58 free things to do with kids in Philadelphia 2015

Cooling off at a sprayground (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Cooling off at a sprayground (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Check out an updated version of this list: 67 free things to do with kids in Philadelphia, the 2016 version. 

Welcome to our 2015 guide to keeping your kids happy and entertained this summer on a budget.


1. Head to Dilworth Park to check out its inaugural summer as “The People’s Park” with concerts, fountains, food and more right under the shadow of Billy Penn and City Hall.

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2. Too nice a day for the museums? Head to Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy for InsideOut, an art exhibition that runs through the streets. Follow the guide and map and get your art museum fix without ever stepping foot inside.

3. The snow is long gone but you can still take in breathtaking views of the bridge and the river under the big tent at the Blue Cross Riverbank. The space has transformed from a ski lodge to a boathouse with air conditioning and ambiance under the big tent. (Roller skating rental and admission is available for a fee.)

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Head to the boathouse at Blue Cross Riverbank. (Brad Larrison/for NewsWorks)

4. Complete our Wissahickon Seek-and-Find guide.

5. Head to Eakins Oval, the fabulous outdoor park that sits at the feet of the Art Museum. Fun in the pop-up park runs all summer long, with special events throughout the season.

6. Grab a hammock at Spruce Street Harbor Park, a pop-up park along the Delaware River open through September 27. Hang out and play bocce, giant chess, Connect Four and Jenga. There are floating gardens, nightly shows and more.

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Kids playing a game of giant chess at Spruce Street Harbor Park. (Brad Larrison/for NewsWorks)

7. 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 full of endless entertainment.

8. Hike the beautiful Wissahickon Valley Park. Seriously, it doesn’t get more beautiful than this.

9. Walk the Philadelphia Mural Mile. Philly is the City of Murals, so this self-guided tour clues you in on some of the stories behind these amazing works of arts throughout the city.

10. Grab your board and head out to Paine’s Park, with skate-able benches, quarter pipes, and edges to thrill even the most seasoned skater. And right underneath the Philadelphia Museum of Art? Pretty nice scenery too.

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Sliding down a railing at Paine’s Park at Schuylkill Banks. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

11. Run the hoses at the Fireman’s Hall Museum. A great spot for your firefighter-to-be to dress-up and get their rescue fix.

12. Too hot out? Splash around with the kids at a sprayground. Nothing like stomping around through fountains to cool you off.

13. Catch fireflies in Rittenhouse Square. It’s the simple things, right? (But why not do them in a fancy place, just for fun?)

14. Three words: Kids bowl free. Sign up, and your kids can bowl two free games every day, all summer long.

15. Splash around in one of the Philadelphia public pools. You can search for local pools by neighborhood and find the perfect spot for your crew.

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

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On the carousel at Franklin Square. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

17. Bring some popcorn and a blanket on Friday and Saturday nights to Moonlight Movies in Mt. Airy. Movie selections are typically a balance of family-friendly and outright fun flicks, so there’s sure to be something for everyone.

18. 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. Check out their special schedule of family events.

19. 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.”

20. 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 those cute surrey bikes if you decide to rent.

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Head to Boathouse Row and Kelly Drive for a walk or bike ride. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

21. 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.

22. Learn about different 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!

23. Take a public art tour through the University of Pennsylvania’s campus. So many statues, so little time.

24. Swing and climb at a playground you’ve never visited before. Let us know if you find a new favorite.

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Check out Mt. Airy’s recently renovated Pleasant Playground. (Bastiaan Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

25. Sign the kids up to have a shockingly good time at Science in the Summer. Two, two-hour sessions for elementary school students at select branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia. This year’s focus is Physical Sciences and Electricity.

26. Go bird watching at John Heinz Wildlife Refuge. Borrow a birding book from the library and see which feathered friends you can find.

27. Build something new at the Lowe’s Build and Grow Workshop.

28. Hike and learn at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.

29. Catch frogs in Pastorius Park. Try and catch one of the park’s free summer concerts while you’re there.

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Free concerts in Pastorius Park take place on Wednesdays throughout the summer. (Howard Pitkow/for NewsWorks)

30. Channel your inner Rocky and run up the steps of the Art Museum.

31. Complete a Tour by Foot. You can pick from anything between a spin around Independence Hall to a creepy ghost tour. These are actually name-your-price tours.

32. Take in a Young People’s Concert at the Mann Center. Inca Son, Rock School of Dance, Rising Stars of Tomorrow and Three Kings grace the stage in summer 2015.

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

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The water play area at the Please Touch Museum. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

34. Learn and grow at Wissahickon Environmental Education Center. The Treehouse offers great kids programs for your budding naturalist.

35. Marvel at the treescapes in Awbury Arboretum and go on a tree hunt!

36. Throw a Frisbee in Fairmount Park.

37. Get thee some history! Visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

38. Check out the fishies at Swann Memorial Fountain.

39. Take kissy pictures at the LOVE statue.

40. Take the gang to the Barnes Foundation for free First Sundays. Check out Cézanne and his apples!

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You can check out Cézanne for free on the first Sunday of the month. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

41. Check out Barnes & Noble in Rittenhouse’s children’s activities. Weekly story times are on Wednesdays.

42. Visit the beautiful Parkway Central Library.

43. Send them to summer camp. Check out our list of 10 free or low-cost summer camp options.

44. Visit one of the Free Library branches and check out their wonderful summer programming. Lots of fun kids’ activities, speakers and shows at the branches.

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Check out programming at your local library. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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

46. Go people watching on South Street.

47. Check out Screening Under the Stars at Penn’s Landing. 2015 listings include “Annie,” “The Lego Movie,” “Cinderella” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

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

49. Help your school or daycare center to pick up free books from Books for Friends. It’s a great way to get more books into the hands of kids.

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

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Take a walking tour of historic Philadelphia. Shown here is Elfreth’s Alley. (Nathaniel Hamilton/for NewsWorks)

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

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

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Take in the view at Bartram’s Garden. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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

54. 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.

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

56. Enjoy Japanese drumming, modern dance, Cajun music, funk, jazz, martial arts, film, face painting, jugglers, balloon art and more on the last Saturday of the month through September at the 40th Street Summer Series.

57. Check out the Kimmel Center’s Free at the Kimmel event series.

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

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