Spooky cellblocks, new exhibits, fall fests, in-person performances, pop-up markets and more fill Philadelphia’s autumn calendar. For more fall inspiration, be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and Facebook.
Explore the spooky cellblocks of Eastern State Penitentiary during an all-new Halloween event
In the fall of 2021, Eastern State Penitentiary – America’s most historic prison and the world’s first true penitentiary – will debut an all-new Halloween Nights experience from the creators of the famed Terror Behind the Walls haunted attraction. The new, festival-style event will feature 15 different attractions spread throughout the historic cellblocks, including two haunted houses, four themed bars and lounges, four immersive walk-through environments, two live performances, and a new audio tour narrated by actor Steve Buscemi and recorded just for Halloween Nights. The seasonal event runs on select evenings from September 24 through November 13. Click here to learn more and to purchase tickets.
Return to venues for in-person performances from Philadelphia’s performing arts companies
This fall, Philadelphia’s renowned performing arts companies will return to stages throughout the city, performing inside and in front of live audiences for the first time in over a year. Highlights include a fall season from The Philadelphia Orchestra, which will reflect on the pandemic, social justice in America and diversity, equity, and inclusion within the world of music, beginning with an Opening Night Celebration Concert on October 5 featuring Yo-Yo Ma. Not to be missed is the return of award-winning Broadway musical and pop culture sensation Hamilton, performed inside the historic Academy of Music from October 20 through November 28. America’s oldest theatre, Walnut Street Theatre, will open their 213th season of live entertainment on September 28 with BEEHIVE- The ’60s Musical, with more family-friendly productions scheduled throughout the fall. Penn Live Arts will return to in-person performances with productions hosted at various venues and attractions throughout Philadelphia, including a September 25 performance of John Luther Adams’ Ten Thousand Birds at Morris Arboretum. To learn more about Philadelphia’s performing arts community and for a list of upcoming shows and seasons, click here.
TIP: The ever-innovative Opera Philadelphia will continue to stream new performances through their Opera Philadelphia Channel throughout the fall and will return to Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in January.
Take a picturesque stroll through Philadelphia’s leafy neighborhoods
Philadelphia is consistently heralded as one of the nation’s most walkable cities and the fall season offers even more reasons to explore the city by foot. Embrace the cooler temperatures and walk through the city’s tree-filled neighborhoods, such as Rittenhouse Square, Washington Square West, and Old City, shopping from local boutiques or farmers markets and snapping plenty of fall photos along your journey.
TIP: Consult our Instagram guide for more of the city’s top photo ops.
Hit the trails of Fairmount Park
Covering over 2,000 acres to the east and west of the Schuylkill River, Fairmount Park is home to miles and miles of recreational trails perfect for hiking, running, or biking on autumn afternoons. Don’t miss the 18th and 19th century historic houses scattered throughout the park, three of which – Laurel Hill Mansion, Woodford Mansion, and Strawberry Mansion – are open to tour. Be sure to visit the historic Shofuso Japanese House and Garden and neighboring Horticulture Center in West Fairmount Park to admire the fall foliage surrounding these charming settings. For more things to see and explore throughout Fairmount Park, click here.
Savor the fall flavors of Philadelphia’s local restaurant scene
Philadelphia’s acclaimed culinary community, which includes many brand-new restaurants, is ready to serve you safely. Dozens of restaurants will participate in Center City’s Restaurant Week from September 18-30, presenting special prix fixe menus that can be enjoyed on-site or taken to-go. From October 11-15, participating Latinx-owned independent restaurants will be offering a free appetizer or dessert for every two dinner entrees purchased during Dine Latino Restaurant Week. The refreshing fall weather is also perfect for spending time at a pop-up park or beer garden, such as Parks on Tap (at Fairmount Water Works), Independence Beer Garden near Independence Hall, or at one of two PHS Pop-Up Gardens; one along South Street and another in Manayunk. For tips on dining in Philadelphia right now, click here.
TIP: One of Philadelphia’s largest culinary events, the Audi FEASTIVAL, returns on October 21 at The Budd in East Falls, featuring fare from over 40 area restaurants alongside one-of-a-kind performances presented by FringeArts.
Watch teams compete in a World Cup-style soccer tournament throughout Philadelphia
One of Philadelphia’s signature annual sporting events, the Philadelphia International Unity Cup is a World Cup-style tournament that unites and celebrates Philadelphia’s multicultural communities through the game of soccer. Beginning in late August, 52 teams representing different nations from around the globe compete in a months-long elimination tournament at playing fields throughout Philadelphia, culminating in a championship match on October 16 hosted at the home of the Philadelphia Union, Subaru Park. To learn more about the Unity Cup and to view the full schedule of matches, click here.
