Actually Cool Things to Do in Philadelphia This Summer

Get out there.

Last summer was... weird, to say the least. After being largely relegated to our homes and apartments all spring, the city cautiously took its first steps toward the new normal. This time around, summer 2021 promises a return of many of the outdoor events and happenings we’ve come to know and love: West Park Arts Fest, Spruce Street Harbor Park, Philly Pride. Although things might still look a little different—masks, reduced capacity—a bustling summer season is a welcome development after the year we’ve had collectively. Mark your calendars, Philly, it’s about to be a hot summer. 

Show off your roller skating skills

Through June 27
Dilworth Park
Head to City Hall for a retro roller rink (featuring a checkerboard floor, no less) with a fun overhead hula hoop installation for some late spring laps. There’ll be lockers if you need to store some items. Make a reservation for an hour-long skate sesh and cool off with a brew at the pop-up beer garden after.
Cost: $8-10 rink admission, $5 skate rental, $10 lockers, pay-as-you-go food and drink

Sip a beverage in the open air

All summer long
Various locations
Things may be in flux, but it’s comforting to know summer beer gardens, rooftop bars, and other seasonal watering holes have mostly stayed the same. Head to the top of the Bok building in South Philly for Bok Bar’s longest season yet—30 weeks full of events, food, and beers. Assembly Rooftop Bar offers panoramic views of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and frozen cocktails. The Independence Visitor Center’s pop-up bar on the second floor terrace promises views of Independence Mall, local brews, and eats. Right across the street is the famed Independence Beer Garden, where you can pick from over two dozen beers, cocktails, wine, and bites like tacos, cheesesteaks, and cheese curds. Hang out with friends at a picnic table outside Philadelphia Brewing Company for great beer and chill vibes. Try to keep up with Parks on Tap wherever they pop up this summer. Relax in Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s urban gardens on South Street or in Manayunk, packed with flora and fauna, plus beer. Forget beer gardens and sip in style at Jet Wine Bar’s Wine Garden also on South Street. Of course, no summer of outdoor imbibing would be complete without a visit to Morgan’s Pier on the Delaware River waterfront. Or check off the entire list of our favorites here.
Cost: Pay-as-you-go

Screen the work of Latinx filmmakers at a locally produced festival

Sunday, May 30 - Sunday, June 6
Online
For 10 years running, the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival has showcased the work of emerging and established Latinx filmmakers through engaging events and programming. For the 10th annual festival, tune in for eight days of virtual screenings in all genres and lengths, discussions, and more.
Cost: Varies per event

Flip out over the new guard of circus arts performers

Thursday, June 3 - Sunday, June 13
Various locations
Performance hub FringeArts hosts an in-person 10-day celebration of contemporary circus arts, featuring acrobatics, aerials, clowning, juggling, and performances. Plus, you can participate in a day full of workshops where attendees of all ages will learn basic aerial acrobatics, juggling, plate spinning, and tight wire skills.
Cost: Free-$20

Cheers to the return of Philly Beer Week

Friday, June 4 - Sunday, June 13
Various locations
After a year off due to the pandemic, Philly Beer Week returns with a vengeance. While Opening Tap goes virtual this year (highlighting participating breweries, bars, and venues where participants can celebrate Philly’s beer-drinking community), there will be in-person tap takeovers, beer dinners, educational seminars, and small outdoor gatherings all week long.
Cost: Varies per event

Get an up close look at fine art at a virtual fair

Friday, June 4 - Sunday, June 6
Online 
Usually held on the perimeter of Rittenhouse Square Park, this year’s Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Show will be held online for three days. More than 100 artists specializing in oils and acrylics, sculpture, printmaking, and more will exhibit their work online, as well as answer questions and discuss their craft and walk viewers through demos via Instagram and Facebook Live events, and tours of their booths via Zoom.
Cost: Free

Luxuriate in the summertime nostalgia 

All summer long
Blue Cross Riverrink Summerfest
Boardwalk and carnival attractions come to Penn’s Landing at Summerfest. Complete with a ferris wheel, roller rink, carnival games, mini golf, and concessions, you’ll feel like a kid again in all the best ways.
Cost: Pay-as-you-go

Marvel at expertly arranged flowers

Saturday, June 5 - Sunday, June 13
FDR Park
Ordinarily a late winter event, the Philadelphia Flower Show heads to the great outdoors for the first time ever. The South Philly park will bloom to life with massive floral, garden, and landscape displays illustrating the theme of “Habitat: Nature’s Masterpiece.” Other show highlights include early morning tours, a butterfly exhibit, picnic opportunities, an evening cocktail party, and gardening vendors.
Cost: $20-45

Jam out with The Roots and Co. 

