67 free things to do with kids in Philadelphia 2016

JUNE 8, 2016 By Jen Bradley

Welcome to our 2016 guide to keeping your kids happy and entertained on a budget this summer.

1. Head to Dilworth Park on a hot summer day to play in the fountains in the tall shadow of Billy Penn and City Hall. Check out their special events for concerts, food and bocce.

2. Enjoy the Colonial Quest puppet shows at Carpenters Hall, 11:30 and 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays through July 23. Can you find all 5 emblems inside the hall?

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Lorna Howley introduces the Colonial Kids Quest Puppet Show featuring a frog named François. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

3. Soak up the ambiance at the Blue Cross RiverRink as it transforms from ski lodge to a boathouse. The winter’s ice rink gets swapped out for a roller skating rink. (Rental and admission to the rink are available for a fee.)

4. After July 15, find your happy place at the foot of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Eakins Oval. This bright and festive pop-up park offers free interactive games and special events including live music, movie nights, performances and workshops.

5. Grab a hammock at Spruce Street Harbor Park, a pop-up park along the Delaware River. Hang out and play bocce, giant chess, Connect Four and Jenga. There are floating gardens (and beer gardens), nightly shows and more.

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Head to Spruce Street Harbor Park to play a game of giant Connect Four. (Branden Eastwood/for NewsWorks)

6. Spend the day climbing and twirling at Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse. From the giant outdoor wooden slide to the fabulous and unique playground equipment, Smith is a long-time Philadelphia tradition full of endless entertainment. Family admission is free, but for $5-10 you can check out the playground’s Kidchella concerts over the summer, too.

7. Enjoy a family hike or follow your own path through one of the top city trails in the United States. Whether inside or outside of the city, the scenery along the Wissahickon Valley Park doesn’t get any greener.

8. Dress like a firefighter, run the hoses, and check out the trucks at the Fireman’s Hall Museum. It’ll be heaven for your firefighter-to-be.

9. Grab your skateboard and head to Paine’s Park. The park beneath the Philadelphia Museum of Art has skateable benches, quarter pipes, and edges to thrill even the most seasoned skater.

10. Jump the ropes with Philly Girls Jump. Show off (or build) your double dutch skills at one of their pop-up events around the city this summer.

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Jump rope with Philly Girls Jump. (Miguel Martinez/WHYY)

11. Too hot out? Splash around with the kids at a sprayground. Nothing like stomping around through cool fountains on a hot summer day.

12. Tired of the heat? The city has free indoor ice rinks ready to cool you off. Free skating if you bring your own skates or you can pay to rent some blades.

13. Three words: Kids bowl free. Sign up, and your kids can bowl two free games every day, all summer long. Sign up early and then use your vouchers on one of those rainy afternoons when you all need a break.

14. Splash around in one of the Philadelphia public pools. Pools start to open for the season after Junee 22. You can search for local pools by neighborhood and find the perfect spot for your crew.

15. Spend the afternoon frolicking in Franklin Square. Throw pennies in the fountain, run around the square and hang out on the great playground for free during the day. If you want to spend some money, there’s also a snack bar, mini-golf and a fabulous carousel.

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Hang out at Franklin Park. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

16. Complete our Wissahickon Seek-and-Find guide. Can you hike the trail along Forbidden Drive and complete the challenge?

17. Pay-what-you wish admission on first Sunday of the month and every Wednesday night after 5 p.m. at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This summer, soak up the gorgeous Creative Africa exhibit and their special schedule of family events.

18. Teens enjoy free admission to 17 museums around the city. Simply register for a STAMP pass and head to the Zoo, the Barnes, the Franklin Institute and more.

19. Take walk, jog or bike ride along the insanely scenic Boathouse Row and Kelly Drive. Bring your own wheels because bike rentals are not free, but they do have surrey bikes if you decide to rent.

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Head to Kelly Drive for a run or bike ride. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

20. Be on the lookout for a pop-up play event near you this summer. Or better yet, create one of your own.

21. Learn about a variety of cultures at the PECO Multicultural Series at Penn’s Landing. With Irish, Islamic, Portuguese, Hispanic, African, Mexican, Carribean, Brazilian and Indian festivals planned, there’s lots to celebrate.

22. Take a public art tour through the University of Pennsylvania‘s campus. So many gargoyles, so little time. Can you spot the Addams Family silhouette?

23. Swing and climb at a playground you’ve never visited before. Let us know if you find a new favorite in this great list of 150 playgrounds visited by a kid and their parent.

24. Sign the kids up to have a dissectingly good time at Science in the Summer at your library or rec center. Offered in two different two-hour sessions for elementary school students, this year’s focus is bioscience.

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Dissecting a sheep brain. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

25. Try finding the 57 art-infused fiberglass donkeys around the city will in celebration of the Democratic National Convention. Donkeys around Town runs July 1 through Labor Day.

26. Channel your inner superhero and build Captain America and Iron Man at the Lowe’s Build and Grow Workshop.

27. No matter which side of the political aisle you sit on, your kids have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness the presidential electoral process at work in our city. Wonk out at the Democratic National Convention in July or learn at home with materials from PBS Parents.

28. Catch frogs in Pastorius Park. Go on Wednesday nights and catch one of the park’s free summer concerts while you’re there.

