The Complete Pope in Philly Survival Guide

Everything you need to know to make it through Philly’s biggest weekend ever.


[Updated on Tuesday, September 22nd at 12:15 p.m.]

Now that the organizers of the World Meeting of Families and city officials have switched gears from scaring you away to begging you to come, one big question remains:

Will you be there for the Popeapalooza, or do you plan on getting as far away as you can to avoid Popemageddon?

(Of course, maybe you don’t have a choice in the matter and simply need to get to work sometime that weekend.)

Fear not, brave souls. We’ve got you covered right here, no matter where you’re coming from or where you’re going.

The bottom line is, on September 26th and 27th,  you will be able to get into town to see the Pope, or to dine — or wait tables — at your restaurant if it’s #OpenInPHL for the weekend. And if you live inside the traffic box — ’scuse me, the Francis Festival Zone — you should be able to move about most of the area and take care of your basic needs during the three days when restrictions are greatest. There will be some catches, though, and we’ll get to them all below.

Where You Can Go, Where You Can’t

Your Life, Interrupted: A Timeline

Getting Around: Mass Transit

Regional Rail | Suburban Trolleys | Market-Frankford Line | Broad Street Line | Buses

Getting Around: From New Jersey

PATCO | NJ Transit | RiverLink Ferry | Ben Franklin Bridge

Getting Around: By Car

Getting Around: By Bike

Seeing the Pope




Things to Do

Getting Out of Town

Where You Can Go, Where You Can’t

First things first, let’s talk about the 4.6-square-mile chunk of Center City and University City that will be most drastically impacted by this holy hullaballoo. The area, after a bit of rebranding, is now called the Francis Festival Zone.

Within the zone, different rules apply depending on just how close you get to the papal events. Take a look at the map below.


The Traffic Box

The green line denotes the outermost boundaries of the festival zone. Outside that line, no special security or traffic control measures apply — though it’s a good idea to assume traffic will be extreme and street parking will be pretty much impossible throughout all of Center City.

The areas between the green lines and the black lines in the map above will be closed to private vehicles, beginning at 10 p.m., Friday, September 25th. It’s not yet clear when that restriction will lift, though it certainly won’t be until after the mass exodus following the end of the papal mass on Sunday, the 27th. There are no restrictions on pedestrians or bicyclists within this outer perimeter of the festival zone, and some taxis will be allowed in out for part of the weekend. If your car is parked in that area, and you’re not stopped on one of the emergency access routes (those are the roads highlighted in yellow on the map above) you’re OK to leave your vehicle there.

The Secure Vehicle Perimeter

Within the black line on the map, no non-official vehicles are allowed to enter or park. So you’ll need to get your car out of that zone well before the Pope arrives (see below for the details on when), unless you don’t mind the Philadelphia Parking Authority relocating it for you. Pedestrians and cyclists are still free to move about as they like within this zone.

The Secure Perimeter

The two red zones in the map above denote the highest security zones. Access is strictly controlled, and anyone going in must pass through a security checkpoint, which includes metal detector screening. Long lines are likely. Bikes are not allowed, and neither are many other items (you can find a full list of what’s prohibited below). The red zone around Independence Hall will be in effect from 10 p.m. Friday, September 25th to the following day at 6 p.m. The larger secure perimeter around the Parkway and City Hall will be in place from 10 p.m. Thursday, September 24th until at least the following Monday morning. Some areas within the secure perimeter are accessible only to ticket-holders, and smaller zones will be completely closed to all but official personnel. The map below, produced by the U.S. Secret Service, identifies the designated access points for both secured zones.

Official Walking Routes

The Secret Service has also designated official pedestrian routes to the events on the parkway and at Independence Mall, which are highlighted in green on the map below. These aren’t mandatory, but following them will mostly keep you away from the roads being used by ambulances, cop cars and other official vehicles.


And the interactive map below, coded by a trio of City of Philadelphia employees (on their own time) does a great job of making visual sense of the various security areas.

[Maps: 1. High resolution, day-by-day maps of security zones. 2. High resolution Secret Service security map. 3. Unofficial interactive map.]

Your Life, Interrupted: A Timeline

Everyone knows now that the Francis Festival will throw a monkey wrench into our daily routines and bring some services to a halt, at least within the festival zone. What follows is a chronology of when the various disruptions begin. And to help visualize all of this, check out this graphical representation made by the folks responsible for the interactive map above.

