In summer 2017, 4.8 million people visited Independence National Historical Park (INHP), the crown jewel of Philadelphia’s famed Historic District. After admiring Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and INHP’s other sites, visitors fan out across the neighborhood to dine, drink and explore even more, and in 2018, they’ll have new and exciting reasons to prolong their already-packed visits to the district.
Summer 2018 will bring with it the opening of The Philadelphia Bourse, a 27-tenant food hall sure to be the perfect pit stop for hungry visitors. Also in store: limited-engagement exhibitions at the National Museum of American Jewish History and the National Constitution Center, a Tall Ships festival making its only East Coast stop in Philadelphia (Sail Philadelphia) and a new and not-to-be-missed selfie spot debuting at the renovated Independence Visitor Center.
Major Openings & Renovations:
- The Philadelphia Bourse, summer 2018 – The Historic District’s circa 1895 commodities exchange transforms into an artisan market in the style of Chelsea Market. The burnished, Victorian-era member of the National Register of Historic Places across the street from Independence Mall was most recently a food court. The Bourse’s new incarnation promises an experience befitting Philadelphia’s current and centuries-old reputation as a city of makers. Among the 27 tenants in the mix: Mighty Melt (grilled cheese), Scoop de Ville (ice cream), Snapdragon Flowers, Bluebird Distilling, Prescription Chicken (soup), Chaat and Chai (Indian) and Chocodiem (chocolate). 111 S. Independence Mall East, (215) 625-0300, theboursephilly.com
- Independence Visitor Center Renovation, Memorial Day Weekend 2018 – The Independence Visitor Center unveils the first portion of its $15 million Visitor Experience Improvement Project this summer, and with it comes a newly expanded gift shop—the largest retail hub for all-things Philadelphia in the Historic District. Also debuting for the unofficial start to summer: a new public terrace offering sweeping views of Independence Mall and a prime spot for selfies with Independence Hall. 6th & Market Streets, (800) 537-7676, phlvisitorcenter.com
Not-To-Be-Missed Events & Exhibitions:
- Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music, Through September 2, 2018 – The National Museum of American Jewish History debuts its exhibition on the life of a 20th-century American musical icon. Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music illustrates the famed conductor and composer’s life, Jewish identity and social activism through more than 100 artifacts—including Bernstein’s piano—as well as film, interactive media and sound installations. The exhibition is part of a city- and country-wide celebration of Bernstein’s centennial. 101 Independence Mall East, (215) 923-3811, nmajh.org
- Hamilton: The Constitutional Clashes That Shaped A Nation, March 23-December 31, 2018 – This new exhibit, created by and on display at the National Constitution Center, explores Alexander Hamilton’s fraught relationships with James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Aaron Burr through rare documents and artifacts. Items on display include a Hamilton-penned letter from 1800 that questions John Adam’s ability to be president, Hamilton’s portable writing desk and regulations for the famed duel between Hamilton and Burr. 525 Arch Street, (215) 409-6600, constitutioncenter.org
- Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival in Franklin Square, May 1-June 30, 2018 – The popular Chinese Lantern Festival returns to the square for its third year, featuring 1,500 illuminated creations and 15,000 LED lights in brilliant colors. New this year: an endangered species gallery, a Fairy Tree, a walk-through Great White Shark Tunnel and an elephant lantern that changes colors as participants pedal a bicycle. As always, visitors can watch cultural performances, purchase food and drinks throughout the square and in the Dragon Beer Garden and shop for artisan-made crafts. historicphiladelphia.org
- Sail Philadelphia, May 24-28, 2018 – Philadelphia celebrates Memorial Day weekend with a five-day festival featuring a dozen Tall Ships from Portugal, Spain, Nova Scotia and the United States, all of which will parade in and dock along the promenade at Penn’s Landing. This Tall Ships America event includes public tours (timed tickets now available), sailing excursions and loads of riverside fun. Philadelphia serves as the only East Coast port to host the event this year. sailphiladelphia.com
- Summer Sounds in the Historic District, June-September 2018 – From Wednesday through Sunday throughout the summer, visitors to Philadelphia’s Historic District can enjoy the sounds of music at parks and public spaces throughout the neighborhood. On Wednesdays, the Who Got the Jazz series pops up at rotating locations. On Thursdays, the waterfront’s popular Spruce Street Harbor Park hosts live music. First Fridays bring DJ music to different locations throughout the district each month, and on Fridays in August, music lovers can catch jazz acts at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing. On Saturdays, Summer Sounds at the Square—Franklin Square, that is—features live musical performances in a variety of genres, kicking off with the Philly POPS on July 21. And on the third Sunday of the summer months, the action moves back down to the Delaware River for jazz at Spruce Street Harbor Park. visitphilly.com
- Wawa Welcome America!, June 28-July 4, 2018 – The best place to celebrate America’s birthday? Its birthplace. With seven days and nights of parades, concerts and fireworks, the entire city gets in on the action, but the Historic District is the main location for patriotic fun. Highlights include a waterfront fireworks display (June 30), an all-day block party and Philly POPS concert on Independence Mall (July 3) and a patriotic parade and ceremony (July 4). welcomeamerica.com
Coming This Fall:
- Cherry Street Pier – When things happen along the Delaware River Waterfront, they happen in fantastic fashion. The newest case in point: the forthcoming $5 million makeover of the 55,0000-square-foot Municipal Pier 9 into Cherry Street Pier, an accessible, egalitarian, mixed-use space for artist studios, shopping, performances, dining and drinking, working and relaxing in an innovatively designed public space. The open-air park at the end of the pier will offer breathtaking views of the river, Race Street Pier and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Cherry Street Pier will be a permanent addition to the seasonal Blue Cross River Rink Winterfest and Summerfest and Spruce Street Harbor Park. delawareriverwaterfront.com
Philadelphia’s Historic District campaign, from VISIT PHILADELPHIA®, showcases the city’s incomparable place in early American history and the still vibrant neighborhoods of Old City, Society Hill and the Delaware River Waterfront. The campaign celebrates America’s most historic square mile in the country’s first World Heritage City, as designated by the Organization of World Heritage Cities. Funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development and H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest, the initiative runs through September 2018.
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, visitors can engage with costumed history makers, hear stories of the real people of independence and take part in colonial reenactments. And every day of the year, they can tour, shop, dine and drink in the area just like the founding fathers and mothers once did. For more information about all there is to see and do in Philadelphia’s Historic District, go to visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com.