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25 amazing things to do in Philadelphia this weekend

Josh Middleton
Written by
Josh Middleton

This weekend in Philadelphia brings about all kinds of ways to get out and have some fun in the sun. Among the major events happening this weekend is the opening of Spruce Street Harbor Park and Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest along the Delaware River. Both attractions bring enough activities to the waterfront—from live music and beer gardens to general hammock-lounging—to keep you busy all summer long.

Over in Fairmount Park, adventure seekers will find plenty to love at the debut of Treetop Quest, an outdoor adventureland filled with zip-lining, rope courses and more. If you’re looking for neighborhood block parties, beeline to the IPA, Champagne and Rosé Block Party outside Hawthorne’s Cafe in Bella Vista; and if it’s art you’re after, swing by the PAFA Annual Student Exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Looking for ways to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend? Tons of restaurants are rolling out special menus, but if you failed to snag a reservation, consider taking her to do some shopping at the Art Star Craft Bazaar at Penn’s Landing, or lounge along the Schuylkill Banks to watch the Dad Vail Regatta. The Rittenhouse Square Fine Craft Fair is also open all weekend at 18th and Walnut Streets.

On the live-performance front, check out the debut weekend of Brian Sanders JUNK’s innovative Dancing Dead IPX show in an old church, or the equally trippy Séancers at FringeArts. Comedian D.L. Hughley performs at the Merriam Theater, and DJ Marshmello (who you may have seen last summer at Made in America) kicks off the summer-long concert season at Festival Pier.

Get details on all that and more in our guide to the best things to do in Philadelphia this weekend below.

Friday, May 11

Spruce Street Harbor Park

Photograph: Matt Stanley

Spruce Street Harbor Park and Summerfest open along the Delaware River Waterfront; 11am; free
Two of summer’s most popular attractions host grand-opening celebrations this weekend. The glowing spectacles bring a host of activities to the waterfront, including food stall-perusing, beer garden hopping, a ferris wheel, outdoor skating and more. Check out our rundown on what’s happening there this summer here.

Parks on Tap at Campbell Square Park; 4pm; pay as you go
Philly’s traveling beer garden moves on to Port Richmond’s three-acre park 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 the bucolic oasis.

Preview weekend at Harper’s Garden; 4pm; pay as you go
This weekend welcomes a new addition to the Philadelphia alfresco dining scene, with the opening of indoor-outdoor eatery and bar Harper’s Garden. Brought to us by the masterminds behind some of Philly’s favorite summertime dining and drinking destinations, such as Morgan’s Pier and Parks on Tap, Harper’s is upping the game with some serious talent—both in the kitchen and behind the bar.

D.L. Hughley at Merriam Theater; 7pm; $25-$65
One of The Original Kings of Comedy (and CNN political commentator and star of The Hughleys) comes to town to record a new comedy special, Contrarian. Sounds like there will be two shows edited into one special, so laugh your best laughs if you want to make the cut. —Patrick Rapa

Dancing Dead IPX at Shiloh Baptist Church; 8pm; $34–$68

Dancing Dead IPX

Photograph: Brian Sanders’ JUNK

Provocative and forward-thinking dance company Brian Sanders JUNK reprises and builds upon one of its most popular shows, this time staged in the haunting Shiloh Baptist Church. The dance troupe utilizes all three stories of the historic structure to create an immersive, multi-sensory experience for the audience. Follow along as you’re led into secret chambers, an old locker room, enchanting stain glass window-lined hallways and finally into the 60-foot-tall grand hall for the finale. Expect sky-high, daredevil acrobatics done with JUNK’s characteristic blend of grace and raw sexuality.

Ricky Velez at Punch Line Philly; 7:30, 9:45pm; $18.50–$22.50
You might recognize Ricky Velez from his appearances on Comedy Central’s gone-too-soon Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. As a standup, the NYC comedian delivers his material with volume and youthful vigor. The kid’s going places.

Séancers at FringeArts; 8pm; $29
Nigerian-American queer-identifying performance artist Jaamil Olawale Kosoko presents this opulent showcase that uses movement and lyrical poetry to take audiences on a trippy journey into the most-fantastical reaches of the black mind. The point? To create a tangible representation of how psychic practices and spirituality have helped Americans experiencing racism deal with and overcome oppression.