Cheer on your favorite team at stadiums or at sports bars throughout the city
Immerse yourself in Philadelphia’s renowned sports culture by attending a live sporting event this season. The Phillies will chase a pennant during their final few games this year at Citizens Bank Park, while the Philadelphia Eagles begin their quest for another Lombardi Trophy at Lincoln Financial Field, beginning with a home opener on September 19 against the San Francisco 49ers. Towards the end of October, the Wells Fargo Center will come alive as passionate fans return to the stands to cheer on the Flyers and the Sixers. If you’re unable to score tickets to a game, don’t worry – there are plenty of restaurants, bars, and beer gardens throughout Philadelphia that present exciting gameday experiences, such as Xfinity Live! and Chickie’s & Pete’s in South Philadelphia, McGillin’s and Tradesman’s in Center City, and Yards Brewing Company in Northern Liberties. For more sports bars in Philadelphia, click here.
Embrace the spookier side of the Historic District
Beginning in October (and running through Halloween), the usually charming miniature golf course at Franklin Square — which features smaller versions of iconic city landmarks — will receive an eerie makeover, decked out in spider webs, large spiders, creepy lighting, and other seasonal decorations, inviting those brave enough to putt their way through the 18-hole course each evening. Nearby, the Betsy Ross House is also joining in on the ghostly good times by offering Spooky Twilight Tours each Friday from October 8-29 from 6-9 p.m. Visitors can navigate the 18th-century former home of the patriotic seamstress while also learning more about Philadelphia’s macabre past and history of infection and inoculation with tales of bloodletting, small pox, yellow fever and more.
TIP: Purchase a “Spooky Twosome” package from Historic Philadelphia to enjoy both Spooky Mini Golf at Franklin Square and Spooky Twilight Tours at the Betsy Ross House at a discounted rate.
Face your fears and sip spooky cocktails at a Halloween-themed pop-up
Each fall, a 100+ year old former jewelry shop along 12th Street in Midtown Village is transformed into a creepy pop-up bar decorated wall to wall, floor to ceiling with gory, scary, and sometimes funny decorations for the Halloween season. Opening on September 17, 2021 — earlier than ever before — Nightmare Before Tinsel invites imbibers to enjoy the bar’s spooktacular collection of creative cocktails and seasonal fall beers while facing their fears as they explore the bar’s devilish décor. Decorations include creepy dolls, retro horror designs, scary photo ops and original artwork featuring real and imaginary horror icons, such as Ash from Evil Dead, Pennywise the clown from IT!, and influential author and former Philadelphia resident, Edgar Allan Poe. Nightmare Before Tinsel will be open through October 31, 2021.
TIP: Return in the winter to enjoy Tinsel’s less-scary, Christmas-themed pop-up bar.
Celebrate Oktoberfest at Philadelphia’s largest indoor restaurant
Craft Hall, one of the Philadelphia’s top family-friendly dining options, is hosting an Oktoberfest celebration from October 1-10 complete with biergarten décor, fall BBQ specials, and plenty of craft beer, served in steins and brewed on-site by Mainstay Independent Brewing Company. The 10-day celebration also includes autumnal activities perfect for all ages, such as pumpkin decorating and the restaurant’s signature pirate-themed indoor playground.
Discover the eerie past of Philadelphia’s most historic sites
Spend the cool autumn evenings learning more about Philadelphia’s haunted history on one of Ghost Tour of Philadelphia’s candlelit walking tours. A costumed guide will lead you through historic streets at night as they chronicle true ghost stories, real haunted houses, and other macabre tales from Philadelphia’s past. Stops along the tour include Independence Hall, the Powel House and Washington Square, among others. For a list of reportedly haunted sites to explore in Philadelphia, including the Hill-Physick House and Edgar Allan Poe House, click here.
Trick-or-treat through one of the nation’s top science museums
This October, The Franklin Institute invites visitors of all ages to trick-or-treat their way through the exhibits of one of Philadelphia’s top science attractions, with costumed treat-givers hidden behind a series of spookily decorated doors as part of the Franklin Fright events, included at no extra cost with museum admission. Costumed performers will also entertain guests with several Halloween-inspired live science demonstrations each weekend, such as experiments led by Dr. Victoria Franklinstein and her sidekicks in a Pumpkin Lab, which features a 12-foot-tall structure made from pumpkins and robotic contraptions. On Thursday, October 21, adults ages 21 and up are invited to The Franklin Institute’s Science After Hours: Fright @ Night, where they can explore the museum’s exhibits after hours while enjoying live music, dancing, drag performances, a planetarium lounge with projections and music, specialty cocktails and more Halloween-themed fun from 8-11 p.m.
