Philly on the cheap — 25 things to do for $10 or less
The Great Recession may be over for the fat cats who spin gold on Wall Street, but for us regular folks, the hunt for a good bargain — spending $10 or less — is a way of life.
Luckily, Philly is full of cheap and free things to do, especially in the summer.
This week, we check in with some cool ways to have fun without leaving your whole paycheck behind. From Dollar Taco Night at Loco Pez to $5 cult horror films at the Betsy Ross House, from printing your own 3-D flamingo to sweating through hot yoga, we've come up with a solid list of faves.
Some will be familiar and worth going back to; others will be new to you. Obviously, this list is by no means complete.
You can add to the list the next time we put one together. Just send us your best cheap things to do at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't be surprised if you see us there, too.
01// $8-$9 BYOB mini-golf, Thu. – Sun., Keystone Mini-Golf and Arcade, 161 Cecil B. Moore Ave. Check their website for specific hours each night (it's $1 cheaper on Thursdays), but you really can't go wrong knowing that this is a kitschy, nine-hole mini-golf spot decorated in only the finest weirdo vintage stuff. Bring your own booze and snacks and play arcade games, too. It's boozy golf. What don't you get? You should already be there.
02// Free brewery tours. Noon-4 p.m. Sat. and Sun., Yards Brewing Co. 901 N. Delaware Ave. Each tour last about 30 minutes, but arrive early — it's first come, first served, and by 1:30 p.m. your chances of getting a spot are slim. Bonus: Yards just bottled the first batch of Cape of Good Hope, its West Coast-style double IPA available only in August and on draft at the brewery's tasting room.
03// $3 pizza. Red or white, cheese and sauce only. 4-6 p.m. Mon.-Thu., Birra, 1700 E. Passyunk Ave. The wait staff is friendly to kids, and will bring a bowl of fresh dough for toddlers to push and pull into shapes while you wait for the pie to arrive. Sit inside or outside, and watch the passing parade.
04// Free Mummer's concert. String-band performances, 8-10 p.m., Thursdays through Oct. 1 (except Sept. 3), Mummers Museum parking lot, 1100 S. Second St. Drinks, including beer, and snacks are for sale for a nominal fee. Enjoy the music without freezing your keister off on New Year's Day.
05// $6 community hot yoga class. 8:15-9:30 p.m. Mon. and Wed., Amrita Yoga, 1204 Frankford Ave. Cash only. While infrared hot yoga in late July might seem a little nuts, this class is nothing but relaxing. Amrita is a gorgeous studio with supportive instructors, and by the end of the sweaty session, you'll have no doubt that you just put in a serious workout for body and mind.
06// Free studio Space. 6-8 p.m. Wed., NextFab North Fourth, 1227 N. Fourth St. The NextFab maker space opened a second location in Kensington in the spring. NextFab North Fourth is 4,000 square feet of space for woodworking, metalworking, jewelry making, and more. Memberships get you full access, but free this summer are Wednesday night Open Studio events, where you can score free beer and a chance to try out the maker space's laser cutters (not necessarily in that order). In August, stop in to 3-D print your own miniature flamingo. Everyone needs one.
07// $5 Manhattans and Old Fashioneds, 5-7 p.m., Mon.– Fri., Fette Sau, 1208 Frankford Ave. You can get Mad Men's Don Draper's fave drink (the Fashioned) for what's considered a steal in today's money. It goes down real smooth with the $4 smoked chicken legs or burnt end sandwich. Even better? The Southern front porch-style outdoor seating is sensational at this time of year.
08// Free karaoke. Dr. Thunder hosts. 9 p.m.- 2 a.m. Tuesdays, Dahlak, 4708 Baltimore Ave. This has been running every Tuesday night at Dahlak in West Philadelphia for the past five years, and, as is apt for West Philly, it is far and away the weirdest (in a wonderful, welcoming sort of way) karaoke night in town. Men with septum piercings sing Melissa Etheridge songs, everyone seems to know one another and — don't worry — very few people can actually sing.
09// Free Shakespeare. 7 p.m. Through Aug. 2, The Winter's Tale, Clark Park, 44th Street and Chester Avenue. Shakespeare in the Park is one of the best theater deals in town, with productions from some of Philly's finest actors and directors. This year, for SCP's 10th anniversary, it's the romantic tragicomedy The Winter's Tale. Remember to bring something to sit on and some bug spray. Arrive early to get a good spot. The show will go on at Drexel's Mandell Theater at 33rd and Chestnut streets if the weather's bad.
10// $5 crepes. 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. Mon.-Fri, 11 a.m.- 6 p.m. Sat., The Crepe Truck at Temple University. This food truck outside the Tyler School of Art on Norris Street will hand you a crepe the size of an infant while Free's "All Right Now" blasts from the truck's speakers, which play classic rock from sunup to sundown. Said crepe comes crammed with anything from barbeque spare ribs to Oreos to gyro-style lamb.
11// Free dancing. 10 p.m.- 2 a.m. Fri., SOULed Out at the Trestle Inn, 339 N. 11th St. There aren't a lot of hip, low-key places to dance around town, which is why the Trestle Inn is such a gem. The bartenders are no-nonsense, the liquor is brown and the dance floor is cozy and full of folks of every demographic. On Fridays, the music selection at SOULed Out is classic '60s and '70s soul hits, from obligatory James Brown cuts to one-offs like Joe Tex's "I Gotcha." Oh, and the go-go dancers are there to dance with you, not for you, folks.
