Guide to summer festivals in Philadelphia

Fill your summer with good tunes, great food and block parties galore with our guide to the best Philadelphia festivals
The Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby and Trenton Avenue Arts Festival is one of the quirkiest events in Philly.
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philly/J. Fusco
By Time Out Philadelphia editors |
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Hitting up Philadelphia festivals is one of the best things about this city in the summer. The mostly outdoor bashes extend from May to September, when Philadelphia parks are transformed into lively music fests and neighborhoods like Rittenhouse and Graduate Hospital shut down their streets to host block parties and colorful cultural fetes. Summer festivals also give you a chance to try a variety of bars, restaurants and Philadelphia breweries, who often frequent these fests to provide sustenance to the hard-partying masses. We’ve covered all these bases in our guide to the best festivals in Philadelphia below, all separated by month so you can mark your calendar accordingly.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Philadelphia

Philadelphia festivals in May 2018

The Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival lights up Franklin Square this May and June
Photograph: Jeff Fusco
Things to do, Festivals

Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival

This third-annual spectacular features dozens of traditional Chinese lanterns that light up after the sun sets, such as cute panda bears riding on silky seesaws and a massive, 200-foot dragon that snakes its way across the park. 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 as they wander through the display.

Things to do, Festivals

Celebration of Black Arts Festival

Philadelphia 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.

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The Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival presents CineMondays for six weeks this spring
Photograph: The Last Suit
Things to do, Film events

CineMondays

What would summer festival season be without a few film fests? The Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival presents this six-week spring film festival that features six Philadelphia-premiere films that “exemplify the best in international Jewish cinema.” Held every Monday night for six weeks in a variety of theaters around the city, the flicks come from all over the world—Israel, America, Spain, etc…—and include everything from documentaries on Jewish patriotism in WWII to a feature-length French romance. Find more details in the “Dates and Times” tab above.

The PAFA Student Exhibition takes place each spring at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Photograph: Courtesy PAFA
Art, Student shows

PAFA Annual Student Exhibition

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts hosts its 117th annual Student Exhibition this year. Throughout the Galleries of the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building, PAFA students will 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. The exhibition is free to attend, but art fans who want to get first pick can purchase tickets to a special preview party on May 10.

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Dad Vail Regatta is an annual tradition on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philly/R. Kennedy
Things to do, Sport events

Dad Vail Regatta

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.

Northern Liberties boutique Art Star hosts the Art Star Craft Bazaar each spring.
Photograph: Chris Kendig Photography
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Art Star Craft Bazaar

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 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.

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chestnut hill
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philadelphia/J. Fusco
Things to do, Festivals

Chestnut Hill Home and Garden Festival

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.

The Annenberg Center presents the Philadelphia International Children’s Festival
Photograph: Mark Garvin
Kids, Festivals

Philadelphia Children’s Festival

The Annenberg Center at the University of Pennsylvania hosts this family-friendly festival for the 33rd year this May. The engaging event includes professional performances of all kinds—from magic shows to circus arts to dance (see “Dates and Times” for the full list of shows). Outside, 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.

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Art in the Open brings artists to the Schuylkill River to make artworks.
Photograph: Brad Jamula
Things to do, Quirky events

Art in the Open

A curated group of 40 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.

Dan Savage's Hump! Film Festival comes to Philadelphia
Photograph: Courtesy Hump! Film Festival
Things to do, Film events

Hump! Film Festival

We feel a little bad placing this right after the Children’s Festival. In any case, leave the kids at home for 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.” The films may get a little racy, but the point here is to empower folks to feel comfortable and sexy in their skin—and to show you a good time while watching it.

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Philadelphia festivals in June 2018

Philly Beer Week, hosted by Philly Loves Beer, features 10 days of events spotlighting Philadelphia as America's best beer-drinking city.
Photograph: Shutterstock
Things to do, Festivals

Philly Beer Week

Local nonprofit Philly Loves Beer hosts this annual 10-day event to spotlight Philadelphia as the best damn beer-drinking city in the country. Loads of beer bars and breweries get on board to host events that include tastings, happy hours, parties, game nights, burlesque performances, street festivals and so, so much more. Stay tuned for more information about the 2018 event, which begins the Friday after Memorial Day.

Philadelphia Latin Film Festival
Photograph: Pixabay
Things to do, Film events

Philadelphia Latino Film Festival

Established filmmakers and newcomers alike participate in this only festival in the region that solely celebrates Latin American movies. The event returns for the seventh year in 2018 and will include feature films and shorts in a variety of genres, all presented in English or with subtitles. In addition to screenings, attendees can partake in discussions, workshops, meet-and-greets with actors and directors, and other special events.

