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23 incredible things to do in Philadelphia this weekend

Josh Middleton
Written by
Josh Middleton

Hot damn! We’ve hoped and hoped for it for weeks and it’s finally here: a weekend that calls for sun and warm temperatures for three days straight. Get out and enjoy it; there’s plenty to do around the city. Of particular note is the opening of three popular beer gardens in PhiladelphiaUptown Beer Garden and both locations of the stunning PHS Pop-Up Gardens. Traveling beer garden Parks on Tap is still rolling around town, too, this time moving out to Mt. Airy for ample suds and BBQ-style grub under the sun.

It’s First Friday in Old City, which is perfect, because the nearby Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival is all aglow for its first weekend at Franklin Square. Check out some galleries, then head over to take in the illuminated pandas, dragons and samurais.

Saturday is going to be one big citywide fiesta, with Cinco de Mayo events and food and drink specials happening all around town (find 10 of our favorite picks here), and the South Street Spring Festival draws thousands to one of Philly’s busiest thoroughfares for a day of outdoor eating, drinking and merrymaking in the streets. Get excited, because that’s one of the first spring and summer festivals in Philadelphia of the season. There are many more to come.

On top of all that, there are a handful of theater and art openings, namely the new Renoir exhibition at the The Barnes Foundation (which you can peep for free on Sunday). Get details on all those things and more in our roundup of things to do in Philadelphia this weekend below. Enjoy that sunshine!

Friday, May 4

Parks on Tap at Lovett Memorial Library and Park; 4pm; pay as you go

Parks on Tap

Photograph: Albert Yee

Philly’s on-the-go beer garden sets up at Lovett Memorial Library and Park in Mt. Airy for the weekend. Look out for a food/bar truck cranking out craft brews, wine and cocktails along with a menu of barbecue-inspired grub such as pork sandwiches, grilled veggies and tacos. The setup also comes with a variety of outdoor games, and picnic tables, lawn chairs and hammocks so you can pop a squat, chill and enjoy some of the city’s most bucolic oases.

First Friday in Old City; 5pm; free
With temperatures expected to be in the 80s, this week’s First Friday may be the best one so far of 2018. Wind through the streets of Old City to browse boutiques and galleries that keep their doors open after-hours so folks can stop in and check out the latest merch and exhibits—and enjoy snacks like wine and cheese. Outside, the streets come alive with the sounds of live music, and local artisans set up makeshift booths to sell wares on the sidewalks.

“Connie Mississippi: Circle of Time” at the Center for Art in Wood; 5pm; free
While you’re doing your First Friday art-perusing, stop by the Center for Art in Wood to check out the opening reception for its latest exhibition, happening from 5 to 8pm. The show is devoted to Connie Mississippi, an artist who works in painting and turned-wood sculpture. See her interest in dreams, myths, and spirituality embodied in both two and three dimensions.

Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival at Franklin Square; 6pm; $18

Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival

Photograph: Jeff Fusco

The illuminated cultural display moves into its first weekend. Swing by to ogle dozens of handcrafted lanterns, such as cute panda bears riding on silky seesaws and a massive shark that you can stroll inside. New features this year include a sparkling fairy tree, a collection of endangered species, a walk-through great white shark tunnel and an elephant-centric exhibit that guests can power themselves by pedaling a bicycle. There’s also an itinerary of complementary events, such as Chinese acrobatic performers and handicraft workshops led by Chinese folk artists. The Dragon Beer Garden gives guests a chance to sip on beer, wine and cocktails and munch on Chinese-inspired nibbles

Celebration of Black Arts Festival at various locations, times and prices
The city welcomes dozens of nationally acclaimed writers, singers, performance artists and more for a whole month of events spotlighting artistic achievements by African-Americans. Look out for poetry readings, gallery exhibitions, live music and theater. Check out the Art Sanctuary website for the full itinerary of events.

“Allá Abajo (Down Below): A Reaction to Our Times by Ornella Ridone” at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens; 6pm; $10
Across the city from all the goings-on at First Friday in Old City, a new exhibit opens at Isaiah Zagar’s mosaicked wonderland on South Street. If you think embroidery is a fusty medium reserved for silver-haired ladies in rocking chairs, Mexican artist Ornella Ridone’s 50 hand-embroidered works will set you straight. Taking a traditional folk art and adapting it to her own contemporary practice, Ridone has created pieces specifically for the PMG, based on a two-week visit to our fair city last year. It’s an excellent starter to your weekend’s Cinco de Mayo festivities.—Karen Chernick

Splinter and Crack at Hamilton Studios; 7:30; $25–$40
If you’re going to check out opening weekend of Juniper Productions’ latest, which explores the complicated relationship between a prominent academic and her adult daughter, make it Friday night when Love City Brewing will be in the house pouring up some of its locally brewed craft beers.

Hope and Gravity with 1812 Productions; 8pm; $25–$35
If that doesn’t sound like your cup of, er, beer, 1812 Productions is also debuting its latest, by Philadelphia playwright Michael Hollinger. Time Out Philly theater writer David Fox says the show should offer a more serious side to 1812’s usual comedic antics.

Saturday, May 5

“David Ahlsted: Jersey Shore Variations” at Gross McCleaf Gallery; 10am; free

David Ahlsted

Photograph: David Ahlsted

Does the spring weather have you ready for summer visits to the Shore? Dip your toes in the water with this exhibition of scenes from the Jersey Shore by local artist David Ahlsted. Combining realism with a mist of geometric abstraction, the colorful works on canvas may tempt you to follow your gallery visit with a trip to one of the nearby Rittenhouse shops in search of this season’s bathing suit.

