Philly Free Streets: 10 spots to check out on Broad Street during this year's car-free Saturday

Philly Free Streets, the city event in which a number of streets are shut down for people to run, bike, or walk, is returning for its third year on Saturday — this time on North Broad Street, which will be closed to vehicles for four miles between City Hall and Erie Avenue (streets will be closed to cars starting at 6 a.m. on Saturday). Inspired by Pope Francis’ visit in 2015, the event was created in 2016 to highlight Philly’s walkability and encourage everyone to exercise.

The route is open to all walkers and people-powered, nonmotorized transport, which means you should leave all e-bikes, powered scooters, powered skateboards, hoverboards, and Segways at home.

You can join Mayor Kenney on his annual power walk at 9 a.m. heading north, or check out plenty of other activities. For a full schedule, visit phillyfreestreets.com.

Here’s what you shouldn’t miss along the way.

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Lenfest Plaza

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is the oldest art museum and art school in the country. Drop in to see its impressive collection of American art — it’s free all day in honor of Philly Free Streets. Don’t miss “SWARM.,” an exhibition on forging identities across diasporas, dislocations, and reformations. Afterward, check out the iconic Paint Torch by Claes Oldenburg in Lenfest Plaza.

11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 118-128 N. Broad St., free all day

Railroad Ticket to Black History on North Broad

Interested in exploring some of Philly’s most important historical sites? You can learn all about the city’s role in the civil rights movement, jazz, and other significant moments in black history by picking up a “ticket” at any of the rest areas at Cecil B. Moore Avenue, Poplar Street, Callowhill Street, Susquehanna Avenue, Huntingdon Street, and Sedgley Avenue.

North Broad Street beach

If you were sad that the New Beach Club in North Philly closed pretty much immediately after it opened, no worries. There will be a pop-up beach at the Leon H. Sullivan Human Services Center for four days, kicking off during the Free Streets event. Organizers have purchased 50 tons of sand, and there will be plenty of games and activities such as cornhole and paddleball to keep the whole family entertained.

Leon H. Sullivan Human Services Center, 1415 N. Broad St.

Inquirer Building

The Philadelphia Inquirer sold its iconic North Broad building in 2011, but you can still admire the Tower of Truth from the outside. Designed in the beaux arts style, the building was the tallest building north of City Hall at the time it was constructed, standing at exactly 340 feet tall.

400 N. Broad St.

Uptown Theater

You can take a $10 tour of Uptown Theater, an art deco building constructed in 1927. It became a major venue on the chitlin circuit, a collection of performance venues throughout the Eastern, Southern, and Upper Midwestern areas of the country that were safe and acceptable for African American performers during the era of racial segregation, in the 1950s. It’s currently vacant, but the Uptown Entertainment and Development Corp. hopes to restore the theater.

2240-2248 N. Broad St.

Camera icon Charles L. Blockson Afro- American Collection, Temple University Libraries
North Philadelphia’s Uptown Theater marquee showing Stevie Wonder playing an all-star show.

Congregation Rodeph Shalom

Founded in 1795, this synagogue, built in the Byzantine style, is the oldest Ashkenazic synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. In 2008, President Obama spoke here on Passover during his first presidential campaign.

615 N. Broad St.

Divine Lorraine Hotel

One of the most iconic buildings in all of Philadelphia, the Divine Lorraine Hotel functioned as apartments for some of Philadelphia’s most wealthy residents during the late 1800s. After it was abandoned in 1999, a massive renovation project began in 2015 to make the building’s apartments livable again.

699 N. Broad St.

Camera icon DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer
Developer Eric Blumenfeld’s Divine Lorraine on Sept. 20, 2017.

New Freedom Theatre

Founded in 1966, New Freedom Theatre is the oldest African American theater in Pennsylvania. The theater is also surrounded by other historical establishments, such as the Blue Horizon, a 1,500-seat boxing venue where Sugar Ray Leonard fought as an amateur.

1346 N. Broad St.

Philadelphia Doll Museum

The Philadelphia Doll Museum is the only known museum in the United States that emphasizes the collection and preservation of black dolls as important pieces of history and culture. The museum offers lectures on the importance of black dolls and currently displays about 300, with approximately 1,000 in their collection.

2253 N. Broad St.

Max’s Steaks

This joint serves up the largest cheesesteaks in the city — and some of the tastiest. After a day of walking Broad Street, stop by to refuel with one of Max’s cheesesteaks. It’s loved by locals and visitors alike, and even got a cameo in Creed. (Creed II was also spotted filming here earlier this year.)

11 a.m. to 2 a.m., 3653 Germantown Ave.

Road closures

The Philly Free Streets route will be closed to cars beginning at 6 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday. Broad Street will be closed from JFK Blvd. to Butler Street. East-west cross traffic will be permitted on:

  • JFK Boulevard
  • Vine Street (Eastbound Only)
  • Spring Garden Street
  • Ridge Avenue
  • Girard Avenue
  • Diamond Street
  • Lehigh Avenue
  • Allegheny Avenue
  • Erie Avenue
  • Butler Street