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The Philly Family Guide to the Wawa Welcome America July 4th Celebration

From free museum days to block parties, it’s a week of free Independence Day celebrations for the whole family!

Philadelphia basically invented freedom, so of course we’re going to do Independence Day up right. People come from all over to take part in Wawa Welcome America festivities, and it’s obvious why—you get a week’s worth of free activities that celebrate not just our country’s independence, but also highlight so much of what Philly has to offer. From free museums to our incredible local music and food, it’s all on display and ready for the whole family to enjoy. But there’s so much to do, it’s almost overwhelming! We’re here to break it down for you, with our kid-friendly guide to the celebrating. Happy Fourth!

Fireworks

Let’s start with the big show because it’s not July 4th without fireworks. Welcome America has not one, but three spectacular displays:

 

Parties and More

The Philly Ice Cream Scoop

June 29, 11 am–5 pm

Reading Terminal Market, 12th and Filbert streets

 

14 of the region’s best ice cream artisans join forces with dozens of Reading Terminal Market’s own merchants to offer ice cream specials galore. Join in ice cream eating contests, games, activities, and demonstrations throughout the day while enjoying live music and other entertainment! Admission to the event and all activities are free; ice cream is pay-as-you-go.

Circus Midway at FringeArts

June 30, 11 am–3 pm

Columbus Boulevard and Race Street

 

Learn the art of the circus at these free outdoor workshops. Teachers and performers from the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts teach attendees basic aerial acrobatics, juggling, plate spinning, tight wire and more! The event will also feature short circus performances, including one from the school’s Youth Troupe. Free and fun for all ages and abilities!

Historic Philadelphia Block Party

June 30, noon—7 pm

Fifth and Sixth streets between Market and Chestnut streets

 

Celebrate in style with a massive block party featuring food trucks, live music, historical reenactors and pop-up performers (including stilt walkers!), and much more. There will also be the Kids Zone, which will be programmed specifically for young attendees.

Wawa Hoagie Day

July 2, noon—2 pm

Independence Mall and National Constitution Center Lawn, 525 Arch St.

 

The best day of the year! Is that too much of an exaggeration? We don’t think so. Celebrate the 27th annual Wawa Hoagie Day honoring our troops, enjoy an eight-ton hoagie salute, FREE Wawa hoagies, a performance by the USO Show Troupe, and two hoagie-building competitions: between Philly police and firefighters, and between members of the Air and Army National Guard! Tons of hoagies are trucked in, along with free Wawa iced tea and lemonade, Tastykakes, and of course the coveted Wawa flag hats. It’s not July 4th without them! The anthropomorphic hoagie mascot, Shorti, will be there too!

Live Nation Kid Nation

July 2, noon—6 pm

29 E. Allen St.

 

Live Nation invites kids for a fun day of games and activities, giving the youth a peek inside the music industry alongside current industry professionals. Plus, stick around for fun giveaways, including tickets to upcoming shows and swag. Appearances include the funky music of Johnny Shortcake, Gritty, Swoop, and more!

Kimmel Center’s Great American Party on the Plaza

July 2, 5–7:30 pm

Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad St.

 

This free event will feature festival-style activities along Spruce Street and live performances, including casts representing Dear Evan Hansen and Mean Girls, jazz performers, and the U.S. Navy Band Cruisers. Plus, the Kimmel Center’s ShowStoppers education program will take the stage to lead Hamiltunes, a sing-along inspired by and covering selections from Hamilton! The evening includes family-friendly activities like face painting and balloon art, games, giveaways, and activations from area arts organizations.

Independence Day Parade

July 4, 11 am—12:30 pm

Fifth and Chestnut streets

 

Floats, marching bands, military units, and more will parade around historic Philly. The parade will begin at 11 am at Fifth and Chestnut streets. Bring a chair or blanket and get comfortable. Not up for the crowds? You can also watch the parade broadcast on NBC 10.

Birthday Party at Independence Visitor Center

July 4, 1—2 pm

599 Market St.

 

Termini Brothers Bakery is working on a spectacular five-tier cake and 2,500 cupcakes to be displayed in the shape of an American flag. They will start arranging it all at 9 am if you want to sneak a peek, but at 1 pm, Betsy Ross will lead the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” accompanied by a fife and drum and then cut the cake. So stop by after the parade for some free cake!

Party on the Parkway

July 4, noon—7 pm

Benjamin Franklin Parkway

 

The grand finale of Welcome America is a full day of celebration on the Parkway, including plenty of food, three stages of live performances, a zipline, and kids’ activities. There will be a Kids Zone in Aviator Park from noon–6pm with fun activities, including storytelling, games, crafts, and more. Stick around after the party for a fabulous free concert and fireworks display over the Art Museum!

