26 Free Things to Do in Philadelphia
Your guide to always free, always fun ways to explore the city.
Get our weekly picks of what to do this weekend and the latest on Philly's arts and entertainment scene.
Looking for things to do this weekend? Check our weekly list of events here.
Boating at Bartram’s Garden
Wanna float down the Schuylkill on a sunny summer day? Just head down to Bartram’s on Saturday afternoons during the warmer months. They provide the rowboats, kayaks, oars, paddles and insurance waivers. All you need is a sense of adventure and a general okay-ness for getting Schuylkill water on your skin and in your shoes. You’re even allowed to bring your dog on the boat, weirdo. (BTW: Bartram’s offers moonlight boating once a month, loaner fishing gear and other free stuff, too.)
Saturdays, late April to early October, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Bartram’s Garden, 5400 Lindbergh Blvd.
Shakespeare in Clark Park
For a few days every July, the famous Bowl in Clark Park becomes West Philly’s version of the Globe Theatre, hosting an ambitious staging of a favorite William Shakespeare play. Thanks to their Radical Community Engagement policy, Shakespeare in Clark Park likes to get the neighborhood involved in the productions, too. This year they’re doing King Lear (July 24-28, 7 p.m. every night). BYO blankets, beverages and dogs in bandannas.
July, Clark Park, 43rd Street and Chester Avenue.
If you’re a fan of big music played on enormous pipe organs, Philly has two absolute units, and you can hear them for free on the regular. Most days at Macy’s, you can still catch a live performance on the 100-plus-year-old, seven-stories-tall Wanamaker Grand Court Organ. It’s the largest fully functional pipe organ on the planet, boasting 28,750 pipes and a sound as thick and magnificent as a Porterhouse steak. Just down Broad at Verizon Hall inside the Kimmel Center, you’ll find the 32-ton, 6,938-pipe Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, a gorgeous instrument nestled into a stately, modern concert hall. You can hear the Fred on a monthly tour of the venue, or on Organ Day, the Kimmel’s annual six-hour recital; this year it’s Saturday, June 15th.
Wanamaker organ concerts: Monday-Saturday at noon; Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday at 5:30 p.m.; Wednesday & Friday at 7 p.m.; Macy’s, 1300 Market St. Organ Day at the Kimmel Center: Saturday, June 15, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad St.
Walking over the Ben Franklin Bridge
Guess what? If you’re not car, you can cross the Ben for free. The view from the south side (the north is closed) of the iconic 90-something-year-old steel suspension bridge is pretty sweet: massive ships on the Delaware River, Penn’s Landing, the skyline, planes taking off and landing at the airport in the distance, etc. Bikes, pets and cameras are allowed. Beer, drones and peeing off the side are big no-no’s. If you’re afraid of heights and America’s crumbling infrastructure, you might want to skip this one.
The walkway is open year round; October 1-April 30, 6 a.m-8 p.m.; May 1 – September 30, 6 a.m.-9 p.m.; Philadelphia entrance at Fifth & Race streets.; Camden entrance at Fourth and Pearl streets.
(Most) Free Library Events
With the exception of a few readings and signings with high-profile authors, most of what the Free Library does is free. And since most branches keep an active calendar, we’re talking about a lot of stuff: movies, craft demonstrations, playgroups and story times for kids, career help, finance workshops, ukulele lessons, ESL class, Minecraft Club, you name it.
Explore the Free Library events calendar.
Every summer, our fair city is aglow with outdoor screenings at sunset. From Clark Park to Schuylkill Banks to Penn’s Landing, free family-friendly flicks arealways being shown for BYO-blanket crowds when the weather is nice.
Here’s what’s playing where.
See Also: Philadelphia Psychotronic Film Society, second and last Monday of every month, PhilaMOCA, 531 N. 12th St.
Fishing and Birding at John Heinz Wildlife Refuge
If you’re a Philadelphian who’s never been to the Heinz Wildlife Refuge, well, we gotta correct that. Situated on the city’s southern frontier, the place is a highly photogenic and barely touched marshy oasis full of birds and fish and turtles, and turtles are the best. You know what’s bad? Snakehead fish. They’re invasive and dangerous, and the Refuge frequently hosts nights dedicated to killing them. There are lots of no-kill activities as well, like hiking, BYO canoeing and kayaking, and guided walk-and-talks dedicated to the spotting of birds, butterflies and other critters. Note: Stop trying to catch birds. That’s not what birding is.
