The Road to Victory: All You Need to Know (and Consider) for the Eagles Super Bowl Parade
A Center City mom has some advice for tackling the big event.
E-A-G-L-E-S! Eagles! This is really happening, people! The Eagles have won the Super Bowl for the first time ever, and now Philly is going to celebrate like we’ve never celebrated before!
Seriously, though, let it sink in how unprecedented this win and the resultant celebration are. So, if you are planning to go, thinking about going, or wondering whether to bring your kids, I am going to do my very best here to help you make that decision and set you up for success; but I’m going to be honest and say that no one — not the city, not the fans, not SEPTA — truly knows what to expect.
Thursday’s parade is estimated to be larger than the Mummers, the 2008 Phillies World Series parade, and the Pope’s visit combined. Still with me? Let’s talk.
For Who? For What?
The Eagles Super Bowl parade will take place Thursday, February 8, at 11 am. The parade will begin at the stadiums (Broad and Pattison), go up Broad Street, go around City Hall, and make its way down the Parkway to the Art Museum for the formal celebration at 1 pm, which is predicted to last about two hours.
There is currently a stage being built on the steps of the Art Museum for the celebration, as well as port-a-potties as far as the eye can see. Video screens and other attractions will be placed along the parade route to view the celebration. The city is predicting upwards of 4 million people to attend the parade. To put that in perspective, the Phillies parade in 2008 was attended by at most 2 million people.
SEPTA is encouraging everyone to take public transportation, and is running a special Eagles Parade schedule (more on that later). In addition to some stations being closed, of course you can expect an abundance of road closures and parking restrictions throughout the city, especially on and near the parade route.
The parade will also air live on NBC10 and NBC Sports Philadelphia, as well as stream on NBC10.com and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com.
Why Can’t Us?
It’s time we get real. This is the part I hate the most, because it is my job to empower all you lovely parents to get out there, experience all the Philadelphia area has to offer, and take some chances. But for many of you, Thursday is not the day for that.
I’m not trying to scare you (the national media and even some reactionary locals have done that enough for you), but now is the time to really be aware of yourself, your kids, and your limitations. Maybe it’s a good day to send your kids to school or arrange childcare and have some grownup fun, or maybe it’s a good day to stay home.
Only you can honestly say what you and your kids can handle (emphasis on “honest”). Expect cold weather (the high temperature that day is 34 degrees) and a lot of waiting, crowding, walking, frustration, and sensory overload. Oh, and Bud Light is giving out free beers along the parade route (Dilly Dilly!), so no one is promising a “family friendly” environment.
Can your kids handle all that? And I don’t mean on their best day. Do they even personally care that much about the Eagles winning the Super Bowl? I don’t doubt that many kids do care, and that you care as well. But ask yourself if you are bringing them for their own benefit, or simply so that you can share it with them. If it’s the latter, please get a babysitter and enjoy this joyous day unencumbered.
Let’s get this out of the way: you’re not driving. There will be formal road closures, pedestrian gridlock, and extremely limited parking (the lots at the stadiums will not be open). And remember, if you drive into the city, you also have to drive out of the city.
If your primary way of getting into the city from the suburbs is driving, and navigating the public transit system freaks you out, maybe you can make a plan to stay over the night before (if you don’t have friends to crash with, Philly has some world-class hotels right on the parade route, both on the Parkway and on Broad Street near City Hall).
And yes, I realize at different points in this article I have advised you to 1) take off work 2) pay for childcare, and 3) get a hotel. It’s a real “let them eat Tastykake” moment on my part, and I am aware that most people do not possess this level of privilege.
And, for the love of God, don’t bring a stroller. Baby- (or toddler-) wearing, walking, and piggyback rides (especially to see over the crowds) are your key modes of transportation once you are within the city on parade day. I know it might be a lot of walking. I know, your kids get cranky and tired and need to nap.
And I am telling you, if that is true, and you cannot see a way to bring your kids without a stroller, this might not be their year. “But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime celebration!” First of all, this team is magical and I don’t want to hear any of that negativity! But more importantly, even if it is a unique moment in time, if everyone in your family is miserable, those are not happy memories.
What I’m saying is, sometimes you just need to make like the Patriots, take the L, and watch the champions at home on TV.
All We Got. All We Need.
Full disclosure: I am going to the parade and I am taking my 3-year-old with me. I also live on the parade route and — if you know my work or follow me online, you know this — my daughter is a city kid (and sports fan) through and through. If I haven’t lost you by now, and you’ve sufficiently established that your kids can hang, let’s do this.
We’ve already agreed no cars or strollers are going to be milling about Center City, right? Unless you’re abandoning your car miles away and walking (not recommended with kids), we’re done with this argument. You know where you can drive? To a SEPTA station — many of which are offering discounted parking on parade day!
