Philadelphia

16 Completely Free Things to Do in Philadelphia

Museum visits, wine tastings, and other fun freebies.

World Cafe Live
World Cafe Live
World Cafe Live

By now we’ve probably all noticed that things are more expensive lately, even in a city long considered one the East Coast’s more affordable options. From large expenses like rent to daily costs like cheesesteaks and cocktails, dollars aren’t quite stretching like they once did.

Thankfully, there are still many ways to explore the best of Philadelphia without taking out your wallet, from the city’s finest museums and historic landmarks to local art and public programming. Here are our picks for the best free things to do in Philadelphia.

Sunset Social
Sunset Social
Sunset Social

Soak in some rays at Sunset Social

Head to the 12th floor of Cira Centre South to hang at a rooftop park that is free and open to the public. While food and beverage is available for purchase, you’re also welcome to just bring a blanket and have your own chill picnic. Stop by when things are quiet or check out the event calendar for ongoing outdoor movie screenings and broadcasts of the latest big game.

 

Independence NHP, Edgar Allan Poe NHS & Thaddeus Kosciuszko NM
Independence NHP, Edgar Allan Poe NHS & Thaddeus Kosciuszko NM
Independence NHP, Edgar Allan Poe NHS & Thaddeus Kosciuszko NM

Soak up all the history of Independence Hall

Go ahead, see the Liberty Bell. While you might have to wait in some lines, taking a look at this historic item is completely free-as are a lot of other mainstays in one of Philly’s most historic neighborhoods. Take yourself on a tour with stops at the Independence Visitor Center, President’s House Site, Merchants’ Exchange Building, 18th and 19th Century gardens, and many other standing artifacts to discover. Top it all off with a stroll to the ever-charming Elfreth’s Alley in Old City, a landmark street with buildings dating back to 1703.

Schuylkill River Greenways NHA
Schuylkill River Greenways NHA
Schuylkill River Greenways NHA

Get your steps in on the Schuylkill River Trail

This biking- and running-friendly trail is an ever-growing marvel that stretches from the center of the city to far into the suburbs. From Center City, you can jump around the busier Schuylkill Banks area, but trailheads reach all the way to Valley Forge and Pottsville. The trail’s grand plan is to stretch a total of 140 miles, but for now you can still treat yourself to waterfront views and urban architecture while exploring the route.

Catch a free show at World Cafe Live

Trade your Friday lunch break for a live music performance at World Cafe Live, home of Philly’s WXPN radio station and two performance stages. Every week you can score tickets online to a completely free concert for Friday at noon. Usually it’s an artist on tour who is planning to perform for a pricier audience later over the weekend, so RSVP online to secure your spot and check back weekly for the latest artist.

Association for Public Art
Association for Public Art
Association for Public Art

See some iconic sculptures

It’s no secret that Philly is a public art playground, and there are a couple sculptures that are just as free to see as they are iconic. First pay a visit to LOVE Park, where you can find the iconic red statue front and center. Then walk over to the Museum of Art and peer at the Rocky statue (and those iconic steps). For even more sculptures, go down the Schuylkill to the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial, home to 17 different sculptures across three waterfront terraces.

Meet and mingle during First Friday

Every first Friday of the month, galleries in Old City, Fishtown, and elsewhere stay open late to welcome art lovers to explore new exhibits and artworks. For most of these after-hour galleries, that means free admission too. First Friday has been fostering a casual, lively atmosphere of discussion and discovery for more than 30 years in Philly, making the tradition something of a rite of passage.

Friends of the Wissahickon
Friends of the Wissahickon
Friends of the Wissahickon

Find your hike on the Wissahickon Trail

Step onto the lush oasis of the Wissahickon and you’ll quickly forget you’re still in Philadelphia. This gorge stretches for 1,800 acres and features dozens of trails, whether you’re looking for an easy stroll, a full hike, a bike ride, or a swim-there are even a few trails where horseback riding is on the menu. Forbidden Drive, situated by the historic Valley Green Inn, is the perfect starting point for adventure.

