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Sep 28 2015

T.G.I.O. (Thank Goodness It's October) In Philadelphia

20+ Big Festivals, Exhibit Openings And Frightful Celebrations Make For Five Awesome Weekends

October in Philadelphia delivers a feast of festivals that focus on art, design, autumn and family fun.

The aesthetically inclined can indulge in The Philadelphia Collection, DesignPhiladelphia and two weekends of Philadelphia Open Studio Tours. Wizards and muggles will rub elbows at the magical Harry Potter Festival, while scream queens and kings can get their scare on at Eastern State Penitentiary’s lauded Terror Behind the Walls and Laurel Hill Cemetery’s True Tales from the Tomb. Even the city’s beloved culinary invention gets its very own salute in the first-ever Philadelphia Cheesesteak Festival.

Here are the highlights of five October weekends in Philadelphia:

October 2-4:

  • The Midtown Village Fall Festival neighborhood block party spills out from the local shops and restaurants into the streets for an ultra-fun day of music, food, sidewalk sales and other festivities. October 3. (215) 670-4323,
  • One of the Schuylkill River’s most colorful races, the Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival delivers excitement and visual spectacle as 140 teams paddle elaborately adorned dragon boats to the finish line. The festive atmosphere draws thousands of participants and spectators to the 500-meter race. October 3. (610) 642-2333,
  • Weekend one of the 16th annual Philadelphia Open Studio Tours leads art lovers on an exploration of studios located east of Broad Street. (See October 16-18 weekend for west of Broad Street.) People can venture on their own or hop aboard a trolley for guided tours of galleries, artist workspaces and demonstrations. October 3-4. (215) 546-7775,
  • That nip in the air means it’s time for Chestnut Hill’s Fall for the Arts Festival. Up and down the neighborhood’s cobblestone streets, artists, musicians, food vendors, crafters and revelers celebrate autumn’s arrival. October 4. Germantown Avenue between Willow Grove & Rex Avenues, (215) 247-6696,

October 9-11:

  • A week of head-to-toe style events make up The Philadelphia Collection. A flurry of trunk shows, pop-up boutiques, style consultations, panel discussions, in-store fashion shows, parties and workshops offer a preview of must-haves for the upcoming season. October 7-14. Various locations.
  • DesignPhiladelphia is the largest and oldest festival of its kind in the nation, with 130 events that highlight architecture, fashion, furniture, multimedia and urban-planning design. Over nine days, exhibits, lectures, workshops and demonstrations happen in venues throughout Philadelphia. Inspired by the incredible changes happening in Philadelphia architecture and public space, this year’s theme, “SHIFT,” focuses on the power of design to affect perception. October 8-16. (215) 569-3186,
  • Kids enjoy old-fashioned field games and activities while the over-21 crew can chill out in the beer garden during the 8th Annual RiverCity Festival, taking place at Fishtown’s Penn Treaty Park. More highlights: the Penn Treaty 5K, food trucks and music by some of the city’s best-known bands. October 10. Penn Treaty Park, 1341 N. Delaware Avenue, (610) 761-6896,
  • Thirstoberfest returns to Memphis Taproom for its fifth year with pours of more than 25 flagship and limited-release beers—including Ayinger Celebrator, Russian River Pliny the Elder and Yards Cape of Good Hope—and hot dogs from a food truck. The event marks the final day of Memphis Taproom’s beer garden season. October 10. 2331 E. Cumberland Street, (215) 425-4460,
  • East Passyunk Avenue’s first Music & Arts Festival features local artists at Mifflin Triangle. Vendors and live performances enliven the popular district, which also hosts Second Saturday, Antique & Vintage Flea Market and East Passyunk Avenue Sidewalk Sale on the same day. October 10. Mifflin Street & E. Passyunk Avenue,
  • Art and design, food and fashion, creativity and culture collide in a celebration of the imaginative spirit that defines Old City. The Old City Fest treats crowds to pop-up performances, kids’ activities, a design showcase, art and crafts from 100 vendors and food from neighborhood eateries. October 11. Between Market & Race Streets and 2nd to 4th Streets, (215) 592-7929,
  • Philadelphia’s Gayborhood buzzes with music, dance, awards ceremonies and other activities that make OutFest, part of the National Coming Out Day Festival, the largest event of its kind in the world. For Philadelphia’s 25th annual celebration, the daylong, 10-block extravaganza promises to be the biggest and most elaborate to date. October 11. (215) 875-9288,

October 16-18:

  • It’s the opening weekend of Down the Rabbit Hole: Celebrating 150 Years of Alice in Wonderland. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia celebrates the sesquicentennial of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with a host of exhibitions and programs that explore the literary classic. October 14-May 15. 2008 Delancey Place, (215) 732-1600,
  • Opera Philadelphia hits a high note with La traviata, this year’s edition of Opera on the Mall. The big-screen presentation of Verdi’s classic romance casts a musical spell on those who gather in the shadows of Independence Hall with picnic baskets, blankets and lawn chairs for the free outdoor screening of the iconic opera. October 16. Independence Mall, 5th & Market Streets, (215) 893-3600,
  • The Chestnut Hill neighborhood falls under a spell and transforms into a mini-Hogsmeade for the annual Harry Potter Festival. Costumed wizard wannabes and Muggles converge for a magical weekend with dozens of Potter-themed activities, including a costume parade, Horcrux scavenger hunt, Dumbledore’s Powers Maze, Potter Pub Crawl, Sorting Hat demos and a Quidditch tournament. October 16-17.
  • Part deux of Philadelphia Open Studio Tours features behind-the-scenes experiences in studios and galleries in neighborhoods west of Broad Street. Guided and self-guided tours give art connoisseurs and novices the opportunity to meet and chat with artists and learn about their creative process. October 17-18. (215) 546-7775,

