PHILADELPHIA, PA – As day turns to dusk and museums and landmarks close for the night, Historic Philadelphia is just gearing up for a night of fun. Theaters, play places and ghost tours keep youngsters amused until pajama time, while beer gardens, dance clubs and live music venues entertain the over-21 crowd well into the wee hours.
Here’s how Historic Philadelphia buzzes with activity long after the clock strikes 5 p.m.:
Family Fun: End-of-day play at Franklin Square includes an award-winning playground, eclectic carousel and 18-hole mini-golf course with scale versions of iconic Philadelphia landmarks (open until 9 or 10 p.m., depending on the day, in season). Twinkling lights dangle from trees and enliven the evening hours at Spruce Street Harbor Park, where families play ping pong, giant Jenga, oversized chess and Connect Four. Roller skating on the outdoor rink at Summerfest on Penn’s Landing is even more fun with loved ones, and the indoor arcade offers a great use for quarters (Both open until 11 p.m. during the week and until 1 a.m. on weekends). For post-dinner treats, Victorian-inspired Franklin Fountain scoops old-fashioned ice cream, sundaes and fountain drinks with timeless appeal (open until midnight during the week and until 1 a.m. on the weekends).
Twilight Touring: The city’s evening vibe adds an interesting twist to touring Historic Philadelphia. Independence After Hours, beginning at 5:30 p.m., gives visitors a rare opportunity for paying a post-sunset call on Independence Hall to meet George Washington, Ben Franklin and other Founding Fathers, who let visitors listen in on their discussion about the future of the colonies. Dark skies set the mood for Ghost Tours that weave through centuries-old streets and alleys, where visitors might just encounter spectral beings (last tour at 9:30 p.m. on weekends in July and August). History meets hops during the Tippler’s Tour, a drinker’s crawl with educational visits (no, seriously) to local taverns to sample patriotically significant adult beverages. Tours begin at 5:30 p.m.
First Fridays: On each First Friday evening of the month, crowds throng sidewalks to check out free art openings and special exhibits at galleries such as Wexler, Snyderman, Larry Becker, Pentimenti, Indy Hall and more than 20 other esteemed exhibitors of art, many of which serve light noshes and wine until 9 p.m. Shops get in on the act too, with Scarlett Alley, Vagabond, Third Street Habit, Mode Moderne and others welcoming dusk-time browsers and buyers alike. The night’s not complete without dinner nearby, and a fun night on the town, which could include taking in a 10:30 p.m. performance by Red 40 or another high-energy band at nearby FringeArts. After 5 p.m., metered parking spots are free between Front and 5th Streets and Walnut and Callowhill Streets on First Fridays.
On The Big Screens: With three locations of the popular, independent movie-minded Ritz Landmark Theatres, Historic Philadelphia has long been the city’s preferred neighborhood for catching future Oscar-winning performances and the latest foreign films. But the screenings don’t stop there. The district offers unexpected alfresco venues to catch a show. Audiences bring blankets and bottles of wine to the courtyard at the Betsy Ross House, where they take in vintage budget monster flicks such as The Hideous Sun Demon, at 5 p.m. on First Fridays, June through October. Brasserie La Peg turns its outdoor beer garden into a sit-in cinema for popular classics (this year, tributes Labyrinth and Purple Rain), summer Wednesdays at 8 p.m. More favorites—Creed, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Inside Out—play outdoors to a crowd on Thursday nights, June 30 through August 25, at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing.
Date Nights: Couples really up their date game in Historic Philadelphia. Pinot Boutique’s wine classes are uniquely Philadelphian, letting drinkers pair vino with cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, Tastykakes and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews or offering casual lessons on wines of the American Revolution. The Clay Studio’s Date Night is messy, dirty and lots of fun, as couples sip on wine or beer and make pottery. Twosomes can help crack a case while feasting on four Italian courses during Bistro Romano’s Murder Mystery dinner theater or take in the acts of national and local acoustic singer-songwriters in the intimate café setting at Tin Angel. Other ideas: Monday night pig roasts at Cuba Libre, Wednesday night beer tastings at 2nd Story Brewing and billiards and darts at Buffalo Billiards, any night at all.
Craft Beer Bars: Centuries before water ran through homes, early Americans drank ale for breakfast. Historic Philadelphia proudly continues this tradition in a more modern fashion, in pubs such as 2nd Story Brewing, where a local farmer and her brewer-son make India pale ales, barleywine and pilsners. Across the street, Eulogy Belgian Tavern keeps 30 international choices on tap as part of their 400-item-long beer list, while beer pioneer Michael Naessens runs the program at Bierstube German Tavern. Irish Pol uses digital screens to show off their 40 craft drafts. Hip yet old-timey National Mechanics printed the faces of Philadelphia personalities onto its craft beer pint glasses. Drinkers in the mood for moonshine, however, ought to check out the city’s only such cocktail list at Market Streets’ Silence Dogood’s Tavern.
Alfresco Sips: When the temps heat up, so do Historic Philadelphia’s assortment of beer gardens and roof decks. Suds fans choose from more than two dozen brews at the Independence Beer Garden, with seasonal bites and a spectacular across-the-street view of Independence Hall. On the opposite side of Independence Mall, Hotel Monaco’s rooftop Stratus Lounge offers great cocktails and DJs to match. For more historic views, the second-story deck of Revolution House puts patrons nose-to-nose with the steeple of Christ Church. It’s hard to beat an evening of dinner and drinks in La Peg’s courtyard garden or watching boats sail along the Delaware River while sipping ice-cold ones at riverside spots Morgan’s Pier and Spruce Street Harbor Park. The latter boasts floating gardens; both offer food and drink from popular Philly chefs and brewers. Penn’s Landing’s SummerFest gives visitors two ways to cool off thanks to a nice selection of frosty beers and a temperature-controlled tent for enjoying them.
Dance, Dance Revolutionary: Partiers burn up the dance floor throughout Historic Philadelphia. Fancy foot workers show off Latin moves at Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar, join the floating party on the Spirit of Philadelphia or take on the more impromptu club atmosphere of nearby Morgan’s Pier. Dancers who want to learn or show off ballroom and lindy hop moves hit the Friday night dance parties at Society Hill Dance Academy. Those with two left feet can polish up their Mirror Ball hopes by taking free lessons at Lucha Cartel, Brasil’s Nightclub and the Painted Bride Arts Center.
DJ Nights: Bumping beats, chic settings and stylish crowds make for unforgettable nights out in Historic Philadelphia. The action gets going when the DJ drops the needle at the rooftop Stratus Lounge or bottle lounge Bleu Martini. The spinner at National Mechanics runs tunes that appeal to its hipster clientele. After the sun goes down, Morgan’s Pier morphs from laid-back waterfront hang into an indie music dance party. Bartenders at Positano Coast add to the festive atmosphere at this restaurant inspired by the Amalfi Coast.
Late Night Eats: Dumplings deliciously stuffed with General Tso’s chicken, edamame or shrimp are served until midnight on weekends at Buddakan, a modern shrine to modern Asian fare. Po’ boys and bacon-fried popcorn are available alongside local craft beer until 1 a.m. at the circa 1870s Khyber Pass Pub. And Sonny’s Famous Steaks satisfies the bar crowd’s cravings for classic Philly cheesesteaks, cheese fries, burgers and onion rings until 3 a.m. on weekends.