Summer, summer, summer-time! Time to sit back and unwind!
Pause, if you will, and take in the ultimate summer in Philadelphia jam, because it’s here, folks: The unofficial start of Philly’s most glorious season—SUMMERTIME!
Bring on the water ice, the weekends down the shore, the outdoor dining and drinking, hiking and swimming. The unofficial arrival of summer in Philadelphia on Memorial Day marks the end of the school year, the start of Pride month, the opening of Philly pools and camps, and the return of open-air music festivals.
MORE IDEAS FOR WHAT TO DO IN PHILLY THIS SUMMER
- The best things to do with kids in Philadelphia this summer
- Discover the best outdoor restaurants with patios and gardens
- Eating on your own patio? Order takeout in Philadelphia.
- Test your green thumb with our guide to starting your own city garden
- Check out what’s happening in Philly this week and weekend
So let this guide help you kick off your summer in Philly Will Smith-style—with “an air of love and of happiness”—then send any other summer events and ideas you’d like us to include in this regularly updated guide to [email protected].
For now: Go spark up that grill, slather on the SPF, shake your booty to the cicadas’ song, and get out to soak up the city.
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BIG SUMMER EVENTS IN PHILADELPHIA IN 2021
Whoop it up for freedom during Wawa Welcome America
Philadelphia’s multi-week Fourth of July celebration returns with more than 50 free, in-person events happening June 19 through July 4. Highlights include annual favorites like Wawa Hoagie Day, movie nights, free museum admission, a July 4 fireworks spectacular, and a massive concert on the Parkway featuring Bebe Rexha and Flo Rida. Find the full schedule of Wawa Welcome America events here.
Wave your rainbow flag during LGBTQ Pride Month
Philly was the site of the country’s first major demonstration for LGBTQ rights in 1965; 56 years later, this city still proudly celebrates our queer community with events out the wazoo. There’s no Pride parade and festival scheduled for 2021, but locals can celebrate the rainbow month with a drag teatimes at Sofitel, a fundraiser for a Lil Nas X mural in the Gayborhood, dance parties, history walking tours of the Gayborhood, women’s parties, and a virtual film festival. There’s really too much to mention here. We recommend checking out PhillyGayCalendar for a comprehensive rundown of Pride Month to-dos.
Kick back at a folk music festival in Malvern
People’s Light in Malvern is hosting a full weekend of folk music acts during its first Folk Weekend, happening Saturday and Sunday, July 24 and 25. Concerts take place in various areas around the theater, including the lush Glen area. See the full lineup and ticketing details here.
Party like it’s not 2020 at a Penn’s Landing Pride fest
Philly Pride Presents is hosting a big Pride Festival at Penn’s Landing on Saturday, September 4 in place of its usual parade in festival during LGBTQ Pride Month in June. Details are mum at the moment, but you can surely expect lively drag shows, live music, a sea of vendor booths and a high-kicking good time with a crowd of people who know how to throw a damn good party.
Get lost in the music on the Ben Franklin Parkway
There’s no word on what artists will be performing yet, but Jay-Z’s massive outdoor music festival Made in America is returning to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for its 10th anniversary romp on September 4 and 5. Early bird tickets are available now.
Hear awesome indie rock on the other side of the Delaware
WXPN’s annual three-day XPoNential Music Festival is back in person in 2021, hitting Wiggins Park on the Camden, New Jersey, riverfront from September 17 to 19. Musical acts include Dawes, Ani DiFranco, Strand of Oaks, Adia Victoria and more. See the full lineup here.
Pick your first concert to go to post-pandemic
Even if you’re not a festival-goer, there’s music for everyone this summer, from your hippie granny to your moody teen—outdoors at the Mann and TD Center. But also, indoor at The Met; at TLA starting in July; Union Transfer starting in August; Franklin Music Hall, in September. Some highlights: Green Day, Fallout Boy and Weezer are coming to Citizens Bank Park; Chicago is serving up retro vibes at BB&T Pavilion; Wilco and Sleater-Kinney are joining forces at The Mann; James Taylor will be singing sweet nothings at BB&T Pavilion.
PHILLY ATTRACTIONS TO VISIT THIS SUMMER
Ride the ferris wheel at Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest
Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest keeps visitors entertained for hours with roller skating, ferris wheel rides, boardwalk games, mini-golf, an arcade and all kinds of summertime grub, such as funnel cakes, cotton candy, chicken wings, crab fries and beer, beer, beer.
Nab a hammock and some beers at Spruce Street Harbor Park
Spruce Street Harbor Park, the seasonal hotspot along the Delaware River waterfront, is now open with all the amenities you know and love—including those Insta-worthy hammocks swaying underneath glowing trees. Visitors will also be able to play arcade games, sip on summer cocktails on a floating barge, and have their choice of Philly food staples—from pretzels to water ice to crab fries and tacos. Peek all the opening weekend details here.
Do all the things at Cherry Street Pier
Cherry Street Pier is always bustling with some kind of activity—whether it’s art shows or food markets or visitors just sitting back, beer in hand, and gazing at the beautiful Delaware River views.
