art holiday outdoors parks special events spring events

Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival

This year will mark our family’s third annual visit to the spectacular Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival in Franklin Square Park.

This spring event features 29 towering illuminated lantern sculptures. There are animated and color-changing lantern designs ranging from whimsical to jaw-dropping in their intricacy. The sculptures are constructed onsite by 100+ amazingly skilled artisans from China. The specific designs and themes change each year. Many offer audience interaction (such as walking inside giant shimmering blue whale). Each year, they feature new takes on perennial favorites such as the red welcome gate and frolicking pandas.

Evening Cultural Performances

Time your visit so you can catch the cultural artists’ performances at 7:30 or 9:30 pm. There are acrobats, a lightning fast mask-changer, dancers with spinning plates and more. Our family also enjoyed watching artists create spun sugar Chinese zodiac symbols on a stick or paint designs on grains of rice.

Event Details

For 2019, the event runs from May 1-June 30, with free park admission up to 6pm.  Entry from 6pm-10pm is by paid ticket, when the lanterns are lit up. There is a beer garden plus multiple global and American food choices with fountain-side seating. If your children get antsy, treat them to onsite Philly mini golf or the classic carousel. On good weather weekends, it is advisable to book your tickets online in advance, or face a wait.



day trip special events spring events

Light City

As soon as I saw the dazzling TV ad for Light City, I headed online to make plans for a family road trip to experience Baltimore’s free festival of light, music and innovation.  This is the Light City Festival’s second year. It features a week long celebration in early April of outdoor art and performances around the city and beyond. The festival attracted 400,00 visitors in 2016 and undoubtedly more this year.

Light Art Walk

We picked a hotel a few blocks from the Inner Harbor, tourist central.  For the festival, the waterfront was transformed into a 1.5 mile Light Art Walk, glowing with more than 50 illuminated art installations. To avoid the surging crowds, we did the Disneyland trick and walked the trail in reverse order. It worked, mostly.

Interactive Art Experience

We were able to get up close, touch and interact with the art. It was so much fun! For this sculpture, people would line up to dance and sing: their actions made the  colors change and lights flash.
In The Pool (shown above), luminous reflective discs throbbed a rainbow of colors as visitors hopped, shimmied and slid across the big circle.

People Watching

It was equally entertaining to see how others plunged into this multi sensory adventure. One of my favorites was watching how others reacted to Ovo. You enter this giant egg frame and are pelted with lights, sounds, and mist (gentle or soaking). I observed from a dry distance.

The Festival definitely had a party atmosphere, since it stayed open until midnight. We were too busy exploring to sit and listen to the live music, but it made a great soundtrack for the evening. I think we’ll be back for Light City 2018!

dog friendly neighborhoods outdoors spring events

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park

Franklin Delano Roosevelt ParkWe spent a fun, frenzied afternoon racing around Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park  at our first official Adult Easter Egg Hunt. The Park, known to locals as The Lakes, deserves its reputation as a hidden gem in South Philadelphia. It’s accessible by car (with free parking ) or a short walk from the AT&T Septa station. The grounds are open 24/7.

Free Recreation and RelaxationFranklin Delano Roosevelt Park

The park offers free sports fields, tennis courts, fishing, hiking trails as well as a major skatepark. You can rent paddleboats, bikes and even fringed jitneys, all by the hour at the Boathouse. It astonished us to see an 18-hole public golf course (est. 1940) tucked into the park’s landscape. The Lakes is also home to the American Swedish Historical Museum, a hidden gem in its own right.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park

Adult Egg Hunt Surprises

What is a holiday weekend in Philly without a festival? The Park’s FDR Fest was going strong when we arrived for the Adult Easter Egg Hunt. The organizers scrambled to relocate their unofficial hunt because of the festivities. Forty confused, cranky adults wandered around lost. Of course, we were easy to spot, toting colorful empty baskets. Word filtered back, so we collectively hustled to the far side of the Park.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt ParkThe hunt was full of shenanigans and prizes, as promised. Everybody found eggs filled with candy, coins or slips to be redeemed for bigger prizes.

Finally, Cimone and friends challenged the group to a Treasure Hunt. To win, you had to act out some goofy stunts, persuade strangers to be your accomplice, and trot the length of the park for clues. Our family lost enthusiasm for the chase along the way. However, we did help the winning trio track down their final clue. The Olmstead Overlook was built in 1914 (not 1920 per Google).

dog friendly outdoors special events spring events

Sakura Sunday

 Fairmount Park’s Cherry Blossom festival on Sakura Sunday has become our annual rite of spring. It was gloriously warm for mid-April with 1,000 cherry trees lush with blooms. The event price is reasonable: it includes live music and dance, Japan House admission, fashion shows, hands-on culture demonstrations and rampant cosplay.

Prettiest in Pink

We headed straight to one of our favorite events, the 
Prettiest Pet in Pink contest. There were 20 dogs, from a chubby corgi to a huskie, showing off their canine talents in pink finery. Loved the kimonoed shiba inu and the derbied cockapoo. The winner is picked by popular vote. I’m rooting for the woman with the tiny dog who has entered for each of the last five years!

Japanese Traditions

The Horticulture Center was transformed into hands-on demonstration areas to explore Japanese culture. You could learn to play Shogi, brushstroke your name in kana calligraphy, learn the proper way to wear a kimono and more. The biggest line was for free shiatsu massages in the back.


Anime Cosplay

For me, the main attraction is to people watch! There are hundreds of fans who arrive in full coordinated costumes to celebrate their anime favorites. The Little Akiba stage in back hosted a student designer as well as a fan anime fashion show. They were fun, but the audience was more impressively bedecked than the runway models.

You can check out more  photos on my instagram account barbhmphilly.


annual events neighborhoods spring events

Procession of the Saints

One of the longstanding May traditions in South Philadelphia’s Bella Vista neighborhood is the Procession of Saints during the Italian Market Festival. I was one of the hundreds who gathered at historic St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi Church on Sunday morning. I joined musicians, Italian dignitaries and parishioners in a strolling parade from 8th and Montrose  to 9th and Washington.

Saintly Blessings

Saint statue displays were lined up on wheeled carts for a full block. People would walk over to a cart for their favorite saint and say a silent prayer. Then they would pin a dollar bill on the saints’ robes in thanks and as a blessing. I made a donation to Saint Ann in honor of my mother Rita Ann. Father John Large from St. Paul Catholic Parish led the parade and bestowed a group blessing with holy water. One of the parade highlights was walking with St. Mary’s students who were in their white First Holy Communion and Confirmation finery.