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Fringe Arts presents Hand to Hand, a circus arts festival featuring Circadium School of Contemporary Circus.
Photograph: Courtesy FringeArts
Theater, Circuses & magic

Hand to Hand Circus Festival

FringeArts and Circadium School of Contemporary Circus’s first-ever circus arts festival extends into June, with shows by some of the area’s best jugglers, aerialists, wirewalkers and acrobats. The fest also includes performances by four internationally renowned circus artists from the Montreal-based Barcode Circus Company, and guests can partake in free “test flight” workshops led by the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts to try some big-top-inspired feats of their own.

The Chinese Lantern Festival takes place in Philadelphia's Franklin Square
Photograph: Courtesy Jeff Fusco
Things to do, Festivals

Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival

The Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival moves into its second month at Franklin Square. The spectacle features dozens of handcrafted lanterns that light up after the sun sets, including cute panda bears riding on silky seesaws and a massive, 200-foot dragon that snakes its way across the park. Alslo look out for a sparkling fairy tree, collection of endangered species, a walk-through great white shark tunnel and an elephant 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 as they wander through the display.

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Questlove on drums at the Roots Picnic in Philadelphia
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philly/M. Kennedy
Music, Music festivals

The Roots Picnic

Philadelphia hip-hop group the Roots bring their musical picnic back to the Delaware River waterfront this year, setting up multiple stages around Festival Pier. Headliners for 2018 include the Roots, who will take part in a special jam session with festival host Dave Chappelle and TBA special guests. Other acts taking the mainstage include Lil Uzi Vert, 2 Chainz, Brandy, Rapsody and more. 

The Philadelphia Burger Brawl is back again in 2018.
Photograph: Pixabay
Things to do, Festivals

Philadelphia Burger Brawl

Some of the city’s best restaurants and culinary artists throw down each year at the Philly Burger Brawl, competing for bragging rights about who makes the city’s best burger. Last year’s winners included Village Whiskey, The Union Tap and Revolution Taco, and this year, country singer Chase Rice is set to perform live. Held at XFINITY Live!, the carnivore-friendly party benefits literacy programs in the city’s underserved schools.

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Catch outdoor movie screenings this summer at the Haas Biergarten at La Peg.
Photograph: Courtesy FringeArts
Things to do, Film events

Outdoor Movie Series at La Peg

French brasserie La Peg hosts weekly alfresco film screenings at its Haas Biergarten every Wednesday through August. The event features flicks with a different theme each month. In June, look out for high school movies like Mean Girls and Can’t Hardly Wait; July is 90s action flicks, such as Con Air and Men in Black; and movies like Wet Hot American Summer and The Parent Trap round out the summer-camp theme in August. All screenings are free, though you can purchase food and drinks from the bar. Each film comes with its own speciality cocktail for $10, and the food menu is picnic-inspired.

baltimore avenue dollar stroll
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philadelphia/J. Fusco
Things to do, Festivals

Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll

Bargain hunters know that the Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll is a can’t-miss event for deals that feel more like steals. From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. along Baltimore Avenue between 43rd and 52nd streets, local businesses lower the price tag to just $1 on items ranging from pet supplies to gourmet bites. More than just a chance to score discounts, the Dollar Stroll brings the local community together in West Philadelphia with live music and family-friendly entertainment.

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The PIFA Street Fair closes the International Festival of the Arts.
Photograph: Lauren Woodard
Things to do, Festivals

PIFA Street Fair

This over-the-top spectacle smack in the middle of Broad Street closes out the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA), but you don’t have to be a theater and arts snob to have a blast here. The event closes down six blocks along the Avenue of the Arts for eight full hours so attendees can ride carnival rides, grab lunch from a variety of food vendors and catch dozens of performances—from live music to circus arts and more.

Celebrate LGBTQ Pride at the Philly Pride Parade and Festival.
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philly/J. Fusco
LGBT

Philly Pride Parade and Festival

Even Google Maps recognizes Philadelphia’s Gayborhood, and that’s exactly where the Pride Parade begins. From there, the colorful procession of drag queen- and muscle dude-clad floats, marching bands and performance troupes makes its way to Penn’s Landing, where the always-colorful festival includes live music, food, drinks, vendor booths and more. While most of the excitement happens on Sunday, events throughout the weekend celebrate the LGBT community in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. This year marks the Philadelphia Pride Parade’s 30th anniversary.