Sunday, September 20

Towing of parked cars begins within the secure vehicle perimeter around the papal activities at Independence Hall and on the Ben Franklin Parkway. This map shows the towing schedule.

Note that cars within the Francis Festival Zone but outside the secure vehicle perimeter will not be towed unless they are on streets designated as “Authorized Vehicle Routes”; in fact, you will be able to drive your car within the zone outside the secure vehicle perimeter as long as you stay off those “authorized vehicle routes” once the restrictions begin. As a practical matter, that makes driving within the zone for more than a few blocks an impossibility.

Monday, September 21-Wednesday, September 23

Vehicle towing within the secure vehicle perimeter continues, to be completed by the end of the day Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 23

Closed Wednesday through Friday: All Philadelphia public schools and School District of Philadelphia administrative offices. School will be open for a makeup day on Friday, October 9th.

Closed Wednesday through Monday: All Philadelphia courts.

Thursday, September 24

Closed Thursday through Monday: All nonessential city offices and services, including Thursday’s scheduled City Council meeting.

10 p.m.: The secure vehicle perimeter and secure perimeter for pedestrians go into effect west of 12th Street. If you have signed up for one of the paid parking options listed in this article, your car should be off the street by now if you live within this zone.

The following SEPTA stations will close:

  • Suburban Station on Regional Rail
  • 5th Street and 15th Street on the Market-Frankford Line
  • City Hall on the Broad Street Line
  • 15th Street on the trolley subway

Passengers wishing to change between Broad Street and Market-Frankford trains will have to use Walnut-Locust and 13th Street stations on Friday; no free interchange between the lines will be possible on Saturday or Sunday.

Friday, September 25

Closed Friday and Monday: Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration customer service offices in Center City. Social Security offices elsewhere in Philadelphia and in Upper Darby will close at noon for all business except card services; these offices will reopen at 12:30 p.m. Monday.

Not happening Friday or Monday: Residential trash collection. The city asks residents who get their trash picked up on those days to hold it until next week.

6 a.m.: Pedestrians will be allowed to enter the secure perimeter for Parkway events from 12th Street to 20th Street.

8 a.m.: Authorized Vehicle Routes go into effect. If your car is parked on one of these streets, it should have been moved by now.

6 p.m.: The Francis Festival Zone traffic restrictions and read closures go into effect in Center City and adjacent areas east of the Schuylkill. If you drive your car outside the festival zone after this time, you won’t be able to drive it back in until the morning of Monday, September 28.

10 p.m.: The Francis Festival traffic restrictions and road closures go into effect in University City. From this time forward, if you drive out of the University City zone, you won’t be able to drive back in until Monday morning.

The secure vehicle and pedestrian perimeters for Independence Mall events go into effect from 3rd to 12th streets.

Some taxis will be allowed to enter and leave the festival zone until 2 a.m. Saturday.

Road and bridge closures:

  • Benjamin Franklin Bridge
  • Schuylkill Expressway (I-76) eastbound from I-476 to I-95
  • I-76 westbound from I-95 to US Route 1 (Roosevelt Blvd/City Ave)
  • Vine Street Expressway (I-676) in both directions from I-95 to I-76
  • City Avenue (US Route 1) in both directions from Belmont Avenue to Lancaster Avenue (US Route 30) because Pope Francis is staying at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary
Saturday, September 26

Not happening Saturday: Mail delivery and collection in the following ZIP codes: 19102, 19103, 19104, 19106, 19107, 19122, 19123 and 19130. The restrictions may also affect operations at the following post offices normally open on Saturday:

  • Main Post Office, 30th and Chestnut streets
  • William Penn Annex, 9th and Market streets
  • Free Franklin, 316 Market Street
  • Middle City, 2037 Chestnut Street
  • Fairmount, 1939 Fairmount Avenue

Call 1-800-ASK-USPS for information about specific post offices.

6 a.m.: Metal detectors open at all secure perimeter entrances. Tickets will be required for entrance to the secure areas.

6 p.m.: The secure perimeter around Independence Mall ends, but the secure vehicle perimeter remains in effect.

Sunday, September 27

6 a.m.: Ticketed attendees will be allowed inside the secure perimeter for the Papal Mass on the Parkway.

