Top Labor Day Weekend Events and Happenings In Philadelphia
Our top events and happenings over the holiday weekend
Dates listed are from 2013
Get ready to retire your white pants and dresses for the season, folks. Labor Day weekend is upon us. The holiday gives thanks to those who work hard all year, so we’re celebrating the close of summer with festivals, dining specials, exhibitions and more.
We’ve compiled a list of events perfect for a variety of interests — whether you’re looking for family-friendly fireworks, a Belgian beer fete, a winery celebration or free admission to a museum, there’s something for you.
Check out our top Labor Day Weekend festivities and happenings in and around Philadelphia, below.
Holiday Weekend Events
The Benjamin Franklin Parkway comes alive with music during this second annual festival in support of the United Way. Musician and festival co-presenter Jay-Z enlists help from big-name acts, including Beyonce and Nine Inch Nails, to bring two days of celebration and musical surprises to the City of Brotherly Love.
Start your Labor Day weekend with a bang at Penn’s Landing. First, at 7:30 p.m., groove to live music by Jonathan Butler, a Grammy-nominated jazz fusion performer. Following the live music, watch a technicolor fireworks show high above the Delaware River waterfront. The fireworks are slated to being at 9:15 p.m.
Transport yourself to Germany this Labor Day weekend marks the 141st annual Volksfest (or Oktoberfest) party presented by the Cannstatter Club, a German-American society in Philadelphia. From Saturday, August 31 through Monday, September 2 indulge in German beer and wine and classic German fare like bratwurst and frankfurters. Also enjoy performances, rides, a raffle and crafts for youngsters. Admission is $6 for one-day admission, $9 for two-day admission and $11 for admission all three days.
Leaving from 1301 S. Columbus Boulevard on September 2 at 9:15 a.m., the Tri State Labor Parade makes its way down Columbus Boulevard to Penn’s Landing where a full on festival takes over the waterfront venue. Visit Penn’s Landing for live music from the Urban Guerilla Orchestra, family-friendly activities, food vendors and more. The festivities run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing.
Family-friendly events fill the Bucks County amusement park on Sunday, September 1. Start the evening with hot dogs, hamburgers, barbecue pulled pork, chicken fingers and more at the Labor Day barbecue which is set to begin at 5 p.m. Following the meal at 8 p.m., entertainers make their way down the streets of Sesame Place for the Neighborhood Street Party parade. Following the parade at 8:25 p.m., fireworks light up the sky to the music of Sesame Street.
Few spectacles sum up summertime more than huge fireworks displays, and the folks at Longwood Gardens oblige the season and illuminate the skies one last time this season. The final show, entitled Festive Fireworks lights up the sky to the music of Russian composer, Dmitri Shostakovich. Tickets to the fireworks show also include all day access to the impressive gardens.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, go offshore with the Spirit of Philadelphia. Indulge in bites from the ship’s buffet and groove to live music provided by an on-site DJ. Pack your camera as the ship opens guest’s eyes to some of the most spectacular views of Philadelphia. A variety of cruises are available all weekend — on Friday night, watch the Friday Night Lights fireworks at Penn’s Landing from the water while enjoying a glass of complimentary champagne.
The best wings in Philly come together to battle it out for the number one spot at the 5th annual BigBite Philly Wing King Competition on August 31 from 5-10 p.m.. Located in the yard of Fleisher Art Memorial, judges from the upper crust of Philly’s food scene taste and sample all of the entries and crown one talented participant as the Wing King. Indulge in an assortment of wings of all flavors, beer provided by Narragansett Brewing Company, music from DJ Ultraviolet and more. This feel-good event donates a portion of the proceeds will be donated to children and youth programs at Fleisher Art Memorial. Tickets are $15 apiece and include a few cans of free beer (!).
Restaurants and Dining
As summer draws to a close, treat yourself to one final barbecue, and this time, let someone else do the cooking. The M Restaurant at Morris House Hotel hosts a good ol’ fashioned pig roast complete with classic picnic sides (think corn, pasta salad, baked beans) and live music on September 1. The pork will be served three ways — smoked, traditionally roasted and Asian-style. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. An additional $10 covers libations.
Belgian beer takes the spotlight at Strangelove’s this Labor Day weekend. On Monday, September 2, beginning at noon, Wendy Littlefield of Vanberg & DeWulf brings more than 15 Belgian brews to the Gayborhood beer bar. Pair your beer with Vanberg & DeWulf inspired food created by chef Paul Martin of Strangelove’s.