TIP: The Franklin Institute’s seasonal fun continues in the winter with Franklin Frost (November 16-December 31), featuring a 25-foot-tall Stellar Tree, model trains, and festive science activities..
Enjoy plenty of treats (and a few tricks) at Candytopia’s Halloween celebration
The incredibly sweet, immersive, and Insta-worthy world of Candytopia at the Fashion District Philadelphia — which recently announced an extended run through December 31, 2021 — invites candy enthusiasts of all ages to a special Halloween celebration and theme days from October 22 through November 1. Candytopia: Halloween Sweets & Treats adds Halloween-themed decorations throughout each of its interactive, candy-coated spaces, with Candytopia team members sporting their own playful and spooky costumes as they hand out extra candy to young costumed visitors. Tickets are on sale now. To learn more and plan your visit, click here.
Sip on cider, carve pumpkins and more along the Delaware River
Fall Fest at Morgan’s Pier returns in 2021 for its 7th season, running seven days a week from September 24 through October 30. The riverside restaurant, bar and event space, which rests atop a deck overlooking the Delaware River with unbeatable views of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge as it soars overhead, will be festively decorated and will be offering a new lineup of fall menu items, seasonal beers from local breweries, and a collection of autumnal activities for guests to enjoy, all while practicing safe social distancing and following health and safety guidelines. Pumpkin carving (with pumpkins sourced from the convenient Morgan’s Pier Pumpkin Patch) is available on weekends and look for acoustic performances, a DJ and live other entertainment Thursday-Sunday each week. Fall fest hours are Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m. until 2 a.m. and Friday-Sunday, noon until 2 a.m., weather permitting.
TIP: Don’t miss Morgan’s Pier Oktoberfest on Saturday, October 9 from 2-6 p.m., featuring live music, German-inspired food specials, custom Morgan’s Pier steins for the first 200 attendees and plenty of soft pretzels.
Vote for the best Bloody Marys in Northern Liberties
Over two weekends this October, diners and drinkers are invited to Northern Liberties to visit the neighborhood’s impressive collection of restaurants, bars and brunch spots and participate in the annual Monster Mash: Northern Liberties Bloody Mary Challenge. The Challenge, held October 9-10 and 16-17, will task over a dozen neighborhood bars and restaurants with creating their best version of the signature brunch drink, complete with Halloween-inspired spooky designs. Drinkers can then vote for their favorite iteration, based on taste, spice, bling and “Halloweeniness,” ultimately crowning one drink as the Best Bloody Mary in Northern Liberties.
TIP: Don’t miss the neighborhood’s inaugural Northern Liberties Night Market on Saturday, September 23 from 6-10 p.m., featuring circus acts, live music, food trucks, family activities and more along 2nd St between Fairmount and Poplar.
Take a spooktacular stroll around the nation’s first zoo
The Philadelphia Zoo’s annual Boo at the Zoo event returns in October for three weekends of slightly spooky fun (October 16-17, October 23-24 and October 29-31). The family-friendly event allows costumed visitors of all ages to explore the zoo’s grounds to enjoy special treats, photo opportunities, a not-so-scary extinction graveyard and more, all while learning about the zoo’s animal inhabitants and admiring the seasonal décor and colorful fall foliage. Tickets for Boo at the Zoo are available now.
TIP: The Zoo’s popular BIG TIME exhibit has been extended through October 31, allowing costumed Boo at the Zoo visitors the opportunity to walk among life-sized animatronic dinosaurs.
Journey to the Countryside for flowers, foliage, and fountains at Longwood Gardens
A botanical garden spanning over 1,000 acres in nearby Kennett Square, Longwood Gardens offers numerous ways to enjoy the outdoors during the fall season, including fountain shows, a sprawling meadow, cozy treehouses, a Pumpkin Playground, and plenty of colorful fall leaves. Don’t miss the colorful Chrysanthemum Festival inside the massive conservatory, on view from October 16 through November 14.
TIP: Visit in the evenings on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays to enjoy live music in the Beer Garden and spectacular illuminated fountain shows.