The City of Philadelphia has not announced exact times when the secure perimeters in effect on Sunday will end. Presumably, the pedestrian screening in the secure perimeter will end soon after the conclusion of the Papal Mass. Vehicle restrictions may last longer, however. We will update you as we learn more.

Monday, September 28

3 a.m.: Taxi stands will be set up inside the Francis Festival Zone for visitors taking early flights from Philadelphia. Exact locations have yet to be announced.

Noon: Ben Franklin Bridge expected to reopen.

There has also been no announcement yet of when the Francis Festival Zone vehicle restrictions will end. Again, we will keep you updated.

Getting Around: Mass Transit

If you need to get into Center City from outside of it for any reason, mass transit is likely not only your best option, but your only one — especially if you are headed to one of the three ticketed events where the Pope will appear (more on that later). You will be able to bicycle into the festival zone, but bicycles are among the many objects not allowed within the secure zones around the papal appearances at Independence Hall and on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

If you are coming from the Pennsylvania suburbs, your options are either Regional Rail or one of the bus and trolley lines that feed 69th Street and Frankford Transportation Centers. SEPTA has a papal visit FAQ page. [Map: Walking distances from SEPTA stations to Logan Circle]

Regional Rail Logistics:

All of the suburban Regional Rail lines (except for the Airport Line, below) will have only one, two or three stations open, and trains will run inbound to 30th Street or Jefferson stations from 5:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Then, starting at 5:30 p.m., trains will run outbound from those two points to the open stations until 1 a.m. Riders will need a special Papal Visit Pass ($10 per day) to board these services. The pass will have your date, inbound boarding window, and originating and destination stations printed on it; when returning in the evening, you will need to return to the station where you were dropped off to board your outbound train. SEPTA has just launched a clickable map to provide parking and road closure information about each of the open outlying regional rail stations. [Map: Regional Rail stations, clickable]

Suburban Trolley Logistics:

A special three-day Papal Visit Pass ($10 for the three days) good from September 26th to 28th is required to use Trolley Routes 101 and 102 and the Norristown High-Speed Line; as with Regional Rail, only two stations will be open on each of these lines and service will operate in the peak direction only: inbound to 69th Street from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. and outbound from it after 1 p.m. [Maps: 101 & 102 trolleys; Norristown HSL]

Where to Buy Passes:

The special passes required for travel on Regional Rail and suburban trolley lines can and should be purchased in advance at the originating stations. Those stations are:

Regional Rail 
Chestnut Hill West on the Chestnut Hill West Line (no service on the Chestnut Hill East Line)
Fox Chase on the Fox Chase Line
Pennbrook and Fort Washington on the Lansdale/Doylestown Line
Norristown Transportation Center on the Manayunk/Norristown Line
Media and Primos on the Media/Elwyn Line
Paoli and Radnor on the Paoli/Thorndale Line
Cornwells Heights (service only from 5:30 to 8:30 a.m.), Croydon (service only from 8:30 a.m. to noon) and Levittown on the Trenton Line
Woodbourne on the West Trenton Line
Wilmington and Marcus Hook on the Wilmington/Newark Line

[Full Regional Rail fare information]

Trolley Route 101: Springfield Mall and Leamy Avenue
Trolley Route 102: North Street and Clifton-Aldan
Norristown High-Speed Line: Gulph Mills and Villanova

[Full Suburban trolley fare information]

The passes may also be purchased in Center City at Jefferson, Suburban and 30th Street stations.

Airport Line:

There is one exception to this rule on Regional Rail: the Airport Line will operate normally between Jefferson Station and Philadelphia International Airport. Trains will depart Jefferson Station every 30 minutes starting at 5 a.m.; the first train departs the Terminal C/D platform at PHL at 5:30 a.m. Trains will also stop at Terminal A/B and University City. Fares must be purchased in advance and will be collected at fare control points in the stations; tickets and all passes good for Airport Line travel will be accepted, including Papal Visit Passes already purchased. SEPTA sales agents will be stationed on the bridges connecting the airport terminals and train platforms from September 21st through 27th so that arriving passengers can purchase tickets or passes.

As the Gallery will be closed for the duration of the papal visit, riders wishing to catch trains at Jefferson Station will have to use the surface entrances to the station at 10th, 11th or 12th and Filbert streets.

