We’re in the final stretch, folks. The bulk of winter is behind us, and spring is so close you can almost smell the flowers. With Covid cases dropping, there are more fun things to do in Philly now than there have been in years—and it promises to only get better as temps start to rise.
For now, though, you can spend the final weeks of winter at the bedazzling Museum of Illusions, and WXPN’s vibrant Kanaval celebration in Fishtown at the Fillmore Philly. On top of that, you’ll find enchanting ballet performances, a host of cool new theater, concerts, comedy and of course the ongoing Harry Potter exhibition at the Franklin Institute.
Find out where to do all that in the ever-evolving list of winter in Philadelphia activities below. The more you get out, the more you’re doing to keep our city alive throughout these precarious times. Simple things, like having beers around a fire pit with friends or purchasing a trinket at a local market, are money in the pocket for our local businesses, artists and organizations. An engaged city is a thriving city, and who doesn’t want that for Philly right now?
With that said it’s smart to keep track of 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 IN PHILLY IN MARCH
Aretha Franklin Tribute at Merriam Theater | March 18
Musician and singer Daniel Sneed, who toured with Ms. Franklin, and Karen Clark Sheard, of legendary gospel group the Clark Sisters, pay homage to the Queen of Soul with renditions of some of her greatest hits, such as “Respect,” “Natural Woman,” “Think” and “Daydreaming.”
Fran Lebowitz at Merriam Theater | March 19
The author of this column saw Fran Lebowitz’s latest touring engagement in Boston, and can’t recommend it enough. She was sharp, deliciously witty and seriously LOL-funny. Her famous wit was put to the test in a long audience Q&A, and she did not disappoint—unless, of course, you were at the receiving end of one of her biting retorts. Go see her when she comes through, Philly. And have some questions at the ready.
GayBINGO! at Congregation Rodeph Shalom | March 19
The zany Bingo-Verifying Divas (a gaggle of some of the city’s quirkiest drag queens) are back from Covid hiatus with their monthly GayBingo! nights. Throw on your favorite Halston knockoff for the disco-themed March version, which will find the ladies performing and offering up their favorite Studio 54-era wisecracks—all while you play bingo!
Kanaval Ball at Fillmore Philadelphia | March 20
WXPN’s first-ever Kanaval Ball promises to be a glittering, over-the-top spectacle that brings the revelrous energy of Haitian Carnival and New Orleans Mardi Gras to Fishtown. The affair includes live, pepped-up jazz performances; lively Haitian folkloric dance performances; and authentic Haitian drinks and cuisine.
The Museum of Illusions opens | March 12
This trippy, immersive museum experience welcomes guests into 80 different exhibits with names like Vortex Tunnel, Rotated Room and Clone Table, where you can interact with holograms and stereograms, and bend your mind in a series of optical illusions. Besides the general feeling that you’re walking through a kaleidoscope, a trip to the Museum of Illusions is also an educational experience, offering fascinating insight into vision, perception and the human brain—namely how our eyes can play tricks with our minds.
Oklahoma! at Forrest Theatre | March 8–20
Daniel Fish’s reimagined version of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic brings the country-western Broadway hit we all love to the 21st century for a whole new Oklahoma! that’s been described as “funny and sexy, provocative and probing.” The play, a Tony winner for Best Revival of a Musical, looks like the America we know today, with a diverse cast and storyline, while retaining every single word of text from the original.
Art Exhibitions at various locations | various times and dates
Get out to browse some of Philly’s world-class museums to beat the winter doldrums with a dose of art and creativity. Here’s what’s coming up this winter:
- In “Rodin’s Hands,” the Rodin Museum takes a closer look at a part of the body famed sculptor Auguste Rodin was particularly adept at: the hands. Fifteen rare bronzes and plasters will be on display during the event. (Through December 2023)
- The Philadelphia Museum of Art takes a look at posthumous tributes in “Elegy: Lament in the Twentieth Century,” a months’ long exhibition of works made between 1900 and 2000 that show how artists used their creativity to pay tribute to those who have passed—and how those rituals of mourning evolved throughout the century. (Through July 24)
- More than 100 stunning works of Pueblo and Navajo pottery, textiles, and jewelry collected by Albert Barnes in the 1930s will decorate the special exhibition hall at the Barnes Foundation in “Water, Wind, Breath: Southwest Native Art in Community.” (Through May 15)
- PMA dedicates its Lynne and Harold Honickman Galleries to “Waiting for Tear Gas,” “a monument of politically engaged art created in the wake of the anti-globalization protests that rocked Seattle, Washington, in late 1999.” (Through July 17)
- Two rare subway drawings and a massive Medusa head are among the 100-plus gems in the Michener Museum’s colorful exhibition on world famous, Kutztown-raised artist Keith Haring. (Through July 31)
Go for a wintery hike outside the city | All season
Our city is surrounded by gorgeous places to get out around trees (leafless as they may be), open land, rivers and streams. Check out this guide 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 (do they know any carols?).
Go on a guided tour of historic Bethlehem | Anytime
Located on a 14-acre swath of land that was once an 18th-century Moravian settlement, downtown Bethlehem is rife with cultural and historic gems that would make any history buff weak in the knees. A guided tour of Bethlehem museums and sites includes tales of Moravian culture, and stops at the Goundie House, home of one of Bethlehem’s earliest breweries, and the 1750 Smithy, where trained blacksmiths demonstrate the work done in a 1700s blacksmith shop.
Take a brisk stroll around Fairmount Park
Fairmount Park is an idyllic spot to spend a sunny Saturday or Sunday afternoon this winter. You could just show up and set out on one of its many hiking trails, or plan your day around some upcoming events happening in the park, such as guided walks, bird watching tours and more. This digital guide will tell you all you need to know to get the most out of the park.
Winter Wonder Season Exhibit at Longwood Gardens | Through March 27
Just in time for those winter doldrums to start kicking in, Longwood Gardens debuts a brand new exhibition that spotlights the beauty in wintertime flora and fauna—and it just may be more colorful than you imagine. “Although subdued colors reign,” the Longwood website reads, “the occasional burst of bright yellow and orange of blooming witch-hazel dots the landscape, while winter grasses add a textural element.”
Take in some nature in Wissahickon Park
There’s no shortage of things to do in winter in Wissahickon Park—whether it’s hiking one of its 50 miles of rugged, breathtaking trails, biking along Forbidden Drive, horseback riding, 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.
See you in the spring!Header photo courtesy Museum of Illusions