What do you do with a huge casino floor when the actual casino hasn’t been open since 2014? If you’re mega-developer Bart Blatstein, who bought Showboat in 2016 and operates it exclusively as a hotel, you set up a giant indoor track and let folks race really, really fast electric go-karts on it. We had smiles on our faces for at least an hour afterward. 801 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ 08401
You can’t beat a waterfront view, and this new trail stretching from Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown to Pier 70 in Pennsport is 3.3 miles of just that. Besides connecting attractions like Cherry Street Pier and Spruce Street Harbor Park, it adds eco-friendly touches, including solar-powered lights and garden beds to help with stormwater management. Two miles of the trail have a separate dedicated bike path so you’re not busy jockeying with two-wheelers.
Whether your offspring aspire to be the next Top Chef or can’t even make a PB&J, they’ll have fun learning their way around the kitchen at Hudson Table. From parent-and-kiddo classes to after-school workshops (think: holiday treats and Disney-inspired menus) to week-long summer camps structured like a mini culinary school, your kids will pick up some cooking skills (including — gulp — knife work) and confidence. Heck, maybe they’ll cook you dinner for once. 1001 North 2nd Street, unit 1, Philadelphia, PA 19123
You may think you like movies, but Kensington’s own Jay Schwartz really likes them. In fact, he has amassed a collection of several thousand movies, shorts and cartoons, all on film — don’t get him started about video — and has been screening them throughout the region for the past 30 years. Look for him and his often offbeat selections this fall at the Rotunda in West Philly and the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville.
Trendy places like Thirsty Dice and Queen & Rook are where you go when you want to hang out with your friends, have a beer or latte, and casually play some board games for an hour or two. Well, Redcap’s isn’t trendy. There’s no cafe. The store just recently upgraded from folding chairs. But what it does have is a hard-core dedication to providing an inclusive environment for serious tabletop gamers, whether your jam is Magic: The Gathering (tournaments every Friday!) or far more complex endeavors that make lesser players’ heads hurt by page two of the brick-thick manual. 3850 Lancaster Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19104
This year’s Best Pastime winner started from a 2016 gathering of friends in Chicago and is now a nationwide women’s fitness movement. Sharon Hatcher and Iesha Jackson steer the Philly chapter. “It started off with two friends who wanted to do something that was just for them to have fun,” Hatcher says. “They were in their heads about different things — divorces, kids growing up, all that. They thought back to how they jumped rope when they were kids and how much fun they had.” From that original duo, the club has amassed more than 30,000 members across the country.
Sitting atop the Comcast Technology Center, with a fancy bar and an even fancier restaurant, Four Seasons Philadelphia is pretty much the opposite of free. You know what’s not? A 60-floor elevator ride up to the Sky Lobby. The glass elevator shaft gives you an unparalleled view of the city. 1 North 19th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Yes, there are many, many famous museums in Philadelphia. And there’s also the Shoe Museum at Temple’s podiatry school. Mummer shoes. Baby shoes. A locker room with athletes’ shoes. You get the picture. Looking for other always-free museums? Try Fireman’s Hall Museum, the Science History Institute, and the Institute of Contemporary Art. 148 North 8th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
The Anne d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden behind the Art Museum is totally free — and where else can you see a gigantic electric plug? Another free spot for sculpture sightings: The Rodin Museum garden. 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19130
Sign up to walk one of Doggie Style Pets’ resident pups. The dogs are adoptable, but even if you can’t take one home, you can have a canine companion for a half-hour. Just pick your time and store location online, show up, present your ID, and get instant happiness in the form of a fluffy friend (while helping the shelter give the dogs some exercise). Multiple locations,
Take a free bakery tour at Termini’s South Philly flagship to see mixers as big as hot tubs and cannoli being filled. This is great for kids, who get little paper hats and are highly likely to walk out with a free treat. 1523 South 8th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Though the arcade games and bowling tech have been upgraded since this suburban gem opened in 1959, the place still retains the charm of another era. That may be due in part to the pricing: On some nights, you can play as many games as you want for just $10, including shoe rental. Plus it’s BYO, making this one of the cheapest nights out on the Main Line. 300 West Lancaster Avenue, Devon, PA 19333
Whether you prefer to attend a drag show at a Thai restaurant, a Gayborhood club, a Delco watering hole, or — one of the coolest spots in town — the rooftop bar of the Bok Building, indefatigable Brittany Lynn and the queens of her Drag Mafia have you covered. Sooooo gay, as Brittany likes to say.
