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23 incredible things to do in Philadelphia this weekend

By
Josh Middleton
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It’s a busy, busy weekend in Philadelphia—maybe one of the busiest of the year. For starters, eight major festivals are happening in neighborhoods across the city—from the Old City Fest and the Midtown Village Festival to the nation’s largest National Coming Out Day celebration, Outfest, in the Gayborhood. On top of that, Questlove is DJing a prom-themed event at PAFA, Bar Amis is throwing an Eagles tailgating party at the Navy Yard and the Charlie Brown Pumpkin Beer Festival happens at the Institute Bar on Saturday. So many things; so little time. Check out our full guide of must-dos below to start forming your game plan.

Friday, October 6

first friday

Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philly/B. Krist

First Friday in Old City; 5–9pm; free
From 5 to 9pm on the first Friday of each month, Philadelphian art lovers take to the streets of Old City to browse over 40 galleries, which all stay open late to debut their latest exhibitions. Cafés and restaurants also get in on the fun, serving up food and drinks, and neighborhood boutiques put on sales for those looking to do some late-night shopping. The streets come alive with the sounds of live music, and local artisans set up makeshift booths to sell wares on the sidewalks. It’s a quintessential Philadelphia experience—and one of the best free things to do in Philadelphia.

Promument at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; 7pm; $25
It’s not exactly prom season—and we’re not exactly 16—but Mural Arts Philadelphia invites you to get in the spirit for a prom-themed bash they’re throwing to celebrate their latest citywide arts project Monument Lab. Called Promument (get it?), the party takes place in the Rotunda of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) on Friday, October 6 from 7 to 11pm. There will be music all night long from a rotating selection of DJs—including Philly son, hip-hop superstar and The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon house band drummer Questlove. Click here for more details.

Armory Oktoberfest at 23rd Street Armory; 7pm; $35–$85
The folks from Brauhaus Schmitz are taking over the 23rd Street Armory for three days of stein-swinging, lederhosen-wearing, oompah-listening fun. The ticketed event runs in afternoon and evening sessions, and this year they’re expecting to go through a whopping 300 kegs and 2,000 pounds of sausage.

Oysterfest at Reading Terminal Market; 7pm
Suds and seafood come together at this event at Reading Terminal Market. This year’s delectable event features 12 varieties of raw oysters, each paired with a different craft beer. An added perk: It’s a great way to experience the city’s indoor culinary wonderland after-hours.

The Glow: A Jack O’Lantern Experience in West Fairmount Park; 7pm; $22
Glow guests can expect to see more than 5,000 hand-carved pumpkins—real ones as well as ones molded from real pumpkins—in West Fairmount Park at Avenue of the Republic and States Drive. Jack’s artists have prepared single jack ‘o lanterns for guests’ viewing pleasure, featuring the likenesses of celebrities, sports icons, flowers and animals, as well as grand-scale jack o’lantern scenes in a variety of themes from prehistoric to oceanic. The carvers will be on hand to demonstrate their handiwork.

The Swallowing Dark at the Drake; 8pm; $40–$35
Inis Nua Theatre Company’s latest concerns a refugee named Canaan who faces interrogation and the possible loss of his asylum after having fled to Liverpool with his son to escape Robert Mugabe’s tyrannical regime in Zimbabwe.

Kinky Boots at the Academy of Music; 8pm; $25–$96
Grab your high heels and get ready to kick it up at this high-energy musical with original songs from pop icon Cyndi Lauper. Inspired by true events, the show concerns one son’s efforts to save his family’s shoe manufacturing company. The show won six Tony awards, including Best Musical, in 2013.

DesignPhiladelphia; various times and various prices
The largest and oldest event of its kind, Design Philadelphia celebrates innovations in design—whether it be architecture, fashion, multimedia or urban planning. More than 120 events are planned throughout the two-week run, where you’ll have a chance to mingle and learn from 400 local and nationally recognized designers. The activity roster runs the gamut from lectures and workshops to cocktail gatherings. Find the full schedule here.

Saturday, October 7

philadelphia international dragon boat festival

Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philly/R. Kennedy

Philadelphia Dragon Boat Festival along the Schuylkill Banks; 8:30am–5:30pm; free
Experience a Chinese tradition with origins dating back more than 2,000 years. Crews of up to 20 people paddle their way along the Schuylkill River in handmade boats, cheered on by spectators who line the shore to see the action up close.

Charlie Brown Pumpkin Beer Festival at Institute Bar; 11am; $40
Fall’s favorite marrow gets the spotlight at this all-day pumpkin beer festival. Lookout for the area’s largest lineup of seasonals, sours and ciders all made with the big round squash in mind.

Indigenous Peoples Celebration at the Museum of the American Revolution; 10am–5pm; $15–$19
On Columbus Day weekend, the Museum of American Revolution is bypassing celebrations surrounding famed—and controversial—explorer Christopher Columbus to honor those who were here long before he set foot on this land. The three-day event begins Saturday and Sunday with a presentation about wampums and Native American culture. On Monday, swing by for a spirited performance by the Oneida Indian Nation Dancers. Later that night, a film screening and panel discussion delves into the ways in which Native American history has been distorted throughout the ages. The flick is narrated by Kevin Costner.