Saturday, June 5
Mann Center
The Roots are bringing live music back to Philly in a major way with the return of their annual festival, Roots Picnic. While the lineup hasn’t been announced yet, The Roots are consistently on the cutting edge of booking both established performers and exciting up-and-comers. Expect three stages of music, conversation, and art.
Cost: $69.50-350

Watch musicians perform on their porches

Saturday, June 5
West Philly
Local musicians will transform their porches into the consummate stage for an afternoon of DIY shows throughout West Philly. Grab a chair and post up outside of a participating house (within the one-mile radius of 48th St and Baltimore Ave, in the neighborhoods of Cedar Park, Spruce Hill, Squirrel Hill, and Walnut Hill) and listen to the best brass bands, emcees, bluegrass fiddlers, and jazz trios the city has to offer.
Cost: Free

Celebrate the African diaspora from a safe social distance

Sunday, June 6 - Sunday, June 13
Online
Typically held with fanfare on South Street, the Odunde Festival will go virtual this year with a week of events like a pop-up t-shirt and mask giveaway, African head wrapping demonstration, African cooking demonstration, and more. You can find all the events streaming live on Facebook and YouTube.
Cost: Free

Listen to music and enjoy the sights of West Fairmount Park

Wednesday, June 9 - Saturday, June 12
West Fairmount Park, Parkside edge
A festival celebrating local artists, musicians, dancers, and crafters held in West Fairmount Park, the West Park Arts Fest will move to a hybrid format this year. Over the course of four days, music and dance groups will perform live in the park and virtual art workshops will be held online. Stay tuned for a full event lineup.
Cost: Free

Learn about the American flag in the home of the first one

Sunday, June 13 - Saturday, June 19
Betsy Ross House
Over the course of a week at the Betsy Ross House in Old City, storytellers will engage visitors with little-known tales of the flag, an American flag made out of M&Ms will be assembled, and 13 new citizens will be naturalized. The first 100 visitors to the home of the first U.S. flagmaker will get free admission, too.
Cost: $6-7

March and rally for Juneteenth

Saturday, June 19
Various locations
Due to continued pandemic precautions, this year’s Juneteenth parade will instead be split into multiple events in West Philly. The day’s events include a Juneteenth Freedom Day March along 52nd Street and Philadelphia’s first Juneteenth Freedom Day Exhibit in Malcolm X Park.
Cost: Free

Honor 402 years of Black resilience

Saturday, June 19
Johnson House Historic Site
This former Underground Railroad station and now-museum will host its annual Juneteenth celebration featuring historic reenactments, music, kids activities, panel discussions, and food trucks. Held both outdoor and online, the event will feature engaging and entertaining programming for attendees both near and far. 
Cost: Free

Franklin Square Chinese Lantern Festival
Chinese Lantern Festival | Courtesy of Franklin Square

Marvel at Chinese lanterns in one of Philly’s original parks

To be announced
Franklin Square
After the pandemic forced the cancelation of the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival last summer, the display of hundreds of illuminated lanterns—including a giant dragon, other animals, and flowers—will once again adorn Franklin Square. Between authentic food options and performances, the entire experience is a feast for all the senses. Details are scarce for now, but keep an eye out for an opening date and ticketing info. 
Cost: TBA

Hear about the life of one of New York’s most glamorous

Tuesday, June 22 - Sunday, July 18
Bucks County Playhouse
The original Carrie Bradshaw, who’s book Sex and the City inspired the HBO show of the same name, Candace Bushnell will perform a one-woman show, Is There Still Sex In The City? The production, which she stars in and wrote, covers topics like her arrival in New York City creating Sex and the City and finding herself single again in her 50s.
Cost: $90-180

Make Manayunk your arts festival capitol

Saturday, June 26 - Sunday, June 27
Main Street from Green to Shurs, Manayunk
This outdoor, juried arts festival features hundreds of vendors selling their jewelry, fiber arts, photography, ceramics, paintings, and more. Wander from booth to booth to chat up the artists themselves and shop their unique goods. The two-day event promises tons of visitors and even more one-of-a-kind treasures.
Cost: Pay-as-you-go

Celebrate Fourth of July the Philly way

Monday, June 28 - Sunday, July 4
Various locations
The week leading up to Independence Day is packed with patriotic events, including free concerts and museum admission, thanks to the Wawa Welcome America festival. Details regarding this year’s event will be announced in June. (Fingers crossed for the return of the fireworks show).
Cost: Free

Meander through a nearly 300-year-old prison

Through September 4
Eastern State Penitentiary
Sure, you could tour Eastern State by day, but there’s something a little more spooky and atmospheric when you do it at twilight. All summer long, the prison offers evening tours giving guests the chance to see Al Capone’s cell and listen to Steve Buscemi narrate the audio tour as the sun sets. Afterward, grab a beer at Triple Bottom Brewery’s Fair Chance Beer Garden within the penitentiary’s walls.
Cost: $19-32