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Attend a summer concert at Pastorius Park. (Natavan Werbock/for NewsWorks)

29. Channel your inner Rocky and run up the steps of the Art Museum. Be sure to hum the Rocky theme song as you run.

30. Join a Tour by Foot. You can pick from anything between a spin around Independence Hall to a creepy ghost tour. These name-your-price tours run all year long.

31. Take in a Young People’s Concert at the Mann Center. Inca Son, Rock School of Dance, Rising Stars of Tomorrow and Three Kings return to the stage in summer 2016.

32. Get hands-on at the Please Touch Museum’s First Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. It’s not quite free, but entrance fees are $2 instead of the usual $16 per person.

33. There’s oodles of free fun to be had throughout the city during the Wawa Welcome America celebration. Free museum days, concerts, fireworks and more. Scoop up the free fun for eight straight days.

34. Channel your inner maker-self. Get together with creators of all ages for Maker Jawn, “playing, learning, and making things light up” in the City of Brotherly and Sisterly Love.

35. Throw a Frisbee in Fairmount Park.

36. Visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell to check out the beginnings of American history.

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A tourist in front of Independence Hall. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

37. Check out the fishies at Swann Memorial Fountain.

38. Take kissy pictures at the LOVE statue.

39. Take the gang to the Barnes Foundation for Free First Sundays. Check out the world class collection of pre-during-and-post Impressionistic art.

40. Jump into Barnes & Noble in Rittenhouse’s children’s activities. Great weekly story times held on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and this summer boasts a Teen Book Festival and a countdown to Harry Potter.

41. Visit the beautiful Parkway Central Library. Check out the architecture, attend a speaker event and check out some books. The neighborhood libraries are chock full of great activities, too.

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A shot of the Parkway Central library. (Paige Pfleger/WHYY)

42. Let the dog run free in Pretzel Park. Fido can enjoy a break from the city’s leash law.

43. Celebrate reading. Guard against the “summer slide” and have fun at the dozens of reading programs at branches and online with the Free Library.

44. Check out Screening Under the Stars at Penn’s Landing. This year’s listings include fan favorites “Captain America,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Star Wars” and “Zootopia.”

45. Take a picnic to Belmont Grove. Or take a picnic anywhere really.

46. Do one (or all) of the seven walking tours through historic Philadelphia. Choose from Fairmont Park, Rittenhouse Square and more.

47. Download, call or text the Museum Without Walls for fascinating stories about public art sculptures all around the city. Audio accounts offer the voices of people personally connected to each sculpture.

48. Put on a chef’s hat and hone your culinary skills. The Free Library offers cooking classes for children and teens through the Culinary Literacy Center.

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Take a cooking class at the Culinary Literacy Center. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

49. Browse the galleries and enjoy the art during First Fridays in Old City.

50. Test a homemade boat in the boat pond, splash in the fountain, enjoy the children’s garden and climb the Wissahickon-inspired mini-landscape at Sister Cities Park.

51. Paint, draw, and create at one of PAFA’s free art classes.

52. Take in the fantastic musical lineup this summer at the 40th Street Summer Series.

53. Check out the Kimmel Center’s Free at the Kimmel event series. Balanchine, jazz, orchestra, and much more.

54. Grab a seat, hear a tale and channel your inner Ben or Betsy at one of the 10 Storytelling Benches in the Historic District.

55. Walk the Philadelphia Mural Mile. Philly is the City of Murals, so these self-guided tours clue you into some of the stories behind these amazing works of arts throughout the city.

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Check out some of Philadelphia’s many murals. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

56. Bring some popcorn and a blanket on Friday and Saturday nights to Moonlight Movies in Mt. Airy.

57. Speaking of movies, catch some political flicks in honor of the DNC at Dilworth Park this July. Vote on which films you’d like to see on the big screen, and then get in the convention mood by attending a screening.

58. Test the kids’ detective skills at the Edgar Allan Poe National Historical Site. Complete the activities to become a Junior Ranger or just listen for The Tell-Tale Heart.

59. Watch the coins roll at the U.S. Mint. The tour is free and self-guided. It takes 45 minutes to complete. Plus, that place is made of money.

60. Go bird watching, take a hike, and enjoy the scenery at John Heinz Wildlife Refuge. Borrow a birding book from the library and see which feathered friends you can find.

61. Hike and learn in the woods and trails of the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. Many free events during the summer, including Saturdays at SCEE.

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Head to the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education to learn something new about our surroundings. (Bastiaan Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

62. Catch fireflies in Rittenhouse Square. One of the simple joys of summer in one of the fanciest spots in the city.

63. Embrace the green in Bartram’s Garden. This lush historic site will leave you amazed that you’re still within city limits.

64. Whisper sweet-nothings or spy secrets at Smith Memorial Arch’s Whispering Benches.

65. Marvel at the treescapes in Awbury Arboretum, check out the beekeeping, and go on a tree hunt.

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Take a walk at Awbury Arboretum. (Bastiaan Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

66. Go people watching on South Street.

67. Learn and grow at one of the city’s Environmental Centers: The Pennypack, Fox Chase, and Wissahickon Centers offer great kids programs for your budding naturalist.

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