Back-to-school might not mean back-to-normal, but at this point we’ll take what we can get. Turns out, what families can get in Philly this fall isn’t too shabby, including engaging new exhibits, a return to theaters, museums, and live music, last chances for outdoor city and countryside celebrations, and a smattering of virtual offerings, which, let’s face it, is the new normal.

For live events, check with venues for current COVID-19 protocols before you head out.

editor's note
Because of the pandemic, a lot of events and openings are still unpredictable, and we expect that many will change. Check with the venue in advance to confirm dates and times, and what COVID-19 vaccination and testing policies are in place.

Story Time with Pineapple

What’s better than a free, all-about-nature, Sunday morning story time on the porch? How about that alongside a live chicken named after a tropical fruit. After that fun, admission is free to the museum and Fledgling Trail. (Sundays through Oct. 24, free, John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, 1201 Pawlings Rd, Audubon, 610-666-5593, pa.audubon.org)

John Coltrane Celebration

On the evening of what would be the jazz icon’s 95th birthday, marchers follow the music of trombonist Brent White and Africa Brass Ensemble, heading from the Coltrane House to Fairmount Park’s Discovery Center for stargazing over the reservoir and a bit of Ascension. (Sept. 23, free with reservation, the Discovery Center, 1151 N. 33rd St. to 3401 Reservoir Dr., arsnovaworkshop.org) 🎟️ Reserve tickets

Family Style Pizza Party

Too many cooks in the kitchen? Not when the cooks are in their own kitchens, making scratch pizza with their grown-ups at home as instructed by Zoomed-in pros from the Culinary Literacy Center. (Sept. 24, free, virtual through Free Library of Philadelphia, 833-825-5357, libwww.freelibrary.org) 🎟️ Reserve tickets

Junior Scientist Workshops

What’s down the Shore? When did dinos rule the world? How do trees get ready for winter? One three Saturdays, three lessons on the natural world explore malacology, paleontology, and chemistry, respectively. (Sept. 25, Oct. 16, Nov. 13, $20-$35, Academy of Natural Sciences, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, 215-299-1060, ansp.org) 🎟️ Buy tickets

The Stories We Wear

Although the exhibit itself feels a bit like playing dress-up with no-touching, the opening celebration for these fashionably significant textiles is a full day of DIY temporary tattoos and jerseys, jewelry-making, Chinese opera, and ever-stylish drag artist Eric Jaffe. (Sept. 25-June 12, $18 adult, $16 seniors, $13 students and ages 6-17, free under age 5, Penn Museum, 3260 South St., 215-898-4000, penn.museum) 🎟️ Buy tickets

Stories and STEM

Ms. Rachel leads a fact-based story time and sing-along then does a science experiment with preschoolers. The day before (Sept. 28), the library hosts a supportive parent coffee hour. (Sept. 29, free, Kingsessing Library, 1201 S. 51st St., 215-685-2690, libwww.freelibrary.org)

Franklin Fright

The latest big attraction to get in on the second-largest commercial holiday has monsters giving out treats among its exhibits and presenters leading new live science shows, including one on grody experiments and another with Dr. Victoria Frankenstein and her futuristic pumpkin robot. (Oct. 1-31, $23, $19 ages 3-11, Franklin Institute, 222 N. 20th St., 215-448-1200, fi.edu) 🎟️ Buy tickets

Caretoons Family Weekend

Inclusion, diversity, and freedom inspired the cartoons in this rejuvenated exhibit, and are celebrated through comics and games, workshops and more, all geared toward both kids and grown-ups. (Oct. 2-3, Pay-what-you-wish, National Liberty Museum, 321 Chestnut St., 215-925-2800, libertymuseum.org)

Dude Perfect

As seen billions of times on YouTube, five ultra-wholesome Texas bros (including real-life identical twin brothers Cory and Cody) perform goofy tricks and crack jokes, often at their own expense, to the delight of sporty joke players a third their age. (Oct. 8, $25-$199, Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St., 215-336-3600, wellsfargocenterphilly.com) 🎟️ Buy tickets

Wizard of Oz Educational Exhibit

Dorothy, Toto, and friends pay a three-month visit to Memorial Hall, bringing with them games to play and Miss Gulch’s bike to ride. Reservations required. (Oct. 8-Jan. 12, $19, free under age one, Please Touch Museum, 4231 Avenue of the Republic, 215-581-3181, pleasetouchmuseum.org) 🎟️ Buy tickets

