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38 awesome things to do in Philadelphia this weekend

Josh Middleton
Written by
Josh Middleton

Put your hands together, folks, and pray that the rain-filled weekend forecast is all a hoax. There are way too many things to do in Philadelphia this weekend to be dealing with all that precipitation—including major outdoor street festivals along Rittenhouse Row and in the Italian Market. Art in the Open also transforms the Schuylkill Banks into one big open-air art gallery all weekend.

If the rain does come, you’ll have to grab a poncho or an umbrella and play along, or opt for some of the weekend’s more-sheltered to-dos. Like what you, ask? Well, there’s the amateur porn fest, Hump! Film Festival, at FringeArts; big-time comedians Hannibal Buress and Jay Leno perform along the Avenue of the Arts; on-the-rise Philly indie rockers Hop Along perform at Union Transfer; and tons of local theater companies debut new shows, such as the Arden Theatre Company’s Fun Home and Mamma Mia! at Walnut Street Theatre. If you’re looking for a way to celebrate Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding, stop by the Dandelion on Saturday for a prix-fixe meal that includes English classics, cake and champagne.

Find details on all that and more in our comprehensive guide to the (hopefully dry!) weekend below.

Friday, May 18

Free admission at Philadelphia museums; all day; free
A handful of local museums celebrate International Museum Day by opening their doors to guests for free. Participating spots include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Penn Museum, the Rodin Museum and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Art in the Open along the Schuylkill Banks; 8am; free
Forty artists and their teams set up camp along the Schuylkill River Trail—from Fairmount Water Works all the way to the South Street entrance—to create live works of art from sunup to sundown. The event was created to give folks the opportunity to connect with Philadelphia’s green spaces, rivers and natural surroundings through the process of art-making, inviting them to watch as local creatives paint, sculpt, photograph and create unique works inspired by the surroundings. Toting the kids along? Swing by the Azalea Garden from 10am to 1pm on May 19 for Art in the Open Family Day, where little ones can make some art of their own. —Amy Gordon

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 Fernhill Park in Germantown 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. Swing by on Saturday for two performances by Unidos Da Filadelfia Samba School.

Hump! Film Festival at FringeArts; 7, 9pm; $25
Get ready to blush at this 13th-annual film festival helmed by sex columnist Dan Savage. The two-day lineup features a slew of succinct porn flicks—all shorter than five minutes—from everyday folks who, as the event’s log line says, “aren’t porn stars but want to be one for a weekend.”

Fun Home preview weekend at Arden Theatre Company; 8pm; $15–$52
This gorgeous musical—based on Alison Bechdel’s searingly honest graphic memoir—is by turns funny and heartbreaking. Though it toured recently, Arden’s adaptation offers a new director, Terrence J. Nolen, fine Philly actors (Mary Tuomanen, Kim Carson, Ben Dibble) and the opportunity to see it in the round at an intimate venue. —David Fox

Mamma Mia! opening weekend at Walnut Street Theatre; 8pm; $20–$97
ABBA’s empowering feel-good juggernaut has finally—after 15 years and 5,800 Broadway performances—pulled up stakes there. But it will live again at Walnut Street Theatre, whose strong track record with large-cast musicals suggests that they’ll do up the show with all the enthusiasm and hoopla you could want. —David Fox

Get Pegged at FringeArts; 10:30pm; $5–$15
This month’s version of performance artist John Jarboe’s late-night, queer-centric musical series doubles as a “test kitchen,” where cabaret artists from all over come to test out some of their newest ditties. Look out for Dieter Rita Scholl, Cherdonna Shinatra, Messapotamia Lefae and opera-singing drag queen Cookie DiOrio.

Saturday, May 19

South 9th Street Italian Market Festival at the Italian Market; 11am; free
Celebrate at the oldest outdoor market in the country during this two-day extravaganza of food, fun and family. Each year, revelers of all ages enjoy crafts, games, multiple stages with live entertainment, local artisan vendors and the ever-popular Procession of Saints, which includes the Blessing of the Market. Of course, no event in this neighborhood would be complete without loads of tasty bites. Get your fill of cheesesteaks, cannolis, gourmet coffee, all kinds of cheeses and those fruit-on-sticks things everyone’s mad about. —Amy Gordon

Philadelphia Children’s Festival at the Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts; various times, $8–$20
Kicking off this festive weekend is this theater festival, which welcomes family-friendly theatrical performances of all kinds—from magic shows to circus arts to dance. Outside the Annenberg Center, at PlazaMania, kids and parents can partake in fun-filled activities like face-painting and balloon-animal workshops, munch on food-truck fare and even enjoy a special appearance from the city’s beloved baseball mascot, the Phillie Phanatic. —Amy Gordon

New Hope Pride Parade and Festival; May 19 at 11:30am; free
If you’re itching to get your Pride celebrations on a little early, head to the Bucks County borough for its annual parade, which draws more than 15,000 people from along the East Coast. The day includes an energetic parade on May 19, complete with floats, marching bands and the 100-foot-long Rainbow Equality Flag. But that’s just the beginning: PrideFest spans the entire weekend, with special events like a fair for LGBTQ-owned and -operated businesses, Sunday tea dances and more.

