14 Actually Cool Things to Do in Philly This Summer

Street fairs, outdoor concerts, and more summertime fun in Philadelphia.

Summer in Philly is here. This is the time when patio sipping and park strolling are more of a must-do rather than a hobby, every meal ends with ice cream, and soaking up the sun takes precedence over everything else.

Take advantage of your Summer Fridays and check out illuminated art at Longwood Gardens and Franklin Square, take a nighttime tour of Eastern State Penitentiary, or simply vibe out along the Delaware River Waterfront. The summer is yours for the taking—so get out there and tackle all the best things to do in Philly this summer.

Center City District
Center City District

Now through July 17
Dilworth Park
Head to City Hall’s retro roller rink to take some laps on the vibey checkerboard floor underneath a fun multi-colored beach ball installation. The space offers skate and locker rentals for your hour-long session. And once you untie your skates for the day, you can head to the pop-up beer garden on site for some local brews.
Cost: $8-10 rink admission, $5 skate rental, $10 lockers, pay-as-you-go food and drink

Now through September
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, monthly artisan markets, and relaxing hangs so check out the space’s calendar and plan a visit.
Cost: Free

Now through September 25
Blue Cross Riverrink Summerfest
One of Philly’s favorite summer traditions, boardwalk and carnival attractions will come to Penn’s Landing for Summerfest. Complete with a ferris wheel, roller rink, carnival games, mini golf, and concessions like Crabfries (...lots and lots of Crabfries), you’ll feel like a kid again in the very best way.
Cost: Pay-as-you-go

Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary

Now 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: $19-30

Longwood Gardens
Longwood Gardens

Thursday, June 30 – Sunday, October 30
Longwood Gardens
During the sweltering summer months, sunset is the best time to enjoy outdoor art exhibitions. This year, artist Bruce Munro will accents the grounds and conservatory at Longwood Gardens with dazzling light installations in “Light: Installations by Bruce Munro.” Expect a field of 18,000 glowing bulbs, three 15-foot diameter structures which cast reflections onto the Small Lake, and 1,000 illuminated flamingoes. Take your time, you’ll want to take it all in.
Cost: $8-35

Independence Seaport Museum
Independence Seaport Museum

Now through Saturday, October 22
Independence Seaport Museum
Row, row, row your own boat gently down the river. If you’re looking to adventure a little without going too far, hop on a kayak excursion leaving out of Independence Seaport Museum. With a number of routes to choose from—venture to Graffiti Pier or to the Boat Boneyard, or plan to paddle at sunset—there’s a trip for kayakers of all experience levels held throughout the summer.
Cost: $50-85

Independence Beer Garden
Independence Beer Garden

All summer long
Various locations
It’s summertime, and outdoor imbibing is a must. Head to the top of the Bok building in South Philly for Bok Bar’s seventh season full of events, food, and local beers. Famed summertime watering hole Independence Beer Garden is where you can pick from over two dozen beers, cocktails, wine, and bites like everything pretzel, cheesesteaks, and cheese curds. Hang out with friends at a picnic table outside Philadelphia Brewing Company for great beer and chill vibes. Keep heading northeast for German beer garden vibes at Cannstatter Volksfest Verein. Relax in Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s urban gardens on South Street or in Manayunk, packed with flora and fauna, plus beer. Move over beer gardens, 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 if you’re looking for something more spacious, the brand new 1,400-seater Liberty Point will allow you to stretch out while taking in riverfront views over a drink or two.
Cost: Pay-as-you-go

Saturday, June 11 – Sunday, June 19
FDR Park
For the second year in a row, the Philadelphia Flower Show will take place in the great outdoors, bringing elaborate floral designs to FDR Park. The South Philly park will bloom to life with massive floral, garden, and landscape displays illustrating this year’s theme of “In Full Bloom.” Other show highlights include early morning tours, a butterfly exhibit, a family day, an evening cocktail party, and gardening vendors so you can try to recreate the displays at home.
Cost: $20-50

All summer long
Various locations
No summer in Philly is complete without this quintessential dish. So pronounce it the authentic way (wooooder) and get your hands on some water ice this summer. Nostalgic spots like John’s, Pop’s, and Siddiq’s are always sure bets—and bars and restaurants across the city tend to take inspiration from this classic summer treat for frozen cocktails as well.

Franklin Square
Franklin Square

Tuesday, June 21 – Sunday, August 7
Franklin Square
The pandemic forced the cancellation of the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival for the last two summers, but the display of hundreds of illuminated lanterns—ranging from a giant dragon to animals and flowers—will once again adorn Franklin Square this year. Between authentic food options and performances, the entire experience is a feast for all the senses.
Cost: $12-23

Check out a summer festival

All summer long
Various locations
It’s block party season! All summer long, the community gathers in ways big and small (but mostly big), celebrating our city’s culture, history, and cuisine. The country’s largest African American street festival, Odunde, will return to South Street for food, music, and international vendors selling merchandise from African nations, the Caribbean, and Brazil on June 12. Commemorate Juneteenth with a parade and festival in West Philly on June 19. Art lovers convene on Main Street Manayunk for the Manayunk Arts Festival, two days of fine artists showcasing their work in the street on June 25 and 26. The city’s multi-day festival leading up to the Fourth of July—Wawa Welcome America—begins on Juneteenth and culminates with a free concert and fireworks on the Parkway on Independence Day. Rev your engines for the East Passyunk Car Show and Street Festival, where you’ll find outdoor street eats and music for those not into hot rods on July 31. And finally, see films from Black, Brown, and Indigenous filmmakers from across the globe at the annual Blackstar Film Festival on August 3 through 7.

Made In America
Made In America

Fill up your summer music calendar

All summer long
Various locations
For festivals of the musical kind, the city’s got you covered. Kick off the season at the massive two-day Roots Picnic on June 4 and 5 with headliners Mary J. Blige with The Roots, Summer Walker, Wizkid, Jazmine Sullivan, and Kamasi Washington. For a more down-home vibe (literally), head to West Philly to see local musicians perform on porches during West Philly Porchfest on June 4. West Fairmount Park becomes center stage during West Park Arts Fest where musicians and dancers will perform all afternoon on June 11. Fans are welcomed back to the farm for the Philadelphia Folk Festival—its 60th edition!—August 18 to 22. And the summer unofficially comes to an end with the Labor Day Weekend, Jay Z-curated Made in America Festival on September 3 and 4.

Nemours Estate
Nemours Estate

All summer long
Wilmington, Delaware
Less than an hour away by car, Wilmington is the perfect destination if you want to celebrate the changing seasons with a change of scenery. With a food scene that rivals our own, a picturesque riverfront walking trail, and tons of museums (including former estates of the uber-rich), this Delaware city offers plenty to do, see, and taste.

All summer long
Philadelphia Zoo
The country’s oldest zoo is home to some 1,300 animals housed in exhibits like African Plains and Big Cat Falls. So embrace the warmer weather and wander around the zoo to marvel at exotic birds, animals typically found in the Australian outback, and reptiles. Don’t forget to look up: Animals will roam overhead throughout the park on mesh trails for a truly immersive experience.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat!

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