Philadelphia’s cultural powerhouse and preeminent boulevard, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway began its 100th birthday celebration September 8, 2017. Parkway 100 is the city’s 14-month celebration taking place both inside the venerable institutions that line the thoroughfare and outside among its fountains, gardens and public art. It ends November 16, 2018.
The diagonal Benjamin Franklin Parkway stretches one mile from near City Hall to the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the edge of Fairmount Park. Planner Paul Philippe Cret and designer Jacques Gréber modeled the thoroughfare after the Champs-Élysées of their native country. After a long, drawn-out planning and construction process, it officially opened in October 1918. The arduous yet bold vision ushered in a new era of urban design in America: the City Beautiful Movement.
For the last century, the attractions, green spaces and public art of the Parkway Museums District have captivated residents and visitors. The buildings on the Parkway’s borders are a who’s-who of culture, and the stretch is street-party central, with massive events such as the Fourth of July concert, Budweiser Made In America Festival and Thanksgiving Day Parade taking place throughout the year. Even Pope Francis knew the Parkway was the best place to deliver Sunday mass during his 2015 visit.
Here’s a look at the exhibits and events of Parkway 100, plus where to eat, drink and sleep in between:
Parkway 100 Overview:
For 14 months starting this fall, the institutions of the Parkway Museums District commemorate the boulevard’s role in reflecting and shaping Philadelphia’s cultural and civic identity with exhibitions themed “Collections and Connections.” The centerpiece Winter Fountains for the Parkway by Jennifer Steinkamp illuminates the area with a stunning nighttime display of video projections on large domes.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, The Franklin Institute, the Parkway Central Library of the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Rodin Museum and other organizations add to the centennial with exhibitions and displays honoring the Parkway spirit. And since it wouldn’t be a celebration without a couple of parties, the Parkway 100 We Are Connected Festival kicks off the extravaganza, and the Parkway 100 Finale welcomes the next 100 years of creativity and discovery.
- Parkway 100 We Are Connected Festival – The opening festival for Parkway 100 amps up the cultural volume along the thoroughfare. The Friday night extravaganza kicks off the 14-month centennial celebration with 100 activities, including giant connect-the-dots puzzles, indoor and outdoor performances, a display of glowing hot air balloons, a mural dedication, a hand-painting area around Swann Memorial Fountain, tours and free or pay-what-you-wish admission to five museums (The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Barnes Foundation, The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Rodin Museum). September 8, 2017; 4-10 p.m. (completed). Benjamin Franklin Parkway, parkwaymuseumsdistrictphiladelphia.org
- Cai Guo-Qiang: Fireflies – The Association for Public Art enlisted lauded artist Cai Guo-Qiang to create an incredible experience for the Parkway. For four hours each night, people can board 27 pedal-powered vehicles (think pedicabs) adorned with lanterns to ride up and down the street. Meanwhile, those outside witness a dreamy wonderland. Thursdays through Sundays, through October 8, 2017. (215) 546-7550, associationforpublicart.org
- Winter Fountains for the Parkway – Artist Jennifer Steinkamp created Parkway 100’s centerpiece exhibition, which lights the boulevard at night this winter. Inspired by the Parkway’s fountains and horticulture, dramatic video scenes project onto five large domes measuring 13 feet high and 26 feet wide. The Association for Public Art commissioned the outdoor art display. December 1, 2017-March 18, 2018. (215) 546-7550, associationforpublicart.org
- Parkway 100 Finale – The closing party brings just as much fun and festivity to the Parkway in 2018 as the 2017 kick-off festival. Fourteen months of exhibitions, events, art, history, music, crafts and special programming culminates with a Friday night open house complete with installations, performances and concerts, premieres, tours and programs. The event signals a new chapter for the Parkway. November 16, 2018. Benjamin Franklin Parkway, parkwaymuseumsdistrictphiladelphia.org
Exhibitions, Installations & Other Happenings:
- Corridor of Culture: 100 Years of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway – At the Free Library of Philadelphia, photographs and artwork illustrate the creation and use of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway over the last century, and even more artifacts explore how art, faith, science and community reside together on the grand corridor. September 8, 2017-May 2018. 1901 Vine Street, (215) 686-5322, freelibrary.org