Free to enter, open every day, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, 8601 Lindbergh Blvd.
Frisbee Golf at Sedgley Woods
Philadelphia is has a very active the Frisbee golf scene. The 27-hole course at Sedgley Woods in Fairmount Park is free and friendly to beginners. You can either BYO discs, rent some for cheap or scour the woods for ones left behind by previous players. Basically, it’s like golf, except you’re throwing Frisbees into big basket-ish things that remind me of the imperial probe droid from the Empire Strikes Back. It’s an easy game to figure out, especially if you bring along an experienced player. On the condition that I not call it “frolf,” a friend agreed to give me the lowdown on a few area courses.
- Sedgley Woods: “short and great for beginners”
- Tyler State Park In Newtown, PA: “world class and challenging”
- Stafford Woods, NJ: “wooded and difficult”
- French Creek State Park, PA: “Like flying a speeder bike on Endor” (It’s a tough course, is his point.)
Sure you could just move the coffee table and strike some poses in your living room, but I heard yoga only works if somebody sees you do it. Luckily, when it comes to free (and cheap) outdoor yoga options, our cups runneth over. Classes at Race Street Pier, the Art Museum, the Navy Yard are listed as free with “donations accepted.” If you’re brave enough to wear superhero pants in public, maybe you’re brave enough to walk away whistling while your instructor’s collecting fivers from the rest of the class? Or maybe bring some $$ and make a game time decision. Be flexible.
Here’s a rundown of free and cheap places to go on a healthy bender.
And now: Here’s a list of museums and other orgs that never charge admission. You may feel inclined to make a donation or buy some coffee. That’s on you.
- Institute of Contemporary Art, 118 S. 36th St.
- The Print Center, 1614 Latimer St.
- Readings at Kelly Writers House, Kelly Writers House, 3805 Locust Walk
- Events at Uncle Bobbies, 5445 Germantown Ave.
- Wagner Free Institute of Science, 1700 W. Montgomery Ave.
- United States Mint, 151 N. Independence Mall E.
Summerfest, Winterfest, the Piers, etc.
Race Street Pier, Cherry Street Pier, Spruce Street Harbor Park — all along the Delaware, piers are turning into parks and/or beer gardens, full of hammocks and happy people, and all of them are free to enter. Now, it won’t be easy to just hang out there while your friends are eating and drinking and skating and riding the Ferris wheel, but it can be done. Broke cheapskates like us, we can wander through the crowd like ghosts, touching nothing, buying nothing, throwing nothing away. A stolen French fry and a sip from the water fountain will sustain us.
Spruce Street Harbor Park, 301 S. Christopher Columbus Blvd.; Riverrink at Summerfest/Winterfest, 101 S. Christopher Columbus Blvd. Info on all of it here.
This city is a festival of annual festivals, especially in the summer. Here’s a short list of some of the free ones.
- Odunde Festival, with Doug E. Fresh, Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble and more, 23rd and South streets.
- PECO Multicultural Series (Concilio’s Hispanic Fiesta on July 6 & 7, Islamic Heritage Festival on July 20th, ACANA African Festival on August 4, etc.), Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing, 101 S. Christopher Columbus Blvd.
- Welcome America, July 4th, with Jennifer Hudson and Meghan Trainor, on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
- Molestice Block Party & Music Festival, June 22th, featuring &More, Ali Awan Bronze Radio Return and more, 100 N. Mole St.
- Clark Park Music and Art Festival, June 29th, featuring Instant Bingo, Revolution I Love You, Northern Liberties, Levee Drivers and more, 43rd Street and Chester Avenue.
- Second Street Festival, August 4th, with Black Landlord, West Philly Orchestra and lots more, multiple stages on Second Street in Northern Liberties.
- 9th Street Italian Market Festival, every May, Ninth Street in the Italian Market.
Student Recitals at Curtis
Free concerts are a regular thing at the world-famous Curtis Institute of Music, training groups for top-notch classical music performers since 1924. Rising-star students usually perform solo and/or chamber works on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m., and Fridays at 8 p.m.
Curtis Institute of Music, 1726 Locust St.
See Also: The Young People’s Concert Series at the Mann Center, 5201 Parkside Ave.