Subway Logistics:

In the city, the subway-elevated system will operate in both directions throughout the day with “express” and “local” service, a major change that will allow those needing to reach jobs within the festival zone to do so faster and easier. “Express” trains will operate from the ends of each line to the designated express dropoff station, then continue on to the other end as locals stopping at all open stations. “Local” trains will originate at the next open station inward from the end of the line and stop at all open stations to the opposite end. The pairings and open stations on each line are:

Market-Frankford Line: Eastbound, express trains originate at 69th Street Transportation Center, drop riders off at 30th Street, then continue as locals to Frankford Transportation Center. Local trains originate at 60th Street, stop at 52nd, 34th, 30th, 8th (until 7 p.m.), 2nd, Girard, Huntingdon, Allegheny, Erie-Torresdale, and Arrott Transportation Center, and end at FTC. Westbound expresses begin at FTC and drop off riders at 2nd Street; locals begin at Arrott Transportation Center, stop at Erie-Torresdale, Allegheny, Huntingdon, Girard, 2nd, 8th (until 7 p.m.), 30th, 34th, 52nd and 60th, and end at 69th Street. [Map: Market-Frankford Line]

Broad Street Line: Southbound, express trains originate at Fern Rock Transportation Center, drop off riders at Spring Garden, then continue as locals to AT&T Station. Locals originate at Olney Transportation Center, stop at Erie, North Philadelphia, Cecil B. Moore, Spring Garden, Walnut-Locust and Snyder, and end at AT&T. Northbound expresses begin at AT&T, drop off riders at Walnut-Locust, and continue as locals to Fern Rock; locals begin at Snyder, stop at Walnut-Locust, Spring Garden, Cecil B. Moore, North Philadelphia, Erie and Olney, and end at Fern Rock. Snyder station may be closed intermittently at peak travel hours if traffic is excessive. [Map: Broad Street Line]

There will be some other service modifications in effect on the 26th and 27th. Bicycles will not be allowed on trains, fares will be checked before riders pass through the turnstiles at the four express terminals, and neither the overnight trains nor the Nite Owl bus substitutes will operate.

All non-cash fare instruments will be good for travel on rapid transit on the papal visit weekend. Cash will be accepted only for reduced fare payments and transfer purchases. (Scroll to the bottom of this page for a handy chart.)

All of SEPTA’s trolley routes in the city except Route 10 will operate over the weekend. The Southwest Philadelphia routes will operate on modified weekday schedules, providing local service to the 40th Street portal, then running nonstop to 30th Street, where all riders must disembark. Outbound trolleys will operate nonstop from 30th Street to the 40th Street portal, then provide local service to the end of each line. Route 15 will operate with a mix of trolleys and buses, and service along part of the route will be suspended.


Most SEPTA bus routes in city and suburbs will operate over the weekend. The following routes will not operate: 1, 4, 7, 8, 12, 17, 30, 35, 43, 44, 47M, 48, 57, 61, 62, 64, 65, 78, 80, 106, 115, 118, 120, 126, 133, 204, 205 and LUCY. Some routes will operate on modified weekday schedules to provide extra service; the rest will operate on their normal Saturday schedules. All forms of payment including cash will be accepted on the surface routes. Service will be suspended or detoured on those parts of Routes 2, 5, 9, 16, 21, 23, 25, 27, 31, 32, 33, 37, 38, 40, 42, 47, 52 and G that are affected by the Francis Festival Zone traffic restrictions or other street closures.

All forms of fare payment, including cash, will be accepted on the buses.

The three-day Papal Visit Passes ($10 for all three days) are also good for travel on city transit routes but are not required. You may purchase them at all regular sales locations along the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines, at selected rapid transit cashier’s booths, and at the Center City Regional Rail stations.

[Map: routes detoured by Francis Festival Zone]

From New Jersey:

If you are coming from New Jersey, you have four options for reaching the festival zone: PATCO trains to 9th-10th and Locust, the New Jersey Transit Atlantic City Line to 30th Street Station, the RiverLink Ferry from Camden to Penn’s Landing, or a pleasant two-mile stroll across the Ben Franklin Bridge, which will be open to pedestrians and bicycles during the Francis Festival. NJT buses that normally operate into Philadelphia will terminate at Walter Rand Transportation Center in Camden, where passengers can transfer to PATCO trains headed into Philadelphia.

