Philadelphia: What’s on When
There’s no bad time to go to Philadelphia – no matter when you visit, there’s always plenty to see, do and enjoy.
Held annually on New Year’s Day for over 100 years, the Mummers Day Parade is one of the oldest folk festivals in the United States. As many as 10,000 people dress up in lavish costumes and twirl, strut and pirouette their way up the city’s main streets. The wild parade and performances that follow are good fun for all ages.
African American History Month
Each February, Philadelphia celebrates African American History Month, with various events held around the city. Philadelphia includes a lot of African Americans who migrated there from the southern states, and this is a time to get more acquainted with their history and culture.
St Patrick’s Day Parade
Philadelphia St Patrick’s Day Parade is an institution – it has been held annually since 1771. The parade begins at 16th and JFK Boulevard and makes its way through to Ben Franklin Boulevard. Expect to see over 100 groups of marching bands, dance groups, Irish associations, flag wavers, floats and of course, spectators clad in green.
PHS Philadelphia Flower Show
Hosted by the Philadelphia Horticultural Society, the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show is the oldest and largest indoor flower show in the world. It attracts more than 250,000 visitors. Along with impressive displays and rare horticultural specimens, the show includes live entertainment, lectures, gardening workshops and more, alongside a different yearly theme.
Philadelphia Book Festival
Hosted by the Free Library of Philadelphia, this celebration of the written word takes place across the city, with appearances by famous authors, book launches and a range of special activities at libraries.
9th Street Italian Market Festival
9th Street, which is in the heart of south Philadelphia, closes to traffic for a market festival every May. The festival celebrates everything Italian, with mouth-watering Italian food of every description, free concerts, crafts and the Annual Procession of Saints. The festival is hosted by the 9th Street Italian Market, which is the country’s oldest continuously operating open-air market, offering fresh produce and Italian food all year round.
West Oak Lane Night Market
Tens of thousands people are drawn to West Oak Lane for its night market in the height of summer. During the market, the street is crammed with food trucks representing more than 50 different restaurants, along with drinks stands, live music and more. Local favourites like soft pretzels and Philly cheesesteaks, as well as craft beers from local breweries, are among the highlights.
Camden Waterfront Freedom Festival
For the week surrounding America’s Independence Day, the Camden Waterfront hosts a family-friendly celebration with food, live music, special events and contests. The largest fireworks display in the region marks the 4th of July itself.
Made in America
This massive music festival takes place on Benjamin Franklin Parkway over Labor Day weekend. Dozens of top performers from around the world have graced the festival stages, with the likes of Jay Z, Kings of Leon and Pharrell Williams headlining in recent years. Performances run from midday to midnight on both Saturday and Sunday, keeping music-lovers satisfied for the whole weekend.
2nd Street Festival
Every year, thousands cram into the seven-block stretch between Spring Garden and Germantown Avenue for the 2nd Street Festival, which is one of the city’s biggest and best street parties. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re keen on art workshops, beer gardens, food trucks, live music or crafts.
Fans of experimental theatre shouldn’t miss out on this celebration of thought-provoking performing arts. It runs for 17 days every September and features hundreds of theatre, music, dance and visual arts performances, not only in traditional venues but also on street corners, in restaurants and even sometimes from performers’ cars.
Terror Behind the Walls
What better time to visit Philadelphia’s eerie Eastern State Penitentiary than over the Halloween season? Terror Behind the Walls takes place in the massive, abandoned prison, which was once considered the most technologically sophisticated prison in the country. The event features over 200 performers and spans six distinct settings in the 11-acre building.
Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Parade is the oldest of its kind in the country. It has been held annually since 1920. The parade features enormous floats, massive balloons, performers, marching bands, dancing troupes and more. Santa even makes an early appearance to usher in the holiday season. For one of the best views of the parade, try heading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art – but get there early!
Christmas tree lighting in Rittenhouse Square
Rittenhouse Square, the park planned and built by William Penn himself in the 17th Century, is illuminated by a brilliant Christmas display over the holiday season. Santa flips the switch to light up a giant Christmas tree and there’s plenty of holiday entertainment, along with complimentary roasted chestnuts, carollers and all sorts of other holiday surprises. With over 5,000 multi-coloured globes and light displays spread throughout the park, it becomes a winter wonderland.