There’s no better place to celebrate America’s 242nd birthday than in the birthplace of independence. Philadelphia’s original city is filled with special events and daily activities at can’t-miss historic attractions.
Take advantage of all that’s going on in the days leading up to Independence Day with our full list of fun activities and events below, all centered in Philadelphia’s Historic District (which runs from the Delaware River to 7th Street, and from Vine Street to Lombard Street).
Note: Most events during July Fourth in Philadelphia are rain or shine, but be sure to get the most up-to-date information by following @July4thPhilly on Twitter and Wawa Welcome America on Facebook.
At the only museum dedicated to the U.S. Constitution, visitors can experience Freedom Rising, a 17-minute, live theatrical production about the American quest for freedom, explore the interactive main exhibit, The Story of We the People and enjoy a Founding Fathers photo opportunity in Signers’ Hall, featuring 42 life-sized statues of the delegates who were present for the signing of the Constitution. Check it all out for free on Thursday, June 28 as part of Wawa Welcome America’s Free Museum Day programming, bringing free or pay-what-you-wish admission to 17 Philly museums and attractions in 2018.
Where: National Constitution Center, 525 Arch Street
There is such a thing as a free lunch — a free piece of a truly enormous hoagie, that is — when the festival sponsor and beloved Pennsylvania-based convenience store Wawa offers slices of one epic sandwich on the lawn of the National Constitution Center during Wawa Hoagie Day. New this year: The USO Show Troupe sings and marches to honor military, fire and police.
Where: Independence Mall & National Constitution Center Lawn, 525 Arch Street
The National Constitution Center fetes the Fourth of July with special patriotic programming. The All American Celebration includes an interactive show that examines American independence in the past and present along with arts and crafts activities, Revolutionary-era games, Colonial music performances and historical reenactor shows throughout the week.
Where: National Constitution Center, 525 Arch Street
The highly anticipated renovation of The Bourse isn’t ready for prime time yet, but a fun pop-up beer garden takes over the building’s steps in the days before the Fourth of July. Operated by BRÜ Craft & Wurst, the limited-time eatery will serve local craft brews, cocktails from Bluebird Distilling and fun bites like soft pretzels and water ice.
Where: Philadelphia Bourse, 111 S Independence Mall E.
June 29 & July 2, 2018 | 5-7 p.m.
A handful of popular bars and restaurants in Philadelphia offer special happy hour deals from 5-7 p.m. on two separate days (Friday, June 29 and Monday, July 2) leading up to July Fourth. Participating spots in the Historic District include Bru at The Bourse Beer Garden (June 29), The Deck at the Moshulu (July 2) and Cuba Libre (July 2).
Where: Various locations including Independence Seaport Museum, 211 S. Columbus Boulevard
Stop by the First Bank of the United States, where, for the first time in more than 30 years, the public can take tours of the building’s interior from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Spearheaded by Alexander Hamilton, the structure was considered an architectural masterpiece when it was completed in 1797, and is indeed a stunner even today. Don’t miss this rare chance to experience it from the inside.
Where: First Bank of the United States, 116 S. 3rd Street
The home of Samuel Powel, Philadelphia’s first mayor, is the epitome of 18th-century elegance, a holdover from when its houseguests included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and the Marquis de Lafayette. The china set here was a gift from Martha Washington; on these very floors, she and George danced the minuet during their 20th wedding anniversary celebration. During an open house on June 30, guests can visit the house for just $1 and enjoy refreshments — pretzel bites from Campo’s, vanilla ice cream from Franklin Fountain — in the house’s city garden.
Where: The Powel House, 244 S. 3rd Street
The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” delights audiences year after year with its rousing and rollicking renditions of old standards, new hits and patriotic tunes. The group returns to the Delaware River waterfront this year for another highly anticipated performance. Also highly anticipated: the huge fireworks display that will follow at 9:30 p.m. featuring new-this-year special effects.
Where: Great Plaza at Penn's Landing, 101 S. Columbus Boulevard
Founded in 1976, the African American Museum in Philadelphia is the first institution in a major U.S. city to preserve, interpret and exhibit the heritage and culture of African-Americans. Walk through the core exhibit, Audacious Freedom, and other enlightening exhibits free of charge on Sunday, July 1.