Rittenhouse Row Spring Festival; noon; free
This is the only day of the year when Walnut Street—from the Avenue of the Arts to 19th Street—closes to vehicular traffic, making room for more than 50,000 attendees who come to enjoy the best of Philly’s tony Rittenhouse Square neighborhood. The event showcases a variety of restaurants and bars in the area, plus several cultural elements. Look out for art and fashion exhibitions, cocktail and culinary demonstrations, live music and street performances. This year, upwards of 1,000 vendors will showcase and sell their products. —Amy Gordon

Philadelphia Federal Credit Union Kensington Derby and Arts Festival at Trenton Avenue and Norris Street; noon; free
This oh-so-quirky neighborhood festival takes place on the streets of Kensington and Fishtown, exciting everyone from engineering fanatics to foodies. Artists set up shop throughout the area, and local food trucks and restaurants are on hand to feed hungry guests. The centerpiece of the day is undoubtedly the derby, where entrants race mobile sculptures of their own creation throughout the city streets, navigating terrain like sand and cobblestone and ending in a mud pit. Think of it as a huge, even messier Double Dare competition. —Amy Gordon

The All-Star Craft Beer, Wine, and Cocktail Festival at Citizens Bank Park; 3pm; $19.95–$69.95
Spend your Saturday at the home of the Phillies tasting your way through 300-plus craft beers and wines. The event also gives you the chance to get down on the field to run bases and snap some selfies in the dugout.

Royal Wedding dinner at The Dandelion; 5pm; $55

Royal Wedding dinner at the Dandelion

Photograph: Courtesy Starr Restaurants

Stephen Starr’s Rittenhouse British pub and restaurant celebrates the union of Prince Harry and soon-to-be-Her-Royal-Highness Meghan with a prix-fixe menu of all kinds of Brit-approved grub, such as deviled eggs, a pint of shrimp, roast beef sirloin and Yorkshire pudding. Your dinner costs $55, which also grants you a glass of bubbly and a slice of elderflower lemon cake—just like the one the royals will be serving their guests. Cheerio!

40th Street Summer Series at 40th and Walnut Streets; 6pm; free

Photograph: Courtesy University City District/Ben Tran

This summer-long concert series brings free monthly concerts to Penn’s campus from May through September. This year’s festivities kick off with a double headlining show from the West Philadelphia Orchestra and Dan Blackberg’s Hot Klezmers. Performers scheduled for the rest of summer include New Sound Brass, Las Cafeteras and Thee Phantom & the Illharmonic Orchestra. —Amy Gordon

Hannibal Buress at Merriam Theater; 8pm; $30–$55

The Chicago stand-up has a slew of hilarious comedy specials and memorable parts in TV shows, such as Neighbors, Broad City and, of course, The Eric Andre Show. If none of them rings a bell, Buress is the guy whose pointed bits about Bill Cosby at a show in Philly kicked off the avalanche that eventually took down “America’s Dad.” —Patrick Rapa

Jay Leno at the Academy of Music; 8pm; $49–$139
Before he started putting the country to sleep on a nightly basis, Leno was known for his witty, slightly angry stand-up act. The Tonight Show may have softened his material, but that’s okay. If everybody was edgy, there wouldn’t be a middle.

The Mads Are Back! at the Colonial Theatre; 8pm; $25–$30
Frank Conniff and Trace Beaulieu—best known for playing mad scientists during the golden age of Mystery Science Theater 3000—still take their movie-mocking on the road from time to time. You can also hear them take a witty but slightly more earnest take on cinema on the Movie Sign With The Mads podcast. Stay tuned to find out what B-movie they plan on torturing us with this time around. —Patrick Rapa

Hop Along at Union Transfer; 8:30pm; $18–$22
Philly indie rockers Hop Along are in the middle of a countrywide tour to spread the word to spread the word about their new album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog, which has garnered loads of favorable reviews. Frontwoman Frances Quinlan’s fine-sandpaper voice remains the band’s most striking attribute, but it’s never been so melodic as it is on the new record. —Patrick Rapa

Last chance: “Sacred Lands” at Paradigm Gallery + Studio; noon; free
You have to see this exhibition of Philadelphia artist Drew Leshko’s dollhouse-scale replicas of Fishtown’s overlooked and, often, neglected buildings, including the Edward Corner Warehouse, Kensington Soup Society, Penn Treaty Metals, the Barbary, Bicycle Stable and “Old Brick” (aka Kensington Methodist Episcopal Church). Read our review of the exhibit here.

