Your Guide to Wawa Welcome America, Philadelphia’s Official July 4th Celebration

Fireworks, free museum days, block parties, concerts, and more! Your guide to the 16-day Independence Day celebration.


july 4th philly wawa welcome america

Wawa Welcome America — Philly’s July 4th festivities — concludes with fireworks on the Parkway / Photograph courtesy of Visit Philadelphia

Philadelphia basically invented independence, so of course we’re going to do the Fourth of July up right. Philly’s annual Independence Day bonanza kicks off on Juneteenth and runs through (you guessed it) July 4th. You get 16 days of free activities that not only celebrate freedom, but also highlight so much of what Philly has to offer. From free museums to “Go 4th & Learn” educational kids’ activities to events that spotlight our incredible local music and food (hello, Wawa Hoagie Day), it’s all on display and ready for the whole city to enjoy.

But there’s so much to do, it’s almost overwhelming. So, to help you get the most out of the festival’s activities, we’re breaking it down for you. Looking for all the free museum days? Free concerts? Free hoagies?! We’ve got you covered.

Fireworks | Block Parties | Concerts | Go 4th and Learn | Free Museum Days

Fireworks

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

Psst … This isn’t part of Welcome America, but you can see even more fireworks on July 2nd at 9 p.m. over the Delaware River, thanks to Rivers Casino’s free, kid-friendly Party on the Pier.

Parade

july 4th parade philly wawa welcome america

Photograph by by G. Widman

Salute to America Independence Day Parade
The parade starts in Old City at 2nd and Market streets, coming around City Hall, and finishing on Broad Street near the Convention Center. It’s a parade, so expect floats, military units, marching bands, dance performances, Miss America, historical characters, and more pomp and circumstance. July 4th, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., starts at 2nd and Market streets.

Block Parties and Community Gatherings

july 4th philly wawa welcome america

Wawa Welcome America hosts block parties all festival long. / Photograph courtesy of Visit Philadelphia

Juneteenth Block Party at the African American Museum in Philadelphia
Welcome America kicks off with this daylong, all-ages party that features live performances — including Spinderella from Salt-N-Pepa — celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. The block party also includes food trucks, a community marketplace featuring Black-owned businesses, art-making, line dancing and more. Plus, since this is also the kickoff to Wawa Welcome America, the museum will offer free admission all day (online registration required). June 19th, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch Street.

Our America Now: A Celebration of World Refugee Day
Welcome.US — a nonprofit that helps empower Americans to welcome refugees into their communities — will be hosting the first-ever World Refugee Day celebration during Welcome America. Head to LOVE Park for live music and performances, dance lessons, storytelling, interactive art-making and more. The newly refurbished I “Heart” Philly statue will return to the park, and a new 30-foot-tall visual lightbox display will appear, spelling out “Be a Welcomer.” Contribute by writing a welcome message of welcome for newcomers; messages will be lit up at the end of the event. June 20th, noon-8 p.m. (performances start at 2 p.m.), LOVE Park, 15th Street and JFK Boulevard.

Wawa Hoagie Day
Seven tons of free Wawa hoagies will be served at noon on Independence Mall, along with entertainment and “Tributes to our Local Heroes.” When you’re done eating your hoagie, head across the lawn to the National Constitution Center, which conveniently has free admission that day. June 28th, noon-3 p.m., Independence Mall.

Seven tons of Wawa hoagies on Independence Mall / Photograph by Laura Swartz

Avenue of the Arts Block Party
This party has everything. Live performances, dance parties, art, kids’ activities, food trucks, and even a 120-foot slide on Broad Street! Inside the Kimmel, catch free performances of the upcoming season with performances from Moulin Rouge and Disney’s The Lion King and Frozen. Outside, there will be another stage with a full day of performances. Kids can also dance with Let’s Rock Recess and have fun with Gabby’s Dollhouse. July 1st, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Broad Street between Locust and Spruce streets.

