The Chinese Lantern Festival will return to Franklin Square for its third year, May 1 through June 30, organizers announced in a news conference Tuesday timed for the first day of spring — and held in not-so-springlike conditions.
New at the park this year are a concert series (with beer garden), two pet-focused Dog Days celebrations, colorful Adirondack chairs, a microbranch of the Free Library, and traffic-calming measures to help pedestrians get to Franklin Square in the first place.
The 7.5-acre park at Sixth and Race Streets has already launched many of its signature alfresco activities, including the carousel and Philly-themed mini-golf. SquareBurger is scheduled to reopen Saturday.
The lantern festival, which features dozens of lanterns illuminated by more than 15,000 LEDs, attracted 89,000 people last year. Tickets for this year's festival are now on sale at historicphiladelphia.org.
"It's like other big annual events that you go to," says Amy Needle, president and CEO of Historic Philadelphia Inc., which runs programming for the park. "People are now starting to know about the festival, and they want to come back every year to see what's new."
The 200-foot Chinese dragon lantern and the popular giant panda lanterns will be back — the only lanterns returning this year. New features include a walk-through great white shark tunnel, a fairy tree, an illuminated gallery of endangered species, and an interactive elephant lantern powered by a bicycle.
"For those who want to be an actual part of the lantern, this is your opportunity," says Miranda Wong of Tianyu Arts & Culture Inc., who helped to produce the festival.
Other events at the historic square this year include two Family Sports Days, on July 23 and Aug. 19, with the first celebrating the Philadelphia Phillies and the second feting the city's new Super Bowl champs. Both will have inflatable sports-theme attractions and other family activities.
Summer also brings the new Summer Sounds at the Square concert series, running July 21 to Sept. 1. There will be free evening performances weekly and a beer garden serving refreshments. The series kicks off with a Philly Pops concert and will include jazz, pop, folk, and blues concerts.
Friday Night at the Movies returns July 27 through Aug. 24.
On July 15 and Aug. 12, humans and their four-legged friends are invited to stretch out across the grass for two Dog Days of Summer events featuring free pet portraits, sprinklers and shallow pools, fetch toys, and other pup-friendly entertainment. Fall 2018 events include the Pumpkin Patch, the Trick or Treat Trail, and Spooky Mini-Golf.
Among Franklin Square's new amenities this year is the Little Free Library, where guests can choose a free read or give away their books for others to enjoy.
In another noteworthy change, the city will reduce the number of driving lanes on Race Street to create easier pedestrian access to the park.
"For people in the community who often don't have green space or a backyard, this thriving, vibrant space is critical," said Philadelphia Parks and Recreation commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell. "The square really gives the community a place for people to be themselves and enjoy their city."