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30 awesome things to do in Philadelphia this weekend

Josh Middleton

This is by far the busiest weekend of the year so far, so good luck trying to pick and choose all the things you’re going to do. If you‘re looking for the biggies, look no further than the festivals, including the Science Carnival on the Parkway, Fairmount Avenue Arts Crawl, Flavors of the Avenue and the Philadelphia Beard Festival. Citywide events like Philly Tech Week and Center City Jazz Festival will have you hoofing around the city, so be sure to pencil in some chill time at some of the beer gardens opening this weekend, such as Parks on Tap, Brews & Views at the Free Library and Independence Beer Garden. Speaking of gardens: Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens also hosts its first Twilight in the Gardens of the season, a perfectly charming option for after-work crowds on Friday. Find details on all that, plus a heap of new theater shows, art openings and concerts in our guide to things to do in Philadelphia this weekend below.

Friday, April 27

Twilight in the Gardens at Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Photograph: Courtesy Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Grand opening weekend at Independence Beer Garden; 11:30am; pay as you go
After a soft launch last weekend, this buzzy beer gardens in Old City officially opens for the 2018 season. Snuggle up on a picnic table and check out the extensive beer menu, including 15 drafts and nine in cans. The suds-averse can enjoy wine and cocktails from lists that ranges between $8 and $9. Hungry? Check out the large family platters, which come with your choice of brisket, pulled pork or chicken wings and are served with picnic-style sides like coleslaw. Lighter bites include pretzels, cheese curds and hummus; fried chicken, cheesesteak and pulled pork sandwiches; and, for the healthy set, a variety of salads.

Parks on Tap at Azalea Garden; 5pm; pay as you go
Philly’s nomadic beer garden is back this week, with its first stop of summer at the lovely Azalea Garden in Fairmount Park. As always, 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.

Brews & Views at the Free Library of Philadelphia; 5pm; pay as you go
The Parkway Central Free Library branch transforms its Skyline Terrace into a rooftop beer garden on select evenings from April to July. The soirees come complete with local beers and a menu of small bites from Brûlée Catering and live entertainment.

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Philly Tech Week kick-off party at Schmidt’s Commons, 5pm; free
This eighth annual spotlight on local innovators kicks off with a festival at Schmidt’s Commons. From there, the event rolls on with 100 events across the city that run the gamut from workshops and lectures to hackathons, happy hours and networking mixers. This is an excellent opportunity to meet and mingle with some of the local tech community’s leaders and rising stars, and to learn about cool topics such as virtual reality and even the emerging cannabis market, and tinker with new gadgets like robots and video games. Find the full schedule here. —Amy Gordon

Dinos After Dark at Academy of Natural Sciences; 5pm; pay what you wish
Philly’s natural history museum keeps its doors open a little later so folks can explore Dinosaur Hall and all its massive inhabitants after-hours (and without all the school groups). The event also features hands-on activities, demonstrations, meet and greets with live animals and an indoor beer garden, called Dino Drafts, where you can snag beer, wine, cocktails and light bites.

Twilight in the Gardens at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens; 7pm; $20
This cool after-hours soiree features live music from the Retroglyphs, an encaustic art workshop with Sandra Koberlein and mini tours of the wonder-inducing museum after the sun goes down. One of the best things about Twilight in the Gardens is its trademark BYOBBS (Bring Your Own Booze, Blanket, and Snacks) policy. Stop at a state store or bottle shop along the way, gather up some cheese and crackers and have yourself a late-night dinner under the stars.

Our Few at Evil Days at the Drake Theatre; 8pm; $25–$35
Inis Nua Theatre Company 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

Saturday, April 28

Philadelphia Science Festival

Photograph: Philadelphia Science Festival

Science Carnival on the Parkway at the Franklin Institute; 10am; free
The nine-day, city-spanning Philadelphia Science Festival closes with a huge, geek-approved shebang along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The features more than 180 science-centric exhibitors, experiment stations for kids and adults, live demonstrations, performances and more.