More Community Gatherings

Rebuild Philadelphia Block Party
South Philly’s Murphy Rec Center will get an upgrade this year, and they’re celebrating with a groundbreaking, live entertainment, games, giveaways and food trucks. June 21st, 3-7 p.m., Murphy Recreation Center, 300 West Shunk Street.

Fitness to Fly
Come to Esperanza Arts Center for music, food trucks, performances and kids’ fitness clinics. Kids can participate in free clinics (4 p.m. and 6 p.m.) featuring exercise, dance instruction and cheer sessions hosted by the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders (sign up here). There will also be a sensory-friendly fitness class and dedicated quiet space. The event will feature live salsa music and dancing with Lia Montalvo y su Orquesta, Latin food, face-painting, and a night market. June 22nd, 3-8 p.m., 4261 North 5th Street.

Rocky Movie Night
A Welcome America tradition, but this year’s screening of the iconic film moves indoors to the Philadelphia Film Center. Because of the venue change, capacity is limited and pre-registration is required online. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. June 26th, 7-9 p.m., Philadelphia Film Center, 1412 Chestnut Street.

Rebuild Philadelphia Community Day
Rebuild hosts a free, all-ages evening at Fotteral Square with face painting, balloon artists, caricatures, inflatable games, giveaways, and drumming demonstrations by the West Powelton Steppers and Sixers Stixers. June 27th, 4-7 p.m., Fotteral Square, 2400 North 11th Street.

Jerry Blavat Street Naming
A portion of Broad Street (at South Street) will be renamed Jerry Blavat Way in his memory. Celebrate the dedication with — what else? — an oldies dance party. June 28th, 6 p.m., Broad and South streets.

Einstein Community Day
Einstein hosts a free afternoon of family fun at Cherashore Playground including lawn games, roaming entertainment, free hot dogs, and local vendors. June 29th, 4-7 p.m., 851 West Olney Avenue.

Concerts and Performances

Photograph courtesy of Visit Philadelphia

Kidchella
Smith Memorial Playground kicks off another summer of music and fun with the return of its Kidchella concert series. It starts on June 23rd with two kid-music heavy hitters: Alex and the Kaleidoscope and Johnny Shortcake (Johnny Showcase’s kid-friendly alter ego). Plus, a cast member of Disney’s Frozen the Musical will perform “Let it Go.” And thanks to Welcome America, this first concert is free (get your tickets online). The music starts at 5:30 p.m., but come early, because starting at 4 p.m. there will be a youth arts zone with even more performances, plus crafts and food trucks so you can buy dinner to enjoy during the concert. Bring your own blanket or chairs (though your kids will probably be on their feet to the music). June 23rd, 4-7 p.m., Smith Memorial Playground, 3500 Reservoir Drive.

Concilio’s Hispanic Fiesta (and Waterfront Fireworks)
This two-day celebration of Hispanic culture and heritage fills Penn’s Landing’s Great Plaza with music, dance, food and live art. Manny Manuel and El Canario will perform, and a fireworks finale will cap off the celebration on both nights. June 24th and 25th, 2-9 p.m., Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing.

Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus on Independence
The U.S. Army Field Band and Soldier’s Chorus present “America the Beautiful,” a musical performance that honors our country and its veterans. Bring your own chairs and blankets. June 30th, 6 p.m., Independence Mall.

Pershing’s Own Concert (and Waterfront Fireworks)
Gather at Penn’s Landing for a concert of old standards, new hits, and patriotic tunes by the U.S. Army’s band, followed by a spectacular fireworks display above the Delaware River. July 1st, 8-9:45 p.m., Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing.

Gospel on Independence
Bring chairs or blankets for an evening of joyful music hosted by WDAS Patty Jackson. This year’s concert pays tribute to the 160th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and stars the Welcome America Mass Choir, with special performances by Treena Ferebee and the Generations. Limited seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis, so bring your own blanket (or chair). July 2nd, 6 p.m., Independence Mall.