So here’s the deal. If you live in the city, and can walk, you’re golden and you can skip to the next section. If you live in the city and the parade is too far to walk, SEPTA is running the Broad Street Line and the Market Frankford Line for free in the morning (up to 300,000 rides, so, not perfect, but it’s a start).
Just don’t expect to get off right in the midst of the parade — to cut down on gridlock, SEPTA has closed the stations that are directly on the parade route (City Hall Station and 15th Street Station), so you’ll have to walk a couple blocks. Likewise, several bus lines on the route will be detoured that day (27 of them, to be exact).
That also means that Suburban Station on the Regional Rail Line will be closed, so plan to stop at either 30th Street Station or Jefferson Station. Temple University and University City stations will also be closed.
Speaking of Regional Rail, this is about to get complicated. SEPTA will only be running its trains in one direction to maximize the amount of trains to take people to the parade, so in the morning you can only travel inbound (starting at 5 am, which really might not be a terrible idea), and in the afternoon (starting around 1:30 pm or so) you can only travel outbound. The trains will stop running at 9 pm so that SEPTA can prepare for Friday’s morning commute as regularly scheduled.
SEPTA is consolidating stops on its Regional Rail system (similar to the Pope’s visit, but with more stops)—only a couple stations will be open on each line. Furthermore, some lesser-used lines (Chestnut Hill West and Cynwyd) are not running at all so those trains can be put to higher use that day. For all the Regional Rail changes and information, including alternate route suggestions, check SEPTA’s website.
Now, how to get on the train? Like I said, this is a little complicated. SEPTA will be checking tickets before you can go down to the platform, and you will not be able to buy tickets with cash or use single-ride tickets. SEPTA will only accept weekly and monthly passes, or their special Independence Pass that they are selling for a reduced rate of $10.
They’re only selling 50,000 of these (and limit 10 per person), so get one at a station now. Children ages 4 and under are free (but limited to two kids per person). Be prepared to wait outside stations for much longer than you’re used to in order to get on a train (and take this into account when planning with kids).
This is going to cause a lot of wait time, confusion, and frustration, but SEPTA is hoping to do its best to “control the number and match the number to the amount of capacity that we have,” according to General Manager Jeff Knueppel. Requiring pre-paid passes, and limiting stations and lines is their way of managing it. Based on today’s press conference, SEPTA has definitely learned from the chaos of the Phillies parade, and they have put procedures in place to try to prevent that.
They have also had a decade to develop better technology and response time from their Control Center, which will be working all day to make adjustments in real time as best they can. Still, there is only so much they can do, and they basically admitted that. Even with all the adjustments, they foresee only being able to transport 500,000-550,000 passengers to the parade.
That’s about 1 in 4 hopeful fans at best, so may the odds be ever in your favor. A lot of people will be frustrated and disappointed, but, as I said at the beginning, this is unprecedented in scope and history. So, I will again repeat my suggestion to crash in the city the night before. After all, Philly’s more fun when you stay over!
A lot of this is going to be common sense tips for managing crowded events in general, but it’s always good to review. First off, be as prepared as you possibly can: dress in layers and comfortable shoes, and bring snacks, a battery pack for your phone, and cash.
If your kids are too small to reliably communicate important information, put your contact info on their person in case they get lost in the crowd —write it on a wristband or on a note in their pocket, for example. Take pictures of your children before you go. If they get lost, you can show people what they are wearing.
You should also decide in advance on a meeting place if you get separated. Alphanumeric “location markers” are posted along the Parkway to clearly and easily identify a location in the event of an emergency or getting lost.
For the most updated information on transit, public safety, and other news relating to the parade, sign up for ReadyPhiladelphia alerts from the Office of Emergency Management by texting READYEAGLES (one word) to 888-777.
If sitting on the Parkway from early morning in order to watch the celebration (most likely on a giant screen) isn’t your kids’ idea of fun, think about watching the parade somewhere else along the route. Ideally, pick somewhere that is near home (or a friend’s home) or somewhere you feel safe making “home base” so you can pop in, use the bathroom when you have to, and bail quickly if need be.
Speaking of the bathroom, there will be port-a-potties on the Parkway, as well as any public restroom that will actually let you in along the parade route, but suffice it to say you’ll probably have to wait. If you are bringing a kid who isn’t totally potty trained, you might want to regress to Pull Ups just for the day.
Finally, if you’re still with me, don’t forget to enjoy this moment, whether it’s from the comfort of your home or holding it down on Broad Street. This has been an amazing time for our city, and it has been such a thrill seeing everyone come together the last few weeks—the crazy exuberance, our inspirational team, and the city turning bright green! Just allow yourself the room and understanding to be flexible, including bailing if you need to.
No matter what happens on parade day, we still won the Super Bowl! These are good problems to have (just ask Tom Brady).
Photographs by Laura Swartz.