Midtown Village Fall Festival; noon–8pm; free
The city shuts down 13th Street from Market to Locust for this fall block party that celebrates the sights, sounds and flavors of Midtown Village. Businesses along the thoroughfare bring their goods onto the street, so expect food and drink offerings from folks like Jamonera, Opa, Jake’s Sandwich Board and more. Five entertainment stages welcome local musical acts throughout the day and evening.

King of Prussia Beerfest Royale at King of Prussia Mall; noon; $15–$50
Mall parking lots aren’t usually all that much fun but once a year KOP tents up a portion of its lot for a raucous day of local and imported brews. This year they’re upping the ante and adding local wineries and distilleries to the lengthy list of participants. Polka bands and local artists provide entertainment for the walkaround tasting.

Go apple picking near Philadelphia at various locations
It’s that time of the year again, when locals head out of town to go foraging for apples—one of the quintessential things to do in the fall in this region. There are several farms within an hour’s driving distance of the city that offer all kinds of delicious varietals that you can’t find in the local supermarket—and, in some cases, loads of apple-based treats like donuts and cider that rival some of the top bakeries Philadelphia has to offer. See our full list of the best places to go apple picking near Philly.

Sunday, October 8

outfest

Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philly/J. Fusco

Eagles Tailgating Party at Bar Amis; 10:30am; pay as you go
This Sunday, the Eagles are in town for their second home game of the season, this time against the Arizona Cardinals. If you’re looking for a little tailgating action before the game, consider skipping the parking lot jawn to head over to the Navy Yard to take part in a fest on the patio at Bar Amis. The Vetri spot is throwing a pre-game bash starting at 10:30am featuring food and drink specials, live music from a local DJ, lawn games and giveaways where folks can win swag signed by Eagles players. Click here for more on the menu and drink items.

Old City Fest; 11am–6pm; free
More than 20,000 people are expected to hit historic Old City for this fourth annual festival, which features 130 vendors and restaurants on top of an itinerary of circus performers, live music and a dedicated family fun zone for the little ones. Besides all the fun and games, Old City Fest doubles as an arty showcase of local culture. Keep your eyes peeled for an exhibition area featuring works from designers and art galleries and street performances by neighborhood theater troupes.

Outfest in the Gayborhood; noon–6pm; free
The largest National Coming Out Day event happens in the heart of Philadelphia, covering 12 city blocks in the Gayborhood and beyond. The 27th annual festival features drag shows, bar crawls, carnival-style games and dancing in the streets outside bars like Woody’s and Tabu Lounge and Sports Bar. Think of it as Pride, Part 2.

Visit pumpkin patches near Philadelphia at various locations
Have you found your jack o’lantern yet? City supermarkets are packed to the brim with pumpkins this time of year, but choosing one is so much more fun if you pluck it from the ground yourself. Come fall, farms surrounding the city begin to sprout with gourds and the eventual pumpkin-flavored cakes, ciders and treats that come with them. Take a road trip with pals—or the family—to any one of the rural wonderlands in our guide to the best pumpkin patches near Philadelphia.

Cai Guo-Qiang: Fireflies at Benjamin Franklin Parkway; 6pm; free
Sunday is the final day to cruise down Benjamin Franklin Parkway in a glowing pedicab. The interactive exhibition, which comprises 27 moving sculptures bedecked with glowing lanterns, is one of several events happening this fall in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Parkway. Hitch a ride while you still can!

Guns N’ Roses at Wells Fargo Center; 7 pm; $69.50–$254
Back in 2002, Guns N’ Roses were booked to play this very building, but they failed to show, and a genuine chair-tossing, fists-flying miniriot broke out. Axl turned up on time at the Linc last year, so it’s safe to assume that history won’t repeat itself. Knock on wood, cross fingers, etc.

Ongoing must-dos

Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary; 7pm; $19–$89
Haunted attraction Terror Behind the Walls involves six segments that add up to about an hour’s worth of character interaction, bone-chilling scares, prison exploration and elaborate costuming and makeup. This year’s brand-new attraction, “Blood Yard,” posits what it might be like to prepare human flesh for the tasting. Guests walk through a prison yard into a lair where a butcher and an empress await, flanked by a horde of cannibals wearing muzzles. Those who choose to interact could be asked to salt and prepare prosthetic limbs alongside the impatient flesh-hungry characters.

Fright Factory at 220 S Swanson St; 7:30pm; $15–$20
Enter an eerie world of terror at this year’s Fright Factory, a 25,000-square-foot haunted attraction situated inside a creepy old building in South Philadelphia. New for 2017 are three separate haunted experiences—Industrial Nightmare, Silent Scream Asylum and Fright Factory Unearthed—that put you face-to-face with ghouls like meat-cleaver–wielding butchers, drill-happy dentists, and giant spiders and bugs.

“Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor” at Franklin Institute; 9:30am; $35
Head to the Franklin Institute to check out the only East Coast showing of this exhibition that features a small army of 2,000-year-old clay statues that once stood outside the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi. The 10 sculptures are shown here alongside other ancient Chinese artifacts like weapons, jade pieces and golden trinkets.

Monument Lab at various locations
A new Mural Arts Philadelphia project called Monument Lab tasks 20 local and national artists with creating monuments to the city. They will be displayed in 10 public parks around town between September 16 and November 19. The works in Monument Lab come in all shapes, sizes and formats—from a giant Afro pick at Thomas Paine Plaza to a collection of stoops in Washington Square—and are meant to give voice to overlooked communities and address current social issues facing this city. Here are five projects we’re excited about and where to find them.

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