Music on Independence: Featuring Vanessa Williams
The multifaceted, award-winning singer and actress will perform a free concert on Independence Mall. (This seems to have taken the place of Welcome America’s four-decade tradition of hosting a Philly POPS concert on Independence. RIP.) Limited seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis, so bring your own blanket (or chair). July 3rd, 6 p.m., Independence Mall.

Wawa Welcome America July 4th Concert
It all culminates in the big headline concert on the Parkway, this year with Demi Lovato and Ludacris. Gates open at 4 p.m., when DJ Diamond Kuts and Snacktime will perform on the Parkway. (This seems to have taken the place of Welcome America’s annual Party on the Parkway festival. Also RIP.)  The celebrations continue with a dazzling fireworks display over the Art Museum. If crowds aren’t your thing, you can watch live on NBC10 and TeleXitos. July 4th, 7-10 p.m. (pre-concert from 4-6 p.m.), Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Go 4th and Learn (Kids’ Educational Activities)

Photograph courtesy of Visit Philadelphia

A Cultural Journey at Franklin Square
Welcome America overlaps with the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival, so come to the grounds for free to see the colorful, larger-than-life installations and even learn about lantern-making with the Asian Arts Initiative. The morning will also feature performances, storytelling, a tai chi class, face-painting, and a book giveaway. June 27th, 10 a.m.-noon, Franklin Square, 6th and Race streets.

Sports, STEM, Music and More
Come to University City for a morning of sports fitness and educational activities for kids. Kids who want to be active can play soccer with the Philadelphia Union, or drum to the beat with the West Powelton Steppers and Sixers Stixers. Kids can also get creative with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, do hands-on science with the Franklin Institute, and listen to a story from the Free Library. June 30th, 10 a.m.-noon, 31st and Walnut streets (lower level).

A Great Debate
On Independence Day itself, kids can learn about the early days of our nation at Independence National Historical Park with storytelling and historic re-enactors. “Young historians and discerning debaters are encouraged to play their role in discussing the stories of the past and how they influence the present on the very grounds our country was founded.” July 4th, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Independence National Park (meet at the Commodore Barry statue).

Free Museum Days

Photograph courtesy of Visit Philadelphia

And finally, it wouldn’t be Wawa Welcome America without the opportunity to explore dozens of our museums for free! Every day of the festival, at least one cultural institution opens its doors to guests. Some of them, keen readers may notice, are always free, but they still want to get in on the celebration, so good for them! Anyway, here’s the schedule:

  • Monday, June 19th: The African American Museum in Philadelphia
  • Tuesday, June 20th: Wagner Free Institute of Science and the Print Center
  • Wednesday, June 21st: Woodmere Art Museum and Fairmount Water Works
  • Thursday, June 22nd: Historic Rittenhouse Town and Wyck Historic House
  • Friday, June 23rd: Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History and Stenton
  • Saturday, June 24th: Masonic Temple, Science History Institute, the Rosenbach, and Paul Robeson House & Museum
  • Sunday, June 25th: John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum and Historic Strawberry Mansion
  • Monday, June 26th: Christ Church and Burial Ground
  • Tuesday, June 27th: Mütter Museum, Betsy Ross House, and the Academy of Natural Sciences
  • Wednesday, June 28th: National Constitution Center
  • Thursday, June 29th: National Liberty Museum, PAFA, and the Free Library’s rare book department (Parkway Central branch)
  • Friday, June 30th: Penn Museum and American Swedish Historical Museum
  • Saturday, July 1st: Arch Street Meeting House, Fireman’s Hall Museum, and Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum
  • Sunday, July 2nd: Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation (They host a family-friendly festival that day, as well, so you may need to pre-register.)
  • Monday, July 3rd: Elfreth’s Alley Museum, Eastern State Penitentiary (at night), and the grand reopening of Carpenters’ Hall
  • Tuesday, July 4th: Cliveden House and Faith and Liberty Discovery Center