Let’s not mince words: Summer in Philadelphia is hot and humid. While many Philadelphians will spend the hot summer months going “down the shore,” the city still has a lot going on. There are countless activities, events, and festivals you can enjoy outside in the City of Brotherly Love while temperatures slowly cool off and the sunset takes a leisurely pace. You can certainly expect the historic sites and museums to be full of tourists, but don’t let it put you off. Summer in Philly can be so rewarding!
Philadelphia Weather in Summer
Philly summers can be dramatic when it comes to the weather. On average, July is the hottest and the wettest month of the year. And June, August, and September aren’t too far behind. The average high temperatures are 80.6 degrees Fahrenheit for June, 85.5 for July, 84 for August, and 76.7 for September.
But that can be a bit misleading as heat waves (three or more consecutive days of temperature above 90 degrees) are not uncommon.
Then there’s the humidity that peaks in late July. By then you can expect oppressive humidity at least a quarter of the time and muggy conditions more than half the time. By late September the humidity has slowly returned to more comfortable levels.
Fun Things to Do in Summer in Philadelphia
The outdoor season of festivals and events really kicks off during the spring in Philadelphia. But it doesn’t get into full gear until the summer months when daylight hours are long and temperatures are warm. In Philly, you are spoilt for choice throughout the long days of summer. Whether you want to do something active or simply relax, you can do it all during the summer in Philadelphia.
Enjoy Parks & Outdoor Spaces
In recent years, the Delaware River waterfront has been reborn. And that’s on both sides of the river. The Cherry Street and Race Street Piers offer multi-use spaces that blend the arts with park space right on the water. These areas really come alive during summer in Philadelphia.
You could also visit the Rail Park, Philly’s answer to NYC’s High Line. The elevated park offers stunning views and will eventually measure three miles in length. And there are cozy spots to enjoy like swings. One thing that I love about Rail Park is that it’s pet friendly! The High Line can’t say that!
If visiting a garden for quiet reflection appeals to you, I highly recommend Shofuso. The Japanese house and garden in Fairmount Park are one of the city’s best-kept secrets. During spring in Philadelphia, cherry blossoms of white and pink create a heavenly atmosphere in the area. But the craftsmanship of the house and the calm of the surrounding gardens are an oasis in a busy major city.
Fountains & Fireworks at Longwood Gardens
During the holiday season at the end of the year, Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square is a tradition for many. And throughout the year, they offer acres of beautiful plants across acres of fields and meadows as well as inside of a spectacular conservatory. But during the summer, Longwood Garden delights with more than 1700 jets of water dancing careful choreography to music.
You can also find fountains as LOVE Park and atop of the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
As if that’s wasn’t enough, there’s more. Throughout the summer months, Longwood lights up the sky with fireworks and fountain shows that last an astounding 40 minutes. Keep an eye on their schedule as the music changes with each show, ranging from classical to classic rock.
Enjoy Al Fresco Dining in Summer in Philadelphia
Restaurants all across the city will open windows and set up tables outdoors if possible once the weather warms up. The Dinner en Blanc, while not a Philadelphia invention, is the perfect example of enjoying the summer weather with al fresco dining.
There are some popular restaurants spots, like the French bistro Parc on Rittenhouse Square, that have heaters that allow al fresco street dining even when it’s a little chilly. Others, like Brauhaus Schmitz on South Street, will open a wall of doors, allowing the restaurant to open right onto the street. And still others will specially set up tables on the sidewalk or in a garden area for diners.
Experience Colonial Philadelphia
The heart of the American Revolution and the one-time capital of the country, Philadelphia is rich in history. It is a history that runs deep. For better or for worse. The Old City neighborhood is the central focal point of many of these historic attractions. You can see the Liberty Bell and walk the cobblestone streets where Benjamin Franklin once tread. An outdoor exhibit at President’s House explores the history of the slaves who lived and worked there. You can take a tour of Independence Hall to see where the Declaration of Independence was debated and finally adopted. And that’s just a taste of what’s available as part of the Independence National Historic Park.
Nearby, you can quickly take a stroll down Elfreth’s Alley, the nation’s oldest residential street.
With warm summer weather, it’s easy to explore Philly on foot and soak in the history.
Cool Down with Public Fountains
Anyone who has walked past a fountain on a windy day knows just how far the spray of the water can travel. And while bathing in a fountain is generally frowned upon, sitting beside one on a hot day can offer immense relief.
The Swann Memorial Fountain by Alexander Stirling Calder dominates Logan Square along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway between 20th and 18th Streets. The center of the massive fountain features three personifications of the local rivers embracing swans, a playful nod to the fountain’s namesake — Dr. Wilson Cary Swann.