12// $1 tacos. After 5 p.m. random nights, announced on social media, Loco Pez, 2401 E. Norris St., Fishtown. Dollar Taco Night is not so much a happy hour as it is a test of human endurance: How many bite-size tacos can you possibly eat before passing out or running out of cash? Are you brave enough to try? Whatever. Don't miss out on the chorizo-and-potato variety.
13// $5 cult horror films. 5:30 p.m. First Friday Movie Night Under the Stars and Stripes, Betsy Ross House, 239 Arch St. What better way to celebrate American history than by sitting in the courtyard where Betsy Ross kinda-sorta-didn't stitch the American flag and watching a film in which a woman turns into a wasp and murders her loved ones? (The Wasp Woman, 1959, playing Sept. 4).
14// Free organ concerts. Wanamaker Organ at Macy's. Noon Mon.-Sat.; 5:30 p.m. Mon, Tue., Thur. and Sat.; 7 p.m. Wed. and Fri. Never on Sundays. If you stop by only for the Christmas Light Show, you're missing out on a lot. These free concerts date to 1911. After the music ends, you can go up to the second floor and take a good look at the huge organ console and admire the forest of pipes.
15// Dollar stroll. 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., Baltimore Avenue, 43rd to 51st streets. Dollar bargains from neighborhood faves. Vendors, music, jugglers, food trucks. You get the picture. Next stroll is Sept. 17. Full disclosure: City Paper and Metro are among the many sponsors.
16// Free water. La Colombe, Sixth and Market streets. Choose either cold or sparkling water. Pour it yourself from a fountain near the back of the coffee bar. After taking your out-of-town visitors to the Liberty Bell, and waiting in line in the broiling sun, head across the street to La Colombe and its free oasis. Pour a glass of water, and drink in the fact that these folks care about free water access for everyone.
17// Free Irish music. 4-7 p.m. Sat. and Sun., Fergie's Pub, 1214 Sansom St. (The Saturday jam sessions focus on traditional Irish music, other Irish music on Sundays.) Sit down, enjoy a pint of Guinness and listen to some of the liveliest music this side of Dublin. Last year's addition, Fergie's Beach, continues this year, with open-air seating on the patio. Choose the $5 fries. Guilt be gone.
18// $5 BLTs. 4-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri., Cooperage Wine and Whiskey Bar, The Curtis Center, Seventh Street side. BLTs, pulled pork sandwiches and veggie quesadillas — all big-enough portions — are popular at happy hour. After one of those dishes and a $4 draft, you're well on your way to skipping dinner.
19// Free serenity. The park behind Independence Hall. Forget the sunny side of the historic building, with its big lawn and crowds of tourists. Head around to the back for the leafy, sun-dappled park that feels like Sunday morning. At your feet, a circular slate walk keeps its cool despite the heat. Unpainted wooden benches invite you to sit for a spell. Fair warning: It's hard to get up again.
20// $3 beer, $4 wine, $5 cocktails. 5-7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sept. 2. Central City District's SIPS program means almost 90 restaurants and bars beckon you to linger after work in Center City for a few drinks. Lots of cool places are on the list, but only at Rosa Blanca's Dilworth Park location can you get the added bonus of watching children run joyfully through the fountain. That's more calming than the drink itself.
21// Free hammock. Spruce Street Harbor Park, 301 S. Columbus Blvd. You can always find a wide cross-section of the city here on the waterfront; the crowds alone speak to it being a really pleasant place to spend an evening. Concessions can be a bit pricey and in the park's third year it's tough to find a free hammock, but hanging out is always free. There's also a well-curated calendar of free shows, the next one being Restorations and DRGN King at 8 p.m. Aug. 6.
22// Free cultural festivals. Penn's Landing, Columbus Boulevard and Chestnut Street. Penn's Landing has a ton of free cultural festivals that are super fun and have great food — Africa Aug. 2, India Aug. 15, the Caribbean Aug. 16, or you might want to check out one of the hugely popular free smooth jazz concerts held there Friday nights
23// $7.95 key lime tart. 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Tue.-Sat., 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. Sun., Isgro's Pasticceria. 1009 Christian St. In continuous operation since 1904, Isgro's is a Philly original. During the summer, Isgro's rolls out a specialty key lime tart that's worth the wait in line. After you get it, take a leisurely stroll in the Italian Market located less than a block away. Don't even think about sharing the pastry.
24// $6 citywide view. 9:30 a.m.-4:15 p.m Mon.- Fri., Philadelphia City Hall. $6 adults, $4 kids. Go to the Tour & Visitor Center, Room 121, City Hall. The building's famed tower and statue of founder William Penn, stretching 548 feet into the air, is one of the best vantage points to see a panorama of the city. Purchase tickets ahead in the visitors' office, and be sure to bring your camera.
25// Free peace. 7 a.m.-11 p.m. daily. Chill out at Race Street Pier, intersection of Columbus Boulevard and Race Street. When it opened in 2011, the pier was hailed as an indicator of the forward momentum of Philly's progressive open spaces. Free yoga and outdoor movie nights highlight the pier's versatility, but its default identity — a beautiful, free open space on the waterfront — make it perfect for dates, conversations or simply quiet contemplation in a city of 1.5 million.
Bonus: Dollar beer. $1 Coors Banquet cans, 10 p.m.- midnight Thu., Drinker's Tavern, 124 Market St., Old City. Also, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tue.-Fri., half off all drafts, $1 tacos and (on Wed. and Thu.) $1 dogs. Fill 'er up.