This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Finding fun and inexpensive ways to spend the summer doesn’t have to be a hassle. Family-friendly events and activities that can keep kids active and mentally stimulated are happening all around Philadelphia.
The Bug Lady will be visiting the Buerger Early Learning Center at 3 p.m. July 13 to show her bug collection and teach families about insects. A puppet show, followed by an educational program will then lead to the museum, where visitors can learn about and touch the bugs. Toddlers, preschoolers and parents are welcome at this free event.
Learn to debate
The After School Activities Partnership has a two-week Summer Debate Academy July 13-24, which culminates in a tournament. The topic: How income disparity threatens democratic ideals. The academy will aim to teach students in grades 7-12 “how to build a solid case, present compelling arguments, and leave opponents speechless during grand crossfire.” Students need to register in advance.
Join State Rep. Leslie Acosta (D-Philadelphia) at noon Saturday, July 18 for a health fair, featuring vendors, games, activities and prizes. An Eagles football, signed by cornerback Byron Maxwell, will be raffled to a guest who visits the most vendors. For more information, check the event Facebook page.
The Oval returns to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway from July 15 to Aug. 23. The eight-acre public space is devoted to free, family-friendly activities, such as giant board games and local food trucks. A beer garden and art installation designed for adults are also open to the public. There are health-oriented events on Wednesdays, arts and cultural happenings on Thursdays, and free outdoor movies on Fridays. Every Saturday is game day, and Sundays are family fun days.
Park Before Dark is planning entertainment every Thursday at 6 p.m. through the summer. A fitness boot camp, food trucks, and movie screenings will be some of the activities held at the park. All events are free, but donations are encouraged. Registration for events is available on the website.
Art and music
Take a free art class at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts’ Family Arts Academy. The workshops are a time for families to come together to meet local artists, learn new skills, and make a project. From 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 19, will be Rock, Paper, Scissors … Draw!, a workshop that draws on the exhibition on view in the building.
Grow Up Great is free musical theater for kids at the Kimmel Center on July 25 and Aug. 15. The program introduces children to a world “where singing, acting, and dancing join forces to tell a story.” Guest artists perform songs from great American musicals. Kids and parents are encouraged to explore their creativity as “singing snowflakes, ducklings, shooting stars, and everything in between.”
The Fireman’s Hall Museum presents the “history and heroic moments of Philadelphia firefighting, both past and present." The museum has a collection of firefighting tools, apparatus, uniforms, photographs, prints, and fire marks, exhibited throughout the restored 1902 firehouse. Admission is free. The museum is open 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, with longer hours on First Fridays.
As a part of the Inside Out exhibition, Mount Airy residents can visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art for free between July 17 and July 19. A valid ID or driver’s license is required for free admission.
If you’re a Philadelphia resident between 14 and 19 years old, sign up for a STAMP Pass to get free access to 15 of Philadelphia’s museums. If you get an ArtReach pass, family members can join for $2. The pass will get you into Philly’s famous museums, along with quirkier spots: the Mutter Museum, for one, is a medical history museum that aims to “promote understanding of the mysteries and beauty of the human body while appreciating the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.”
Franklin Square is screening The Lego Movie at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 18, for free as a part of the Saturday Night at the Movies program. Bring your blankets and chairs and view this larger-than-life movie on the big outdoor screen.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Penn’s Landing on July 16 to watch the Wizard of Oz on the waterfront. Screenings Under the Stars begin at 8:30 p.m. Bring chairs or blankets to sit on to enjoy this free movie with family.
South Street Magic offers programs every week for children and families to experience magic. On Fridays, Strange with Dan Hauss is a show devoted to illusions made from everyday objects. Saturdays are different every week, with activities ranging from mind-reading to juggling. On Sundays at noon, the shop holds a family magic show hosted by Mr. Messado. Pricing for events ranges from $10 to $12.