Spooky cellblocks, new exhibits, fall-fests, in-person performances, pop-up markets and more fill Philadelphia’s autumn calendar – check out some of the top things to do as soon as the Us reopens to fully-vaccinated visitors this November!
Explore the spooky cellblocks of Eastern State Penitentiary during an all-new Halloween event
In the fall of 2021, Eastern State Penitentiary – America’s most historic prison and the world’s first true penitentiary – will debut an all-new Halloween Nights experience from the creators of the famed Terror Behind the Walls haunted attraction. The new, festival-style event will feature 15 different attractions spread throughout the historic cellblocks, including two haunted houses, four themed bars and lounges, four immersive walk-through environments, two live performances, and a new audio tour narrated by actor Steve Buscemi and recorded just for Halloween Nights. The seasonal event runs on select evenings from September 24 through November 13. Click here to learn more and to purchase tickets.
Return to venues for in-person performances from Philadelphia’s performing arts companies
This fall, Philadelphia’s renowned performing arts companies will return to stages throughout the city, performing inside and in front of live audiences for the first time in over a year. Highlights include a fall season from The Philadelphia Orchestra, which will reflect on the pandemic, social justice in America and diversity, equity, and inclusion within the world of music, beginning with an Opening Night Celebration Concert on October 5 featuring Yo-Yo Ma. Not to be missed is the return of award-winning Broadway musical and pop culture sensation Hamilton, performed inside the historic Academy of Music from October 20 through November 28. America’s oldest theatre, Walnut Street Theatre, will open their 213th season of live entertainment on September 28 with BEEHIVE- The ’60s Musical, with more family-friendly productions scheduled throughout the fall. Penn Live Arts will return to in-person performances with productions hosted at various venues and attractions throughout Philadelphia, including a September 25 performance of John Luther Adams’ Ten Thousand Birds at Morris Arboretum. To learn more about Philadelphia’s performing arts community and for a list of upcoming shows and seasons, click here.
TIP: The ever-innovative Opera Philadelphia will continue to stream new performances through their Opera Philadelphia Channel throughout the fall and will return to Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in January.
Take a picturesque stroll through Philadelphia’s leafy neighbourhoods
Philadelphia is consistently heralded as one of the nation’s most walkable cities and the fall season offers even more reasons to explore the city by foot. Embrace the cooler temperatures and walk through the city’s tree-filled neighbourhoods, such as Rittenhouse Square, Washington Square West, and Old City, shopping from local boutiques or farmers markets and snapping plenty of fall photos along your journey.
TIP: Consult our Instagram guide for more of the city’s top photo ops.
Hit the trails of Fairmount Park
Covering over 2,000 acres to the east and west of the Schuylkill River, Fairmount Park is home to miles and miles of recreational trails perfect for hiking, running, or biking on autumn afternoons. Don’t miss the 18th and 19th century historic houses scattered throughout the park, three of which – Laurel Hill Mansion, Woodford Mansion, and Strawberry Mansion – are open to tour. Be sure to visit the historic Shofuso Japanese House and Garden and neighbouring Horticulture Center in West Fairmount Park to admire the fall foliage surrounding these charming settings. For more things to see and explore throughout Fairmount Park, click here.
Savour the fall flavours of Philadelphia’s local restaurant scene
Philadelphia’s acclaimed culinary community, which includes many brand-new restaurants, is ready to serve you safely. Dozens of restaurants will participate in Center City’s Restaurant Week from September 18-30, presenting special prix fixe menus that can be enjoyed on-site or taken to-go. From October 11-15, participating Latinx-owned independent restaurants will be offering a free appetiser or dessert for every two dinner entrees purchased during Dine Latino Restaurant Week. The refreshing fall weather is also perfect for spending time at a pop-up park or beer garden, such as Parks on Tap (at Fairmount Water Works), Independence Beer Garden near Independence Hall, or at one of two PHS Pop-Up Gardens; one along South Street and another in Manayunk. For tips on dining in Philadelphia right now, click here.
TIP: One of Philadelphia’s largest culinary events, the Audi FEASTIVAL, returns on October 21 at The Budd in East Falls, featuring fare from over 40 area restaurants alongside one-of-a-kind performances presented by FringeArts.
Cheer on your favourite team at stadiums or at sports bars throughout the city
Immerse yourself in Philadelphia’s renowned sports culture by attending a live sporting event this season. The Phillies will chase a pennant during their final few games this year at Citizens Bank Park, while the Philadelphia Eagles begin their quest for another Lombardi Trophy at Lincoln Financial Field, beginning with a home opener on September 19 against the San Francisco 49ers. Towards the end of October, the Wells Fargo Center will come alive as passionate fans return to the stands to cheer on the Flyers and the Sixers. If you’re unable to score tickets to a game, don’t worry – there are plenty of restaurants, bars, and beer gardens throughout Philadelphia that present exciting game-day experiences, such as Xfinity Live! and Chickie’s & Pete’s in South Philadelphia, McGillin’s and Tradesman’s in Center City, and Yards Brewing Company in Northern Liberties. For more sports bars in Philadelphia, click here.
