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24 awesome things to do in Philadelphia this weekend

By
Josh Middleton
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As we inch toward spring, weekends in Philadelphia are getting more and more packed with events. Just check out the hefty list of must-dos below, which includes a ton of great comedy shows and concerts, including the one and only Mary J. Blige and Philly’s own Boyz II Men and funny folks such as SNL writer Julio Torres and The Daily Show’s Roy Wood Jr. Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown is hosting two parties you may want to check out: the Philly Loves Dilla dance party on Saturday and Philly Loves Beer’s hilarious Flannel Animal, which features local dudes strutting down a runway in a variety of flannel fashions. This weekend also marks the return of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Love Letter Train Tours through West Philly to see Steve Powers’ iconic Love Letter murals—a perfect post-Valentine’s Day option. Find all that and more below.

Friday, February 16

Mary J. Blige

See the LOVE sculpture at Love Park; all day every day; free
Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE statue is finally back at LOVE Park—or JFK Plaza, as it’s officially known—after a yearlong renovation project. In that time it was stripped, repaired and repainted in its original colors—most notably replacing the blue inside the letters with a purple, which City officials later learned was Indiana’s original intention.

One-Night Stands: Three Comedies About Love and Sex at Philadelphia Brewing Company; 6:30pm; $15
The title of this offering from Tiny Dynamite pretty much says it all: Each evening of the three-night romp features local actors reading a different “grown-up comedy.” What it doesn’t tell you? You get a free slice of pizza and a pint of beer with every performance.

Discover Your Wine Style at Wine School of Philadelphia; 7:30pm; $41–$79
This two-hour workshop lets guests sip their way through a wine selection to learn about and determine their favorite varieties. The premium ticket includes a sommelier-level wine-tasting kit, so you can continue your quest for the perfect vino at home.

Henry Owings at Johnny Brenda’s; 8pm; $12
As the editor of the Chunklet zine and author of The Indie Cred Test, Owings is probably the only dude who makes fun of indie rock and knows what he’s talkingabout. He just released his first comedy record, Micro-Impressions Volume 1. Catch him Valentine’s Day weekend at Johnny Brenda’s, when he opens for psychedelic rock group Bardo Pond along with Major Stars and Honey Radar.

Mary J. Blige at the Borgata; 8pm; $79–$149
Take a trip to Atlantic City to bow down to the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul to us. The Grammy-winning diva comes to the Borgata on Friday and Saturday night on a limited North American tour that features a string of her greatest hits and latest ditties. Expect to hear the Oscar-nominated tearjerker “Mighty River” along with some of her powerhouse ’90s anthems, such as “Not Gon’ Cry,” “Real Love” and “I’m Goin’ Down.”

Julio Torres at Good Good Comedy Theatre; 8:30 and 10pm; $14
The Saturday Night Live writer (you can thank him for that Avatar font sketch) performs his My Favorite Shapes show, in which his hands are projected onto the screen behind him as he picks up peculiar objects and makes jokes. —Patrick Rapa

Philly Theatre Week at various locations; various times; free–$30
The very first Philly Theatre Week spotlights the artists, playwrights and theater companies in Philadelphia that make this region one of the best places in the country for live arts. Happening through February 18, the festival features an itinerary that includes happy hours, discussion panels, open mics, concerts and, of course, tons of plays. Check out or list of must-sees in our Philly Theatre Week guide.

Saturday, February 17

Marvel Universe Live

Marvel Universe Live! at Wells Fargo Center; 11am and 3, 7pm; $20–$165
More than 25 characters from the Marvel Universe—including Spider-Man, Captain America and the Avengers’ Groot—join forces for an epic quest to recover the Wand of Watoomb before the bad guys get their hands on it. The story plays out through a high-energy spectacle of special effects, aerial stunts and video projections that’ll have your little superhero reeling for hours. Bedtime may be tough that night, but hey, it’s worth it when you’re the coolest parent on the planet.

Waitress at Forrest Theatre; 1, 6:30pm; $62–$132
Waitress is a fundamentally joyous exercise in female empowerment. From its creative team of women—composer Sara Bareilles, book writer Jessie Nelson, director Diane Paulus—to its themes of friendship, finding something to believe in, overcoming adversity and (of course) baking, the celebratory show regularly brings adoring Broadway crowds to their feet.

Roy Wood Jr. at Punch Line Philly; 7:30, 9:45pm; $25–$35
This comedian performs all weekend in NoLibs. If you only know him from his satirical spots on The Daily Show, look up his prank calls. The man is relentless. —Patrick Rapa

Justin Willman at Helium Comedy Club; 7:30, 10pm; $27–$35
The double threat magician/comedian, who just got greenlit for a reality series on Netflix, performs five shows over three nights at Philly’s Helium Comedy Club.

