16 Completely Free Things to Do in Philadelphia
Museum visits, wine tastings, and other fun freebies.
By now we’ve probably all noticed that things are more expensive lately, even in a city long considered one the East Coast’s more affordable options. From large expenses like rent to daily costs like cheesesteaks and cocktails, dollars aren’t quite stretching like they once did.
Thankfully, there are still many ways to explore the best of Philadelphia without taking out your wallet, from the city’s finest museums and historic landmarks to local art and public programming. Here are our picks for the best free things to do in Philadelphia.
Head to the 12th floor of Cira Centre South to hang at a rooftop park that is free and open to the public. While food and beverage is available for purchase, you’re also welcome to just bring a blanket and have your own chill picnic. Stop by when things are quiet or check out the event calendar for ongoing outdoor movie screenings and broadcasts of the latest big game.
Go ahead, see the Liberty Bell. While you might have to wait in some lines, taking a look at this historic item is completely free—as are a lot of other mainstays in one of Philly’s most historic neighborhoods. Take yourself on a tour with stops at the Independence Visitor Center, President’s House Site, Merchants’ Exchange Building, 18th and 19th Century gardens, and many other standing artifacts to discover. Top it all off with a stroll to the ever-charming Elfreth’s Alley in Old City, a landmark street with buildings dating back to 1703.
This biking- and running-friendly trail is an ever-growing marvel that stretches from the center of the city to far into the suburbs. From Center City, you can jump around the busier Schuylkill Banks area, but trailheads reach all the way to Valley Forge and Pottsville. The trail’s grand plan is to stretch a total of 140 miles, but for now you can still treat yourself to waterfront views and urban architecture while exploring the route.
Trade your Friday lunch break for a live music performance at World Cafe Live, home of Philly’s WXPN radio station and two performance stages. Every week you can score tickets online to a completely free concert for Friday at noon. Usually it’s an artist on tour who is planning to perform for a pricier audience later over the weekend, so RSVP online to secure your spot and check back weekly for the latest artist.
See some iconic sculptures
It’s no secret that Philly is a public art playground, and there are a couple sculptures that are just as free to see as they are iconic. First pay a visit to LOVE Park, where you can find the iconic red statue front and center. Then walk over to the Museum of Art and peer at the Rocky statue (and those iconic steps). For even more sculptures, go down the Schuylkill to the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial, home to 17 different sculptures across three waterfront terraces.
Every first Friday of the month, galleries in Old City, Fishtown, and elsewhere stay open late to welcome art lovers to explore new exhibits and artworks. For most of these after-hour galleries, that means free admission too. First Friday has been fostering a casual, lively atmosphere of discussion and discovery for more than 30 years in Philly, making the tradition something of a rite of passage.
Step onto the lush oasis of the Wissahickon and you’ll quickly forget you’re still in Philadelphia. This gorge stretches for 1,800 acres and features dozens of trails, whether you’re looking for an easy stroll, a full hike, a bike ride, or a swim—there are even a few trails where horseback riding is on the menu. Forbidden Drive, situated by the historic Valley Green Inn, is the perfect starting point for adventure.
The Delaware River Waterfront is rich with free public amenities. Explore the 3.3-mile stretch that starts in South Philly’s Pier 70 and goes north toward Fishtown’s Penn Treaty to see it all, including the hammocks and spectacle at Spruce Street Harbor Park, the family-friendly programming at BlueCross RiverRink and Festival Pier, the mixed-use Cherry Street Pier space, and much more. Check the calendar regularly for ongoing free performances, weekday events, and seasonal programming.
Visit a trifecta of museum heavyweights
If you know just when to go, you can visit some of Philadelphia’s most famous museums for free. At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, admission is pay-what-you-wish on the first Sunday of every month, as well as on Friday nights from 5 to 8:45 pm. Not far from there, the Barnes Foundation offers free family-friendly programming on first Sundays, and admission to the Rodin Museum is pay-what-you-wish every single day—and access to the garden is always free.
The airy 150-foot plaza at the Kimmel Cultural Campus plays host to many local artists and performers, putting a spotlight on Philadelphia’s musicians—and giving everyone else a chance to enjoy them for free. There are a few different shows offered regularly, including Family Fundays in the morning, Lunchtime Unplugged (where you’re encouraged to bring your own lunch), Happy Hour Sessions with DJs and artists from 4 to 7 pm, and an eclectic evening lineup during Nightlife at the Kimmel, which starts at 8 pm. Each event typically occurs once or twice a month, so check out the full calendar and roster of artists.
Start learning the tricks and tips to cultivating your own urban garden, from composting and creating raised beds to making DIY hot sauce with your bounty of produce. The community-driven organization often hosts free workshops at the Navy Yard, as well as other events and retreats throughout the city. All levels are welcome, even if you’re still struggling to keep that mini succulent alive.
Try a free outdoor fitness class
With so many urban trails at our disposal, there are plenty of places for a picture-perfect (and free) fitness backdrop. Programs like the November Project can get you running and seeing the city with others for free, while options like Wellness on the Waterfront offers free yoga sessions on Race Street Pier in the warmer months. For a donation-based option, try Yoga on the Banks, held four times a week for all yogi levels.
Meet local authors at free events around the city
The Free Library of Philadelphia has a full calendar of author events, discussions, and workshops, many of which are completely free to the public. For more free author events, check other local booksellers like Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books and literary organization Blue Stoop.
Every month, the Philadelphia Film Society turns the spotlight to local filmmakers during the Philly Film Showcase. Each showcase is free to attend, as is submitting to the program, and features filmmakers of all ages and levels. Each monthly exhibition is followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers in the Philadelphia Film Greenfield Screening Room in Center City.
Picnic in an iconic 19th-century graveyard
For a more unexpected historic destination, look no further than The Woodlands, a 54-acre landscape fixed between University City and West Philly that plays host to an expansive English-style garden—and an extra green canopy to an expansive graveyard. The campus, which features a historic mansion, has a full calendar of public events, but is also a nice spot to wander around at any time.
Expand your palate with free wine tastings
Sip your way to being a wine connoisseur (or just pretend) at some of Philly’s best wine shops. The Tiny Bottle Shop (behind the Lunar Cafe) offers free tastings every Tuesday, each with a lovingly curated collection. For more vino goodness, visit Bloomsday in Headhouse Square for various winemaker events and the occasional free sampling.