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10 Pennsylvania festivals and seasonal activities

History and pop culture collide in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with annual festivals and seasonal activities that honor everything from a prognosticating groundhog to outlandishly costumed mummers. From Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and cities in between, events are held throughout Pennsylvania to recognize and laud musicians, artists, history, children, national holidays, the shifting seasons and more. The one thing these well-known yearly galas all have in common: They’re family-friendly and fun-filled, no matter the occasion.

Pennsylvania Road Sign

1. Groundhog Day

Every year, on February 2 – Groundhog Day – Punxsutawney Phil peeks out of his burrow on Gobbler’s Knob to determine whether or not there will be six more weeks of winter. Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, is home to Punxsy Phil (official name: Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary), and a celebration is held in his honor annually. Gobbler’s Knob is a designated historic site and, on the holiday, it is divided into two separate viewing areas for families and students. A bonfire begins at the Knob around 3 a.m. and refreshments and food are available, but visitors should come prepared – there is no shelter, so dress warmly and bring blankets! Once the celebration has wrapped, visitors may want to stop at the Groundhog Zoo, Phil’s year-round home, to see the rotund celebrity and fellow groundhogs through a window accessible from outside.

1548 Woodland Ave. Ext., Punxsutawney, PA 15767. Hours: Gobbler’s Knob gate opens at 3 a.m., Phil’s prognostication is at approximately 7:25 a.m. Admission: No charge to get into Gobbler’s Knob.

2. Punxsutawney Groundhog Festival

The Punxsutawney Groundhog Festival is held annually during the week of the Fourth of July in the historic town square of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, home to the infamous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil. As an extension of the town’s claim to fame, the festival was developed with the following mission: “To provide a family-oriented summer celebration of our community and Pennsylvania’s most famous resident, Punxsutawney Phil.” This yearly event is packed full of activities to please young and old alike. The schedule is filled with free, live, nightly entertainment including bands, magicians, and more. There are exhibits, a craft show, a car cruise, contests for children, fireworks and plenty of food booths.

301 East Mahoning Street, Punxsutawney, PA 15767. Hours: The week of Fourth of July. Admission: Free to the public.

3. The Gettysburg Festival

An extraordinary 10-day cultural arts festival held annually in historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, The Gettysburg Festival features more than 100 events and over 800 artists and performers. A celebration of music (brass, jazz and classical), culinary arts, theater, visual arts and dance, the festival offers free and ticketed events alike with performances by world-class artists as well as innovative emerging artists. There are special events for children and a focus on providing unique educational opportunities with every bit of entertainment. The festival’s events are held at venues throughout the city of Gettysburg including The Majestic Theater, Lincoln Square and the Festival Main Stage at Gettysburg College.

113 Carlisle Street, Gettysburg, PA 17325. Hours: Annually in mid-June. Admission: More than half of the events are free and open to the public; other events are ticketed.

4. Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival

For five days each May, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, hosts the Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival. Citiparks and the Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater co-present this festival of professional performing arts for children. This popular event has hosted talented performance groups from the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Canada, Scotland, Kenya and the United States. Ticketed events include performances in theater, puppetry, music, dance, comedy, multimedia, acrobatics and more for young audiences and are held at the Studio Theatre in the Cathedral of Learning, the Charity Randall Theatre and the Bellefield Hall Auditorium. The festival itself is located on the lawns of the University of Pittsburgh campus and Schenley Plaza, where visitors can enjoy free hands-on educational and cultural activities, an outdoor stage, roving artists and more.

Schenley Plaza?, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Hours: Performances held for five days during mid-May. Admission: Some free events; ticketed event prices range from $7 – $18 ; children under 2 free; discount ticket packages available.

5. Penns Colony Festival

Every year, the Penn’s Colony Festival is held in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, for two weekends at the end of September. “Tis a Publick Tyme Like No Other” is this award-winning colonial festival’s motto. Guests will experience a marketplace celebration in a recreated colonial village. The festival hosts juried master craftsmen and artists producing American Folk Art, from furniture to decorative accessories. Grand colonial entertainment can be found in the way of music, theatre, dance fifes and drums. Children’s games and activities abound as does festive food. Eighteenth-century living history programs feature French Voyageurs, British, Colonial and Native participants reenacting the events that led to the French and Indian War.

