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5 Reasons to Celebrate the 4th of July in Philadelphia

It’s hard to believe, but it’s less than a month until the 4th of July, the day the United States celebrates its birthday. Last year I urged you to celebrate the 4th of July in Philadelphia, my home town, but I didn’t give you much advance planning time.  This year, I’m giving you plenty of time to be able to party in the nation’s birthplace.
fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July
Don’t just visit Philadelphia on July 4th. We celebrate for the entire week leading up to the Fourth.
Here are 5 reasons you should join us to celebrate the 4th of July 2018 in Philadelphia:

1) Philadelphia Knows How to Party!

If you’re from the United States, unless you live under a rock don’t enjoy American football (or Super Bowl party food), you know the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl in February.
The Eagles’ win prompted at least two mega outpourings of celebration. It was the first time the Philadelphia Eagles ever won a Super Bowl AND they beat the team most of America loves to hate dislike, the New England Patriots. (Hate Dislike? The New England Patriots? Why?: 1) they win all the time, 2) Deflategate, 3) their quarterback is too good, (3a) too good looking; AND, (3b) he’s married to a super model.)
If you ignore the behavior of a very few unruly Philadelphia fans, you saw a joyous, spontaneous, orderly celebration in Center City Philadelphia right after the game. This was only very slightly marred by a little bit of climbing on things (like overly weak building awnings). There also may or may not have been some police horse poop eating (fake news? I wish).
For the official parade celebrating the Eagles win, 700,000 Philadelphia phans participated with utmost decorum. (BTW, Philadelphians insist the crowd was more like 1.5 million, give or take a few hundred thousand).
We are only slightly less exuberant when we celebrate what happened in Philadelphia on July 4th, 1776. And, we don’t just celebrate on the Fourth of July. As we do every year, we’ll celebrate for a full week in 2018, starting on Thursday, June 28th. We call it the Wawa Welcome America festival. (No one is crying. Wawa is the local version of a chain of convenience stores a la Seven Eleven.)

2) You Can Geek Out to American History in Philadelphia

Philadelphia boasts has the most historic square mile in the United States. You can literally walk in the footsteps of the Founding Fathers. You can sit in the pews in Christ Church where George Washington and Benjamin Franklin worshiped. Goosebumps.
Christ church in Philadelphia

Christ Church, founded in 1695, in Old City, Philadelphia. Its current steeple was added in 1754. For 56 years it was the tallest structure in North America.

Much of the historic district is part of Independence National Historical Park. The National Park Service runs a very helpful visitors’ center on Independence Mall. Their website is first rate to help you plan your visit, including the Liberty Bell museum and a free guided tour of Independence Hall.
Speaking of “context”. Consider taking one of the in depth Context Travel walking tours of Philadelphia. Their tours are led by Masters or Ph.D. level experts and never have more than six people.
Check out Philadelphia’s newest history museum, The Museum of the American Revolution, just a few blocks from Independence Hall.
Washington Crossing the Delaware, Museum of the American Revolution, Philadelphia

Frieze of George Washington crossing the icy Delaware River on Christmas Day 1776, to attack the Hessian troops in Trenton, NJ. Museum of the American Revolution.

3) You Can Visit Philadelphia’s Premier Museums for Free

The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Many people only know about the Philadelphia Museum of Art because Rocky ran up its front steps in one of film history’s iconic scenes. In fact, it’s a large, world class art museum. You could easily spend an entire day there. On the first Sunday of every month, admission is “pay what you wish”, and July 1st happens to be a Sunday! As part of the Wawa Welcome America celebration, museum admission will also be “pay what you wish” on Monday, July 2nd.

The National Constitution Center

I’m a recovering lawyer. This is probably why one of my most favorite Philadelphia museums is the National Constitution Center, just a few blocks from Independence Hall. Before your eyes glaze over, let me tell you that most of the exhibits are interactive. Be sure not to miss the Center’s multimedia theater presentation of Freedom Rising. It even brought a tear to the eye of an English friend I took there. In conjunction with the Wawa Welcome America celebration, on Thursday, June 28, 2018, admission will be free from 9:30 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.

