The 19 best things to do in Philadelphia before summer's over

Fill your end-of-summer itinerary with these 18 fun things to do in Philadelphia before we hit Labor Day.
made in america
Photograph: Courtesy Made in America/Jon Endow
By Josh Middleton and Amy Gordon |

It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over. To help you get the most out of your end-of-pool-season planning, we’ve rounded up a diverse collection of the best things to do in Philadelphia before Labor Day, including live music, Philadelphia cultural festivals, art exhibitions and theater. On top of all this, be sure to make your way up to all the rooftop bars Philadelphia has to offer for stunning views of the city under the warm summer sun. It’s also a prime time to take advantage of an outdoor meal at some of the best new restaurants in Philadelphia (like Barcelona Wine Bar in South Philly, or grabbing a slice of Rione pizza and eating it Rittenhouse Square) or hit up your favorite bar for happy hour. Philadelphia will only be nice and toasty for a few more months. Take advantage!

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

Things to do in Philadelphia before Labor Day

tria cafe fitler square
Photograph: Courtesy Tria Cafe/Steve Legato
Restaurants, Contemporary American

Send off Tria in Fitler Square—and support a good cause

Tria Cafe in Fitler Square is closing its doors after just over two years in business—but not without the proverbial bang. Join the restaurant team on August 28 for a proper sendoff bash featuring specials on sparkling wine, select cheeses and draft beer. The party doubles as a good cause: Owner Jon Myerow says he’ll donate 20 percent of the night’s proceeds to the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League, with a goal of raising $2,000 for the social justice organizations.

weekend at bernies
Movies, Comedy

Watch one more movie under the stars

FringeArts presents its final outdoor movie screening of the summer in its dazzling waterfront beer garden. Order some ales and settle in to watch late-1980s dead-buddy comedy Weekend at Bernie’s, which concerns two dudes trying to convince folks that their boss—who was murdered by a hit man—is still alive and kicking.

go go gadget
Photograph: Courtesy Go Go Gadjet
Music, Dance and electronic

Attend our launch bash with Go Go Gadjet

Time Out Philadelphia hosts a bash at Field House to celebrate the launch of our very first print issue—which you can find on the streets and around town starting August 23. To give you a chance to pregame before your weekend Made in America festivities, we’ve invited Reading-based jam band Go Go Gadjet to perform two 75-minute sets throughout the evening. Dance the night away to their infectious EDM tunes and raise a beer or three to the dawning of Labor Day weekend. Budweiser suds and light bites are free from 8 to 10pm, so plan your time accordingly.

mcgillins olde ale house
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Paul Joseph
Things to do

Kick off your Oktoberfest celebrations

Philly’s oldest continuously operating tavern is home to one of the city’s longest Oktoberfest celebrations. For more than a month taps are taken over with seasonal beers from Sly Fox, Lancaster Brewing and Stoudt’s along with a slew of pumpkin brews. Also be sure to try the special pour that was made through a collaboration between McGillin’s and Fordham & Dominion Brewing Company. For more ways to celebrate Oktoberfest Philadelphia, go here.

tlc naughty by nature
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/The Come Up Show
Music, Rap, hip-hop and R&B

Don’t go chasing waterfalls

Sure, both of these acts were titans of ’90s radio, but their hits put them at odds, philosophically. While Naughty by Nature sang the praises of extracurricular romance on “O.P.P.,” TLC came out in vocal opposition to that kind of thing on “Creep.” If you gotta pick one, back the group that also saved millions of Gen Xers from chasing waterfalls and dating scrubs. These women know what they’re talking about.

fireworks philadelphia
Photograph: Courtesy Delaware River Waterfront Corporation/Matt Stanley
Things to do, Festivals

See fireworks over the waterfront

The Delaware River waterfront is celebrating Labor Day all weekend long with an itinerary of events that includes live music, outdoor movies and your last chance to roller skate at Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest before it closes for the season to make way for Winterfest. The weekend’s biggest celebrations, however, happen Sunday. Swing by around 8pm to hear the U.S. Army Band Downrange perform some patriotic tunes before an epic fireworks show over the water at 9:30pm.

made in america 2017
Photograph: Shutterstock
Music, Music festivals

Party with JAY-Z and thousands of your closest friends

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 sixth year—takes over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and features a lineup of local and national music acts. Headliners at this year’s festival include JAY-Z, J. Cole and the Chainsmokers. They will be accompanied by a lineup of 50 other performers, including Solange, Kaskade, Lizzo, Killer Mike, Swedish rapper Yung Lean and electropop DJ Marshmello. Queen of Jeans and Mannequin Pussy are among the local bands on the roster. Two-day passes are available for $162.