South Street Spring Festival on South Street; 11am; free
This storied thoroughfare in Philly is the place to be during the South Street Spring Festival. The free celebration closes the east end of the street to vehicular traffic, making room for more than 100 vendors, dozens of bands playing live music and loads of artists selling handmade goods. Local restaurants and cafés offer outdoor dining, and culinarians from other parts of the city also set up onsite to feed hungry festival goers.

Cinco de Mayo Street Festival at El Rey; noon; pay as you go

Cinco de Mayo Festival at El Rey

Photograph: Courtesy El Rey

Stephen Starr’s Mexican diner off of Rittenhouse Square is taking the party alfresco with an all-day street festival featuring nachos, guac and tacos, and classic and mango margaritas. Toting kids along? Sip on your drinks while they’re entertained with a host of activities including arts and crafts and face painting.

Cinco de Mayo bash at Uptown Beer Garden; noon; pay as you go
Center City’s go-to beer garden opens for the season, with peak celebrations happening Saturday during an all-day Cinco de Mayo bash. Foregoing the typical Coronas and Modelos, this year the draft list is featuring Becky Beer, a Mexican-style lager brewed with coconut from Aston’s 2SP. Mexican corn, tacos and frozen margaritas are on the 2018 menu along with a mezcal-spiked pink sangria.

Cinco de Mayo Fiesta at Café y Chocolate; noon; pay as you go
Deep South Philly’s favorite Mexican brunch spot is closing off the street for a day of tacos, margs and cervezas. Neighboring ARS Brewery will be pouring pints, the Thirsty Soul, an upcoming Newbold cocktail bar, will preview libations and live mariachis supplies the tunes.

PHS Pop-Up Garden grand opening at multiple locations; 2pm; pay as you go

PHS Pop-Up Garden

Photograph: Julia Lehman

Like Uptown Beer Garden (but far prettier), the South Street and uCity Square locations of the PHS Pop-Up Beer Garden officially open for the summer season with a Cinco de Mayo fiesta, compete with a mariachi performance at 4pm sharp. This spring and summer’s food lineup is filled with Cinco-appropriate cocktails, such as a grapefruit paloma, made with Quaker City mercantile spirits, and cinnamon sugar-topped churro popcorn.

Philly Tech Week Signature Event at Reading Terminal Market; 7:30pm; $35–$40
The annual celebration of local innovation wraps up Saturday night with a cocktail reception and technology expo. Look out for grub from more than a dozen Reading Terminal spots, including Beck's Cajun Cafe, Old City Coffee and Bassett’s Ice Cream.

Peter and the Starcatcher with Theatre Horizon; 8pm; $25–$35
It may seem odd that this small but increasingly visible and major company, in a season about “women who dare,” is featuring this riff on Peter Pan. But in fact, Peter is only part of this very much female-driven show—and brave young Molly, at the center of the story, will be an inspiration to many in the audience. Peter and the Starcatcher is a stunningly theatrical tour-de-force, pulsating with energy and excitement. It should be well-served by director Matt Decker. —David Fox

Sunday, May 6

Broad Street Run on Broad Street; 8am; free to watch

Broad Street Run

Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philly/M. Edlow

For one day in May, Philly’s main thoroughfare shuts down to vehicular traffic for the annual Broad Street Run. While the 10-mile course is a straight shot from North Philly to South Philly, the race takes runners past several Philadelphia neighborhoods and sites, such as Temple University, City Hall, the Kimmel Center and more. Along the sidelines, spectators enjoy live entertainment from cheerleading squads and drill teams, and, at the finish line at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, a Kids Fun area helps engage future runners. —Amy Gordon

Clover Market in Collingswood, NJ; 10am; pay as you go
In a shopping mood? Hop over to New Jersey on Sunday to check out this open-air marketplace, which features more than 100 vendors selling art, jewelry, home goods, antiques and other one-of-a-kind and hard-to-find items.

“Renoir: Father and Son/Painting and Cinema” at the The Barnes Foundation; 11am; free
The latest special exhibition at the Barnes gets grand-opening treatment on Friday with a special preview party from 6 to 9pm, but savvy art-seekers will stop by on Sunday during PECO Free First Sunday Family Day. The show focuses on French Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Either you love him or you hate him with the fire of a thousand suns, but his name tends to evoke strong emotions. This show pins the art master’s pastel-hued paintings with a collection of black-and-white stills, costumes, ceramics and movie posters from the career of his film director son, Jean Renoir, giving viewers a chance to reconsider their thoughts on the family name.

Last chance: “Magical & Real: Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd, A Retrospective” at Michener Art Museum; noon; $18
This exhibition of 70 paintings explores the careers of real-life lovebirds Wyeth and Hurd. The couple met while the latter was studying with Wyeth’s father. She also studied with her dad, and enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts at age 16. From there she went on to earn critical praise for her portraiture and magic realist paintings. —Sarah Jordan

Ongoing fun things to do in Philadelphia

“Game Masters” at The Franklin Institute; through September 3; $20
This brand new exhibition should appeal to gaming nerds with over 100 playable games from the arcade classics of the ’70s and ’80s to the multiplayer experiences of the present. Rare original concept artwork will be on view as well, showcasing the imagination of designers behind the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog. —Karen Chernick

Love Letter Train Tours at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; through May 27; $23–$41
Grab a seat on this 90-minute guided train tour of West Philadelphia that rolls past the series of 50 rooftop “A Love Letter for You” murals painted by Philly native Steve “ESPO’ Powers. In collaboration with Mural Arts Philadelphia, the works spell out adorable sayings like “open your eyes/i see the sunrise” and ”see me like i see you: beautiful.’ This is an especially good year to take a tour, since several of the murals were recently restored and Powers added a few more to ogle.

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