How to Get the Most Out of Wawa Welcome America

A plan of action for the week of free festivals, events and block parties leading up to the Fourth of July concert and fireworks show on the Parkway.

Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

It’s no secret that Philadelphia goes all out for Independence Day, with the City’s main celebrations manifesting in the form of Wawa Welcome America. The annual program comprises a whole week of free festivals, events and block parties, and culminates with a grand-finale concert and fireworks show on the Parkway. There’s a lot happening, and only a crazy person could do it all. So to help you get the most out of the week’s activities, we’ve put together this day-by-day guide to the very best to-dos.

Sunday, June 28

Wawa’s Welcome America! Community Day is a new addition to the festivities this year, held in Philadelphia’s Port Richmond neighborhood. Head to the bustling, up-and-coming enclave for a day of free live music and outdoor activities. Noon-4 pm, Port Richmond.

Monday, June 29

On Monday, don’t miss out on free admission to The Franklin Institute, where you and the kids can roam three floors of interactive and educational exhibitions and demonstrations. Visitors are encouraged to check out Wawa’s Dairy exhibit to learn about dairy farming and production. You also get free access to the Go 4th and Learn About Science event inside the museum, where kids can enjoy readings and free book giveaways. Current special exhibits, “The Art of the Brick” and “Genghis Khan,” aren’t included with the free admission, but you can check them out at a discounted rate: $10 for adults and $9 for kids. Franklin Institute, 222 North 20th Street.

Tuesday, June 30

Head over to the Philadelphia History Museum for free admission on Tuesday. Courtesy of Wawa and in partnership with PECO, you can absorb 330 years’ worth of stories, demonstrations and artifacts that tell the history of Philadelphia—all for free. 10:30 am-4:30 pm, Philadelphia History Museum, 15 South 7th Street.

That night, take a load off at Dilworth Park for a free outdoor screening of Annie. The recent remake stars Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx, with young Quvenzhané Wallis stepping in as the titular, impossibly cheerful titular character. 8:30 pm, Dilworth Park, 1 South 15th Street. 

Wednesday, July 1

The Go 4th and Learn series continues with a fitness-filled morning, so grab the kids and head over to Smith Memorial Playground. Enjoy a good book or picnic while they run wild on the 6.5-acre playground in Fairmount Park. The 50 pieces of play equipment will keep them entertained for hours. 10 am-noon, Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse, 3500 Reservoir Drive.

When they’ve exhausted themselves, call the babysitter and treat yourself to a browse around the African American Museum in Philadelphia, which is free all day Wednesday. Visitors will experience a unique collection of memorabilia, art, photographs and costumes, and learn about the important role African Americans played in the creation of our City. Don’t leave without peeking the latest special exhibit, a solo show by photographer Gerard Gaskin, who used his camera to chronicle New York’s sizzling underground ballroom scene. 10 am-5 pm, African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch Street.

Thursday, July 2

Head out early on Thursday for a day of exploring the National Constitution Center. Their free admission day includes the Center’s staples, like an exhibit tracing the history of the Constitution, and a handful of stellar special exhibitions. There’s “Speaking Out for Equality,” which details Philadelphia’s role in the promotion of LGBT civil rights, and “Creating Camelot: The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe,” where you can scan photos of John and Jackie’s glamorous years in the White House. Feel free to take your time through the exhibits, NCC is extending their hours till 8 pm. 9:30 am-8 pm, National Constitution Center, 525 Arch Street.

When your appetite hits, head over to Independence Mall to get a free hoagie of your choice in honor of Wawa’s 23rd annual Wawa Hoagie Day. There will be lines, but hello, free hoagie! You deserve it. Noon-1:30 pm, Independence Mall.

Later, grab your sweetie for an evening performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra, who will perform a free concert on the RiverStage at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing. Following the show, an impressive fireworks display will be held over the Delaware River Waterfront. The Orchestra begins playing at 8 pm. Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing, 101 South Columbus Blvd. 

Friday, July 3

Kick off your Fourth of July weekend with a free block party in Historic Philadelphia. The event offers live entertainment, food and beverages. Admission is free, but food and drinks must be purchased. 1 pm-8:30 pm, 5th and 6th streets between Market and Chestnut streets.

After enjoying the outdoor festivities, check out POPS! on Independence, a free, patriotic concert held in front of Independence Hall. The annual concert is one of the most popular Fourth of July traditions in the city, so grab a lawn chair, blanket and picnic for the show. Seating on the lawn is first come, first served. Conductor Michael Krajewski and guest soloists Capathia Jenkins and Darius de Haas will perform traditional favorites. 8 pm, Steps of Independence Hall, 6th and Chestnut streets.

Saturday, July 4

The big day is finally here! Fourth of July in Philly kicks off with the annual Independence Day Parade, a 1.2-mile promenade through Historic Philadelphia with an estimated 6,000 onlookers. The lively march begins in front of Independence Hall and makes its way down Market Street toward the Delaware River. This year, several marching bands, performance groups, military groups and even Miss America 2015 will be part of the roving lineup. 10 am-2 pm, parade begins at 5th and Chestnut streets.

Next, head over to Party on the Parkway, one of Philly’s most exciting traditions held on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This day-long celebration will host crowds of locals and visitors and feature blocks of games, activities, entertainment and food—all perfect for a day of fun with the whole family. Noon-7 pm, Benjamin Franklin Parkway from 20th Street to Eakins Oval.

The hardcore among you will stick around for Philly’s 4th of July Jam, the “largest free concert in America.” The show this year includes performances by Philly’s The Roots, with Miguel and Sugarland‘s Jennifer Nettles. This concert has been held annually outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art for more than two decades, and has brought in artists ranging from Nicki Minaj and Ed Sheeran to Ariana Grande and Sheryl Crow. If you can’t stomach the crowd, you can always catch the show on 6ABC.  7 pm-10:30 pm, Benjamin Franklin Parkway in front of Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

Immediately following the concert, the grand finale of the holiday is a stunning fireworks show over the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 10:30 pm-11 pm, Benjamin Franklin Parkway in front of Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

Happy Fourth!