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Philadelphia festivals in July 2018

Families gather around the big screen each summer at Penn's Landing's Screenings Under the Stars.
Photograph: Matt Stanley
Things to do, Film events

Screenings Under the Stars at Penn’s Landing

When the weather heats up and the sun goes down, the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing hosts its Screenings Under the Stars outdoor movie series. Families, friends and cinephiles show up with blankets to picnic and watch films ranging from new releases to classic hits. Showings are held once a week in July and August, giving audiences the chance to enjoy the warm summer nights along the banks of the Delaware River. Admission is free.

Pitbull will headline Philly's Fourth of July concert on the Parkway.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Ralph Arvesen
News, Music

Fourth of July Concert on the Parkway

If there’s one reason to stay in Philadelphia over the Fourth of July, it’s the Wawa Welcome America Party on the Parkway. The annual hoopla shuts down five blocks of the stately thoroughfare, making room for several entertainment stages, family-friendly activity zones, food trucks and outdoor drinking areas. That night, Miami rapper Pitbull headlines a concert with opener Heather Headley before a massive fireworks show over the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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Rock n Roar brings kiddie music festival vibes to the Philadelphia Zoo.
Photograph: Courtesy Philadelphia Zoo
Kids, Quirky events

Rock ’n’ Roar at the Philadelphia Zoo

Kids and parents alike love the Philadelphia Zoo’s Rock ’n’ Roar summer concert series. Guests bring picnic blankets and snacks, stake out a spot on the Impala Lawn and settle in for a dose of family-friendly fun and musical entertainment. In case of rain, the event moves to the Treehouse, but dancing is highly encouraged no matter the venue.

Philly Improv Theater
Photograph: Courtesy Philly Improv Theater
Comedy, Improv

We The People Improv Festival

Philly Improv Theater is launching a new festival dedicated to improvised comedy. The inaugural four-day event will feature workshops and local and out-of-town talent, with an emphasis on camaraderie, diversity and funny jokes. Philly-born comedian Paul F. Tompkins (Bojack Horseman, Comedy Bang Bang) will record an episode of his Spontaneanation podcast on Saturday the 14th. Stay tuned or go here to check out more performers as they are announced and added to the schedule.

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The Colonial Theatre, where the Blob was filmed, holds Blobfest every summer.
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philly/J. Fusco
Movies, Science fiction

Blobfest at Colonial Theatre

Did you know that one of the most famous scenes in all of horror-movie history was filmed in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, right outside of Philadelphia? Each year, the Colonial Theatre commemorates The Blob by recreating one of the 1958 film’s most well-known moments: when the crowd runs screaming from the movie theater. That’s just one aspect of the three-day event, which also includes Blob-related contests, special guests, live music, food, costume parades and more. Find the full event schedule here.

Philadelphia celebrates Bastille Day with a huge festival at Eastern State Penitentiary.
Photograph: Darryl W. Moran
Things to do, Quirky events

Bastille Day Celebration

Costumed performers from the Bearded Ladies cabaret troupe playfully reenact the famous storming of the Bastille by singing, dancing and tossing 2,000 Tastykakes to a crowd gathered outside the closest thing we have to the famed French fortress: Eastern State Penitentiary.

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Peddler's Village hosts the annual Bluegrass & Blueberry Festival.
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Bucks County/Natalie Wi
Things to do, Festivals

Bluegrass & Blueberries Festival at Peddler’s Village

Bluegrass ditties and blueberry treats abound at this two-day summer music-and-food fest in Bucks County. Attendees get their fruity fill (and a buttload of antioxidants) with a seemingly unlimited array of blueberry-centric foods, like butter, preserves, fudge, pie, lemonade and soda. All the while, bands perform on stages located all over the shopping and dining complex.

The 40th Street Summer Series brings free outdoor concerts to a park in West Philly.
Photograph: Courtesy University City District/Ben Tran
Music, Music festivals

40th Street Summer Series

This free monthly series brings concerts to Penn’s campus all summer long. Performers scheduled to take the stage throughout the summer include New Sound Brass, Las Cafeteras and Thee Phantom & the Illharmonic Orchestra.

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the war on drugs
Photograph: Stacey Salter Moore/SSM Photography
Music, Music festivals

XPoNential Music Festival 2018

The 2018 iteration of the XPoNential Music Festival features Philly rock stars the War on Drugs country artist Sturgill Simpson, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and more.

The East Passyunk Car Show and Street Festival features cars, live music and family-friendly fun.
Photograph: Courtesy East Passyunk Business Improvement District
Things to do, Festivals

East Passyunk Car Show and Street Festival

Auto enthusiasts show off their prized cars and motorcycles and compete for trophies, while shops and restaurants along East Passyunk Avenue offer discounts and specials. The event includes live music and DJs on every block—from Broad to Dickinson Streets—along with art projects for kids, games and a crafts show.

