On Tuesday, America celebrates its 241st birthday. There are parties of all kinds –– from outdoor movie screenings to fireworks to free shows, including one with Mary J. Blige –– happening all weekend long.
While most of what’s going on centers on the Wawa Welcome America festivities, there’s so much more to July Fourth in Philly than the big concert on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway — where Ms. Blige, a.k.a. the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, will take the stage before a dazzling array of fireworks. There’s a patriotic activity leading all the way up to the Parkway’s grand finale.
You can start off your celebrations Thursday afternoon with a slice of a six-ton Wawa hoagie (which is just that much more delicious when it’s gigantic and free), then Friday, go see the Philadelphia Orchestra perform for free, eat up the delicious treats Saturday for sale the Night Market, see Rocky on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Sunday, hit up the National Liberty Museum on Monday, and on Tuesday, check out the free Kidz Bop, all before the big Parkway concert.
Here are our suggestions for how to spend your Independence holiday in the best possible way. Need more? Check out a complete list of fireworks in the area.
Wawa Hoagie Day
About 66 million years ago, when the famed Tyrannosaurus rex known as “Sue” was alive and thumping around what would become the United States, it weighed about seven tons. This Hoagie Day, six-sevenths of a T. rex’s weight will be served up in a soft, flat roll and handed out to Philadelphians for free. Line up on the lawn of the Independence Visitor Center to enjoy free sections of a six-ton Philadelphia classic –– the hoagie à la Wawa.
Noon-2 p.m. Thursday, 1 N. Independence Mall W., Philadelphia. Free, welcomeamerica.com/event/wawa-hoagie-day.
Wawa Welcome America Presents Philly @ The Movies
Turn the outdoors into your movie theater this Welcome America week. Public spaces around Philly will be offering free public features (kid-friendly, of course). Check the list to find one near you. BYO popcorn.
- Despicable Me: 8:30-10:30 p.m. Thursday, June 29. Cotton Street between Main Street and Cresson Street.
- Despicable Me 2: 8-11 p.m. Thursday, June 29. Piazza at Schmidts Commons, 1001 N. Second St.
- The Lego Batman Movie: 8-11 p.m. Friday, June 30. Panati Playground, 3100 N. 22nd St.
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: 8-11 p.m. Saturday, July 1. Vernon Park, 5800 Germantown Ave.
- Rocky: 8-11 p.m. Sunday, July 2. Steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
- Sing: 9-11 p.m. Monday, July 3. Franklin Square, 200 Sixth St.
Various times. June 29-July 3. Philadelphia. Free. https://welcomeamerica.com/event-category/philly-the-movies/
Fireworks at Penn’s Landing
Swim, walk, or sail down to the waterfront Friday night to check out the Philadelphia Orchestra in a feast of familiar audience-rousers. Kensho Watanabe leads favorites by Leonard Bernstein, Morton Gould, and John Williams, plus an Armed Forces Salute, and will wrap with the explosive “1812 Overture” by Tchaikovsky.
8 p.m. Friday, Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing, Christopher Columbus Boulevard and Chestnut Street, https://welcomeamerica.com/event/fireworks-comcast-nbcuniversal-pyrotecnico/
Celebrate America’s independence from Britain by listening to the military music stylings of the U.S. Army Band called “Pershing’s Own.” The group dates to 1922, when General of the Armies John J. Pershing, known for his service in the 10th Cavalry Regiment, a historically African American and initially a segregated unit, founded a musical group dedicated to honoring the Army. Ironically, the musical stylings aimed to emulate European military bands. On Saturday night, the band will play old favorites. A fireworks finale will begin at 9:30 p.m.
8 p.m. Saturday, July 1. Penn’s Landing, at the Delaware River Waterfront, Philadelphia. Free. https://welcomeamerica.com/event/pershings-us-army-band-concert/
Food Trust Night Market: Independence Day Weekend Edition
Night Market is back for another iteration of championing local food entrepreneurs in a classically American celebration of diversity. This weekend’s market will be in Spruce Hill in West Philly. Vendors on the block will include Phyllodelphia, a Greek and Mediterranean food truck with a penchant for flaky dough; Wishbone, the craft fried-chicken-maker of your dreams; Cynful Bliss, an alcohol-infused bakery; and Revolution Taco, a gourmet taco joint on wheels. Hear live music from DJ Foxx Boogie and the West Kensingtons, pick up a souvenir at Live Ink’s interactive T-shirt printing, and send a snap with the Night Market’s new geofilter.
