Are your kids night owls? If you’re in Philadelphia, you should get out of your hotel room and explore the city by night. Some of the things to do in Philly at night are also dog friendly, so you can get that evening walk in and see more of the city.
Most family trips focus on what to do during the day. But there are some many things to do in Philly at night that you might want to plan a nocturnal tour.
Things to do in Philly at Night for All Ages
1. Chinese Lantern Festival
The annual Chinese Lantern Festival lights up Franklin Square for two months every year. This ticketed spectacular includes giant illuminations, some of which create movement. Since the park is open late for the Chinese Lantern Festival, you have more opportunity to ride the carousel or play mini golf. The Franklin Square miniature golf course features mini replicas of famous Philadelphia landmarks, from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the Ben Franklin Bridge. The carousel features unusual animals, including an American eagle and local race horse favorite Smarty Jones.
For adults, a beer garden has craft beer on tap. Kids can get milk shakes. The park borders Chinatown; during the festival, you can get Asian food for dinner, or the park’s signature square burger.
2. Philadelphia Zoo at Night
The Philadelphia Zoo holds a free FrogWatch on Fridays in April and May. Members of the public, from kids to adults, are invited to the zoo to listen for frog and toad calls and help collect data.
3. Liberty Bell at Night
You can wait on a long line to go inside the Liberty Bell’s enclosure during the day, but if you don’t mind seeing the bell at a slight remove, you can see it from the outside at night. Or during the day, for that matter.
4. Ice cream
Nothing says summer at night than a late night cone. The Franklin Fountain, in Old City, is a recreated old fashioned ice cream parlor. It is so old fashioned, it is cash only. (Note: Bassetts Ice Cream, the quintessential Philly ice cream, in Reading Terminal Market, is only open until 6 p.m.)
Walk down to the Delaware River from Old City. Penn’s Landing has an outdoor party every night. Free concerts and festivals are held throughout the summer. And hammocks and strings of lights in pop up parks make the waterfront feel more French Riviera than Pennsylvania. Dogs are welcome, though my Labrador wouldn’t be able to leap into the hammock. But she does enjoy the live music.
Things to do in Philly at Night with School Age kids
In warmer months, the zoo also has an overnight program where kids ages 6-13 spend the night at the zoo, along with a parent. You get to see animals at night, meet an animal keeper and take a late night hike.
5. Parks on Tap
Parks on Tap, a traveling beer garden, runs April through September in a different park each week. The family friendly event includes food (with a kids menu) and games, along with extra bathrooms and tables. And local craft beer on tap.
6. One Liberty Observation
Get a bird’s eye view of Center City, Old City and the waterfront from the 57th floor of this urban mall. One Liberty Observation stays open later in the summer, but year round you can get nighttime (or daytime views). Checkers and Connect Four games are set up if you aren’t interested in the view. But the 360 view is really highlight And the interactive touch screens let you zoom in on certain sites.
In a cute touch, when you enter One Liberty, you see a pair of giant feet. When you get to the Observation Dec, there’s a giant Ben Franklin bust.
I had a CityPASS, which you can now get as a download on your phone. CityPASS has a 3, 4, or 5 attraction option for Philly. You can see the Eastern State Penitentiary, National Constitution Center, the Barnes Foundation, or The Franklin Institute, among other Philadelphia attractions.
Things to do in Philly at Night with Tweens
7. Museum at Night: The Franklin Institute
The Franklin Institute (which I also explored using my CityPASS) has a monthly free Community Night. The museum is open to all from 5 – 8 p.m. You can see permanent exhibits and live science shows. The observatory also has a monthly Night Skies event. The Chief Astronomer hosts the night, and everyone has a chance to use the museum’s telescopes. You can find dates for upcoming Community Nights here.
8. First Fridays
Tweens and teens will best appreciate walking Old City on First Fridays. Art galleries and shops are open late on Friday nights and the neighborhood seems especially festive.
Things to do in Philly at Night with Teens
9. Ghost Tour
The Constitutional Walking Tour of Philadelphia has a nighttime Spirits of ’76 Ghost Tour of Philadelphia. You spend a little over an hour walking around Old City. You hear about Edgar Allen Poe, who lived in Philadelphia, and a never apprehended prisoner who escaped from Eastern State Penitentiary.
10. Dell Music Center in Fairmount Park
The Dell Music Center, an amphitheater in Fairmount Park, has concerts, dance and movies under the stars all summer long. Past performers include Erykah Badu, Ne-Yo and Philadanco.
11. Dining Under the Stars
A short drive (or train ride) from Philly, Media, PA has a weekly Dining Under the Stars. On Wednesday evenings, May through September, streets close and restaurants set up tables and chairs outside.
Where to Stay
If you are exploring Philadelphia by night, then you need a place to stay. I recently spent a night at the Aloft Hotels in Center City. The hotel, in a former bank, is across the street from City Hall and the new Dilworth Park. It is right on Broad Street, and I was there just before the Broad Street Run, another reason for a trip to Philly.
Getting to Philly
We drove a zero emissions Chevy Bolt EV from Brooklyn. The car has a range of 238 miles, which means I could have technically gone round trip without charging. But the Aloft Hotel’s garage had a charger for electric vehicles, so it was easy to plug in and make sure the car was fully charged for the trip home.
The car had heated front AND rear seats, leather steering wheel and WiFi. When we drove upstate to hike with friends, they were comfortable in the back seat with our dog. I also put the rear seats down and fit my bicycle in the car.
I think the Bolt EV would be a great car for commuting and making short trips. It was ideal for trips of up to 200 miles. And we are planning our next nighttime, adults only Philadelphia trip, with pub crawls and roofttop bars.
Note: Visit Philly arranged a complimentary stay at the Aloft Hotel and Chevrolet loaned me the Bolt EV. Opinions are my own.