Tape Face at Keswick Theatre; 8pm; $25–$35
With his mouth taped shut and his eyes deeply lined, this America’s Got Talent standout is a Batman villain in the making. —Patrick Rapa

Philly Loves Dilla at Johnny Brenda’s; 9pm; $10–$15
This sixth annual block party in Fishtown pays homage to influential hip-hop star J. Dilla, who passed away 12 years ago.

Last chance: “2017 Contemporary Photography Exhibition” at Philadelphia Photo Arts Center; 10am; free
Head to NoLibs to check out this gallery of images from photographers Christine Elfman and Mark Jayson Quines. Elfman, based in Ithaca, New York, displays work from her project “Even Amaranth,” which explores photography as a shifting medium. Quines, based in San Francisco, California, presents work from, “NOBODY,” which explores ideas about spectacle, branding, subcultures, identity, music and even Michael Jordan.

Sunday, February 18

Love Letter Train Tours from Mural Arts Philadelphia

Love Letter Train Tours at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; 10:30am, 1pm; $23–$41
Bundle up and 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.

Flannel Animal at Johnny Brenda’s; 7pm; $10
The tagline for this hilarious fund-raising bash is “Beer does a body good,” and we’ll see just how accurate that is at this all-male revue that features local dudes clad in flannel strutting—and sometimes stripping—on a runway. Hosted by Philly Loves Beer, the night is a taste of what’s to come when the nonprofit’s Philly Beer Week returns June 1 to 10.

Boyz II Men at the Borgata; 8pm; $45–$75
Boyz II Men have been cranking out sultry, baby-making jams for 25 years now, and along the way they’ve racked up a string of awards—including four Grammys—helping to make them the best-selling R&B act of all time. The hometown trio come to Atlantic City after a string of tour dates in Australia to share tunes from their latest album, Under the Streetlight, and some of those classics that we still can’t get out of our head. “Motown Philly,” anyone?

Last chance: “Old Masters Now: Celebrating the Johnson Collection” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; 10am; $20
Explore Philadelphia attorney John G. Johnson’s impressive private collection of European art, which includes more than 90 works by masters like Botticelli, Bosch, Titian, Rembrandt and Monet.

Last chance: Passing Strange at the Wilma Theater; 2pm; $10–$30
This odd work, a loose autobiography by singer-songwriter Stew, is told through music and became a cult hit when it debuted on Broadway a decade ago. Its edgy sensibility, abstract construction and international feel should ideally suit the Wilma, where it receives its first major revival. —David Fox

Last chance: Really at Theatre Exile; 3pm; $10–$37
As a photographer prepares to shoot a portrait of her deceased boyfriend’s mother, the two women mourn his sudden disappearance from their lives. But his active presence (sometimes onstage, sometimes in memory) shows that when we go, we leave a lot behind. Directed by the acclaimed Brenna Geffers, Theatre Exile’s local premiere is certain to provoke. —David Fox

Last chance: Written on Skin at Academy of Music; 8pm; $20–$180
Set in the 13th century, Opera Philadelphia’s spellbinding latest production has been called a “thrilling portrait of godliness and lust.” It transports you to the world of a wealthy landowner who employs a young artist who ends up in an affair with his wife. A choir of angels hovers above as the harrowing story unfolds to expose the sometimes treacherous cruelty of a man scorned by love. —David Fox

Ongoing

Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest; 11am; pay as you go
RiverRink affords kids and adults the chance to kick their heels on the ice for a $3 admission fee, with a $10 skate-rental fee collected for those who don’t bring their own. The at-large Winterfest, meanwhile—an approximately two-acre campus encompassing an arcade, lodge and a Franklin Fountain–operated “Confectionary Cabin”—is a free space with plenty of pay-as-you-go indulgences. While the kids skate or push quarters in the arcade machines, adults can warm up by the fire pits with the Latin-inspired dishes of Garces, a basket of Chickie’s & Pete’s famous fries and their choices from a menu of craft beer.

“Winter Fountains for the Parkway” along the Ben Franklin Parkway; 6pm; free
This dazzling light and video show by artist Jennifer Steinkamp celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Starting in early December and lasting through March, the installation comprises five 13-foot high domes lined up along the parkway. After dark, the domes will become glowing projection screens featuring animated videos inspired by the cultural institutions that line the boulevard—places like the Franklin Institute and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Steinkamp’s work is known for its sensuous beauty and transformative power. Prepare to be mesmerized.

Rothman Ice Rink and America’s Garden Capital Maze at Dilworth Park; all day; pay as you go
Besides endless skating, this year’s Wintergarden features the Rothman Institute Cabin, where you can cozy up with seasonal cocktails, craft beer and light bites; the America’s Garden Capital Maze, a “popup maze-meets-garden” full of photogenic plants and lights.

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