Grab your sunglasses: You’ll need them (and sunscreen, too) when you hit Eakins Oval, where a freshly painted 34,240-square-foot mural gleams on the blacktop. The massive mural — marked this year by zigzags, diamonds, and thick bands of color — heralds the return of the Oval+, the summer pop-up that partially shuts down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. It starts its four-week run Friday.
Besides the requisite beer garden and fleet of food trucks, this year’s Oval+ features interactive activities on the Parkway, as well as a double-decker bus blaring DJ-spun music and a nook where you can rent a ukulele or guitar.
Free to explore, the pop-up park is great for pedestrians and only a slight hiccup for drivers: Between 20th Street and Art Museum Drive, the north outbound lane of the Parkway will be closed to car traffic through Aug. 25. (The bike lane and the crossing zones at each numbered street remain open.)
While you can walk through the Oval+ any time of the week, its official hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays. The beer garden and double-decker bus are open Wednesday through Friday from 5 to 11 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 11 p.m.
Here’s what to look forward to:
Head straight to Eakins Oval’s mural-painted parking lot to play beanbag toss, chess, or ping-pong — or to drop your kids off at the giant sandbox. There’s also a spray garden misting water from overhead and an Instagram-friendly art installation of pink ribbons. A nine-hole mini golf course covers the adjacent lawn.
The 100-seat beer garden is set in the grass, illuminated by string lights. Those 21 and older — and pets, too, if they’re on a short leash (six feet or less) — are welcome inside. In addition to beer, wine, and cocktails, find spiked slushies and fare from Chatayee Thai restaurant.
At the east end of the Oval+, food trucks will sell everything from tacos to popsicles. This year’s lineup features newcomers Brotherly Grub, Dos Hermanos, Dump-N-Roll, Island Shack, QT Vietnamese, and La Chocolatera. Returning vendors include Bonjour Crepe, BrazBQ, Cow and Curd, Mama’s Meatballs, Pitruco Pizza, Sophie, Sum Pig, Chilly Banana, Cupcake Carnivale, Curbside Cream, Dre’s, Lil’ Pop Shop, Milk+Sugar, and Pink’s Cold Treats.
Three activity zones will take over the closed section of the Parkway. The first is the “Play” area, closest to Eakins Oval near the Von Colln Field; it sports mini basketball courts, along with areas for tetherball, badminton, and ping-pong. Equipment is available to borrow during the Oval+'s opening hours.
The “Make” area is stationed by the Barnes Foundation. Here, visitors (with a driver’s license) can borrow guitars, tambourines, mini keyboards, ukuleles, and other instruments to play onsite. There’s also a reading section with comics, short stories, bilingual fiction, and other books, and a shipping container designed to host events like art workshops and craft sales.
Parked in front of the Rodin Museum is the “Hear” section, featuring a double-decker bus that streams music from local radio stations whenever guest DJs aren’t working (most weekend nights). Grab a seat on the couch of its LED-lit downstairs lounge, or climb the steps to the top, where open-air dancing awaits. The bus fits about 30 people and also serves up Rita’s Italian Ice and soft pretzels from its front window. You can purchase beer and wine at the Mainstay Independent Brewing Co. pop-up next door.
Weekdays at the Oval+ are chock-full of events centered on themes. On “Wellness Wednesdays,” visitors can partake in kickboxing, power yoga, and dance classes; work with local tennis pros on the “Play” court; or join in nature-oriented readings at the “Make” zone.
“Arts & Culture Thursdays” bring Silent Philly dance parties to the Oval+, drag-queen story-time sessions to the “Make” reading room, and live performances from BalletX and the Liberian Women’s Chorus for Change to the “Hear” block.
Friday is all about “Food and Flicks.” Grab a bite from one of the food trucks and settle in for a movie, screened on a giant projector. Films include Black Panther, The Mighty Ducks, Top Gun, Hook, and Little Giants.