Stop and smell the sunflowers

Through September 26
Longwood Gardens
Longwood’s summertime display, Festival of Fountains, features daily fountain performances (including illuminated shows during the evenings from Thursday through Saturday), spring and summer annuals and perennials to gaze upon, and a scenic beer garden to quench your thirst. It’s the perfect summertime date.
Cost: $2-25

Feed your horror film appetite

Friday, July 9 - Sunday, July 11
Online
An annual tradition in Phoenixville, the Colonial Theatre celebrates the sci-fi horror classic The Blob (where part of the movie was filmed) with a weekend of screenings and festivals. Blobfest, once again, will take place virtually, featuring screenings of The Blob and other horror classics. 
Cost: TBA

Go to a concert like old times

Sunday, July 11
Wells Fargo Center
After more than a year, the Wells Fargo Center is hosting concerts once again. Megastar Justin Beiber’s rescheduled tour touches down in Philly this summer, where you can expect hits from his recent albums Change and Justice and his Freedom EP. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg as new shows continue to be rescheduled.
Cost: $89.50-199.50

Go outside the box with outdoor theater

Wednesday, July 28 - Sunday, August 1
Clark Park
Al fresco Shakespeare performances return to Clark Park this summer with a modern interpretation of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, complete with a troupe of circus performers. Though the show is free, pre-registration is required. Bring your blanket, chairs, and bug spray, and re-engage with the arts in Philly!
Cost: Free

Chill to the fullest extent along the riverfront

To be announced
Spruce Street Harbor Park
Floating gardens, colorful lighting, and relaxing hammocks await you this season at Spruce Street Harbor Park. The summertime oasis along the Delaware Riverfront has become a summer staple, offering food, craft beer, and relaxing hangs.
Cost: Free

Screen works by Black, Brown, and Indigenous filmmakers

Wednesday, August 4 - Sunday, August 8
Online
For its 10th anniversary, Blackstar Film Festival—the film fest celebrating visionary Black, Brown, and Indigenous film and media artists—goes virtual with five days of screenings. Tune in to view cutting edge shorts, documentaries, features, and world premieres, as well as virtual panels and talks.
Cost: TBA

Fill up on hoagies and live music

Saturday, August 7
The Mann Center
A decidedly very Philly festival created by Daryl Hall and John Oates, a rescheduled HoagieNation comes to the Mann for an evening of live music on two stages, free hoagie tastings, and beer. The bill includes Daryl Hall and John Oates and Squeeze as of now, but expect more artist announcements. 
Cost: $69-403

Head to the farm for folk music and camping

Thursday, August 19 - Sunday, August 22
 Online and Old Pool Farm
Held both online and in-person at Old Pool Farm, the Philadelphia Folk Festival brings a lineup of contemporary folk musicians, dancers, aerialists, artisans and more to the fields for four days. A limited number of attendees will be permitted on-site, but the whole four-day festival will be streamed online.
Cost: TBA

Get into the country spirit

Friday, August 27 - Sunday, August 29
Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show Grounds
A newer festival on our local circuit, the third-annual Citadel Country Spirit fest will bring A-list country acts Miranda Lambert, Brantley Gilbert, Chris Young, Carly Pearce, Scotty McCreery, and more to Chester County after the pandemic forced last year’s fest to be rescheduled. 
Cost: $89-259

Chow down on a Polish delicacy

Saturday, August 28
2535 E. Allegheny Ave.
Dozens of local vendors will line Campbell Square doling out pierogies for the 2021 Port Richmond Pierogi Festival. Come hungry and try as many varieties of the dumpling as your belly will withstand. 
Cost: Free

Unofficially end the summer with a huge music event

Saturday, September 4 - Sunday, September 6
Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Jay-Z’s Labor Day Weekend music festival returns to the Parkway for two days of hip-hop, R&B, dance, and pop acts. A lineup announcement is imminent (previous headliners have included Beyonce, Jay-Z, Rihanna, and Travis Scott, to name a few). Crossing our fingers for the return of amusement rides and the skate stage.
Cost: TBA

Show your pride at this year’s extravaganza

Saturday, September 4
Penn’s Landing
For safety and social distancing purposes, this year’s Pride fest will be scaled back, notably without the parade. Dubbed Pride Lite, the city’s pride festivities will be pushed from June to September. Expect vendors, music, and dancing at a festival under the Labor Day Weekend sun.
Cost: $15

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Allie Volpe is a writer based in Philadelphia. She hasn't slept in days. Follow her on Twitter: @allieevolpe.
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