Fairmount Avenue Arts Crawl along Fairmount Avenue; noon; free
More than 4,000 art appreciators look forward to the Fairmount Avenue Arts Crawl each year, when the streets of Philly’s Art Museum district are flooded with nearly 40 exhibits by up-and-coming and established artists at a host of nearby venues. From painting to sculpture, printmaking to photography, the day-long festival is a feast for the eyes. Kids and families can even participate in craft-making workshops and express their own personal brands of creativity through sidewalk-chalk art.

Penn Relays at Franklin Field; all day; $20–$62
While the first Penn Relays were held in 1895 and watched by a crowd of 5,000, the tradition has only grown since. Today, the event draws upwards of 100,000 spectators to the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field to see top athletes of all ages, including many Olympic hopefuls and past Olympians, compete in relay and individual races. Fans can also head to Carnival Village near Shoemaker Green, which features a DJ, lounge and food court. —Amy Gordon

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“Ursula von Rydingsvard: The Contour of Feeling” at the Fabric Workshop and Museum; 11am; free
Sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard usually makes her monumental abstract sculptures out of wood, with occasional exceptions, such as her remarkable 12,000-pound bronze works. In her second collaboration with the Fabric Workshop and Museum, the artist will exhibit large-scale works such as Ocean Floor, a 36-by-156-by-132-inch piece made of cedar, graphite, and intestines. —Karen Chernick

Center City Jazz Festival at various locations including Franky Bradley’s; 1pm; $20–$25
For great tunes and fun atmosphere, head to the Center City Jazz Festival, which returns for the seventh edition in 2018 as part of Philadelphia Jazz Appreciation Month. Over the course of six music-packed hours, more than 20 bands perform at a variety of venues, including Fergie’s Pub, MilkBoy Philly and Chris’ Jazz Cafe. Ticketholders are free to move back and forth between venues, all of which are performed within walking distance of each other.

Passage at the Wilma Theater; 2 and 8pm; $10–$30
The Wilma Theater’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

Femme Freedom Fundraiser at Connie’s Ric Rac; 5pm; donation required
A full day’s lineup of female-identifying performers anchors this benefit soiree that raises money for Femme Freedom, a nonprofit that provides feminine hygiene products and diapers to local people in need. To get in, make a cash donation or bring unopened boxes of pads, tampons or diapers. You can also contribute online at

Splinter and Crack at Hamilton Studios; 7:30pm; $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. True to its mission to stage plays in unlikely locations, the Society Hill–based company will put on the show at Hamilton Studios, a raw space, developed and owned by Arts & Crafts Holdings, in the burgeoning Spring Arts district . —Cameron Kelsall

Late-night breakfast at Rooster Soup Company; 8pm; pay as you go
The Rittenhouse soupery teams up with Hungry Pigeon for a late-night breakfast spread that includes a piña colada French toast Sunday, seafood quiche, steak and eggs Benedict, and more. The icing on top? There’s karaoke till 1am.

Catch-22 at Curio Theatre Company; 8pm; $15–$30
Some of the most consistently satisfying work in our area is performed by this small company in a West Philly church. Whether it produces classic plays, original works or adaptations, Curio shows that imagination and talent are the hallmarks of fine theater. Its spring offering is typically ambitious: Joseph Heller’s satirical novel about wartime is a modern classic, but few will have seen the play version adapted by the author himself.

Hope & Gravity at 1812 Productions; 8pm; $25–$35
Those who have experienced 1812 through their vaudeville- and sketch-based shows know how talented they are, but that’s only part of the story. The artists—including founding director Jennifer Childs—are actors who have worked extensively in a variety of forms. With this show by Philadelphia playwright Michael Hollinger, we’re likely to see a more serious side to the comedic antics. —David Fox

They Might Be Giants at Theater of Living Arts; 9pm; $28
The playful, un-pin-down-able pop duo relaunched its famous Dial-a-Song this year, giving fans glimpses of oddball songs in various stages of development. —Patrick Rapa

Sunday, April 29

The Philadelphia Beard Festival

Photograph: Courtesy Wahl Grooming

Flavors of the Avenue at East Passyunk Avenue, 11am, pay as you go
Stroll the length of the Avenue to find more than 20 local restaurants offering sumptuous dishes against the backdrop of a rousing street festival. Local shops offer discounts and deals, crafters showcase their wares, bands play live tunes all day and kid-friendly games and activities keep even the youngest guests entertained. Attendees can purchase food à la carte, or an all-access pass includes bites from every participating eatery as well as valet parking and two glasses of wine or beer.