Take in some fun activities in the shadow of City Hall
The Rothman Orthopaedics Roller Rink at Dilworth Park gives the chance to roller skate old school-style just outside all the important goings on in City Hall. The retro setup is decked out with a checkerboard floor and tons of neon-hued hula hoops hanging overhead. Go here to book your tickets. There are tons of other activities going on at Dilworth Park this summer—from fitness classes to live music. Find a full rundown here.
Spend some time in one of Philly’s newest outdoor spaces
East Market, one of the newest hangout spots in Center City, is a vibrant block-long corridor with eye-catching public art, plenty of seating and within a stone’s throw of some great fast-casual restaurants (looking at you, Federal Donuts!). The space is also hosting community events throughout summer, including outdoor fitness classes every Tuesday from 6 to 6:45pm, and live entertainment every Saturday from 4 to 6pm.
Watch movies in the open air
Outdoor movie screenings have always been an integral part of Philadelphia in the summer. This year, there are several ways you can catch outdoor flicks almost any night of the week. There’s the drive-in at the Navy Yard, movie nights along the Schuylkill Banks, and even cinema in Laurel Hill Cemetery.
See what’s new at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art just to check out the highly anticipated new galleries, designed by Frank Gehry, and decide for yourself: Are they appropriately stately for the Neo-Classical PMA, or as Inga Saffron in the Inquirer put it, “a bit of a letdown,” considering how radical Gehry can be? Then stay for the museum’s exciting opening exhibit, “New Grit: Art & Philly Now,” featuring 25 local and regional artists, more than half of whom are people of color.
Get lost among world-class art at the Barnes Foundation
In the Barnes Foundation’s first post-pandemic show, “Soutine / de Kooning: Conversations in Paint,” the two 20th century artists are displayed in dialogue with each other, with works from Albert Barnes’ collection and borrowed from museums around the world. It’s happening through August 8.
Snap selfies in some of Philly’s most IG-worthy art exhibitions
For a different sort of 20th century art vibe, check out the city’s new Neon Museum of Philadelphia, years in the making. Or the immersive art show at Wonderspaces in the Fashion District.
Freak yourself out on a nighttime tour of Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary is offering after-dark tours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights through September 4. Guests will have a chance to explore everything the daytime tours offer (like Al Capone’s cell), but under the eery light of the moon—plus grab a beer from Triple Bottom Brewing Company in the prison’s Fair Chance Beer Garden.
Spend some time with animals—both living and prehistoric
The Philadelphia Zoo, the nation’s oldest zoo, is always a fun place to spend a weekend or chill weekday afternoon. For now, guests can walk among massive animatronic dinosaurs in a prehistoric setting at special exhibition “Big Time: Life in an Endangerous Age.”
RESTAURANTS, BARS AND BEER GARDENS TO CHECK OUT
Try all the best spots for outdoor dining in town
Dining out is not only one of the best things to do in Philly right now—it’s also a great way to support our local dining scene with our outdoor dining guide that includes all the best places to eat outside this summer—mostly focusing on those spots with beautiful patios and garden areas.
Check out the amazing city views from the Bok Bar
Bok Bar, the South Philly rooftop bar with gobsmacking views of the Philadelphia skyline (and then some), is open with a fun slate of weekly activities, such as restaurant pop-ups, drag brunches, rooftop yoga sessions, maker workshops and tons more. You can find the full schedule here. Plan ahead; reservations are required in lieu of Covid safety protocols.
Get tipsy with friends on the banks of the Schuylkill
Parks On Tap, Philly’s beloved pop-up beer garden, is operating at two locations along the Schuylkill River through the end of summer: one at Water Works behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the other in a brand new location, at Trail’s End just off the South Street Bridge. Besides idyllic views of the water, both locations offer menus of snacks, sandwiches and sweets, plus beers, wines and specialty cocktails. For more, including safety protocols and hours of operation, go here.
PHILADELPHIA PARKS AND THINGS TO DO IN NATURE
Go for a hike or kayak ride in Philly’s largest park
Fairmount Park is a perfect place to spend a sunny Saturday or Sunday afternoon hiking trails, touring historic mansions or taking a kayak tour along the Schuylkill. Don’t know where to start? Consult the Fairmount Park Conservancy’s digital guide to the park to discover four different trails to explore. You could also check out the organization’s events calendar for upcoming to-dos, such as birdwatching tours, outdoor exercise classes and romantic moonlit strolls.
Paddle your way around Penn’s Landing
Locals can rent a variety of watercraft from the Philly Seaport Museum—from a kayak to a canoe to a swan- or dragon-shaped paddle boat—to cruise around the Penn’s Landing basin through Labor Day. The cost is $10 for a half-hour rental.
Wanna quick mental getaway to Japan?
Shofuso Japanese house and gardens in Fairmount Park is now open for spring tours. You can wander inside the house, and relax next to koi ponds and Japanese maples.
Enjoy beautiful Wissahickon Park
Help take care of trails and prevent erosion in the Wissahickon with Stewardship events (kids welcome) on Tuesday and Thursday mornings—then, take advantage of being in our city’s outdoor gem and spend the day exploring a different trail every time.