365 Saxonburg Blvd, Saxonburg, PA 16056. Hours: Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sundays, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission: Adults (16-59), $6.50; seniors (60+), $5.50; children (8-15), $4.50; children under 7 free.

6. Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts

The Pennsylvania State University is host to the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts annually in mid-July in State College, Pennsylvania. The University Park campus of Penn State welcomes visitors to help them celebrate the arts with diverse, high-quality, visual and performing arts throughout the week. Music to dance to theatrical performances and more are held in a variety of traditional and non-traditional venues. A nationally recognized sidewalk sale – ranked as one of the top outdoor fine art and fine craft shows nationwide – is one of the biggest draws of the festival, attracting artists and craftspeople from all over the country to exhibit and share their work. The festival proudly hosts a Children’s Day, inviting local youth to participate in their own sidewalk sale displaying their original, individually crafted art.

E College Ave & S Allen St., State College, PA 16801. Hours: One week annually in mid-July from late morning until about 11 p.m. Admission: Free.

7. Bedford’s Fall Foliage Festival

Bedford’s Fall Foliage Festival in Bedford, Pennsylvania, is organized entirely by volunteers and draws over 70,000 visitors over the two weekends it is held every October. Surrounded by the beauty of fall in southern Pennsylvania, the festival offers traditional food favorites, from candied apples to apple cider, and activities and entertainment for guests of all ages. Over 400 juried artists and craftspeople display and sell their handcrafted work, such as baskets, pottery, furnishings, woodworking, clothing, dolls and more. Other artists offer live demonstrations of quilting, woodcarving and painting. The celebration includes a fall foliage queen contest and antique car parade. Activities designed especially for kids include an interactive children’s theater, pony rides, scarecrow making, balloon sculptures and a magic show.

131 South Juliana Street, Bedford, PA 15522. Hours: Annually, two weekends in early October. Admission: Free.

8. Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta

The Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s official Fourth of July celebration – is the largest inland regatta in the United States. A fun-filled, family-friendly and free festival, the regatta is packed with spectacular air, land and water entertainment including extreme water sports, freestyle motocross, powerboat racing, skydiving, jet ski shows, aerial competitions, dragon boat racing and Fourth of July fireworks that are considered one of the best pyrotechnic displays in the country. Held at North Shore and Point State Park, this summertime extravaganza offers free musical entertainment for every age featuring national-recording performers. For the littlest guests, there are climbing walls, kid zones and many other children’s activities.

Point State Park & the North Shore, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Hours: Held annually every Fourth of July. Admission: Free.

9. Philadelphia Mummers Parade

A long-running tradition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, since the 1800s, the Philadelphia Mummers Parade is held annually on New Year’s Day in this historic city. Featuring unique, outlandish, colorful costumes, music and pageantry, the parade begins on Broad Street and culminates at City Hall and the Convention Center where the official judging of the divisions will take place. The parade is divided into five divisions: comic, wench brigade, fancy, string band and fancy brigade. While the mummers are costumed entertainers who are best-known for their January 1 activities welcoming in the New Year, mummery is a year-round hobby for thousands of people of all ages. The parade draws thousands every year and can last anywhere from six to eight hours.

Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA. Hours: Begins at 10 a.m. on New Year’s Day and lasts approximately six hours. Admission: Free.

10. Philadelphia Folk Festival

Held annually at Old Pool Farm in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Folk Festival is billed as the “definitive event of the summer.” The festival takes place the third weekend in August and is the primary fundraising event for the non-profit organization, the Philadelphia Folksong Society. Hours of music featuring dozens of different bands on several stages carry on throughout the festival. Contemporary and traditional artists perform in genres that include world/fusion, Celtic, folk rock, country, Klezmer, dance and more. The Dulcimer Grove is a designated kids area offering family-friendly crafts, juggling, magic and, of course, music. And as crafts are a part of the folk tradition, there is a crafts area at the top of the concert hill, from candlemakers to glassblowers.

Clemers Mill Road and Salford Station Road, Schwenksville, PA, 19473. Hours: Annually, the third weekend of August. Admission: Tickets range from $10 – $145; concert admission for children under 12 is free; campground admission for children under 5 is free; discount with advance ticket purchase.

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