- The Galleries at Moore College of Art & Design – The country’s first and only visual arts college for women presents a lineup of thought-provoking exhibitions, all for a joy-provoking $0 cost. Sculpture and photographs make up Visionary Women: Ursula Von Rydingsvard & Andrea Baldeck. The show Narrative Horizons features work from three women—Kay Healy, Sophia Narrett and Erin M. Riley—influenced by functional craft and the handmade. Nick Lenker: Recreation, The First Person explores the idea of identity in digital and virtual worlds. The human body is both an inspiration and a tool for the performances, workshops and projects of Bodyworks. September 16-December 9, 2017. 20th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 965-4000, moore.edu
- Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor – In 1974, a farmer digging a well in China struck one of history’s most significant archaeological discoveries: thousands of life-sized warrior sculptures that had been guarding the tomb of China’s first emperor since 210 B.C. Ten of the mysterious structures and 170 related artifacts, including weapons, jade and gold ornaments and ceremonial vessels, travel to The Franklin Institute for an exhibition that examines the story, craft and science behind the terracotta army. Philadelphia is one of just two cities hosting the exhibit. September 30, 2017-March 4, 2018. 222 N. 20th Street, (215) 448-1200, fi.edu
- Specimen Spotlight: A Peek at the Past, A Look Toward the Future – Even before the grand boulevard, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University drew crowds to the area with the first dinosaur skeleton ever displayed. This exhibition presents a century of progress and highlights—through antique microscopes, bones from the famous elephant Bolivar, original models of dioramas and membership cards of famous members—and imagines the future with displays of fish, insects, plant and other specimens involved in research studies of biodiversity and extinction, climate change, water and evolution. October 10, 2017-October 4, 2018. 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 299-1000, ansp.org
- Old Masters Now: Rediscovering the John G. Johnson Collection – Described by The New York Times as “the greatest lawyer in the English-speaking world,” John G. Johnson bequeathed his 1,500 European artworks to Philadelphia in 1917. This Philadelphia Museum of Art exhibit focuses on the amazing collection and its collector, who lived during a time when Philadelphia was a manufacturing and financial leader. Visitors to the museum see familiar names, including Botticelli, Bosch, Titian, Rembrandt and Monet. November 3, 2017-February 19, 2018. 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 763-8100, philamuseum.org
- Paul Philippe Cret and the Barnes Foundation – In 1922, Dr. Albert C. Barnes hired French architect Paul Philippe Cret to design his gallery and residence in Merion, Pennsylvania. Ninety years later, the Barnes Foundation opened on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, another Cret creation. The Barnes celebrates this connection and the Parkway’s centennial year with a display of letters between the two visionaries, plus Cret’s ideas, plans and sketches for the Merion buildings that officially became the Barnes Foundation in 1925. Fall 2017 (exact dates TBA). 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 278-7000, barnesfoundation.org
- Center Square to Civic Treasure: Philadelphia’s City Hall and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway – City Hall represents Philadelphia’s political center, and it stands as an artistic marvel and symbolic icon. The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy and the Athenaeum of Philadelphia stage an exhibition that presents the history and design of City Hall and explores its role as a government building, the city’s largest work of art and the iconic anchor to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The display includes photographs, postcards, drawings, manuscripts and other artifacts. December 1, 2017-January 26, 2018. 1401 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, 1st Floor, (215) 686-8446, creativephl.org
- Pop-Up Museum: Strange Neighbors – For 11 days, Eastern State Penitentiary presents its sixth annual Pop-Up Museum, with the special theme “Strange Neighbors.” Rarely viewed objects document the surprisingly close relationships shared by the maximum-security prison, the elegant Benjamin Franklin Parkway down the block and the once-working-class neighborhood that connected the two. Select dates, April 2018. 2027 Fairmount Avenue, (215) 236-3300, easternstate.org
- The Oval 2018 Season – This eight-acre pop-up park occupies Eakins Oval, a little-used parking lot on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. For its sixth season in 2018, food trucks, movies, a beer garden, free health and fitness classes, theme days and a ground mural bring the space to life for one summer month. Through August 2018 (exact date TBA). 2451 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, theovalphl.org
