philadelphia fall festivals

Philly’s Old City Fest, offers the chance to browse wares from artisans. (Photo: Visit Philly | J. Fusco)

Philadelphia

Autumn Is Coming. Here’s How to Spend a Perfect Fall Weekend in Philadelphia

Whether you’re looking for arts and culture, festivals and special events, dazzling fall foliage or some combination thereof, Philadelphia offers something for seemingly every interest in the fall. Here are five themed fall weekends that you can mix and match.

Experience Fall Thrills

Anyone who loves Halloween — or a good scare — will want to visit the annual “Terror Behind the Walls,” presented from late September through early November, at the historic Eastern State Penitentiary.

The interactive experience conjures up the ghosts of the 19th-century prison, whose most famous inmates include gangster Al Capone and bank robber Willie Sutton.

philadelphia festivals
Get spooked in Al Capone’s former cell. (Photo: Alamy)

For a different kind of seasonal thrill, check out Instagram-worthy fall foliage from mid-October through early November at various points in the city, including Independence Hall, Schuylkill River Park, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Kelly Drive and Wissahickon Valley Park.

Outside the city, Longwood Gardens marks autumn with its annual Chrysanthemum Festival, showcasing a harvest-tinged rainbow of thousands of blooms from early October through late November.

Whether you’re a runner yourself or just want to join the cheer zone, you can cap off fall during Philadelphia Marathon Weekend, a late-November event that also includes a half marathon, 8K race, kids fun run, and free health and fitness expo.

RELATED: 4 Amazing Reasons to Fall for New England

Meet the Makers

You can’t go more than block or two in most Philly neighborhoods without catching a glimpse of a bold, colorful mural. During October, Mural Arts Philadelphia celebrates the more than 4,000 commissions with trolley tours and a roster of free or pay-what-you-can events.

 philadelphia fall festivals
Explore Philly’s incomparable mural scene. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Design aficionados flock to DesignPhiladelphia, an early-October event with some 80 exhibits, lectures and workshops on architecture, interior design, industrial design, multimedia and urban design.

Want to see how an artist really works? You can chat up local artists in their workspaces during Philadelphia Open Studio Tours, offered over two weekends in mid-to-late October

At The Philadelphia Furniture Show, held in early October, some 40 artisan furniture makers from across the U.S. display their work, while the juried Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show in early November showcases handmade jewelry, textiles and mixed media.

Dine and Drink with the Greats

Philadelphia has long shown its foodie credentials go well beyond the cheesesteak, and fall is the perfect time to sample the vibrant culinary scene.

You can gain more insight into the city’s food history by visiting — or taking a guided tour of — a pair of century-plus-old institutions: the Italian Market, which now includes Mexican and Asian vendors, and the Reading Terminal Market, also an excellent spot for breakfast, lunch and foodie gifts.

Meanwhile, you can sample craft beer and hear live music at the late-September Bloktoberfest on South Street in the city’s Graduate Hospital neighborhood.

In mid-September, the fall edition of the Center City Restaurant Week is held, and participating restaurants offer a three-course dinner for $35, plus a lunch version for $20.

Later, in mid-October, local chefs demonstrate their plant-based chops during Vegan Restaurant Week, with participating restaurants offering a prix-fixe dinner for $35.

Want a more hands-on experience? Located off Rittenhouse Square, COOK programs a range of mouth-watering classes and demonstrations by big-name chefs and up-and-comers; events are posted in two-month increments and book fast.

Get Artsy

Every year, the fall arts season kicks off with an edge at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, which programs more than 1,000 performances from early through late September; followed by Philly Music Fest, a celebration of indie artists; and the mid-October Philadelphia Film Festival, a showcase for independent and foreign titles.

 philadelphia fall festivals
Groove to tunes at The Met Philadelphia. (Photo: Visit Philly | Live Nation)

You can find almost any other type of performance on and off Broad Street’s Avenue of the Arts. Think everything from the storied Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of its star conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and the acclaimed black modern dance troupe Philadanco to the quirky Bearded Ladies cabaret company and pop, rock and comedy stars at The Met Philadelphia, located in a transformed early-20th-century opera house.

For storytelling and performances of a highly personal type, check out the First Person Arts Festival in early-to-mid November.

 philadelphia fall festivals
Gather with friends at the Midtown Fall Festival. (Photo: Visit Philly | J. Fusco)

Make a Fashion Statement

In Center City and neighborhoods like Fishtown, Northern Liberties and East Passyunk, you can shop national and local specialty stores, including the grand dame Macy’s (complete with a Great Court and daily pipe organ recitals).

Neighborhood events, like October’s Midtown Village Fall Festival and Old City Fest, offer the chance to browse wares from artisans and other independent sellers.

Spruce up your fall wardrobe — or get a jump-start on your holiday shopping — at the Fashion District Philadelphia shopping/dining/entertainment complex.

Anchored by one of the few Century 21 discount department store outside New York, the three-block-long center features dozens of smaller shops (mainly upscale outlets and fast-fashion), dining (outposts of the City Winery live music venue and local favorite sports bar Chickie’s & Pete’s), and entertainment (a movie theater, bowling and billiards).

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