Delaware River Waterfront
Delaware River Waterfront
Delaware River Waterfront

Visit the parks and sights of Penn’s Landing

The Delaware River Waterfront is rich with free public amenities. Explore the 3.3-mile stretch that starts in South Philly’s Pier 70 and goes north toward Fishtown’s Penn Treaty to see it all, including the hammocks and spectacle at Spruce Street Harbor Park, the family-friendly programming at BlueCross RiverRink and Festival Pier, the mixed-use Cherry Street Pier space, and much more. Check the calendar regularly for ongoing free performances, weekday events, and seasonal programming.

Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Visit a trifecta of museum heavyweights

If you know just when to go, you can visit some of Philadelphia’s most famous museums for free. At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, admission is pay-what-you-wish on the first Sunday of every month, as well as on Friday nights from 5 to 8:45 pm. Not far from there, the Barnes Foundation offers free family-friendly programming on first Sundays, and admission to the Rodin Museum is pay-what-you-wish every single day-and access to the garden is always free.

The Kimmel Cultural Campus
The Kimmel Cultural Campus
The Kimmel Cultural Campus

Catch a free performance at the Kimmel Cultural Campus

The airy 150-foot plaza at the Kimmel Cultural Campus plays host to many local artists and performers, putting a spotlight on Philadelphia’s musicians-and giving everyone else a chance to enjoy them for free. There are a few different shows offered regularly, including Family Fundays in the morning, Lunchtime Unplugged (where you’re encouraged to bring your own lunch), Happy Hour Sessions with DJs and artists from 4 to 7 pm, and an eclectic evening lineup during Nightlife at the Kimmel, which starts at 8 pm. Each event typically occurs once or twice a month, so check out the full calendar and roster of artists.

Black Girls With Green Thumbs
Black Girls With Green Thumbs
Black Girls With Green Thumbs

Cultivate your city garden with Black Girls with Green Thumbs

Start learning the tricks and tips to cultivating your own urban garden, from composting and creating raised beds to making DIY hot sauce with your bounty of produce. The community-driven organization often hosts free workshops at the Navy Yard, as well as other events and retreats throughout the city. All levels are welcome, even if you’re still struggling to keep that mini succulent alive.

Try a free outdoor fitness class

With so many urban trails at our disposal, there are plenty of places for a picture-perfect (and free) fitness backdrop. Programs like the November Project can get you running and seeing the city with others for free, while options like Wellness on the Waterfront offers free yoga sessions on Race Street Pier in the warmer months. For a donation-based option, try Yoga on the Banks, held four times a week for all yogi levels.

Meet local authors at free events around the city

The Free Library of Philadelphia has a full calendar of author events, discussions, and workshops, many of which are completely free to the public. For more free author events, check other local booksellers like Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books and literary organization Blue Stoop.

Check out the best local filmmakers at the Philly Film Showcase

Every month, the Philadelphia Film Society turns the spotlight to local filmmakers during the Philly Film Showcase. Each showcase is free to attend, as is submitting to the program, and features filmmakers of all ages and levels. Each monthly exhibition is followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers in the Philadelphia Film Greenfield Screening Room in Center City.

The Woodlands
The Woodlands
The Woodlands

Picnic in an iconic 19th-century graveyard

For a more unexpected historic destination, look no further than The Woodlands, a 54-acre landscape fixed between University City and West Philly that plays host to an expansive English-style garden-and an extra green canopy to an expansive graveyard. The campus, which features a historic mansion, has a full calendar of public events, but is also a nice spot to wander around at any time.

