The Family Guide to the Philadelphia Science Festival
Nine days of STEM fun for the whole family! Get Nerdy!
The Philadelphia Science Festival is bringing nine straight days of STEM fun from April 20—28. This citywide celebration includes more than 80 events in collaboration with top local science, cultural, and educational establishments. To top it all off, the festival ends with a giant Science Carnival on the Parkway, with an entire day of free demonstrations, experiments, entertainment, and more for the whole family!
And if you’re looking for some grownup fun, get your childcare lined up, because there are plenty of adults-only outings you won’t want to miss. There is so much to do, that it’s hard to know where to start, so we’re breaking it down with our top picks to get curious and “Get Nerdy.”
Evening of April 20
The Philadelphia Science Festival kicks off in spectacular fashion, engaging all areas of the city (and suburbs) in the Star Party. Local astronomers will bring dozens of telescopes to more than 20 stargazing sites across the region to share their knowledge of the cosmos. Of course, guests are invited to bring their own telescopes as well. And be sure to bring a picnic blanket and make a night of it under the stars!
In addition to stargazing, some locations have extra special activities to celebrate the night. The Penn Museum is partnering with The Woodlands for a West Philly Star Party that includes family-friendly crafts and celestial popsicles from Lil’ Pop Shop!
The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum’s Star Party will also include guided night walks, games and lessons about nocturnal wildlife, and arts and crafts. Awbury Arboretum is getting the party started early, with hands-on activities, using a sunspotter before sundown, and snacks before stargazing at night. Wyck Historic House will include tours of the house and crafts for kids at their party. Be sure to check the Franklin Institute’s list of Star Party locations to see all the special activities planned near you.
Science at Reading Terminal Market
April 21 and 26
51 N. 12th St., Philadelphia
On April 21 (11:30 am — 12:30 pm; free), Hungry Education, in partnership with Reading Terminal Market and The Franklin Institute, will lead families on fun and engaging free hands-on activities, including a scavenger hunt to discover the science behind the market.
Then on the night of April 26 (7—10 pm; tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door), come for Brain Food: Science Night at the Market. Reading Terminal Market will host an all-ages celebration of science, food, and everything Philadelphia. There will be dynamic demonstrations and experiments from some Science Festival partners; and select vendors will stay open, offering small plates for just $5.
April 21, noon — 4 pm
Clark Park, 4300-4398 Baltimore Ave., Philadelphia
Hunting Park, 900 Hunting Park Ave., Philadelphia
Teach your kids the fundamentals of curiosity and experimentation as the community comes together to delight in the science that surrounds us every day. There will be an afternoon full of hands-on science activities at two different parks, in partnership with many scientific and educational institutions.
And on April 26, bring your fourth and fifth graders to Independence National Park for more hands-on science (this time, examining the connection between history and science).
Philly’s premier research institutions, hospitals, universities, and museums (over 20 locations) open their doors for a very special hands-on day where kids and adults can learn from experts in their fields. There is truly something for everyone, whether you’re interested in medicine, wildlife, engineering, and more. The events take place all around the city and surrounding suburbs, so check their schedule for all the options.
There are so many experiences to choose. Our personal favorite is the Teddy Bear Clinic, offered at Jefferson Hospital locations throughout the Philadelphia area (including Abington and New Jersey). Your child will “scrub in” and put their beloved stuffed animal through triage, radiology, and more while they learn about being a doctor in the most adorable way you can imagine.
It’s also Earth Day, so if you’re interested in celebrating while learning, there are many options. You can be a geologist at the Wagner Free Institute, be a wildlife biologist down by the river, be an environmental scientist at Fairmount Water Works, and many other opportunities.
April 23 — 26, 3:30 — 5:30 pm
Various Free Library branches, check schedule.
Local engineers, scientists, and other experts will visit various neighborhood branches of the library to lead free after-school programs, including experiments, animal encounters, and other hands-on activities for kids.
April 24, 5 — 8 pm
222 N. 20th St., Philadelphia
The Franklin Institute will open its doors for free on Tuesday night for an evening of evening of educational experiences, special programs and shows, and hands-on activities from Philadelphia Science Festival partner organizations. Plus, you get free access to the museum’s permanent exhibits all evening.
April 27, 3—5 pm
Christ Church Preservation Trust, 20 N American St, Philadelphia
Join Franklin Institute science educators, C.B. Fisk organ builders, and members of International Contemporary Ensemble to explore the science of Christ Church’s newly installed pipe organ! Drop-in activities include opportunities to make and visualize musical sounds, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the mechanical-action pipe organ. Come back at 7 pm for a public performance.
April 28, 10 am — 4 pm
Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia
The Philadelphia Science Festival ends with a free day of family-friendly entertainment, live performances, experiments, demonstrations, and so much more by more than 150 partners filling the Parkway. There are activities for all ages, including some specifically for kids.
Practically every university, hospital, research facility, and cultural institution you can imagine from the Philadelphia area will be in attendance, asking important scientific questions ranging from “What does DNA look like?” to “What do safe, sustainable streets look like?” to “How do sumo-fighting robots control themselves?” There is truly something for everyone. Also, foodtrucks galore, because it’s not a carnival without plenty of good eats.
For little ones, there’s a special Tot Lot by PNC Grow Up Great, with live music from the Lara and Joe Show and storytimes where each science-themed book will come to life with additional opportunities for hands-on exploration, led by partners such as the Please Touch Museum and the Academy of Natural Sciences.
If this all gets to be too much sensory stimulation, you can take a break inside the Franklin Institute’s Cool Down Space, a quiet environment with tactile tools and a safe place to take a break. This will be open and free to the public throughout the Carnival.
Finally, don’t miss the grand finale at 3:45 pm: the Trash Can Salute! See what happens when you try to contain ultra-cold liquid nitrogen as it heats up under thousands of green and black squishy balls (hint: see the photo at the top of this article). Let’s just say, it’ll be a blast!
Lead photograph courtesy of Philadelphia Science Festival.