Chaddsford Winery welcomes four days of Labor Day celebrations this weekend. Savor the summer weather at Chaddsford Winery where outdoor activities abound from Friday, August 30 through Monday, September 2. Enjoy wine tastings, wine slushies, bites from food trucks and food vendors and live music all weekend long. On Friday, August 30, start the weekend with a packed picnic and cheese and crackers for purchase to pair with the bountiful wine offerings at Chaddsford.
Museums and Exhibitions
Labor Day weekend is your last chance to explore the unprecedented historical year when a generation came to age and pushed the boundaries of constitutional freedom and civic activism in a time of war in 1968: The Exhibit at the National Constitution Center.
Ending September 1, Modern Women at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts presents the work of over 20 female artists whose works explore the following themes: motherhood and beauty; the natural landscape; self-portraiture; women in their community; women illustrators; and modern women in motion.
The Barnes Foundation’s first contemporary exhibition since 1923 comes to a close on September 2. Ellsworth Kelly Sculpture on the Wall highlights Kelly’s impressive sculpture, composed of 104 panels and spanning 65 feet at the Barnes Foundation on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The sizeable work hangs at eye level—just as Kelly originally intended.
Extended summer hours at the The Franklin Institute end on Labor Day, so use the holiday weekend to see the museum’s current exhibition SPY. The exhibit offers visitors a declassified peek behind the newspaper headlines and Hollywood movies to decode the real history of spies. More than 200 artifacts, including the ice axe that killed Leon Trotsky, a German ENIGMA machine and never-before-seen artifacts from the CIA, make up the exhibit and bring visitors close to the gadgets, techniques and technologies used by spies throughout the ages.
Go on a journey through land and sea in pursuit of creatures with the incredible ability to produce their own light, including fireflies, glowworms and rarely seen creatures from the deep ocean during GLOW at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Children and adults alike are enlightened by dramatic videos, live organisms, rare preserved specimens, models and engaging hands-on activities.
The Penn Museum takes a fascinating look at war propaganda in Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster. Curated by PBS History Detectives host Tukufu Zuberi, the provocative exhibit examines 33 wartime posters, mostly targeting Africans and African-Americans, from the Civil War, World Wars I and II and African independence movements.
One of the world’s most influential and beloved children’s authors and illustrators, Ezra Jack Keats caused a stir when he released The Snowy Day (1962), the first full-color picture book to feature an African-American protagonist. The National Museum of American Jewish History celebrates Keats with a comprehensive exhibit showcasing more than 80 original works—from sketches to paintings—as well as rare biographical and historical items.
The Woodmere Art Museum invites guests in for free on Monday, September 2 (Labor Day) and celebrates the end of its In Front of Strangers, I Sing: 72nd Annual Juried Exhibition with a closing reception from 2 to 5 p.m. The exhibit highlights the work of artists living within 50 miles of the museum and features art created from a variety of mediums.
Open Labor Day
- Academy of Natural Sciences: Open all weekend including Labor Day
- Adventure Aquarium: Open until 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; regular hours Labor Day
- Battleship New Jersey: Open all weekend including Labor Day
- Ben Franklin Museum: Open all weekend including Labor Day
- *Betsy Ross House: Open all weekend including Labor Day
- Eastern State Penn: Open all weekend including Labor Day
- Franklin Institute: Open Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m.; open Labor Day from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell: Open all weekend including Labor Day
- Mutter Museum: Open all weekend including Labor Day
- National Constitution Center: Open all weekend including Labor Day; special early hours on Sunday, September from 9:30 a.m.- 5 p.m.
- National Liberty Museum: Open all weekend including Labor Day from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Philadelphia Museum of Art: Open all weekend including Labor Day; pay-what-you-wish on Sunday, September 1
- Philadelphia Zoo: Open all weekend including Labor Day
- Please Touch Museum: Open all weekend including Labor Day
- Rodin Museum: Closed Saturday and Sunday; open on Labor Day 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
- U.S. Mint: Open all weekend including Labor Day from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Additional Weekend Hours
- African American Museum: Open Saturday and Sunday; closed on Labor Day
- Philadelphia History Museum: Open Saturday 10:30-4:30 p.m.; closed on Sunday and Labor Day
- Penn Museum: Open all weekend; closed on Labor Day
- National Museum of American Jewish History: Open all weekend; closed on Labor Day
- PAFA: Open all weekend; closed on Labor Day