Forward and back, forward and back. This pandemic feels a bit like parenting itself: The moment you think you’ve got this thing handled, you realize you’re not even close.
Lucky for Philly, our attractions are taking care to reopen in ways that can help keep us safe — requiring masks, reducing crowds — and also keeping our hours at home filled with learning and fun.
In-person visitation has already resumed at Elmwood Park Zoo, where a baby monkey named Bungee is a major attraction, and will resume Friday at Adventure Aquarium in Camden. In Philadelphia, Center City District is slowly but surely bringing back free kids’ programming.
Meanwhile in the enchanted land of wholesome screen time, the Academy of Natural Sciences has replicated its annual summer camp with at-home activities. And amazing northern Delaware author Erin Entrada Kelly gets into a virtual convo with fellow author Christina Soontornvat.
Academy Science Camp from Home
Through Sept. 4; view videos and download activities under “Family Programs” at ansp.org/programs-and-events (ages 7–10)
Other summers, day camp at the Academy of Natural Sciences would mean seven-hour, five-day weeks of fossils, rain forest animals, field trips, and such. This summer, the Academy has given its virtual camp similarly science-y themes for self-guided at-home campers. Each week brings a new subject — slugs and sloths, dinosaur crafts, backyard gardening — with an on-site YouTube intro and a half-dozen activity sheets. It’s free, and a light lift for both kids and grown-ups; printer and paper required. This week’s theme is the popular-for-eons dinos.
Elmwood Park Zoo
10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, reserve tickets at elmwoodparkzoo.org, $12.95–$17.95, free under age 2, (all ages)
Norristown’s charmer of a zoo led the pack when it came to social-distancing success. Elmwood’s drive-through safaris sold out super fast (sadly, they’re no longer a thing). The park’s clever “zoo poo” promo kept gardens happy and kids entertained. As for its YouTube channel: Game on and game strong. The zoo, now reopened at up to 50% capacity, has resumed public giraffe feeding ($4 per person, $3 per member) and reopened indoor exhibits Trail of the Guard and Wildlife Lodge, along with an ice cream kiosk and beer garden. New attractions include a QR code-based audio tour and Bungee, a white-faced saki monkey baby.
Parkway Pals concert
11 a.m.–noon Thursday at Sister Cities Park, details and other upcoming events at centercityphila.org/parks/events (ages 2–5)
Sister Cities Park hasn’t quite reopened its pebble-bottomed pond or hill-shaped garden, but the randomly activated fountains are back, and little-kid activities are starting up again. This week, the tree-lined spot welcomes its first real, live musician, playing real, live music on Thursday morning. Free.
Author Conversation with Newbery winner Erin Entrada Kelly
6:30 p.m.–7:30 p.m. Wednesday, reserve through a link at belmontbooks.com under “Events” (ages 8–12)
Just in time for beach reading — hey kids, you can do it, too — Erin Entrada Kelly, author of Newbery Medal winner Hello, Universe, talks about her latest work, We Dream of Space, with fellow writer of middle school novels Christina Soontornvat, author of 2020′s A Wish in the Dark. Set in 1986 in northern Delaware, Entrada Kelly’s heartening story explores the hard yet hopeful lives of three siblings, all in seventh grade, all dealing with adversity in the lead-up to the Space Shuttle Challenger launch. Soontornvat’s work takes place in a dark, dystopian, Thailand-like world, where a kid looking for light becomes a Les Mis-like hero. Bonus points for buying the hardcover books through the event sponsor and indie seller, Belmont Books in Belmont, Mass.
Opening Friday, July 17, after members-only previews Wednesday and Thursday, reserve tickets at adventureaquarium.com, $21.99–$31.99, (all ages)
Camden’s swimming animal attraction is taking reopening slowly, 25% capacity at a time. Staff will be taking temps of all visitors, requiring masks for everyone over age 3, presiding over one-way foot traffic throughout the underwater-y space, keeping the 3D theater and play areas off-limits, and welcoming distanced enjoyment of touch tanks and the shark tunnel. Snacks and beer available for outdoor consumption.