- Concerts at the Cathedral Basilica – Pennsylvania’s largest Catholic church celebrates its home boulevard with a choral concert series in its soaring, Roman Corinthian building. Concerts at the Cathedral bring international choral artists to Philadelphia while also highlighting Philadelphia’s rich choral tradition. The 2017-18 season starts with the spirited choral ensemble Cantus and continues with the Westminster Williamson Voices. October 27-November 19, 2017. 18th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (610) 223-4191, cathedralphilaconcerts.org
5 Places To Eat:
- James – Named after James Logan, Colonial mayor of Philadelphia, this contemporary yet cozy restaurant satisfies everyone in the group, with dishes such as filet mignon, lobster ravioli and Moroccan-spiced wings. At the bar, guests choose from local brews, six wines on tap and cocktails made with fresh ingredients. The mirrors turn into TVs when there’s a game, and the bartenders take a break on bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) Sundays. 1835 Arch Street, (267) 324-5005, jamesphiladelphia.com
- McCrossen’s Tavern – McCrossen’s consistently puts forth delicious cuisine, which is why The Philadelphia Inquirer’s food critic Craig Laban called it one of “the best of the Art Museum area.” A progressive beverage program is matched by friendly and informative service. 529 N. 20th Street, (215) 854-0923, mccrossens.com
- Pizzeria Vetri – Chef Marc Vetri, whose Italian cuisine has earned legions of fans, turns his culinary skills to pizza—much to the delight of museumgoers, neighbors and anyone who’s hungry for a really good pie. Diners order wood-fired pizza and other Italian-leaning fare, along with beer, wine and cocktails, in a casual setting. Tip: Get the Rotolo (pizza dough, mortadella, ricotta, pistachio pesto rolled into a flavorful delight). 1939 Callowhill Street, (215) 600-2629, pizzeriavetri.com
- Rose Tattoo Cafe – Family-owned and -operated for nearly three decades, the Rose Tattoo serves American cuisine at its cozy bar and in its greenhouse-inspired dining rooms. Guests order craft cocktails, light bites, dinner and house-made desserts. 1847 Callowhill Street, (215) 569-8939, rosetattoocafe.com
- Sabrina’s Café & Spencer’s Too – The Italian Market’s brunch darling runs an outpost northwest of Center City, where diners fill up on oversized portions of comfort food during brunch, lunch and dinner. Hint: The brunch line is worth the wait, and the BYOB policy makes mimosas an interactive experience. 1804 Callowhill Street, (215) 636-9061, sabrinascafe.com
5 Places To Drink:
- Assembly Rooftop Lounge – The sophisticated atmosphere, delicious cocktails and wine and sparkling selection would be enough to draw a crowd. The stunning views of the Parkway make it a bona fide destination. Perched atop The Logan, the nine-story-high Assembly Lounge provides just-the-right vantage point. 1840 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 783-4171, assemblyrooftop.com
- City Tap House Logan Square – With craft beers from local breweries and others from around the world, plus brick-oven pizza and elevated American pub fare, City Tap House offers an updated gastropub experience. Solid weekday happy hour specials make it a popular spot for the after-work and after-museum crowds. 2 Logan Square, (215) 587-9040, citytap.com
- Con Murphy’s – A bi-level Irish pub right on the Ben Franklin Parkway, Con Murphy’s serves steaks, seafood, pasta and cheesesteaks. Also on the menu: a dozen draft beers, including five rotating local brews, and a healthy selection of wines, Irish whiskies and bourbons. The outdoor patio is a great people-watching perch on warm-weather days. 1700 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (267) 687-1128, conmurphyspub.com
- Kite & Key – Named for Ben Franklin’s electricity experiment, Kite & Key quenches thirsts with one cask, 16 taps, countless bottles and even some cans of local, domestic and foreign beers. There’s a full bar and wine menu too. 1836 Callowhill Street, (215) 568-1818, thekiteandkey.com
- SkyGarten – This sky-high German biergarten holds the designation of being Philadelphia’s highest beer garden. On the 51st floor, people sip their brews and nosh on Bavarian delights inside or outside (when weather permits) Wednesday through Saturday. Tip: Claim an outdoor sunset-watching spot early. 1717 Arch Street, (215) 557-7887, skygarten.com
5 Places For A Quick Bite:
- Animo – Guests at this juice/burrito bar indulge in hand-rolled burritos, made-from-scratch soups, fresh-squeezed juices, protein shakes and other organic items that are so yummy, it’s easy to forget they’re healthy. 1701 Arch Street, (267) 519-0949, animojuice.com
- Buena Onda – Part of Jose Garces’ family of restaurants, this Baja-inspired eatery offers a menu of sustainable seafood while doing good for the city’s immigrant community. Fifty cents of every guacamole and water bottle purchase goes to the non-profit Garces Foundation. Also satisfying: the fish tacos made with Atlantic mahi mahi and the quesadilla stuffed with tofu chorizo. 1901 Callowhill Street, (215) 302-3530, buenaondatacos.com