Head to Philadelphia’s Garden District for a fall arts festival
On Sunday, September 26, the Chestnut Hill neighbourhood will host their 36th annual Fall for the Arts Festival, which lines several blocks of Germantown Avenue with art, live music, children’s activities, food, and plenty of boutique shopping opportunities. As you stroll the cobblestone avenue, admire and purchase watercolors, photography, sculpture, pottery, jewellery, and more from over 100 artists from throughout the nation, including over 50 new local artists and artisans, and enjoy seasonal food and drink offerings from the area’s top eateries as live musical acts perform on two stages. Visitors can also take advantage of special discounts and promotions at local shops, such as The Perfect Stitch and The Bone Appetite. To learn more about Chestnut Hill’s Fall for the Arts Festival and to plan a visit, click here.
Discover the eerie past of Philadelphia’s most historic sites
Spend the cool autumn evenings learning more about Philadelphia’s haunted history on one of Ghost Tour of Philadelphia’s candlelit walking tours. A costumed guide will lead you through historic streets at night as they chronicle true ghost stories, real haunted houses, and other macabre tales from Philadelphia’s past. Stops along the tour include Independence Hall, the Powel House and Washington Square, among others. For a list of reportedly haunted sites to explore in Philadelphia, including the Hill-Physick House and Edgar Allan Poe House, click here.
Trick-or-treat through one of the nation’s top science museums
This October, The Franklin Institute invites visitors of all ages to trick-or-treat their way through the exhibits of one of Philadelphia’s top science attractions, with costumed treat-givers hidden behind a series of spookily decorated doors as part of the Franklin Fright events. Costumed performers will also entertain guests with several Halloween-inspired live science demonstrations each weekend, such as experiments led by Dr. Victoria Franklinstein and her sidekicks in a Pumpkin Lab, which features a 12-foot-tall structure made from pumpkins and robotic contraptions. The Franklin Fright experiences are included at no extra cost with museum admission. To learn more, click here.
TIP: The Franklin Institute’s seasonal fun continues in the winter with Franklin Frost (November 16-December 31), featuring a 25-foot-tall Stellar Tree, model trains, and festive science activities..
Journey to the Countryside for flowers, foliage, and fountains at Longwood Gardens
A botanical garden spanning over 1,000 acres in nearby Kennett Square, Longwood Gardens offers numerous ways to enjoy the outdoors during the fall season, including fountain shows, a sprawling meadow, cozy treehouses, a Pumpkin Playground, and plenty of colourful fall leaves. Don’t miss the colourful Chrysanthemum Festival inside the massive conservatory, on view from October 16 through November 14.
TIP: Visit in the evenings on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays to enjoy live music in the Beer Garden and spectacular illuminated fountain shows.
Admire the foliage at Morris Arboretum’s nearly 100-acre property
Home to some of the city’s oldest and rarest trees (and one of the best locations in the region for bird watching), Morris Arboretum in northwest Philadelphia also features sculptures and themed gardens lining its winding pathways. Visit during the fall to marvel at the fall colours of maples, dogwoods, oaks, and other species.
Venture to Bucks County and explore the grounds of a historic riverfront estate
Found just a short drive north from Philadelphia in nearby Bucks County, the Andalusia Historic House, Gardens, and Arboretum is the ancestral home of the Biddle family, a National Historic Landmark, and a picturesque destination in the fall months as autumn leaves fill the over 800 trees on the 100-acre property. 50 acres of gardens and the elegant “Big House” — a historic mansion that is considered one of the finest and earliest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the nation — are open for tours on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays through October. The estate will also be offering three “Open Saturdays” in the fall (September 18, October 23, and November 6), allowing the public to enjoy self-guided tours of the grounds on the weekends. To learn more about Andalusia and to plan a visit, click here.
Head indoors and enjoy new exhibits at area museums
New exhibits are debuting this season at many of Philadelphia’s museums, including a groundbreaking retrospective of iconic American artist Jasper Johns at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, hosted collaboratively with the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. The Philadelphia Museum of Art will also be home to the first major retrospective exhibition of multimedia artist, educator, and activist, Emma Amos when they present Emma Amos: Color Odyssey (opening October 11). In early September, the historic Fairmount Water Works will be hosting Pool: A Social History of Segregation (POOL) in the former John B. Kelly swimming pool, exploring the relationship between public pools, racial discrimination, public health, and social justice. For a full list of can’t-miss exhibitions this fall, click here.
TIP: Don’t miss the final days of popular exhibits including Gideon Mendel: Drowning World at the Academy of Natural Sciences (ending October 17) and Crayola IDEAworks at The Franklin Institute (ending November 28).
Commemorate a milestone anniversary for a historic ship
2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the return of the American Unknown Soldier from World War I aboard the Cruiser Olympia, a National Historic Landmark which now rests moored along the Delaware River waterfront. The Independence Seaport Museum is honouring the anniversary with a series of special events all year, including a special exhibition onboard the ship, Difficult Journey Home (on view through late November). The Museum will also commemorate the 100th anniversary of the dangerous, 15-day journey from Le Havre, France to the Washington Navy Yard with a special ceremony on October 25 (more details to be announced soon). To learn more and to plan your visit, click here.