Admire the foliage at Morris Arboretum’s nearly 100-acre property
Home to some of the city’s oldest and rarest trees (and one of the best locations in the region for bird watching), Morris Arboretum in northwest Philadelphia also features sculptures and themed gardens lining its winding pathways. Visit during the fall to marvel at the fall colors of maples, dogwoods, oaks, and other species. The Arboretum’s Scarecrow Walk returns for its 14th year from October 2-31, featuring dozens of custom scarecrows designed by local Philadelphia residents. This year’s scarecrow theme is Heroes, with potential designs ranging from essential workers to superheroes, or even best friends. Visitors are invited to vote for their favorite scarecrow designs to help determine the winners of the contest.
TIP: Visit between September 6 and October 11 to view model harvest trains traveling around a charming quarter-mile track in Morris Arboretum’s Garden Railway exhibit.
Venture to Bucks County and explore the grounds of a historic riverfront estate
Found just a short drive north from Philadelphia in nearby Bucks County, the Andalusia Historic House, Gardens, and Arboretum is the ancestral home of the Biddle family, a National Historic Landmark, and a picturesque destination in the fall months as autumn leaves fill the over 800 trees on the 100-acre property. 50 acres of gardens and the elegant “Big House” — a historic mansion that is considered one of the finest and earliest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the nation — are open for tours on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays through October. The estate will also be offering three “Open Saturdays” in the fall (September 18, October 23, and November 6), allowing the public to enjoy self-guided tours of the grounds on the weekends. To learn more about Andalusia and to plan a visit, click here.
Enjoy dining, shopping, murder mysteries, and plenty of scarecrows at Peddler’s Village
Also found in Bucks County, Peddler’s Village is home to a collection of local vendors and restaurants and is a beautiful destination to visit in the fall — partially for admiring the beautiful foliage as you travel from one shop or restaurant to another outdoors, and also for its annual Scarecrows in the Village event (September 6-October 30). A 42-year fall tradition, the Village displays a collection of over 100 creatively designed scarecrows assembled by locals, with new categories and themes each year. Visitors can vote on their favorite designs, or even take part in Scarecrow Making Workshops on select days in September. Amateur detectives can hang around until the evening to take part in one of the Village’s Murder Mystery Walking Tours that task participants with scouring the grounds for clues to solving centuries-old crimes, with ghostly versions available Fridays and Sundays in October and November.
TIP: Don’t miss OctoberFeast at Peddler’s Village on October 16 and 17, featuring a weekend’s worth of German-themed food, drinks, live performances, and more.
Head indoors and enjoy new exhibits at area museums
New exhibits are debuting this season at many of Philadelphia’s museums, including a groundbreaking retrospective of iconic American artist Jasper Johns at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, hosted collaboratively with the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. The Philadelphia Museum of Art will also be home to the first major retrospective exhibition of multimedia artist, educator, and activist, Emma Amos when they present Emma Amos: Color Odyssey (opening October 11). In early September, the historic Fairmount Water Works will be hosting Pool: A Social History of Segregation (POOL) in the former John B. Kelly swimming pool, exploring the relationship between public pools, racial discrimination, public health, and social justice. For a full list of can’t-miss exhibitions this fall, click here.
TIP: Don’t miss the final days of popular exhibits including Gideon Mendel: Drowning World at the Academy of Natural Sciences (ending October 17) and Crayola IDEAworks at The Franklin Institute (ending November 28).
Commemorate a milestone anniversary for a historic ship
2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the return of the American Unknown Soldier from World War I aboard the Cruiser Olympia, a National Historic Landmark which now rests moored along the Delaware River waterfront. The Independence Seaport Museum is honoring the anniversary with a series of special events all year, including a special exhibition onboard the ship, Difficult Journey Home (on view through late November) and a permanent historical marker that honors Olympia’s place in American history. The Museum is also commemorating the 100th anniversary of the dangerous, 15-day journey from Le Havre, France to the Washington Navy Yard with a special, private ceremony on October 25, which will be streamed live on the Independence Seaport Museum’s Facebook page beginning at 1:30 p.m. To learn more and to plan your visit to see the historic vessel in person, click here.
Celebrate cinema with a film festival and special screenings throughout autumn
From October 21-31, the Philadelphia Film Society will host the 30th annual Philadelphia Film Festival, featuring eleven days of special screenings at theaters throughout the city, alongside other events and VIP experiences with filmmakers, actors, and industry guests. During the festival, critically acclaimed and captivating works will be shown at the Philadelphia Film Center, recently restored PFS Bourse Theater, and the PFS Drive-In at the Navy Yard, which will be open through the fall.