Everything you need to know about the tall ships in Philadelphia this weekend

A gorgeous fleet of tall wooden ships arrives in Philadelphia this weekend for Sail Philadelphia 2018, just in time for Memorial Day. The five-day  festival celebrating the city’s maritime history includes something for everyone — from sunset cruises on the Delaware River to tasty seafood bites at the Waterfront Festival.

Events and activities

Parade of Sail

Watch 11 tall ships sail into Philadelphia’s waterfront along the Delaware River during the Parade of Sail, which kicks off Thursday afternoon. Each ship provides its own unique version of showmanship before docking.

3 to 5 p.m. Thursday, free admission

Waterfront Festival

The festival offers five days of nautical-themed programming and family-friendly experiences, including landside views of the ships. Plenty of food and beverages will be available, including funnel cakes and cotton candy. For seafood fans, Chickie’s and Pete’s  offers snow crab legs and peel-and-eat shrimp.

Camera icon JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Visitors at Penns Landing, Philadelphia near the Oliver Hazard Perry docked after the Parade of Sails in Philadelphia, Pa., Thursday, May 24, 2018.

11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday to Monday, $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, military, and children ages 3 to 12, free for children 2 and under

Ship Tours

Daily self-guided ship tours are available on a timed schedule. Tickets allow guests to tour ships of their choosing to see how they were built, how they function, and what it’s like to be a crew member. Each ship requires a separate ticket, which also includes admission to the Waterfront Festival and the Independence Seaport Museum.

What ships are available to tour?

Oliver Hazard Perry — The first oceangoing full-rigged ship built in the United States in 110 years, its home port is Newport, R.I.

Sagres — One of the international ships at the festival, Sagres is sailing in from Lisbon. It’s also one of the largest vessels in the festival.

Spirit of Bermuda — This vessel, a Bermudian training ship modeled after the schooners constructed on the island during the 19th century, is sailing in from the Caribbean.

Lynx — Based in Portsmouth, N.H., Lynx is a topsail schooner modeled after a naval schooner from the War of 1812, making it ideal for history buffs.

Noon to 7 p.m. Friday to Monday, $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and military, $7 for children 3 to 12, free for children 2 and under.

Sail Away Cruises

For an even more immersive experience, visitors can board ships for cruises along the Delaware. Day (90 minutes) and twilight sailings (120 minutes, including a glass of wine and snacks) are offered. Cruise tickets are also available for the Parade of Sail on Thursday. Those who opt for the Parade of Sail cruise get an exclusive three-hour experience on the water, with spectacular views of arriving ships. Each cruise ticket includes admission to the Waterfront Festival and the Independence Seaport Museum.

What ships are available for Sail Away Cruises?

A.J. Meerwald — New Jersey’s official tall ship, docked in Gloucester City.

North Wind — Also docked in Gloucester City, the North Wind provides underserved students with an education outside traditional classrooms.

America 2.0 — Sailing from New York City, the America 2.0 is a sleek and beautiful ship built by Scarano Boat Building.

When and If — Also docked in New York City, this schooner was commissioned in 1939 by then-Col. George S. Patton.

Thomas E. Lannon — This family-owned schooner is based in  Gloucester, Mass., and focuses on preserving the local fishing industry and the history of schooners.

Thursday through Monday, $90 for day cruises, $125 for twilight sailings, $150 for Parade of Sail.

To avoid the crowds

You can buy early-entry tickets that allow you to tour the ships with fewer people and more time to explore. They  provide access to tours between 11 a.m. and noon one day before general boarding, and ticket holders should plan to board at least two ships during the preview hour. They also include non-timed entry on all touring ships from noon to 7 p.m. on the same day of purchase and admission to the Waterfront Festival and Independence Seaport Museum. There’s a limited number of early-entry tickets, so act fast.

Early-entry tickets are $65 for adults, $55 for seniors and military, $50 for children 3 to 12, and free for children 2 and under.

Sail Philadelphia 2018

  • Parade of Sail: 3-5 p.m. Thursday, Penn's Landing
  • Noon-7 p.m. Friday to Monday (rain or shine), Penn's Landing, pay-as-you-go, sailphiladelphia.org