Expand your palate with free wine tastings

Sip your way to being a wine connoisseur (or just pretend) at some of Philly’s best wine shops. The Tiny Bottle Shop (behind the Lunar Cafe) offers free tastings every Tuesday, each with a lovingly curated collection. For more vino goodness, visit Bloomsday in Headhouse Square for various winemaker events and the occasional free sampling.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Marielle Mondon is a writer from Philadelphia. Follow her @MarielleMondon onTwitter and Instagram.

Philadelphia

Museum Exhibits in Philly to Check Out Before They Disappear

Get in some culture (and selfies) at the best art exhibits in Philadelphia.

Photo courtesy of Disney
Photo courtesy of Disney
Photo courtesy of Disney

From the historical to the artistic, Philadelphia is jam packed with museums. Art aficionados of all ages can get lost inside the likes of tourist-friendly museums like the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museum of the American Revolution or feast their eyes on unique exhibitions at institutions like the Fabric Workshop and Museum and the Museum for Art In Wood.

Between big-ticket exhibitions honouring the House of Mouse to collections showcasing the legacy of a prominent Black family in early America, there’s plenty of material to dig into. After you’ve planned a date night and rounded up friends to explore the city, here are the most exciting museum exhibits in Philly right now-before they’re gone for good.

Photo courtesy of Disney
Photo courtesy of Disney
Photo courtesy of Disney

The Franklin Institute

Exhibition: Disney 100: The Exhibition
Mickey Mouse, you look good for your age. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of Disney is a retrospective exhibition, which got its world premiere right here in Philly. Between rarely-seen artworks and artifacts, costumes and props, and interactive installations where you can listen to hit Disney songs, the exhibit is a Disney lover’s wish-upon-a-star-come-true.
Dates: Until August 27, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Monday through Sunday. Tickets are available online and at the door.

Photo by Ramon Torres, courtesy of ANS
Photo by Ramon Torres, courtesy of ANS
Photo by Ramon Torres, courtesy of ANS

Academy of Natural Sciences

Exhibition: Conversations With Birds
No, not an allusion to the Eagles, this exhibition is dedicated to actual birds, their migration patterns, and humans’ relationship with avian creatures. Expect avian photography and video by local birders and wildlife photographers along with an interactive exhibit showing five migratory birds that pass through the Philadelphia region on their seasonal passage between North and South America.
Dates: Until May 21, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Tickets are available online or at the door.

The Barnes Foundation

Exhibition: Sue Williamson & Lebohang Kganye: Tell Me What You Remember
The work of two contemporary South African artists-Sue Williamson and Lebohang Kganye-are shown side by side, offering a cross-generational dialogue. Both artists utilize video installations, photographs, sculptural installations, and textiles “to consider how the stories our elders tell us shape family narratives and personal identities.”
Dates: Until May 21, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Thursday through Monday. Advanced tickets are recommended.

Photo by Jonathan Horowitz
Photo by Jonathan Horowitz
Photo by Jonathan Horowitz

Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History

Exhibition: The Future Will Follow the Past: An Exhibition by Jonathan Horowitz
Exploring the rapid change of societal issues in America since 2020-antisemitism, racial violence, immigration, women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ rights-Jonathan Horowitz designed installations inspired by recent occurrences. His works explore specific events like the infamous far-right rally from white supremacists in Charlottesville as well as recent themes in American history, like attacks on those within the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities.
Dates: Until July 4, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Friday through Sunday. Admission is available online and at the door.

Photo by Hoda Tawakol
Photo by Hoda Tawakol
Photo by Hoda Tawakol

The Museum for Art In Wood

Exhibition: The Mashrabiya Project
The newly renamed Museum for Art in Wood (formerly The Center for Art In Wood) celebrates the rebrand with a brand new project. Focusing on mashrabiya, the traditional Islamic architectural design, The Mashrabiya Project is a first of its kind effort in the U.S. to examine this aesthetic. As a part of the larger mission, a new exhibition Seeing Through Space features newly-commissioned, never-before-seen works by six female-identifying artists.
Dates: Until July 23, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Tickets are not required.