If you like the aesthetic and programming of Johnny Brenda’s and Union Transfer, you’ll love this indie venue within feet of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the brainchild of South Philly Tap Room and American Sardine Bar owner (and now Atlantic City developer) John Longacre. This month, look for Guided By Voices (August 20th), the Mountain Goats (August 29), and Philly’s own Low Cut Connie (August 27th). 247 South New York Avenue, Atlantic City, NJ 08401
We know the city has a lot on its hands right now, but we wish it would do more with this lovely 6,000-person Fairmount Park amphitheater managed by Parks & Rec. There were only 12 (12!) concerts scheduled for all of July and August. Maybe the city shouldn’t be in the concert business? 2400 Strawberry Mansion Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19132
This season, the Mann debuted a brand-new seating option: onstage. That’s right. For select shows, the regular seats and lawn are closed off, and the audience sits right up there with the performers. There’s only one Downstage @ the Mann show left this season (sorry; you just missed Nigerian Afrobeat master Femi Kuti), but you can still get tickets for the Resistance Revival Chorus on October 7th. 5201 Parkside Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19131
Most people like to throw a few back before getting behind the microphone and belting out “Don’t Stop Believing” or “Sweet Caroline,” but it’s quite the opposite at this new queer-owned community performance space, which hosts a monthly sober karaoke night at which mocktails are on the menu and the show is still tons of fun. 1527 Jackson Street, Philadelphia, PA 19145
More than 100 DIY front-porch stages featuring 300-plus performers in genres ranging from bluegrass to classical to hip-hop to heavy metal — all 100 percent free. The bad news? You have to wait until June for the next one. The good news? Somebody is organizing a spinoff in Roxborough-Manayunk this October. And you can set one up in your neighborhood, too; visit porchfest.org to learn how. We’re looking at you, South Philly. We’ll call it Stoopfest.
Thirteen years after she lost her first Grammy nomination to Adele, the R&B singer, who lives just outside the city these days, finally scored two earlier this year for her groundbreaking album Heaux Tales. Well-deserved and long overdue. See her on day one of Made In America in September.
Probably the only rapper in the world accompanied by … a harpist! But it totally works, and we love that they tackle important issues while trying to bring people together. The duo is scheduled to release their third album, Hypnagogia, this summer, with a show at South Street’s Magic Gardens on August 26th.
Make like Cupid and take aim with Callowhill Archery’s “Love and War” date-night package. This 90-minute tryst includes intro-to-archery lessons and some games to inspire a little friendly competition. Bull’s-eye! 446 North 12th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123
If even the “dinner” part of your typical"dinner and a movie" date night needs an upgrade, sign on for a chef-led class at Old City Kitchen. Start with the Pastamaking 101 class; if the date’s a hit, there’s a more advanced class you can try later. 218 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Getting creative in the kitchen not cutting it for you? Try a furnace and a blowtorch instead. Book a private lesson at East Falls Glassworks, learn the basics of glassblowing, and take home a self-made souvenir of your red-hot evening. 3510 Scotts Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19129
Head to Wonderspaces for a night full of interactive art that will spark discussion, imagination, and some unique Instagram snaps. Bonus: A stroll through the thousands of lights of Squidsoup’s Submergence puts candlelight to shame. Another bonus: There’s an on-site bar so you can tote cocktails on your gallery jaunt. 27 North 11th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
If you’re not drinking, check out Cocktail Culture Co.’s weekly zero-proof cocktail workshop, which will teach you to make mocktails with non-alcoholic spirits and liquor alternatives. 16 South 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
It takes a lot to get thousands of people to stand around in the pouring rain, but in the case of the Kensington Derby, rain makes the finale even better. After costumed teams have pedaled tricked-out homemade vehicles across three miles of obstacle courses throughout the neighborhood, there’s the pièce de résistance: the mud pit. Some make it through; others break down. Either way, the crowd goes wild.