6-10 p.m. Saturday, July 1. 40th and Walnut Streets, Philadelphia. Free. welcomeamerica.com/event/food-trust-night-market/
Party on the Parkway
If, when sitting in traffic on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, you’ve ever dreamed of ziplining across the Tetris of slow-moving cars and getting home to dinner, cold beer, and a Kidz Bop concert – your chance is coming. The five-block stretch is clearing traffic for July Fourth and transforming into a full party zone, zipline included. Kids can play in the Strider Bikes obstacle course, cat and dog people alike can chill in the Amtrak Pet Friendly Area, and the 21-plus crowd can sip a cold brew in two beer gardens, all while enjoying free Kidz Bop music on the Philly Groove stage.
Noon-10 p.m. Tuesday, July 4. Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia. Free, welcomeamerica.com/event/party-on-the-parkway/.
Glenside’s Fourth of July Celebration
Those looking for festivities outside Philly will find a full day of action in Glenside, planned by the Greater Glenside Patriotic Association. The morning kicks off at 10 a.m. with a children’s program in Renninger Memorial Park. At 4 p.m, you can catch the 1.5-mile “Grand, Glorious, Patriotic Parade” through Glenside. After dark, the “America the Beautiful Aerial Fireworks Spectacular” will be held at Abington Junior and Senior High Schools.
10 a.m.-dusk. Tuesday, July 4, Glenside. Free. www.glensidejuly4thevent.com/july-4th-events.html.
Free Museum Days
Celebrate America’s birthday by taking advantage of one of the city’s greatest resources –– its museums. Throughout the week, museums offer free admission to families and friends. Enjoy patriotic activities at the National Museum of American Jewish History or visit the African American Museum in Philadelphia, where you can check out the new exhibit “Audacious Freedom,” stories of African American individuals in Philadelphia who made an impact on America’s early years.
- Mummers Museum: 6-8 p.m. Thursday, June 29.
- National Constitution Center: 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday, June 29.
- Eastern State Penitentiary: 5-8 p.m. Friday, June 30.
- Penn Museum: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, June 30.
- African American Museum in Philadelphia: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, July 1.
- The Barnes Foundation: 10 a.m-5 p.m. Sunday, July 2.
- Philadelphia Museum of Art: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, July 2.
- National Liberty Museum: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday, July 3.
- National Museum of American Jewish History: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday, July Fourth.
- Philadelphia History Museum: 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Tuesday, July Fourth.
Various times. June 29-July 4. https://welcomeamerica.com/event-category/free-museums/.
Stenton’s Fourth of July Celebration
Celebrate America’s independence in a house that was there for it. Stenton, whose 1730 founding makes it one of the oldest houses in Philly, is throwing an 18th-century-style party –– complete with homemade ice cream. Don’t worry — not everything is old school. They’ll also have hot dogs, independence-themed arts and crafts, and music by Run of the Mill String Band.
11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tuesday, July Fourth. Stenton, 4601 N. 18th St., Philadelphia. Free. 215-329-7312. https://www.stenton.org/programs.
Wawa Welcome America Fourth of July Concert featuring Mary J. Blige
Catch Philly’s own Boyz II Men, the Philly POPS, Mandy Gonzalez, Tony DeSare, and nine-time Grammy-winner Mary J. Blige in a free concert July Fourth on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Food trucks will be swarming, and beer gardens will be flush with cold brews. The especially eager can buy tickets to the front section in Eakins Oval.
7-9:30 p.m. Tuesday, July Fourth. 2451 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia. Free. https://welcomeamerica.com/event/july-4th-concert/.
Flaghouse Chapter NSDAR’s Children’s Naturalization Ceremony
Join the DAR at the home of the first U.S. flagmaker for a truly American ceremony: 13 newly naturalized American children will seal their citizenship with the oath of allegiance, the same oath that has made American citizens for 220 years.
1:30-2:30 p.m. Tuesday, July Fourth. Betsy Ross House, 239 Arch St., Philadelphia. Free. https://welcomeamerica.com/event/nsdars-childrens-naturalization-ceremony/.