Concerts

 

As part of the week-long Welcome America July Fourth celebration, there will be free concerts of all kinds, from gospel to Philly POPS and much more. Plus, stick around after some for fireworks!

 

United States Army Band, “Pershing’s Own” Concert (and Fireworks)

June 29, 8—10 pm

Penn’s Landing

 

A free concert of old standards, new hits, and patriotic tunes; followed by a spectacular fireworks display above the Delaware River!

Gospel on Independence

June 30, 7–8:30 pm

Independence Mall, 520 Chestnut St.

 

Bring chairs or blankets for a free evening of joyful music. Bask in the beautiful chords from a 100-voice choir from churches all across the city.

U.S. Army Field Band Concert and Waterfront Fireworks

July 1, 8–10 pm

Penn’s Landing

 

The U.S. Army Field Band will be debuting “Let Freedom Ring,” a musical and visual celebration to honor Independence Day. From authentic fifes and drums to symphonic pieces to selections from The Greatest Showman and Aretha Franklin, this concert has everything, The program comes to a dramatic conclusion as the Concert Band and Soldiers’ Chorus perform “Testament of Freedom,” based on the writings of Thomas Jefferson, followed by a fireworks show over the river.

Kimmel Center’s Great American Party on the Plaza

July 2, 5–7:30 pm

Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad St.

 

This free event will feature festival-style activities along Spruce Street and live performances, including casts representing Dear Evan Hansen and Mean Girls, jazz performers, and the U.S. Navy Band Cruisers. Plus, the Kimmel Center’s ShowStoppers education program will take the stage to lead Hamiltunes, a sing-along inspired by and covering selections from Hamilton! The evening includes family-friendly activities like face painting and balloon art, games, giveaways, and activations from area arts organizations.

POPS on Independence

July 3, 7–9:30 pm

Independence Mall, 520 Chestnut St.

 

This fabulous (and free) concert is a Philadelphia tradition enjoyed by 15,000 attendees each year! The 65-piece Philly POPS orchestra will perform a patriotic, entertaining show featuring Tony-nominated actress and singer Susan Egan, best known as the original Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on Broadway and the voice of Meg in Disney’s Hercules, among many other roles.

July 4th Concert and Fireworks on the Parkway

July 4, 7—10 pm

Benjamin Franklin Parkway

 

 

Jennifer Hudson and Megan Trainor headline a fabulous concert to cap off the Party on the Parkway. The celebrations continue with a dazzling fireworks display choreographed to a custom patriotic soundtrack created and performed by the United States Army Field Band. This is the first time in Welcome America history that the United States Army Field Band will perform live on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art as the fireworks light up the sky above red, white and blue.

 

This is obviously asking a lot for small kids who have early bedtimes, don’t like standing in crowds all night, and are scared of loud noises, so if this isn’t for your family, you can catch the show live on NBC 10 from the comfort of your home.

Philly @ The Movies

 

Catch free movies around town for four nights in a row. Before the movies, there will be fun activities—for example, before Rocky, a look-alike competition for the best Rocky (and Creed) impersonator!

 

Learning Opportunities and Free Museum Days

Welcome America isn’t just for partying—though there’s a lot of that!—but also a time for kids to learn and discover new places in Philly! Here are our top picks. Note that some museums and venues require you register in advance to reserve your spot– we have indicated below where that is necessary.

Free Museum Days

PAFA

June 29, 11 am—5 pm

118-128 N. Broad St.

 

Come for some free art appreciation for the whole family, including PAFA’s current special exhibits.

One Liberty Observation Deck

June 30, 8 am—noon (strict timeframe)

1650 Market St. #5700

 

One Liberty Observation Deck will open two hours early to give visitors a free look at “Philly From The Top.” Due to limited capacity, pre-registered tickets are encouraged but not required for entry. Please note free entrance will be on a first come first serve basis, and is not guaranteed, so come early! The first 1,000 guests to pre-register will receive a free Philadelphia souvenir upon entry. Guests who pre-register but are unable to enter prior to noon, will be granted complimentary access on June 30.

American Swedish Historical Museum

June 30, 10 am—4 pm

1900 Pattison Ave.

 

The oldest Swedish museum in the United States opens its doors for a free day. Due to limited capacity, guests must pre-register; free tickets can be downloaded here.

Fort Mifflin: Freedom Blast!