Photo by Carlos Avenda├▒o
Photo by Carlos Avenda├▒o
Photo by Carlos Avenda├▒o

Fabric Workshop and Museum

Exhibition: Henry Taylor: Nothing Change, Nothing Strange
Combining painting and sculpture, Henry Taylor utilized recycled objects in this exhibition, the product of an 18-month residency. The entire second floor of the museum houses the large scale assemblages, tapestries, and textiles. Think: 30-foot billowing canvases and towering totems created from compressed blocks of paint buckets, vinyl home siding, and black plastic planters.
Dates: Until July 23, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Walk up admission is available but advanced registration is encouraged.

Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Exhibition: Judith Joy Ross
More than 200 photographs from renowned portrait photographer Judith Joy Ross will be on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, chronicling her career from the 1980s to today. Her black-and-white portraits are intimate reflections of everyday Americans, and this show features work from all her major projects, plus, never-before-seen images.
Dates: April 24 to August 6, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Thursday through Monday. Advanced tickets are recommended.

American Swedish Historical Museum

Exhibition: Radically Marimekko
Famous for their bright and bold fabrics, Finnish textiles, clothing, and home furnishings, the company Marimekko is showcased at this special exhibit. Drawing attention to Finnish design, the collection traces the brand’s path from industrial art house to fashion icon.
Dates: March 30 to September 24, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Walk up admission is available.

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and African American Museum in Philadelphia

Exhibition: Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America
A collaboration between the African American Museum in Philadelphia and PAFA, Rising Sun showcases new work from 20 artists examining the question of Is the sun rising or setting on the experiment of American democracy? With pieces shown in both museums, visitors can reflect on, challenge, and expand their view of democracy through art.
Dates: March 23 to October 8, 2023
How to visit: The African American Museum in Philadelphia is open Thursday through Sunday; admission is available online and at the door. PAFA is open Thursday through Sunday; admission can be purchased in advance or at the door.

Museum of the American Revolution
Museum of the American Revolution
Museum of the American Revolution

Museum of the American Revolution

Exhibition: Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia
James Forten may not be a familiar name within early American history, but this new exhibit at the Museum of the American Revolution is looking to change that. Telling the story of Forten and his family through 100 historical artifacts, Black Founders explores the Forten family’s roles in the Revolutionary War, business in Philadelphia, and the abolitionist movement.
Dates: Until November 26, 2023
How to visit: The museum is open daily. Admission is available online and at the door.

National Constitution Center
National Constitution Center
National Constitution Center

National Constitution Center

Exhibition: The 19th Amendment: How Women Won The Vote
That lofty document known as the Constitution and its values, interpretations, and amendments are explored in great detail at the National Constitution Center, naturally. This semi-permanent exhibit examines the 19th Amendment-the one which granted women the right to vote-and the road to its ratification. Out of the near 100 artifacts, expect to see a rare printing of the Declaration of Sentiments from the first women’s convention at Seneca Falls, a ballot box used to collect women’s votes in the late 1800s, Pennsylvania’s ratification copy of the 19th Amendment, and various “Votes for Women” ephemera.
Dates: Semi-permanent, no end date announced
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Advanced tickets are recommended.

M├╝tter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
M├╝tter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
M├╝tter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

M├╝tter Museum

Exhibition: Spit Spreads Death
Eerily topical, the M├╝tter’s latest special exhibit, Spit Spreads Death, an exhibit about the 1918 flu pandemic, opened in the fall of 2019, less than six months before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The exhibit traces the disease’s spread throughout Philadelphia neighbourhoods a century ago and how the pandemic impacted the city with artifacts like photos, newspaper clippings, and more.
Dates: Now through 2024
How to visit: The museum is open Wednesday through Monday. Advanced tickets are required.

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Allie Volpe┬áis a writer based in Philadelphia. She hasn’t slept in days. Follow her on Twitter:┬á@allieevolpe.

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