo will be decorated for fall, and kids will love all the moving beasts on display in the massive dinosaur exhibit Big Time, which has been extended through November 1.
Philadelphia Film Festival, October 21–31
Now going 30 years strong, the Philadelphia Film Festival is a stellar lineup of the best and most-buzzed-about flicks that turned heads at fests like Cannes and Sundance. This year, you can catch over 100 films of all varieties—from full-lengths to shorts to animated flicks—in venues across the city when the festival runs from October 21 to 31.
Halloween Party at Morgan’s Pier, October 30
The jovial beer garden on the Delaware River closes out its season with a Halloween bash for the 21-and-up crowd. Local drag legend Brittany Lynn plays host for the night, which features an open bar, live Djs, Halloween games and contests and more. Look out for ticket information later in September.
Halloweekend: Concourse Halloween Party, October 30
If you’re on the hunt for a fantastical Halloween dance party, Concourse Dance Bar sounds like a fun option. The Center City dance club (the one with an ice bar and a ball pit) is hosting an adults-only Halloween bash featuring circus performers, drag queen hosts, costume contests and DJs spinning throughout the evening. Ticket information is expected soon.
Head of the Schuylkill Regatta, October 30–31
Pack a picnic and claim a grassy spot along the Schuylkill Trail—along Kelly Drive and Boathouse Row—to take part in a time-honored Philadelphia tradition: the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta, happening October 30 and 31. Rowers of all levels cruise along the river for the two-day event, while spectators whoop it up on the riverbanks.
Hound-O-Ween Fall Festival and Doggie Costume Contest, October 31
You’ve partied all weekend for Halloween, but what about Fido? Put that cutie in a costume and take him to the Hound-O-Ween Fall Festival in Northern Liberties where he can strut on stage with 40 other pups to win prizes (up to $500!) and all the oohs and aahs his heart desires. The day also includes fun for owners: food trucks, live music, shopping vendors and more.
Step up your citizenship
If you do one thing to flex your civic duty this fall, vote in the general election on November 2. Outside of that, maybe commit to doing something for your community to boost your citizenship this fall. Perhaps you could start one of those cute little free libraries in your neighborhood, or start a community fridge to help feed those in need. You could also help clean up this filthy city by organizing a street cleanup. We have lots of other ideas about how to be more civically engaged here.
Philadelphia Chicken Wing Festival, November 7
Start saving up your appetite now for the Philadelphia Chicken Wing Festival, which will pop up in a secret location in town on November 7. Organizers promise boatloads of wings doused with flavors from around the world, “the finest craft beer we could get our hands on,” alongside a day of games and live entertainment. Tickets are $45, and that gets you a dozen wings, one full beer and a selection of tasting beers.
Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day, November 25
The 6abc/Dunkin’ Donuts Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade is set to kick off on Thursday, November 25, at 8:15am. The 1.4-mile procession starts at 20th Street and JFK Boulevard, turns left onto 16th Street and then turns left again left onto Ben Franklin Parkway. Start planning your viewing spot now!