The one place you can get wet is in the dozens of water jets embedded in the sidewalk of Dilworth Park out front of City Hall. The fountains are extremely popular with children who chase after the jets of water that can reach three feet in the air. The fountain adds a fantastic sense of whimsy and fun to the heart of the city.
Street Festivals, Events & Summer Concerts in Philadelphia
Who doesn’t love a party? Well, let me tell you, Philly knows how to party. Throughout the summer, the city takes to the streets and parks to celebrate with a wide variety of events. There are music and arts festivals, street fairs, and festivals recognizing and celebrating the diversity of those who call Philadelphia home.
Philadelphia’s Independence Day Celebrations
In case you haven’t heard, the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were created and signed in Philadelphia. So, naturally, Independence Day is extra special in Philly with a number of events to celebrate the day and its meaning.
The Wawa Welcome America celebration takes place during the week leading up to the 4th of July. There are a variety of events that vary from year to year but generally include open-air movie viewings, concerts, and fireworks. Everything concludes in a big way on July 4th in Philly. First, the Celebration of Freedom Ceremony kicks things off where it all began at Independence Hall. A festive parade follows. Then the Party on the Parkway takes over with a massive day-long concert (with big names!) at the foot of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s the ultimate summer concert in Philadelphia!
Summer Concerts in Philadelphia
Music dominates the city. Summer concerts in Philadelphia are frequently open-air events right in the heart of the city or along the riverfront. One such popular venue that hosts many concerts is the Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing.
And there are more concerts to fill the air with sweet sounds. For more than a decade, The Roots come home to Philly to host the Roots Picnic festival. Musicians from a range of styles and genres come together to play on several stages at the open-air Mann Center in Fairmount Park.
For over 25 years, popular public college radio station WXPN has brought folk, indie, and alternative music fans together for a weekend-long festival along the Camden waterfront. Dozens of musicians perform at the XPoNential Music Festival in what is a truly family-friendly atmosphere that you don’t always see at music festivals.
Labor Day weekend has forever been changed in Philly by Jay-Z’s Made in America Festival. The two-day festival brings some of the biggest names in music to shutdown the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for an open-air concert. The festival effectively brings an end to summer in Philadelphia, at least in spirit.
Street Festivals & More
There are some great festivals across Philadelphia in summer. Take the RiverRink, for example. During the winter, the BlueCross RiverRink is a winter fantasy land. But during the summer it switches gear for SummerFest!
Likewise, Eakins Oval before the Philadelphia Museum of Art transforms into The Oval+. The area becomes a street fest full of free activities that kids of all ages will enjoy like basketball, badminton, ping ping, and tetherball. There are also bleachers where you can watch the sporting or just relax under a tree. The Oval+ also has additional activities throughout the summer.
A newer initiative in the city is Philly Free Streets. The one-day event closes four miles of roads to car traffic and opens it up to pedestrians, cyclists, and families. Because of the extra space, there are additional activities along the route like picnics. The Free Streets event really sets the tone for all of the street festivals and events that occur across Philadelphia in summer.
The Franklin Square Chinese Lantern Festival transforms the park with large, bright Chinese lanterns that with a ticket, you can admire up close. Meanwhile, the arts aren’t forgotten with events like the Rittenhouse Square Fine Arts Show and the Manayunk Arts Festival.
Philly celebrates its diversity year-round but during the summer, we can really have a party. There are countless festivals that everyone can enjoy, including (but definitely not limited to) the Irish Festival, Pride, Hispanic Fiesta, Islamic Heritage Festival, and the African Festival. And most of these festivals you can hear music, dance, and enjoy delicious dishes.
Perhaps the most unique festival on offer is the Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square. Fans of the fungus can celebrate with a mushroom eating contest, run/walk, classic car show, and a “Cute as a Button (Mushroom) Baby Photo Contest.”
What to Eat in Summer
Philly loves to eat so you can count on some special food events in the summer. Black Restaurant Week and Old City Eats both typically take place in the summer. Elsewhere summer in Philadelphia means suds. Parks on Tap, Center City Sips, and Beer Week all celebrate with some adult beverages.
And if that’s not enough, you can always enjoy a summer night with some water ice. The Philly twist on Italian ice is deeply rooted in the city and much beloved.
Personally, I recommend a soft pretzel, too. Just for good measure!
Tips for Philly in the Summer
One of the great parts of summer in Philadelphia is the proximity to other great spots. Whether you want to enjoy the mountains, lay on a beach, or just get out of the city for a while, there are so many great day trips from Philadelphia. You can get in your car and be somewhere different within only a couple of hours. And the best part? You can return on the same day!
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All photos, as well as all opinions, are my own. This post contains affiliate links.