October 23-25:

  • The 24th annual Philadelphia Film Festival showcases the best in independent and foreign cinema in theaters and venues throughout Philadelphia. The 11 days span two fall weekends. October 22-November 1. (267) 239-2941,
  • Those with a hunger for horror can satisfy both cravings with the Haunted Food Tours, taking place over two October weekends. Guides lead adventurous noshers on a tasting tour of Philadelphia’s Manayunk neighborhood while regaling them with 300 years of spooky history. October 23-25. (800) 656-0713,
  • All hail the cheesesteak. Philadelphia’s iconic sandwich finally gets its due in the first-ever Philadelphia Cheesesteak Festival, a daylong celebration honoring the hometown delicacy. Festivities include live entertainment, family games and rides, the world’s largest cheesesteak and, of course, samples from dozens of cheesesteak purveyors. October 24. Lincoln Financial Field parking lot, 1 Lincoln Financial Field Way,
  • Franklin Square isn’t just for kids, especially during fall’s OktoberFestivus. Spooky Mini Golf, family activities, food trucks and a Frankford Hall Beer Garden delight visitors of all ages during the evening celebration. Earlier in the day, kids can take their pick from the Pumpkin Patch and decorate it to take home. October 24. 6th & Race Streets, (215) 629-4026,
  • The Franklin Institute’s longstanding Sports Challenge is undergoing a $3.1 million redesign to emerge as SportsZone. The 3,600-square-foot permanent exhibition delves into the science of sports while celebrating Philadelphia’s love of sports and its teams. Twenty-one new interactive experiences—running tests, basketball jumps, races with virtual athletes—spotlight the correlation between the science of the human body, laws of motion and sports. Opens October 24. 222 N. 20th Street, (215) 448-1200,
  • Rowers as well as landlubbers look forward to one of the nation’s largest and most festive rowing events. The Head of the Schuylkill Regatta features athletes of all ages and skill levels, from beginners to Olympic-level racers. October 24-25. (215) 280-0483,

October 30-November 1:

  • October’s final weekend is the first for Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Masterpieces on display include oil paintings and watercolors from the late 18th to the mid-20th centuries. October 27-January 10. (215) 763-8100,
  • People still hungry for more food and more fright can join the second helping of Haunted Food Tours. Guides take participants on a tasting tour through Manayunk neighborhood, which boasts a spooky history. October 29-31. (800) 656-0713,
  • Otherworldly spirits seem to spring to life as The Not Ready for After-Life Players taunt visitors with True Tales from the Tomb: Mischief Night by Firelight at Laurel Hill Cemetery. Following the BYOF (Bring Your Own Flashlight) stroll past gravestones and mausoleums, guests recover with snacks and cider. October 30. (215) 228-8200,
  • Bands amp up runners along the flat and fast course of the Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon, and the post-race Gin Blossoms concert is open to both runners and non-runners. The Halloween date means runners and spectators will don fun and fanciful costumes. Proceeds benefit the American Association for Cancer Research. October 31. Eakins Oval, Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 24th Street,
  • South Street gets in the spirit of the season all weekend. Everything comes up orange at South Street Headhouse District’s Pumpkin Fall Festival on Saturday. After exercising their creative pumpkin-decorating skills, attendees are dazzled by circus performers, magicians and jugglers. Hayrides, face painting, music and trick-or-treating add to the pumpkin pomp. October 31. On Sunday, the Day of the Dead Festival includes a six-block parade from Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens to the festival site. Music, traditional dancing, colorful costumes, food and craft vendors celebrate the day that honors the deceased. November 1. Pumpkin Fall Festival, 2nd Street between Pine & South Streets, (215) 413-3713; Day of the Dead parade start, 1020 South Street; Day of the Dead festival, South Street between 4th & 5th Streets, (215) 413-3716,

All Month:

  • Spine-tingling thrills and chills lurk behind every corner as the undead roam the halls and pop out of the cellblocks at Eastern State Penitentiary during Terror Behind the Walls. Eerie lighting, Hollywood-style special effects and make-up and professional actors have earned the historic prison kudos as one of the nation’s best haunted houses by Forbes and The New York Times. Through November 7. (215) 236-3300,
  • Fourteen artists and more than 40 events and tours make up the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program’s Open Source: Engaging Audience in Public Space. Curated by internationally renowned artist Pedro Alonzo, this open-air exhibition features site-specific installations by local and international artists. For example, Berlin-based minimalist Jonathan Monk crafted a skateable sculpture at Paine’s Park, while JR’s work adorning 25 stories of the Graham Building depicts a real Philadelphia resident who emigrated from Pakistan. The month includes an opening party at Bok, a former South Philly vocational high school that is transforming into a maker space; art-making workshops; and trolley and walking tours, some of which are led by the passionate leader of Mural Arts, Jane Golden. October.

VISIT PHILADELPHIA® makes Philadelphia and The Countryside® a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases the number of visitors, the number of nights they stay and the number of things they do in the five-county area.

On Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, and, visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.

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