Cannstatter Volksfest
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Daniel Cruz Valle
Things to do, Festivals

Dance around a fruchtsäule

A trip up to Torresdale is required if you want to take in the city’s most authentic Oktoberfest experience. Along with home cooking, beer drinking and old country-style music and dance, this fest is home to a fruchtsäule, a massive column decorated in fruit—a tradition with roots in Stuttgart.

blue corn organic and green festival
Photograph: Courtesy Delaware Valley Waterfront Corporation/Edward Savaria Jr
Things to do, Festivals

Blue Corn Organic and Green Festival

As part of PECO’s summer series of multicultural festivals along the Delaware River, wholesome-chip maker Blue Corn hosts a gathering that celebrates green, organic living through the consumption of locally grown, pesticide-free foods. The festival borrows from primitive Mexican indigenous traditions for its daylong itinerary of activities, live music and healthy vittles.

Tony Braithwaite
Photograph: Courtesy Act II Playhouse
Theater, Comedy

Make a trip to Act II Playhouse

Tony Braithwaite, the bespectacled jokester whom City Paper once dubbed “Philadelphia’s funniest man ever,” is back with a new one-man show. Which Reminds Me combines song, storytelling and stand-up comedy to recount his life and adventures in the theater. He shares it all—from mishaps and triumphs to a few hilarious letters he’s received from fans.

honor sharrer afternoon at the beach
Photograph: Courtesy Petegorsky/Gipe Photo
Art, Galleries

See Surrealism meet Pop Art at PAFA

Through paintings, sketches, photos and prints, “Subversion and Surrealism in the Art of Honoré Sharrer” highlights the work of an influential figure in the post-WWII American art scene. Sharrer, whose work was displayed in the Museum of Modern Art when she was only 24 years old, helped bridge the gap between Surrealism and Pop Art.

Brent Brown and Sybil Roe Thompson
Photograph: Courtesy Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
Art, Contemporary art

Ogle even more wonders at Magic Gardens

Isaiah Zagar’s South Street mosaic wonderland, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, welcomes “Dazzling Places & Wild Creatures,” a captivating exhibit by two self-taught artists living with developmental disabilities. Brent Brown creates cardboard creatures inspired by mythology and pop culture, while Sybil Roe Thompson paints pattern-filled landscapes to express ideas that she is unable to convey through words.

independence after hours
Photograph: Courtesy Historic Philadelphia/Jeff Fusco
Things to do, Walks and tours

Mingle with founding fathers at an after-hours soiree

On select nights throughout the year, Historic Philadelphia hosts this walking tour of Old City sites after the lights go down. The tour begins at the Museum of the American Revolution before heading to City Tavern, where you eat a three-course meal served to you by folks dressed in Colonial garb. Then you’re whisked away on the walking tour that comprises eight city blocks within Independence National Historical Park. The apex of the evening is a stop at Independence Hall where you’ll find Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and others in a heated debate about the Declaration of Independence. It’s a surreal step-back-in-time experience that’s uniquely Philly.

African American Museum in Philadelphia
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Philadelphia/J. Fusco
Art, Mixed media

Browse historic works from the Black Arts Movement

Part of the African American Museum in Philadelphia’s 40th-anniversary celebration, this two-gallery exhibition, “PhilAesthetic: 40 Years of Collecting African Art,” highlights items from the collection that it has amassed over the years. The exhibit includes works on paper, mixed media, sculpture and paintings, many of which were created at the height of the Black Arts Movement.

Mohamed Bourouissa Barnes
Photograph: Courtesy the Barnes Foundation
Art, Contemporary art

See horses gallop around North Philly

Mohamed Bourouissa, an Algerian photographer based in France, uses his lens to comment on geographic and social stereotypes in this latest special exhibition at the Barnes Foundation called “Urban Riders.” In 2014, he turned his attention to community revitalization efforts in North Philadelphia, photographing and filming an equestrian event in the neighborhood. This exhibit features 85 objects he created during that time—everything from photography and video to costumes and sculpture.

louis kahn architecture
National Assembly in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Art, Architecture

Ponder the unordinary life of Philly architect Louis Kahn

“Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture” is loaded with architectural models, photographs, letters and Philadelphia architect Kahn’s sophisticated pastel sketches of his designs. The show also includes footage from his son Nathaniel’s fascinating 2003 Oscar-nominated documentary My Architect. Fittingly, Philadelphia is the last city where folks can see this globe-trotting exhibition, which was organized by Germany’s Vitra Design Museum and has appeared in museums around the world.

museum of the american revolution
Photograph: Courtesy Museum of the American Revolution
News, Kids

Take the kids to Philly’s newest museum for free

If you’re keeping the family around Philadelphia over Labor Day weekend, consider taking the kids to the Museum of the American Revolution (MOAR). The brand new Old City institution is offering up free admission for youth 12 and under from September 2 to 4. 

Penn Museun Moundbuilders
Photograph: Courtesy Penn Museum
Things to do, Exhibitions

Contemplate the curious art of moundbuilders

The Penn Museum presents “Moundbuilders: Ancient Architects of North America,” a collection of photos, artifacts and archival records that tell the story of Native American mound building, a 5,000-year-old practice that’s been compared to the great pyramids of Egypt and England’s Stonehenge. These earthen mounds, essentially man-made hills, have been found in areas across the eastern United States and are thought to have played important roles in tribal life, including functioning as trading posts and community gathering centers.

Wanna see more of Philly before it gets cold?