After putting together free “play packs” for Philly students at the height of the pandemic, playground design and advocacy firm Studio Ludo had a lot of leftover craft supplies. So they expanded into the space adjoining their Grays Ferry office and invited families to explore the new “loose parts” library. Walk through the light-filled former church to find rows of toys and games plus everything from cardboard boxes to old kitchen supplies. Kids can pick up craft inspiration in the art nook or just let their imaginations run wild. You can also reduce your footprint by borrowing toys and/or donating your own. Best of all, Playbrary recently made admission free, because, as they say, “you can’t put a price on play.” 1313 South 33rd Street, unit A, Philadelphia, PA 19146
Mornings at Phield House may be filled with toddler open-play sessions, camps and youth clinics, but don’t overlook its indoor sports facility. After dark (or after work), reserve time at the batting cages, basketball court or multi-sport field for your own adult recess any day of the week. Phield House also hosts Heyday Athletic-sponsored adult soccer and dodgeball leagues throughout the year. 814 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123
If you want to see the best up-and-coming local comedians paired with out-of-town jokesters who’ve appeared on Comedy Central, Netflix and HBO, look no further than this collective, which stages its shows at chill venues like Franky Bradley’s and Tattooed Mom each month — all for $20, with no drink minimum. A nice change of pace from places like Helium.
If you’ve ever been to Heinz Wildlife Refuge, you already know it’s a positive paradise for birding enthusiasts, with its majestic bald eagles, great blue herons and snowy egrets. But you probably didn’t know you can get a guided birding tour in a kayak. The three-hour trips, organized by L.L. Bean, run through October and cost $70 per person for ages 10 and up. 8601 Lindbergh Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19153
Thanks to a brand-new $2 million restaurant, bar and concert-venue development at the Cape May ferry terminal (where you can hop a boat to Lewes, Delaware), New Jersey’s southernmost shore has had some much-needed new life breathed in. At Ferry Park, get cocktails at Boat Drinks, brews and casual fare at Exit Zero, and steaks and seafood (and peerless views) at the Lookout. When it’s time for bed or just relaxing by the pool or sea, stay at La Mer Beachfront Resort for the most fashionable oceanfront suites in town. Before you head back home, kick it old-school at the Lobster House’s locals-heavy breakfast counter — if you can get a stool.
What started in the early days of the pandemic as a bunch of horn players and a drummer who would set up shop in Rittenhouse Square and South Philly to bring joy to the neighbors has become the coolest and hardest-to-book band in town. They just dropped their debut album, Sounds from the Street: Live, which is a must for your summer backyard playlist. Find them in September at the XPoNential Festival in Camden.
The joints on the Parkway get more play due to their central location, but for people who like old stuff, this repository, stuffed with its 10 millennia of artifacts, is a must-visit. For years, the museum was left to more or less rot, but it’s in the midst of a dramatic transformation thanks to Christopher Woods, its first director of color. 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
American novelist James Michener gave away much of the money he earned during his lengthy career, including the funds used to establish this museum, which focuses on the art of our region. It just wrapped a retrospective of Reading native Keith Haring, but there’s still plenty to see, including furniture by renowned Bucks County woodworker George Nakashima (his tables can sell for more than $100,000) and the paintings of PAFA/UPenn grad Elizabeth Osborne. 138 South Pine Street, Doylestown, PA 18901
We locals spill much ink over summertime escapes down the A.C. Expressway. But take a straight shot up 95, and you’ll see a very different New Jersey — one full of art, history, shopping and natural thrills. Revel in Revolutionary history at Princeton Battlefield State Park, pick your own berries at Terhune Orchards, or take a kayak tour at Mercer County Park. You’ll find shopping and dining in Palmer Square, just outside the eponymous university’s gates — favorites include Princeton Record Exchange, Small World Coffee, toy store JaZams, and farm-to-table Agricola.