In its 187th year, encompassing 10 acres of space at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and welcoming about 250,000 visitors each year, it is no wonder that the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show is the nation's largest and longest running event of its kind. The Flower Show has become an annual tradition for many families and this year’s theme, “Celebrate the Movies” featuring Disney and Pixar films, makes it more kid-friendly than ever.
Passing through the entrance hall, guests are greeted by a beautiful Art Deco-style movie theatre marquee, decorated in bright lights and neon flowers. The scent of popcorn draws visitors down the red carpet and onto the show floor. The major displays took their inspiration from new and classic Disney and Pixar movies including "Maleficent," "Into the Woods," "Cars," "The Parent Trap" and of course "Frozen." On our visit, my daughter enjoyed trying to guess the movie being portrayed before viewing the display sign.
Some viewing tips for kids:
- Be sure to walk all the way around the Tarzan exhibit – there are fun details (including Cheetah the monkey and a secret waterfall) to be seen from every angle.
- Have children look for the hidden crocodile shaped from ferns in the Peter Pan display. Around the other side, there are delicate yellow flowers hanging from a tree, meant to be Tinkerbell’s pixie dust.
- Look up when you visit the Nemo garden. The lights make it appear as if you are underwater with a dock and boat floating above you.
- Don’t miss the live chickens pecking around behind the Cars’ elaborate junkyard garden.
- Take time to appreciate the best-in-show detail of the American Institute of Floral Designers’ interpretations of the eleven official Disney princesses. This was my daughter’s favorite display.
There are so many more wildly creative gardens on display including Cinderella, Mary Poppins, Ratatouille and on and on. If you children are patient and interested enough, a family could easily spend several hours admiring the landscape, floral and education-related designs. There is also a large indoor marketplace with various art and gardening vendors but might not be of interest to most kids.
One extra Flower Show feature that is popular with the little ones is the Butterfly Experience. There is an admission price of $3 per person but I thought it was well worth it. Attendants hand each guest a Q-tip dipped in sugar water to attract the butterflies. Unlike other butterfly exhibits that I’ve seen, guests are permitted to spend as much time as they like and wander a large open space (not a narrow path). It was easy to find a butterfly to land on the cotton swab, hold in your hand or even have perch on your arm. My daughter was fascinated by the beauty of over 30 species that filled the space.
We also enjoyed the Gene London Hollywood Collection, featuring a walk-through room of priceless gowns worn in classic films by actresses such as Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Vivien Leigh. Entrance is $5 per person, but this certainly isn’t a must-do for children. There is also a Make & Take room which we didn’t visit. For $10, guests can make their own wearable floral design, or for $20 can build a small terrarium.
Dining options are plentiful at the Flower Show. There are 17 different food vendors on site, many with movie themes such as the Land of Oz Diner. Guests find restaurants, coffee and dessert options on the show room floor and on the Convention Center concourse. The Hard Rock Café is also accessible without going outside and directly across the street is the Reading Terminal Market, filled with any kind of food you might be craving.
There is a nursing mother's lounge on the first floor of the Convention Center as well as a coat room ($3 per coat) outside the main show hall. Strollers are welcome and I did see many of them, but it looked difficult to navigate with one on a crowded day. Weekends are the busiest time to go, with weekdays after 3pm being the least crowded.
The final day of the show, March 8, holds special appeal for little ones as it is Cinderella Sunday. Children can dress as their favorite prince or princess, walk the red carpet and pose for a picture with Cinderella herself!
Tickets may be purchased at the Convention Center, prices are $32 for an adult and $17 for children ages 2- 16. Kids under 2 are free. Family Fun Packs can be purchased for $70 and include admission for two adults and two children. Discount tickets are also available at many township recreation departments. Prices may vary slightly but are about $28 for an adult and $16 for a child.
Parking guides can be found on the Flower Show website, but I found it easiest to take the train. The Market East (Jefferson) Station is right at the Convention Center and visitors don’t even need to step outside.
Overall, my daughter was thrilled with her first Flower Show experience. The show organizers’ efforts to make the PHS Flower Show even more family-friendly have not gone unnoticed. Next year’s theme (spoiler alert!) will be centered around the National Park Foundation and will certainly engage children once again.
The Flower Show is run by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, a nonprofit organization that supports gardening education, creation of green jobs, community gardens, Plant One Million trees campaign and creation of green spaces throughout the region. The 2015 show runs from February 28 through March 8 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.