PATCO will operate limited-stop service on September 26th and 27th, for which fares must be purchased in advance if you do not already have a PATCO Freedom Card. Inbound trains will pick up passengers at Lindenwold, Woodcrest, Ferry Avenue and Broadway (Walter Rand Transportation Center) and discharge them at 9th-10th and Locust station; outbound trains will pick up passengers at 9th-10th and Locust and drop them off at the four stations above. Service will run westbound to Philadelphia only from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. and eastbound to New Jersey after 5:30 p.m. with no service between. The special one-day PATCO Freedom Card required for travel during the papal visit costs $5; a two-day card costs $10. The cards can no longer be purchased on PATCO’s website and now must be bought in person at the Freedom Card service centers at Broadway and Woodcrest stations. Current Freedom Card holders will pay $2.50 each way during this period. [Map: PATCO papal service]

NJT’s Atlantic City Line and River Line will operate limited service on September 26th and 27th, for which special tickets must be purchased in advance. Those tickets may be purchased on the NJT website.

The RiverLink Ferry will run every half hour on the half-hour from 1 Riverside Drive (next to the Adventure Aquarium) in Camden to Penn’s Landing (next to the Independence Seaport Museum) from 7:30 to midnight on Saturday and Sunday, and every hour on the hour in the opposite direction during the same time. Tickets are $7 per ride and must be purchased in advance online.

The Ben Franklin Bridge will close to vehicles at 10 p.m. on Friday, September 25th and reopen around noon on Monday, September 28th to accommodate all that sweet pedestrian traffic.

Getting Around: By Car

The first piece of advice for those thinking of driving into Philadelphia for the papal visit is: Don’t. Just don’t. The Francis Festival Zone is a car-free area, and no provisions are being made for visitor parking on its fringes. Parking will be available at some SEPTA Regional Rail stations; Lindenwold, Woodcrest and Ferry Avenue PATCO stations, and selected stations on the NJT Atlantic City Line. You can park there and ride in on the train (see “Mass Transit”) above for information on how the trains will be running).

Another park-and-ride option is being offered through a partnership between SEPTA and RYDE, a new company specializing in long-distance luxury bus transportation for special events. Called PopeBus, the local service will use school buses to ferry riders from 52 designated park-and-ride lots in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland to seven Regional Rail stations where riders may board trains into the city. Round-trip fares for the service range from $15 to $49, depending on distance; patrons can also obtain one-day Papal Visit Passes from PopeBus for an additional $10 if they do not already have them. Pick-up points are as close as Conshohocken and as far away as Baltimore. You can book your PopeBus RYDE on the PopeBus website now.

Uber has announced that it will be providing free rides in its fleet of wheelchair accessible vehicles within the Francis Festival Zone. The company says its paratransit partners will have no restrictions entering and exiting the Francis Festival grounds.

Those thinking of driving out of Philadelphia to get away from the papal hullaballoo should plan on leaving before the traffic restrictions in the Francis Festival zone take effect Friday, for those restrictions will take some key highways out of service — specifically, the Schuylkill and Vine Street expressways and the Ben Franklin Bridge. I-95 will remain open through the festival zone.

Car owners living within the festival zone will need to find somewhere else to park their cars while the zone’s secure perimeter is in effect. Cars in the zone will be towed starting Monday, Sept 21, and ending Wednesday, Sept. 23, to clear the streets so that the secure perimeter can be created. The city suggests you find an open parking spot in any city neighborhood outside the zone, but be sure to check for any restrictions before you park in the spot. The 1,500-space parking lot at the former Naval Hospital at 1600 Pattison Ave. will be open to those wishing to park their cars there. There are two other options available, for a price. For $20, you can park your car in one of the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s six open parking garages in the festival zone from Thursday evening, Sept. 24, through the end of the papal festival; the PPA will in exchange give you a placard you can display in your car’s windshield informing the towing crews to leave it alone. And for $20 per day, Luxe Valet Parking will come pick up your car and move it to a safe parking space for the duration of the festival. [Map: Festival Zone Towing Schedule]

Getting Around: By Bike

Unlike cars, bikes will enjoy nearly unfettered access to the Francis Festival zone. Those wishing to bike into the grounds will be able to travel freely throughout the area, with one exception: bicycles are prohibited from entering the ticketed areas on the Ben Franklin Parkway and at Independence Mall.

