Wawa Welcome America! Festival: The complete guide to the Fourth

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An American flag passes through the parade route on Chestnut Street during the 2013 Fourth of July Parade in Philadelphia. Parades, fireworks displays, beach parties and Wawa Welcome America! festivities are all on tap for the July 4th weekend. ( ANDREW RENNEISEN / Staff Photographer/File)

Christmas is pretty great however, this is the most wonderful time of the year. Our country’s most patriotic holiday calls for fireworks, parties, barbecues and extensive displays of red, white and blue. In Philadelphia, we feel especially inclined to bust out the stars and stripes and the Wawa Welcome America! Festival gives residents of America’s birthplace a week to get their independence on.

It all starts Saturday, June 28 with a massive block party at The Shops at Liberty Place. A slew of performers will kick off the festival, including The Voice contestant Matthew Schuler and the Philadelphia Dance Academy. The all-day affair starts at noon (and ends at 10 p.m.) at 16th and Chestnut with a tribute to R&B group New Edition. You’ll also enjoy food from top food trucks and restaurants. Be sure to take advantage of special discounts at the Shops as well.

Recover from Saturday’s party by teaming up with the Mural Arts Project to take part in a community paint day in Philly’s Mantua neighborhood. On Sunday, June 29 bring your artistic talent to East Parkside, 1100 North 41st Street at noon to create another famed Philadelphia mural.

The festival takes a turn for the informative on Monday, June 30. An education initiative for children and their parents, “Go 4th and Learn,” encourages families to attend various museums and parks for activities that get kids’ gears turning. On Monday, get free admission to the Academy of Natural Science on the Parkway starting at 10 a.m. where they’ll have animal shows and a Wawa dairy exhibit. Tuesday, July 1, bring the brood to Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse in Mantua for fitness themed activities starting at 10 a.m.  Finally, Wednesday, July 2 the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall offers free admission starting at 10 a.m. and an exhibit on the history of the hoagie.

Family bonding continues during three outdoor movie screenings at various locations throughout the city. Let it go on Monday, June 30 as Disney’s hit Frozen is displayed at 9 p.m. at Franklin Square on 6th and Race Streets. Also at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, July 1 Katniss Everdeen returns to compete in the Hunger Games during Hunger Games: Catching Fire playing in Rittenhouse Square. Last but not least, one of Philly’s greatest icons comes to the big screen at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Wednesday, July 2. Rocky plays on the steps of the museum at 9 p.m.

Back again to the Great Plaza at Penns Landing is the Philadelphia Orchestra. This free concert starts at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 1 and will conclude with a small fireworks show to get you warmed up for Friday’s spectacle.

If five tons of Wawa hoagies sounds like your dream come true, dream no more. Wednesday, July 2 is Wawa Hoagie Day at the Independence Visitor Center as Mayor Michael Nutter and Wawa pay tribute to military, fire and police service men and women by handing out free hoagies to visitors at noon at Independence Mall.

We’re getting closer to the big celebration and at 8 p.m. in the Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall, Philly POPS! are holding a free concert. Come early during the evening on Thursday, July 3, seating is limited.

Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the Fourth of July! It starts at 10 a.m. with an hour long ode to our freedom on the steps of Independence Hall. Readings from the Declaration of Independence will be recited, the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 60th anniversary of Brown vs. Board will be recognized and top performances will be presented.

Following the ceremony, the Philadelphia Independence Day Parade kicks off at 11 a.m. at Independence Hall and will head on Chestnut to 9th Street, turn on 9th and continue to Market down to Front Street and end back at Chestnut.

At noon, the Party on the Parkway begins with dozens of food vendors, family-friendly games and music starting at 20th Street leading up to Eakins Oval. This is all warming crowds up to one of the largest free concert events in the area, starting at 7 p.m. on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (by the Art Museum). The 4th of July Jam has Nicki Minaj, Ed Sheeran, Jennifer Hudson, Aloe Blacc, Ariana Grande, and Vicci Martinez performing alongside the Roots until 11 p.m. when a huge fireworks show closes out the holiday.  

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