Indigenous Peoples’ Weekend

The Oneida gallery takes the spotlight during two days honoring the first Americans, their cultures, and their roles in the Revolution. (Oct. 9-11, $21 adult, $18 senior, student, teacher & military, $13 ages 6-17, free 5 & under, Museum of the American Revolution, 101 S. Third St., 215-253-6731, amrevmuseum.org) 🎟️ Buy tickets

Traditional Day of the Dead Collective Ofrenda

The Aztec dance group Kalpulli Tlalhuitzilli (Earth’s Hummingbirds) and Norristown’s Artivistas of the Center for Culture, Art, Training, and Education to honor pre-Hispanic culture with dance, crafts, art, and sound, in both English and Spanish. (Oct. 13, free, John James Audubon Center in Mill Grove, 1201 Pawlings Rd., Audubon, 610-666-5593, pa.audubon.org)

All Hallows Eve Fall Festival

All the autumnal fun of four hours at an agritainment complex — with way fewer of the fees. Pumpkin painting, craft making, cider pressing, hayrides, beanbag tossing, and hay-pile jumping are all free on the grounds of this historic site. (Oct. 16, free, Pennypacker Mills, Schwenksville, 5 Haldeman Rd., Schwenksville, 610-287-9349, montcopa.org)

The Witches

Roald Dahl’s book goes onstage, mice and all, when the Boy and his GrandmotherCQ battle the very bad, very ordinary-looking witches at an English seaside resort. (Oct. 16-25, $14 adult, $10 child, Montgomery Theater, Souderton, 124 N. Main St., Souderton, 215-723-9984, montgomerytheater.org) 🎟️ Buy tickets

Downstream

Water, water, everywhere — especially at a new exhibit tracing 200 years of trying to control this taken-for-granted wet stuff. “Family Swim Days” take place on the third Saturday of each month starting Oct. 16 (then Nov. 20, Dec. 18) and include storytelling, games, puzzles — no bathing suit required. (Through Feb. 2023, free, Science History Institute, 315 Chestnut St., 215-925-2222, sciencehistory.org)

Gold Over America Tour

With Olympic pressure off, U.S. gymnasts Grace McCallum, Jade Carey, MyKayla Skinner, Jordan Chiles, and GOAT Simone Biles show off their world-class stuff — and have some fun in the process. (Nov. 5, $22.50-$167.50, Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St., 215-336-3600, wellsfargocenterphilly.com) 🎟️ Buy tickets

CraftNOW Create

Smith’s wraparound porch fills with elementary-age students learning about weaving, working clay and wood, screen printing, and mosaic-making, before taking home projects and supplies. (Nov. 6, free, Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse, 3500 Reservoir Dr., 215-765-4325, craftnowphila.org)

Nature Play Day

Fly a kite, take a hike and a hayride, tackle an all-natural obstacle course, and have a snack at this still marvelously under-the-radar preserve. (Nov. 6, Rain date: Nov. 7, $15 ages 18+, $8 ages 6-17, free 5 & under, Mt. Cuba Center, Hockessin, Del., 3120 Barley Mill Rd., Hockessin, DE, 302-239-4244, mtcubacenter.org) 🎟️ Buy tickets

Curtis Family Concerts

As kid-accessible as Curtis gets, their “Storytelling Through Music” concert integrates games and performances inspired by First Person Arts’ pro storytellers. Maybe now they’ll want to take those viola lessons. (Nov. 13, $5+, Gould Rehearsal Hall, Curtis Institute of Music, 1616 Locust St., 215-893-5252, curtis.edu) 🎟️ Buy tickets

Invisible World of Water

Water — up super close and from way far away — as interpreted by scientists, artists, and artist-scientists gives viewers new insight to the everyday magic of two-thirds of our earth and ourselves. (Nov. 13,-Apr. 17, $20-$22 adults, $16-$18 children, free under age 2, Academy of Natural Sciences, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy., 215-299-1000, ansp.org) 🎟️ Buy tickets

The Little Mermaid

Back into seats and Under the Sea, Walnut Street is live on stage again with a Disney greatest hit. (Nov. 16-Jan. 2, $25-$175, Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut St., 215-574-3550, walnutstreettheatre.org) 🎟️ Buy tickets

Keepers of the Culture Family Day

Foremost tellers of Afrocentric stories keep the oral tradition alive and celebrate their 25th annual Family Day, sponsored by the Free Library of Philadelphia. (Nov. 21, virtual, free, kotcinc.org)

» READ MORE: Find more in our complete fall arts guide