The Indego bike-sharing service will have staff on hand at four bike share stations to ensure that bikes are available and answer visitor questions. The staffed stations are located at:

  • Rittenhouse Square, northwest corner, on Walnut Street
  • Foglietta Plaza, Front and Dock streets
  • 30th Street Station, at 30th and Market streets
  • Broad and Spring Garden streets

As of this writing, the exact staffing hours have not yet been announced; check the papal visit article on the Indego blog as the papal visit approaches for updated information. The article also lists the 15 Indego stations that will be closed during the papal visit.

Seeing the Pope

If your goal was to get up close and personal with His Holiness, it’s likely too late unless you’re willing to shell out some money for tickets to the secured events on the secondary market. All of the 10,000 tickets WMOF organizers made available for free for the pope’s three public events — his speech at Independence Mall, his appearance at the Festival of Families and his concluding Mass on the Parkway on Sunday — were snapped up within seconds of their release this past week.

If you worship in a Catholic church, belong to a handful of other religious groups, or patronize one of the service organizations to which tickets were distributed, you may still have a chance to get into the ticketed areas for the Pope’s Saturday speech at Independence Hall, his appearance at the Festival of Families Saturday evening, or his Sunday Mass on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

But if you don’t even have that option, don’t worry; the festival organizers will have 40 Jumbotron viewing screens set up at locations throughout the Francis Festival zone to give you a really up-close-and-personal view of the Pope’s public activities from his landing at Philadelphia International Airport to the end of the Sunday Mass. The screens will be set up at the following locations:

  • Benjamin Franklin Parkway, stage left (south side of Eakins Oval)
  • Benjamin Franklin Parkway, stage right (north side of Eakins Oval)
  • 24th Street and Park Towne Place
  • Binswanger Triangle, south side
  • Binswanger Triangle, north side
  • Von Colln Field, southwest corner
  • Von Colln Field, northwest corner
  • 19th and Spring Garden streets
  • Spring Garden Street between 16th and 17th streets
  • Broad and Green streets
  • Benjamin Franklin Parkway between Eakins Oval and 22nd Street, west side
  • Benjamin Franklin Parkway between Eakins Oval and 22nd Street, east side
  • Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 22nd Street
  • Benjamin Franklin Parkway between 22nd and 21st streets
  • Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 21st Street
  • Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Winter Street, on triangle grass area
  • Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Winter Street, on corner
  • Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 20th Street
  • Logan Square at 20th Street
  • Logan Square at 19th Street
  • Logan Square at 18th Street
  • Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 17th Street
  • John F. Kennedy Boulevard and 16th Street
  • Arch Street and 15th Street
  • Municipal Services Building Plaza, southwest side
  • Municipal Services Building Plaza, east side
  • City Hall, facing Market Street East
  • Sansom Street east of Broad Street
  • Broad and Spruce streets
  • Broad and Lombard streets
  • Broad and Wood streets
  • Independence Hall, stage left, north of Chestnut Street
  • Independence Mall, stage left, center of Block One
  • Independence Mall, stage right, center of Block One
  • Independence Hall, stage left, center of Block Two
  • Independence Hall, stage right, center of Block Two
  • Independence Hall, Block Two, center
  • Independence Hall, Block Three, center (northernmost block, in front of National Constitution Center)
  • 5th Street north of Chestnut Street
  • Franklin Square, northwest corner

If you are one of the lucky ticket holders, be aware that there’s a long list of items you can’t bring with you into the ticketed area:

  • Aerosols
  • Ammunition
  • Animals, except for service animals
  • Backpacks and bags exceeding 18″ x 13″ x 7″
  • Balloons
  • Bicycles
  • Drones
  • Explosives, firearms, or weapons
  • Glass, thermal, or metal containers
  • Hard-sided coolers (soft-sided thermal coolers are allowed)
  • Laser pointers
  • Mace or pepper spray
  • Packages
  • Selfie sticks
  • Signs exceeding 5′ x 3′ x 1/4″ made of any material except cardboard, poster board, or cloth
  • Structures
  • Supports for signs and placards
  • Toy guns

Looking for a Bite to Eat?