Last Chance: Catch-22 at Curio Theatre Company; 8:30pm; $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. —David Fox

Sunday, May 20

Strawberry Festival at Peddler’s Village; 10am; free
Head to Bucks County for the 40th annual Strawberry Festival, where Peddler’s Village celebrates everything and anything strawberry-related. Onsite eateries flood the venue’s menus with berry-licious dishes and desserts all weekend, kids participate in strawberry-centric crafts, the crowd jams out to live music and many of the area’s stores stay open late for after-hours shopping. Don’t miss the daily strawberry pie-eating contests, a perennial highlight of the festival. —Amy Gordon

Clover Market in Bryn Mawr; 10am; pay as you go
Clover Market is back for the 2018, with a stop this weekend in Bryn Mawr, where you can browse than 100 vendors selling art, jewelry, home goods, antiques and other one-of-a-kind and hard-to-find items.

Chestnut Hill Home and Garden Festival on Germantown Avenue; 11am; free

Photograph: Darryl W. Moran

This is the place to be for the latest and greatest in home and garden goods. More than 150 vendors line historic Germantown Avenue during this one-day event, with everything from outdoor supplies for projects like lawn and tree care, garden displays, terrariums and bee-keeping to quilts, jewelry, art and clothing. The festival also includes live music on two stages, food from local eateries, amusement park rides, a rock-climbing wall and more. —Amy Gordon

Camelot opening weekend at Act II Playhouse; 2pm; $35–$47
The latest at Act II brings a chamber-size traversal of the beloved Lerner and Loewe musical about the legendary medieval ménage à trois among King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot. Heads up: This bad boy is sold out through the second week of June, so you better act fast if you want to see it. —David Fox

Big Gay Boat Party Launch on the Moshulu; 4pm; $8
Join PhillyGayCalendar and Toasted Walnut Bar & Kitchen on deck of the Moshulu for the kickoff bash for their floating gay bar on the Delaware River, which takes place at various time throughout the summer and early fall. Look out for a cash bar, scantily clad servers, drag shows and live tunes from DJ Carl Michaels.

Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus Pride Tour at the University Lutheran Church of the Incarnation; 6pm; $20
The songbirds from Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus finish up their first-ever Pride Tour, an evening of show tunes from stage and film musicals, such as The Wiz, Ragtime and The Greatest Showman. The road show looped through Jenkintown and Devon, Pennsylvania, before this final performance in West Philly.

Gary Owen at Helium Comedy Club; 7, 9:45pm; $38–$48
Once named “Funniest Serviceman in America,” Cincinnati-born Gary Owen quit the Navy to devote himself to comedy full time. He cuts an imposing figure onstage—like maybe if you don’t laugh, he’ll kick your ass. But he’s a funny guy, so don’t worry about it.

Last chance: Hope and Gravity with 1812 Productions; 2pm; $25–$35
Those who have experienced 1812 Productions 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

Last chance: Mrs. Harrison with Azuka Theatre; 2, 7pm; pay what you wish
Barrymore Award-winning playwright and sassy Elle columnist R. Eric Thomas closes the curtain on his latest production, which concerns two friends—one black woman, who is a successful playwright, and a white woman, who works as a standup comedian—who come together for a 10-year reunion, of sorts. Everything goes swell until an elephant in the room presents itself: The comedian contends that the playwright stole one of her stories.

Last chance: Peter and the Starcatcher with Theatre Horizon; 3pm; $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

Fun ongoing things to do in Philadelphia

Spruce Street Harbor Park; through October; pay as you go

Photograph: Matt Stanley

The attraction on the Delaware features a Boardwalk promenade buzzing with food stalls manned by local businesses like Franklin Fountain, Village Burger, Chickie’s and Pete’s, Distrito and more selling pizza, tacos, cheesesteaks, fried chicken, funnel cake, doughnuts and ice cream. There’s also a floating beer garden in the harbor where you can score more food and drinks amongst greenery and spectacular views of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and its watery surroundings.

Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest at Penn’s Landing; through September 3; pay as you go
In the warmer months, Blue Cross RiverRink transforms this portion of the Delaware River waterfront into a massive state fair of sorts, complete with a 60-foot-tall ferris wheel, carousel, mini-golf, carnival games and, of course, the outdoor roller rink—all with gorgeous views of the Ben Franklin Bridge. Restaurants and bars line the premises serving up beer, cocktails and a variety of summertime grub. Check out Chickie’s and Pete’s Waterfront Crab Shack, for instance, where you can get crab fries and other savory treats. Then head to the Franklin Fountain Clubhouse Cabin, serves up ice cream cones and other frozen goodies.

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.

Celebration of Black Arts Festival at various locations and times throughout May 31
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.

PAFA Annual Student Exhibition at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; through June 3; free
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.

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

“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

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