Where: The African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch Street
Madeira wine importer and American Revolution financier Henry Hill built this house in 1786, and the building remains the largest freestanding Federal-style mansion in the Historic District. Dr. Philip Syng Physick, physician to 19th-century elite, eventually moved into the house in 1815, and, while the artifacts and medical equipment designed and pioneered by Dr. Physick are fascinating, the melodrama of his personal life is what makes a tour here so captivating. Visitors on Sunday, July 1 can take a self-guided tour and enjoy pretzel bites and ice cream in the garden for the low, low price of just $1 as part of PhilaLandmarks’ annual open house.
Where: Hill-Physick House, 321 S. 4th Street
More than 150 dancers and singers, including the singing preacher group The Four Tenors, take the stage in front of Independence Hall for a concert of soulful, spirited voices on the evening of Sunday, July 1.
Where: Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut Street
Some of the highest highlights from 10 of Broadway’s most famous musicals, including Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, Love Never Dies, Miss Saigon, Cats, Rent and Hamilton go onstage at this live preview of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts’ 2018-2019 Broadway series.
Celebrate Independence Day at Philadelphia Historic District’s newest museum, the Museum of the American Revolution, which will host a four-day series of special programming. Activities vary by day and include meet-and-greets with costumed historical interpreters such as Thomas Jefferson, a flag shaped “Declaration Wall” for guests to add personalized ribbons and a performance by Old Barracks Fife and Drum Corps.
Where: Museum of the American Revolution, 101 S. 3rd Street
Gain free entry to this museum that honors heroes of all backgrounds by telling the stories of teachers, students, firefighters, police officers and other everyday good-doers on Tuesday, July 3. Among the artful displays to see: the Jellybean Children sculpture, which celebrates diversity using colorful candies, and glass artist Dale Chihuly’s dramatic 21-foot Flame of Liberty.
Where: National Liberty Museum, 321 Chestnut Street
This free, seven-hour-long, classic Philly street celebration returns to Independence Mall for year three. On tap: a pop-up beer garden outside The Bourse, a kids’ stage and zone, food trucks, pop-up performances and plenty of history to take in.
Where: Independence Mall, S 6th and Market streets
The largest standalone pops orchestra in the United States invites fans to BYOB (bring your own blanket) for a concert of patriotic tunes with Independence Hall as the backdrop.
The National Museum of American Jewish History offers free admission on July 4, the final day of Wawa Welcome America. Stop by before heading to the festival, concert and fireworks on the Parkway to explore more than 20,000 artifacts that tell the story of the Jewish American experience. While some objects date as far back as 300 years, pop culture enthusiasts will enjoy some of the more contemporary pieces on display, including one of Barbra Streisand’s costumes from the film Yentl, Irving Berlin’s piano and Steven Spielberg’s first camera. Families can also visit that day for Fourth of July-themed arts and crafts projects, special storytimes and more special activities.
Where: National Museum of American Jewish History, 101 S. Independence Mall E.
Philly’s Fourth of July celebration kicks off at Independence Hall during a patriotic presentation. This year’s honorees: Frank Giordano and the Philly POPS. As always, the morning includes a reading of the Declaration of Independence, followed by music and remarks.
This big-city event with a small-town feel features dozens of colorful floats, marching bands, military groups and more than 6,000 participants from across the nation in a musical, colorful cavalcade winding through the streets of the Historic District.
There’s a ton of fun to be had at Franklin Square’s Independence Day Celebration. In addition to playing mini-golf and riding the carousel, young visitors to the park can hop on the Lightning Bolt Express Train and take a spin around the historic park from noon to 3 p.m.
Where: Franklin Square, 200 N. 6th Street
On the Fourth of July, the Independence Visitor Center throws an epic birthday party for America, complete with a five-tier cake and 2,500 cupcakes arranged in the shape of an American flag. After singing Happy Birthday, visitors can enjoy the treats for free.
Where: Independence Visitor Center, 599 Market Street
Watch organists Parker Kitterman and Wesley Parrott take Christ Church’s new Fisk Opus 150 pipe organ for a spin during this free program of all-American music in the Historic District. Afterward, enjoy a tour of the new organ.
Where: Christ Church, 20 N. American Street
Book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package for stays through September 3, 2018 and get FREE hotel parking as well as free tickets to the Museum of the American Revolution, free tickets for a ride on the Ferris wheel and roller skating at Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest, a $25 CHeU Noodle restaurants gift card, free mini-golf and a carousel ride at Franklin Square, free passes to ride the PHLASH Downtown Loop and a $10 Lyft credit.