- Logan Square Café – Located directly in front of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, this casual and kid-friendly cafe is open daily for a relaxing breakfast, lunch or afternoon snack. Floor-to-ceiling windows and outdoor seating offer beautiful views of Logan Square, the Swann Memorial Fountain and Parkway museums. Adjacent to the café, a visitor center sells tickets for museums and attractions. 200 N. 18th Street, (215) 665-8600, logansquarecafe.com
- Matt & Marie’s – Open Monday through Friday for breakfast and lunch, Matt & Marie’s caters to people who care about sandwiches. At all three locations, including the Parkway outlet, they use top-quality meats, flavorful toppings and, perhaps most importantly, bread that’s the perfect mix of crispy and soft. Salads, breakfast sandwiches and Illy Italian coffee round out the menu. 100 N. 18th Street, (267) 273-1940, mattandmaries.com
- Whole Foods Market – This large, high-end grocery has an extensive prepared foods section, groceries and produce galore, plus a 140-seat food hall, two full pubs, mobile cocktail and coffee carts and a mini restaurant row featuring CHeU Noodle Bar, Dizengoff hummusiya, Severino Cucina Rustica pastaria and vegan wonder Wiz Kid. 2101 Pennsylvania Avenue, (215) 557-0015, wholefoodsmarket.com
5 Parks & Public Spaces:
- Dilworth Park – At the foot of Philadelphia’s City Hall, this plaza welcomes pedestrians, commuters and visitors with tree groves, benches, a cafe and areas for outdoor events and performances. A large programmable fountain offers children a place to romp and splash in warm weather; during the winter, an ice rink brings skaters to the park. 15th & Market Streets, (215) 440-5500, dilworthpark.org
- Logan Circle – Also called Logan Square, this park gives the neighborhood its name, and for good reason. One of city founder William Penn’s original five squares, the park contains one of the most striking features of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway—Swann Memorial Fountain. 19th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway
- LOVE Park – In late 2017, LOVE Park will reopen with more green space, a modern visitor center, a new water feature, concession areas and a spruced-up LOVE sculpture. Although its official name is John F. Kennedy Plaza, locals and visitors know it as LOVE Park thanks to its centerpiece sculpture by Robert Indiana. It’s a popular spot for food trucks, photo ops, entertainment or just relaxing by the fountain. 16th Street & John F. Kennedy Boulevard, phlvisitorcenter.com/lovepark
- Schuylkill River Trail – Whether on bike, foot or rollerblades, people can join the trail behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art and follow it east all the way to Phoenixville and beyond (more than 30 miles), or west to the Schuylkill Boardwalk and South Street Bridge. The scenic trail has a paved surface through Philadelphia and Montgomery counties and turns to crushed stone in Chester County. schuylkillrivertrail.com
- Sister Cities Park and AMOR Sculpture – This landscaped public space stars a Children’s Discovery Garden, a boat pond, the Logan Square Café, an eco-smart branch of the Independence Visitor Center, a pint-sized hill that evokes the Wissahickon Valley and a programmed fountain that pays tribute to Philadelphia’s 11 sister cities. The AMOR sculpture is a must-Instagram highlight. 18th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 440-5500, sistercitiespark.org
5 Nearby Hotels:
- Hotel Palomar Philadelphia – Housed inside an art-deco-style building, this eco-friendly Kimpton welcomes people with a relaxing vibe, captivating art all over and its just-right restaurant and bar, Square 1682. Complimentary bikes and free afternoon drinks add to its charm. 117 S. 17th Street, (215) 563-5006, hotelpalomar-philadelphia.com
- Le Méridien Philadelphia – Guests report high levels of joie de vivre at this sleek hotel in a historic Georgian revival building—especially after indulging in the happy hour at Amuse, the all-day bistro and bar. Arch Street, (215) 422-8200, lemeridienphiladelphia.com
- The Logan – Situated right along the Parkway, The Logan provides the perfect location for a cultural getaway. Add the rejuvenating spa experience, the steakhouse restaurant and the rooftop lounge, and it’s a haven for travelers. 1 Logan Square, (215) 963-1500, theloganhotel.com
- Sofitel Philadelphia – This French hotel feels right at home just steps from French-designed destinations such as the Parkway and Rittenhouse Square, which also has Paul Phillippe Cret to thank for its look. Guests come from down the street and across the world for the luxury accommodations and ease-of-stay offerings, such as currency exchange and the pet-friendly policy. 120 S. 17th Street, (215) 569-8300, sofitel-philadelphia.com
- Sonesta Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square – The well-appointed rooms, local art gallery, in-house bar and Ruth’s Chris Steak House make this a terrific hotel all year long. In the warm weather, they all take a backseat to the rooftop pool. 1800 Market Street, (215) 790-1515 sonesta.com/philadelphia
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