Whether it’s meals on wheels or food in fixed locations, there will be plenty of dining choices available within the Francis Festival Zone. Many of the city’s best restaurants will open their doors to World Meeting of Families visitors throughout the week and will remain open for the Francis Festival. That includes the Reading Terminal Market, which will stay open until 7 p.m., one hour later than usual, on Friday, Sept. 25 and Saturday, Sept. 26, but close at 3 p.m., one hour earlier than usual, on Sunday, Sept. 27.

WMOF organizers have been encouraging businesses to use the hashtag #OpenInPHL to signal that they will be open for business during the papal visit; a Twitter search should turn up plenty of interesting places. And our own Foobooz breaks down some of the best papal specials out there.

In addition to the year-round eateries, there will be dozens of independent food trucks located throughout the Festival grounds. All of them will be located outside the ticketed areas, so you don’t have to worry about going through security screening to chow down at the truck of your choice. There’s no exact list or map of mobile food vendor locations, but you should probably run into them as you roam around the festival sites.

If you prefer to dine in, supermarkets and convenience grocery stores in the festival zone are open for business. The city has produced a map showing the location of all grocery and convenience stores within the festival zone. Whether a given store will actually be open is up to the individual store owner.

There’s no need to stock up on items in advance, as the city has scheduled two windows of time when businesses can take deliveries during the papal visit. [Map: Grocery and convenience stores, hospitals and places of worship in the Francis Festival Zone]

Coming to Town for a Stay?

The good news is, because the enormous hordes everyone expected to descend upon Center City won’t be as enormous as feared, there are plenty of rooms still available in hotels throughout the region. The bad news, if you were planning to rent out your digs on Airbnb, is that you probably won’t get the $1,800 per night or more you were planning to charge for your gorgeous townhouse. Airbnb listings are plentiful as well, and getting cheaper by the day, even for those accommodations close to the action.

The festival organizers have their own version of Airbnb up and running too. The Host a Family database is powered by Homestay and features lodgings in local residences offered by hosts who signed up with the World Meeting of Families.


Want to know what shops and boutiques are staying open in the Festival Zone? Shoppist has the full run-down here. Want to get the best (aka not weird or ridiculous) Pope Francis memorabilia? These shops have the best souvenirs and memorabilia.

Things to Do

Looking for the great event to take part in related to the pope’s visit and the World Meeting of Families? Ticket has the 20 best pope-themed activities.

Wanna Get Outttahere?

Book your travel on Amtrak now, or pick your airline and flight and hop the train to the airport. Or when it’s time to move your car out of the Francis Festival zone, get in it and keep moving to wherever it is you plan to ride out the storm. Otherwise, you’re here for the duration.

Unless you plan to travel two weeks from today, you won’t be able to take advantage of Amtrak’s 25-percent discount for Northeast Regional tickets, but you might be able to score other discounts; check Amtrak’s website to see what’s on sale this week. Service will operate through 30th Street Station for the duration of the World Meeting of Families and the papal visit.

SEPTA’s Airport Line will also operate normally throughout this period, so if you find a cheap flight, you’ll be able to catch it as long as you can get to Jefferson Station.

What you won’t be able to do, at least not easily, is catch a bus headed out of town after Thursday. Megabus will curtail service to and from Philadelphia sometime Friday and operate no service at all on Saturday and Sunday, as its boarding location is inside the Francis Festival zone. Bolt Bus, whose buses board just west of the Megabus location on John F. Kennedy Boulevard, has not announced whether or where it will operate service. A Greyhound spokesperson told Plan Philly in July that it plans to run service from an “alternate location” while its 10th and Filbert terminal is closed for the papal visit, but as of now, that alternate location remains undisclosed. If you’re a patron of the Chinatown buses, expect to be stranded here for the weekend if you don’t catch a bus by Thursday.

And if you decide to drive, you should likewise hit the road before Friday if you live within the festival zone, for the Schuylkill Expressway and Ben Franklin Bridge will be closed completely over the papal visit weekend, and access to I-95 from Center City will also be cut off.

Whether you stay or go, and whether or not you decide to see the Pope if you stay, we hope your last weekend of September goes as smoothly as possible.

For complete coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia, bookmark Philadelphia magazine’s Pope in Philly page.