Underground Thieves at Ardmore Music Hall; 8:30pm; $17–$39
To longtime Philly music fans, the Underground Thieves counts as a supergroup, boasting members of Silvertide, Antigone Rising, Pepper’s Ghost, Mount Holly and K-Floor. Together, they’ve come up with an old-school alt sound tinged with blues and classic rock, a playground for powerhouse vocalists Cassidy Catanzaro and Nick Perri to go wild in. —Patrick Rapa

Saturday, May 12

Dad Vail Regatta at Schuylkill River Trail 8am; free

Dad Vail Regatta

Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philly/R. Kennedy

This largest collegiate regatta in North America draws thousands of athletes from more than 100 colleges and universities, who come to compete along the majestic Schuylkill River. The Olympic-length race course starts just north of the intersection of Hunting Park Avenue and Kelly Drive and ends near the Columbia Avenue Bridge. An onsite food court provides a slew of options for hungry spectators to fuel up throughout the event. —Amy Gordon

Treetop Quest opens in Fairmount Park; 10am; $17–$51
This massive jungle gym for kids and adults alike makes its debut in Philadelphia, bringing with it all kinds of fun aerial tree adventures, such as zip-lining, rope courses and more.

Art Star Craft Bazaar at Penn’s Landing; 11am; pay as you go

Art Star Craft Bazaar

Photograph: Chris Kendig Photography

Art Star Craft Bazaar returns for the 15th year over Mother’s Day weekend in 2018. Held at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing, the two-day curated marketplace includes upwards of 100 art and craft vendors, many of whom are new to the event this year. More than just an opportunity to buy one-of-a-kind pieces, the bazaar also offers live music from local bands and make-and-take stations where attendees can create everything from mosaic tiles to screen-printed T-shirts. —Amy Gordon

Second Saturday Street Art Tours at the South Gate of City Hall; $15; 11am, 2pm
Streets Dept. blog founder Conrad Benner leads groups on a two-hour walking tour of street art in Philadelphia‘s Gayborhood and its surrounding streets and alleyways.

IPA, Champagne and Rosé Block Party at Hawthorne’s Cafe; noon; pay as you go

Hawthorne's Block Party

Photograph: Courtesy Kory Aversa

Just as the name suggests, this ninth annual block party in Bella Vista overflows with over 75 kegs and cans of beer, and dozens of varieties of champagne, brut and rosé. Drinks are $5 each. Ten food trucks and live tunes complete the festive atmosphere.

Marshmello at Festival Pier; 5pm; $70–$228
On one hand, he’s just another masked DJ turning knobs and sweating his face off for people ready to dance to anything. On the other, well, he’s a Philly dude and his approach to electronic/house music is infectiously uplifting, and a big ol’ outdoor party at sunset sounds like a good time. —Patrick Rapa

The Feelies at World Cafe Live; 7:30pm; $20–$27
Sometimes music nerds talk about this band of Jersey post-punk legends with such reverence you might not think they’re any fun. They are. Whether they’re feeling poppy or punky or off on some avant-garde tangent, the Feelies always put on a stirring live show with lots of guitars and surprises. —Patrick Rapa

Sunday, May 13

PAFA Annual Student Exhibition at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; 11am; free

PAFA Student Exhibition

Photograph: Courtesy PAFA

Throughout the Galleries of the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building, PAFA students display and sell their work, giving patrons a chance to score some of the first available pieces from these rising stars of the art world.

Rittenhouse Square Fine Craft Fair at Rittenhouse Square; 11am; pay as you go
Browse handmade good from more than 100 artisans from Pennsylvania and belong all weekend.

Frankie Cosmos at Union Transfer; 7pm; $15
Seems like every song Greta Kline writes is a low-key wallflower anthem, each one full of jangly guitars and lemon-drop lyrics about looking for courage. Even backed by a full band—as she is on the latest Frankie Cosmos record, Vessel, which dropped in March—Kline exudes intimacy and loneliness. “Apathy” is a gawky, dreamy favorite. —Patrick Rapa

Last chance: Passage at the Wilma Theater; 2pm; $10–$30
The Wilma’s HotHouse Company—which works in movement-based, highly theatrical ways—is the central force in this world-premiere work by Obie-winning playwright Christopher Chen. Based on E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, this fusion of classic and contemporary, presented through a mix of theatrical styles, looks to be very much in the Wilma tradition. —David Fox

Last chance: Splinter and Crack at Hamilton Studios; 2pm; $25–$40
Written by Jessica Bedford and directed by Barrymore Award winner Harriet Power, Juniper Productions’ first full-length production explores the complicated relationship between a prominent academic and her adult daughter. The subject is especially fitting, given that this week’s final performance includes a post-show Mother’s Day tea. Don’t forget to BYOM!

Last chance: Our Few and Evil Days with Inis Nua Theatre Company; 2pm; $25–$35
Inis Nua consistently pushes the envelope (in the very best sense) with its devotion to provocative, contemporary works from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. The stars seem to be in alignment for this “story of unsettling domesticity” with “elements of Gothic horror.” Company artistic director Tom Reing is at the helm, which is always good news. —David Fox

Fun ongoing things to do in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival at Franklin Square; through June 10; $18

Chinese Lantern Festival

Photograph: Jeff Fusco

Swing by to ogle dozens of handcrafted Chinese lanterns, such as cute panda bears riding on silky seesaws and a massive shark that you can actually 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 and times throughout May
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.

“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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