Philadelphia festivals in August 2018

shofuso obon festival
Photograph: Courtesy Shofuso Japanese House and Garden
Things to do, Cultural centers

Obon Festival and Japanese Flea Market

The Shofuso Japanese House and Garden throws a daylong festival celebrating the Japanese ritual of Obon, something akin to our homecoming celebrations in the States. Enjoy live music, vendor booths selling Japanese food and gifts and a traditional “bon” dance welcoming home family, friends and the spirits of departed ancestors.

The 40th Street Summer Series brings free outdoor concerts to a park in West Philly.
Photograph: Courtesy University City District/Ben Tran
Music, Music festivals

40th Street Summer Series

Co-produced by University City District, the University of Pennsylvania and the Rotunda, the 40th Street Summer Series brings free monthly live music concerts to Penn’s campus from May through September. This year’s festivities sees shows by New Sound Brass, Las Cafeteras and Thee Phantom & the Illharmonic Orchestra.

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More coming soon…

Philadelphia festivals in September 2018

Made in America 2017
Photograph: Kelsey Dubinsky
Music, Music festivals

Made in America

Hip-hop star JAY-Z’s massive Made in America music festival returns to Philadelphia Labor Day weekend. The two-day fest—now in its seventh year—takes over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and features a lineup of local and national music acts. Performers haven’t been announced for 2018 yet, but fans of the fest know to expect around 50 stage shows by international music stars, which in the past have included J. Cole, the Chainsmokers, Solange and, as always JAY-Z, himself.

baltimore avenue dollar stroll
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philadelphia/J. Fusco
Things to do, Festivals

Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll

Bargain hunters know that the Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll is a can’t-miss event for deals that feel more like steals. From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. along Baltimore Avenue between 43rd and 52nd streets, local businesses lower the price tag to just $1 on items ranging from pet supplies to gourmet bites. More than just a chance to score discounts, the Dollar Stroll brings the local community together in West Philadelphia with live music and family-friendly entertainment.

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kennett square mushroom festival
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philadelphia/G. Widman
Things to do, Festivals

Kennett Square Mushroom Festival

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Kennett Square, a.k.a. “The Mushroom Capital of the World,” celebrates all things fungus-related at this two-day festival in the town that produces 65 percent of mushrooms grown in the States. The 32nd annual event takes up a whole mile of street space with parades, culinary events, kids’ entertainment, live music and 250 vendor booths where you can buy, taste and marvel at all the ’shrooms.

The 40th Street Summer Series brings free outdoor concerts to a park in West Philly.
Photograph: Courtesy University City District/Ben Tran
Music, Music festivals

40th Street Summer Series

The 40th Street Summer Series closes out in September with a lively concert on a large green expanse on Penn’s campus. Performers scheduled to take the stage throughout the summer include New Sound Brass, Las Cafeteras and Thee Phantom & the Illharmonic Orchestra.

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ardmore oktoberfest
Photograph: Courtesy Kory Aversa
Things to do, Festivals

Ardmore Oktoberfest

icon-location-pin Suburban Square
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Oktoberfest in the burbs means a serious lineup of carbs including mac and cheese with beer sauce, potato pancakes and apple fritters—all accompanied with flowing beers and live music to boot.

feastival
Photograph: Courtesy FringeArts
Things to do

FEASTival

icon-location-pin Elfreth's Alley
icon-calendar

This annual formal fete invites Philadelphia’s top chefs to dish out small bites and mingle with guests. Some of the best restaurants in Philadelphia show up to serve their most popular plates, giving you a chance to try a little bit of everything from hotspots like High Street on Market, Double Knot, Fork, Hungry Pigeon, Zahav and more. Besides the eating, a dance floor heats up with the sounds of a local band, and circus performers put on shows on podiums situated around the grounds. It’s quite the spectacle. All money raised benefits FringeArts and its annual programming.

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South Philly Sausage Fest is a music and craft beer festival in Philadelphia
Photograph: Courtesy South Philly Sausage Fest
Things to do, Festivals

South Philly Sausage Fest

icon-location-pin Passyunk Discount Shopping
icon-calendar

What do you get when you combine sausages, craft beer and live music? The South Philly Sausage Fest! This autumn, the celebration on West Passyunk Avenue features bites from nearly a dozen restaurants, beer from just as many breweries, a handful of live bands, arts-and-crafts vendors, a kids’ play area and more.

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