Haunted houses, new exhibits, street festivals, performing arts, and more fill Philadelphia’s autumn calendar.
Face your fears in an abandoned prison
Consistently referred to as one of the nation’s top haunted attractions, Terror Behind the Walls returns to the historic Eastern State Penitentiary from September 20 through November 9 along with hundreds of costumed actors and six immersive cellblocks, each with a different, eerie theme. TIP: Visit earlier in the day to tour the once-abandoned prison to learn more about its history and former occupants (including notorious gangster, Al Capone). Looking for more frightful fun in Philadelphia? There are plenty of reportedly haunted historic sites just waiting to be explored.
Immerse yourself in the city’s performing arts scene
The fall season welcomes two of the largest performing arts festivals in the city—Opera Philadelphia’s Festival O19 and the Fringe Festival. Running for three weeks in September (September 5-22), Fringe Festival celebrates contemporary performance art with a city-wide slate of stage shows, solo acts, improv, art installations, and more. Opera Philadelphia’s Festival O19 (September 18-29) is an annual celebration of opera, with special performances at venues throughout the city, including the world premiere of Denis & Katya at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre and a free broadcast of La bohème on Independence Mall (September 14).
Read more: Performing Arts in Philadelphia
Explore Philadelphia’s neighborhoods
Philadelphia is 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 navigate your way through tree-filled neighborhoods such as Rittenhouse Square, Washington Square West, and Old City. TIP: Use our Instagram guide to help in capturing those perfect fall photos.
Celebrate Oktoberfest all over the city
Throughout September and October, Philadelphia is filled with Oktoberfest celebrations that offer visitors and locals a chance to celebrate German culture, cuisine, and beer. The city’s largest celebration, South Street Oktoberfest, takes place along the 700 block of South Street on September 21, with additional celebrations occurring at Uptown Beer Garden (September 28), Piazza Pod Park (September 28), and Morgan’s Pier (October 5). The grand finale—and one of the most authentic Oktoberfest parties in the United States—occurs at the 23rd Street Armory on October 18 and 19.
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 park’s 18th and 19th century historic houses, each of which are available for tours. The homes will also host Fairmount Park Conservancy’s annual CiderFest celebration on September 21.
Connect with the local community at one of the city’s fall festivals
It’s tough to go one weekend in the fall without finding a street festival in one of the city’s neighborhoods. From Old City Fest (October 13) to Chestnut Hill’s popular Witches & Wizards Festival (October 19), fall festivals are perfect opportunities to shop from local vendors and boutiques or sample menus from various local restaurants. Don’t miss the East Passyunk Fall Fest and Spooky Saturday (October 26), which brings pre-Halloween tricks, treats, crafts, and more to the iconic South Philadelphia thoroughfare.
Watch a sporting event alongside the city’s passionate fan base
Though the Phillies’ season will be winding down, the city’s other professional sports teams will be beginning their quests for championships in the fall months. The Philadelphia Eagles kick off their season in September at Lincoln Financial Field, while the Flyers and Sixers both begin their seasons at the recently updated Wells Fargo Center in October. Philadelphia’s Major League Soccer team, the Philadelphia Union, close out their regular season on October 6 at Talen Energy Stadium in nearby Chester, PA, but have secured a playoff berth which could result in even more home matches this year. If you can’t score tickets to a game, don’t worry — there are plenty of sports bars with their TVs tuned into the action and packed with loyal fans.
Take a trip to the Countryside for flowers and foliage 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, and plenty of colorful fall leaves. Head inside the garden’s massive conservatory to enjoy the Blooms & Bamboo: Chrysanthemum and Ikebana Sogetsu Artistry exhibit (October 3-November 17), which pairs bamboo art with carefully arranged floral displays. TIP: Visit after October 24 to see the garden’s beautiful One Thousand Bloom Chrysanthemum.
Celebrate LGBTQ pride at OutFest
The largest National Coming Out Day event in the United States takes place on October 13 in the only formally recognized Gayborhood in the country. Occupying nearly a dozen city blocks and filled with 150+ vendors, OutFest also features live entertainment such as drag shows, live music, and more. TIP: Don’t forget to check out the oldest LGBTQ bookstore in the country, Giovanni’s Room, at 345 S 12th Street.
Stroll through 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. TIP: The arboretum’s Scarecrow Walk returns October 5-30, featuring dozens of custom scarecrows disguised as famous musicians.
Head indoors and enjoy the exhibits at area museums
New exhibits are opening this season at Philadelphia’s museums, including Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier at the Museum of the American Revolution (September 28-March 17), Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the National Museum of American Jewish History (October 4-January 12), and Designs for Different Futures at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (October 22-March 8), among others. TIP: Visit on Smithsonian magazine Museum Day on September 21 to take advantage of free admission to 10 area museums, including the Penn Museum and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. For a full list of can’t miss fall exhibitions, click here.
Celebrate Italian-American heritage throughout the region
The annual Ciao Philadelphia Festival runs from September through November, boasting a collection of events that honor Philadelphia’s Italian-American community. Enjoy a special Maserati vs. Ferrari Demo Day at the Simeone Automotive Foundation Museum (October 12), weekly tours of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Italian Art Collection (Fridays in October), and a series of discussions on Italian culture, art, history, and more. For the full calendar of events, click here.
Spend Thanksgiving morning watching the nation’s oldest Thanksgiving Day Parade
Now in its 100th year, the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade marks the start of the holiday season as dozens of colorful floats, balloons, and entertainers march their way along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, culminating in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art for special performances. Visitors can watch the parade in-person from the sides of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and portions of Eakins Oval.
Read more: The Holidays in Philadelphia