June 30, 10 am—4 pm

6400 Hog Island Road

 

Enjoy guided tours, blacksmithing, and Revolutionary War soldier life demonstrations along with hands-on living history activities, uniform, and weapon and cannon demonstrations. Join the Continental Army and learn to drill with a wooden musket! Event will happen rain or shine as many activities are indoors or under cover.

Rodin Museum

June 30, 10 am—4 pm

2151 Benjamin Franklin Parkway

 

Rediscover Rodin with extended hours and a garden bar. Take a tour of the newest installation, “Rethinking the Modern Monument.”

The Rosenbach

June 30, 10 am—6 pm

2008-2010 Delancey Place

 

Families of all ages are welcome to tour the museum and enjoy a marbled paper bookmaking activity. Due to limited capacity, guests must pre-register. To download your free tickets, click here.

Photo Pop Philly!

July 1 and 3, 9–11 am

The Bourse, 111 S. Independence Mall E.

 

Visit this year’s instaworthy pop-up installation “Sweet Paradise,” complete with a Gritty mosaic made of jellybeans!

Independence Seaport Museum

July 1, 10 am–5 pm

211 S. Columbus Blvd.

 

Dive into River Alive!, a new exhibit that brings the wildlife, science, and wonder of the Delaware River up close. Raise the sails on the indoor pirate ship Diligence and submerge yourself in hands-on exhibits. For free tickets, click here.

Museum of the American Revolution

July 1, 10 am–5 pm

101 S. Third Street

 

For the first time ever during Wawa Welcome America, the Museum of American Revolution is offering free admission! Be sure to hit up Revolution Place with the littles! Click here for ticketing.

National Constitution Center

July 2, 9:30 am—8 pm

525 Arch St.

 

Finish up your free hoagie and then head inside to engage with interactive programs and exhibits while learning about the constitution in a fun way. Plus, visit the ongoing Hamilton exhibit!

African America Museum in Philadelphia

July 2, 11 am—5 pm

701 Arch St.

 

Experience the richness and vibrancy of African American heritage and culture in four galleries filled with exciting history and art. Plus, creative art workshops, historic reenactors, and storytelling. Then at 4 pm, there will be an outdoor drum and dance performance!

National Liberty Museum

July 3, 10 am—6 pm

321 Chestnut St.

 

Interact with incredible stories of heroes and a collection of contemporary art with themes of freedom, civic engagement, and diversity. Also, kids can ring the (replica) Liberty Bell!

Fireman’s Hall Museum

July 3, 10 am—4 pm

147 N. Second St.

 

Check out antique firefighting engines and trucks and one of the city’s newest fire trucks! Explore what it’s like to be a firefighter by trying on firefighters’ gear and touring the museum. Meet Firefighter Ben, listen to special stories, and take part in scavenger hunts and challenges throughout the museum.

Penn Museum

July 3, 10 am—5 pm

3260 South St.

 

The Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology opens its doors to all on this free day.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

July 3, 5—8:45pm

2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway

 

The Philadelphia Museum of Art offers “Pay What You Wish” admission every Wednesday, including during Welcome America.

National Museum of American Jewish History

July 4, 10 am—5 pm

101 South Independence Mall East

 

Enjoy interactive gallery talks, storytime, and Independence Day arts and crafts projects. The museum’s galleries will also be open to the public.

Go 4th And Learn

Citywide Reading at Free Library of Philadelphia

July 1, 2–4 pm

 

Kids can enjoy free book giveaways, activities, and storytimes at select branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia! See link for locations.

 Penn Park

July 1, 10 am—1 pm

3000 Walnut St.

 

Enjoy a fun-filled day with fitness,  educational activities, inflatables, music, and more! The Philadelphia Union, Philly Girls in Motion, and Dancing Classrooms Philly will keep you on your feet by leading dancing, sports, and wellness exercises. Members of the community will read some of their favorite books aloud and give away free books. Plus, see the National Constitution lobby show, “Growing Up America”, get your face painted, and see cool insects from the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion.

Go 4th and Learn with the Philadelphia Fire Department

July 3, 10 am–noon

Philadelphia Fire Department Ladder 2, Fourth and Arch streets

Join the Philadelphia Fire Department, Mural Arts Philadelphia, and Wawa at 10 am for the unveiling of a new mural design that celebrates the history of the Philadelphia Fire Department – one of the oldest professional fire departments in the nation. Enjoy live demonstrations and learn fire safety tips from the firefighters who keep us safe and electric safety tips from PECO. Get a chance to climb on a fire truck, try on firefighting uniforms and paint your own mural. Face painting, EMS health screenings, and fire safety demonstrations from the Fire Explorers are also available.

 

Photographs courtesy of Visit Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Assistant Editor | Email tips to laura@familyfocus.org

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