New art openings at the Institute of Contemporary Art; 11am; free
Does the busy weekend have you wanting to chill out in a gallery on Sunday? Head to ICA to check out these two brand new exhibits. “Black Mat Oriole,” the first U.S. exhibition by Korean artist Suki Seokyeong Kang, is a quirky sculptural playground of free-standing, geometric structures made from sourced materials the artist foraged in Korea. When Harriet Jacobs, an African-American woman born into slavery, escaped bondage in the mid-1800s, she hid in the last place her pursuers thought to look: her grandmother’s attic. Then there’s “The Last Place They Thought Of.” Using stories from runaway slaves as inspiration, four contemporary artists take a 21st-century look at how unequal social relations shape our views of geography and environment.

The Philadelphia Beard Festival at Schmidt’s Commons; noon; $15–$30
Wahl Grooming kicks off its 10-city tour in the City of Brotherly Love, which was recently named the No. 1 facial-hair-friendly city in the country. The fest, taking place in the open air area of Schmidt’s Commons features a 30-foot mobile barber shop, where guys can pop in for a free trim, plus craft beers and spirit tastings,l beard contests, live tunes and even beard-centric speed dating.

Hey Philly, NYE #brunch starts now. Last chance to treat yourself in 2017!

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Shuck Fest at Oyster House; noon; $15
Think you’ve got the goods when it comes to oyster-shucking? Put your money where your mouth is during Shuck Fest at Center City’s Oyster House, where both amateurs and professionals showcase their scooping skills. The shucking competition is just the start of the excitement; the four-hour seafood soiree includes tastings, demonstrations, meet-and-greets with local oyster growers, crafts and more. The day also includes food and drink specials in addition to the raw bar’s crowd-pleasing regular menu. —Amy Gordon

Bucks County Restaurant Week at various locations; $25–$35
Hit the road to try some new restaurants in Bucks County’s first-ever Restaurant Week . Here’s the deal: Participating diners will get a three-course, prix-fixe dinner menu for $25 or $35 per person, depending on the location. The event includes around 65 restaurants in 20 charming hamlets, such as The Hattery Stove and Still and Empanada Mama (pictured) in Doylestown, and the riverside Martine's RiverHouse Restaurant in New Hope. Check out more of our suggestions for where to eat here .

Last chance: Noises Off at Walnut Street Theatre; 2pm; $20-$87
Michael Frayn’s beloved backstage farce is the rare comedy that gets funnier every time you see it. But it’s not easy to pull off without significant resources and tremendous panache. Fortunately, Walnut Street Theatre should have both bases covered, with a masterful ensemble including Ben Dibble, Daniel Fredrick, Leonard C. Haas, Greg Wood and the great Mary Martello.

Last chance: The Wild Duck at Quintessence Theatre Group; 3pm; $18–$40
After a smash-hit detour with My Fair Lady , Quintessence returns to its home turf of classic plays with this Ibsen work, an acknowledged masterpiece (though infrequently produced) that deals with some of the playwright’s favorite themes: family secrets and betrayal.

Fun ongoing 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

New Middle East galleries open at Penn Museum; 10am; $15
Penn Museum got in on the Middle Eastern archaeological excavation game early, sending the first-ever American expedition to the region in the late 1800s. Which is how they’ve accumulated over 100,00 objects, including a 4,000-year-old human footprint embedded in an ancient mud brick. Enjoy a fresh look at this established collection in the museum’s new 44,000 square foot Middle East Galleries. This is the first of a series of renovation projects happening now at the Penn Museum. Check out some other new additions we’re excited about here . —Karen Chernick

Philly Celebrates Jazz at various locations, times and prices
This Jazz Appreciation Month celebration in Philly is a month-long itinerary of performances from local and international jazz artists. The event calendar is jam-packed, and includes everything from intimate shows in local jazz clubs, art exhibits and jazzy brunches. See the full lineup here.

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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