National Constitution Center

Independence Hall seen through a window in the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall in Old City Philadelphia.

The Barnes Foundation Museum

Walking distance from the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, is the Barnes Foundation Museum dedicated to the eclectic art collection of Alfred C. Barnes. On Sunday, July 1st, the museum will have a Free First Sunday Family Day. Priority admission will be for families with children under 18 in tow. In addition to free admission to the museum’s art collection, there will be special hands on crafts and games and the “precision and play of Almanac Dance Circus Theater”. 

14 Other Philadelphia and Philadelphia Area Museums

Wear comfortable shoes because 14 other Philadelphia and Philadelphia area museums will also have free admission days during the Wawa Welcome America festival week leading up to July 4th. You can check out specific information about each one on the Festival website.

4) There Will be Free Movies and Live Performances

During the Wawa Welcome America week-long festival, there are no fewer than 10 free performances and events scheduled. Everything from concerts by the  Philly Pops Orchestra; to gospel music; and a Red, White and Brew Fest, of course. You can check out the entire list on the Wawa Welcome America website.

If free movies are more your style, you have your choice of five during the week leading up to July 4th. I’m guessing that the free outdoor screening of Rocky right on the Art Museum steps on July 1st will be a major draw. They will be judging Rocky costumes. Bring your own blanket. Those stone steps are hard!

5) You Can Celebrate the 4th of July in Philadelphia from Morning ‘Til Night

Spend the morning in front of Independence Hall. At 11:00 a.m., the Independence Day Parade will start there. You can find the participants, schedule and recommended viewing sites on the Wawa Welcome America website.

From noon to 7:00 p.m., you can enjoy 5 blocks of free fun and food on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Many of the activities will be suitable for families.

Starting at 7:00 p.m., all are invited to stay for the free concert, headlining Pitbull, Heather Headley, and the Philly Pops Big Band.

After the concert, the Wawa Welcome America festival promises the largest firework display in 10 years on the Parkway, with new special effects and a soundtrack dedicated to love.

Is it Hard to Travel To and In Philadelphia?

In a word — Nope.

Philadelphia is located almost smack in the middle of the so-called northeast corridor, 100 miles south of New York City, and 150 miles north of Washington, D.C.

I-95 which goes through Philly is the main north-south interstate highway from Florida to Maine.

Major bus companies and Amtrak serve Philadelphia.

Philadelphia International Airport is a major hub for American Airlines and is served by other legacy and discount carriers. You can reach Center City Philadelphia from the airport in 25 minutes by SEPTA Regional Rail with stops at all terminals or by taxi in about 20 minutes, depending on traffic. There is a flat taxi rate of  $28.50 (and $1.00 for each additional person) into Center City Philadelphia.

Once you arrive in Center City Philadelphia, you will find a pedestrian friendly environment. After we moved to Center City Philadelphia, we soon jettisoned one car and we rarely use the one we kept. If walking isn’t your thing, SEPTA provides public bus and trolley transportation, and there are taxis, Uber and Lyft.

Where Should I Stay in Philadelphia?

There are hotels, bed and breakfast homes, hostels, and AirBnB lodgings available in Center City Philadelphia from which you can walk to all the events listed above. However, there are less expensive options throughout the region, including near the airport. From the airport, you can easily take public transportation in Center City.

I hope you’ll come. We’ll leave the lights on.

How do you celebrate the 4th of July where you live?

Looking for more to read? Here are tips on what to wear for the 4th of July. 

Suzanne Fluhr, Travel Editor

Suzanne Fluhr, Midlife Boulevard's travel editor, is a recovering Philadelphia lawyer, empty nester, wanderer, dog person and Zentangle® enthusiast. She also writes about Baby Boomer travels for the body and mind on her personal blog, Boomeresque. Instagram: Boomeresque2

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