The Philly Family Guide to the 2018 Philadelphia Flower Show
Thinking of taking the kids to this year's spectacle? Here's everything you need to know.
The Philadelphia Flower Show is back with “Wonders of Water,” which celebrates the beauty and life-sustaining interplay of horticulture and water.
Visitors to the show — running March 3-11 — can experience floral and garden design on a larger-than-life scale as they walk through the different displays spanning climates from the lush rainforest to the arid desert. Kids will love that there are lots of little surprises, hands-on opportunities, and ways to learn.
Whether you’re picking up some gardening tips or just taking in the colorful artistry, here’s what you’ll want to see, do, and plan for your visit.
Wow. The Flower Show has never been one to ease into the splendor, and this year is no different. When you enter the show’s main hall, you will instantly be transported to the rainforest, complete with cascading waterfalls, canopies of lush greenery, hanging flowers and vines, and an ever-shifting rain curtain leading to a tropical pond.
The grandest piece of this entryway is the modernistic tiered bamboo structure that serves as the base of a 25-foot waterfall. The entire garden is spectacularly immersive (and, yes, very Instaworthy), setting the perfect mood for the rest of the show ahead.
Camden Children’s Garden
In a giant hall of horticultural achievement, there were a couple kid-favorite displays that deserve special mention. The first was without a doubt the Camden Children’s Garden’s display, which was equally adorable and engaging. There is much to learn about water, as well as the plant and animal life that thrives in it.
Unlike most of the displays, kids are encouraged to touch aspects of this one, and they will particularly love the part where they are able to control a system of waterways using different buttons and a foot pedal. Coming in on the “adorable” side of things, the display also has an elaborate little beach tableau whose denizens are made entirely of shells (with googly eyes, naturally).
The sense of humor and level of detail that went into this display is astounding — from the little Sixers and Eagles logos on the surfboards to the jolly patrons of “Clarke’s Clamshell Café.”
“Trains! Look at that train! Look at that train! Choo-Choo! It’s Thomas!” It was not Thomas. But that random kid expressed the childhood excitement elicited by this display best.
Without question, the other clear kid-favorite display in the main hall was from the South Eastern Pennsylvania Garden Railway Society. This expansive and intricate display contains an entire town (with little detailed shops and people) and countryside, as well as many motorized trains constantly traveling the yards and yards of track.
Prepare to devote a good chunk of time (likely more than you would think necessary or possible) to watching this magical railroad.
Step inside a fully immersive habitat housing more than 1000 butterflies of over 20 domestic and exotic species, as well as the plants native to their environments. Kids will love to watch the butterflies flutter around and maybe even land on their shoulder — don’t worry, there’s someone to give you a once-over at the exit to make sure a butterfly friend doesn’t stow away!
More than just beautiful, this experience allows you to walk through a pollinator garden, learn about the butterfly life cycle, and even feed the butterflies nectar! This exhibit is located away from the main hall, down the Grand Hall Concourse in 204B, and requires an additional $5 ticket.
Bring a little piece of the Flower Show home with you, with your very own handcrafted creation. Visit the Make and Take area of The Back Yard, select your own materials, and receive guidance from DIY experts to create a one-of-a-kind craft.
You can fashion a flower headpiece (or bunny ears or sunglasses, if you prefer!) from silk or handmade paper (as well as whimsical add-ons like dinosaurs!), design a unique necklace housing a beautiful underwater garden in a bottle, or build an elaborate succulent planter.
You’ll definitely need to assist little ones, as the hot glue guns get very hot, but you’ll have so much fun experimenting with all the different materials to make something amazing. This activity requires an additional $10 ticket.
Teddy Bear Tea
On the final morning of the Flower Show — Sunday, March 11 — there will be a children’s tea where their favorite stuffed animal will get a seat of honor! The day includes entertainment and a light lunch to relax and enjoy tea with your family before seeing the Flower Show together. This year, Poppy and Branch from Trolls will be there too! Tickets are available online for $28.
Plan Your Trip
The Philadelphia Flower Show runs from March 3—11 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, at 12th and Arch streets in Philadelphia. Here are some helpful tips to help with your visit.
Tickets are available online, and cost $32 for adults, $22 for students ages 17 — 24, $17 for kids ages 2 — 16, and free for children under 2 (plus service fees). Prices are higher at the door, and higher than that on weekends. If you are bringing the whole family, there is a Family Super Saver Package (available online only) which includes two Adult and two Child (ages 2–16) tickets for $85 total, so definitely take advantage of that. There are also discounted tickets available at major SEPTA ticket offices.
If you live in the city, you probably don’t need my help. You have feet, a SEPTA card, possibly a car, and I’m guessing you know exactly how to use them. Just in case, though, the Convention Center is a quick walk from City Hall (if you’re coming on the Broad Street Line) and 13th Street Station (on the Market-Frankford Line).
If you’re coming from the suburbs, it also could not be easier. For those of you who prefer to drive, you are in the heart of parking garage heaven, so act like you’ve been there and don’t let me catch you posting “where can I park for the Flower Show?” in the Main Line Parent Community!
You can even reserve a spot in advance via SpotHero, with whom the Flower Show has partnered to help make your drive in worry-free. If you do choose to take SEPTA, just take the Regional Rail to Jefferson Station — which sits directly below the Convention Center — and follow the signs to the Convention Center when you get off the train!
What to Eat
It’s very safe to say you will not go hungry on your Flower Show adventure. Inside the Flower Show itself, you’ll find some Philly favorite goodies like Rita’s Water Ice and Termini Brothers — including some beautiful flower cupcakes — as well as general concessions all along the back wall of the show (behind the Designer’s Studio).
And of course, you are right across the street from Reading Terminal Market, so come lunchtime, we recommend you go get your hand stamped for re-entry, and cross Arch Street for that culinary wonderland!
Bringing the Kids
The first and more important question: should you? This depends so much on your particular kids’ age, temperament, needs, and interests, but also — because sometimes we don’t ask ourselves this question enough — what you want to get out of your visit. So, let’s talk about it.
There’s nothing wrong with getting a babysitter and having a much-deserved adult day — or night, since the Flower Show is open until 9 pm every day except for March 11 (the last day of the show). Maybe you’re super into gardening tips and your kids couldn’t care less, or maybe you just want a girls’ night where you can take selfies, make flower crowns, and have some wine (did we mention there is a wine store at the Flower Show?). Go for it! I personally have chosen a child-free Flower Show experience several times, and it’s downright glorious.
If you are thinking of taking your kids, consider whether they would enjoy it. Because lots of kids would! As you can see above, there are many things kids would like to see and do at the Flower Show.
Some kids, anyway — and you know deep down whether your kid is the one who will excitedly (but respectfully) marvel at the spectacle, or whether you’ll be spending your visit chasing around a bobbing-and-weaving mastermind, just praying he’s not destroying the art that a team of designers spent the better part of a year creating. And you know what? There is nothing wrong with that second kid.
Also, do yourself and everyone around you a favor: if you are coming at a high-traffic time (especially weekends), please don’t bring a stroller. I am the proud owner of an obnoxious city-kid-SUV of a stroller, but everything has a time and place. You’ll know I’m right when you try to push that monstrosity through a crowd and everyone side-eyes you.
Your kids won’t really be able to see much from that angle, so you’re helping no one. If your kid needs the stroller to contain them, circle back to my “know thy kid” spiel, and reconsider your options.
If you are bringing your kids, grab a Flower Show map so you can hit up all our must-dos (and also so you know where all the family restrooms are — rest assured, there’s lots!), take a million pictures, and most importantly, have fun!
Photographs by Laura Swartz.