Wawa Welcome America, the weeklong celebration of the United States that happens every year in its birthplace, kicks off June 29-July 4.
Last Thursday, Mayor Jim Kenney, Wawa CEO Chris Gheysens and Welcome America, Inc. President and CEO Michael Delbene revealed a multitude of planned events for the festival.
This absurd celebration is packed with free events happening all day, every day. All the old classic jawns from celebrations past are happening again this year, along with some awesome new ones.
Our picks for must-see events if you plan to spend your week of Independence in the city are as follows:
SATURDAY, JUNE 29
Free Museum Day
OK, so this is happening every damn day of the festival. For the first day, Christ Church and the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Rare Book Department are opening their doors for free. We thought the latter sounded pretty dope, and we could only imagine what kinds of stories you could unearth there. Over 20 museums are participating in this year’s event, which is the largest number of museums that festival attendees have ever been able to access. | 9 am. Locations vary.
U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” Concert and Waterfront Fireworks
Could you think of anything more patriotic to kick off this festival? We really just need an eagle to fly in wearing jean shorts and then we’ll be set. Kick off the week with this classic celebration. | 8 pm. Great Plaza, Penn’s Landing, 101 S. Christopher Columbus Blvd.
SUNDAY, JUNE 30
Philadelphia’s Historic District Block Party
A treasured tradition of the festival, this party is back, and unlike last year, it’s going down on a weekend. It’s all happening at Independence Mall, a spot that fills pages of history books. This one is sure to have people packing the streets and enjoying live performances and delicious food that every quintessential block party has to offer. | 12 pm. Independence Mall.
Gospel on Independence
You’ll be able to praise the Lord in the City of Brotherly Love with a choir performance of over 100 singers. After just a day of partying it up, we could probably all stand to be taken to church. Come out for an uplifting experience. | 7 pm. Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut St.
MONDAY, JULY 1
PECO Go 4th & Learn
This series of educational themed activities for kids is focused on encouraging kids to interact and to make healthy decisions and read books. You know, all the shit that sounds lame to you as a cynical adult, but you should probably teach your kids to do. Really, though, an event like this just proves that this festival is for anyone. | 10 am. Penn Park, 3000 Walnut St.
Philly at the Movies: “Invincible”
This is another event recurring throughout the week, except this screening is special. Celebrate Franklin Field’s 125th anniversary with the classic Philly underdog story of Vince Papale. Scarf down some free Tastykake treats as you ugly cry at this incredible movie. God Bless America, and Go Birds. | 5:30 pm. Franklin Field, 235 S. 33rd St.
TUESDAY, JULY 2
Wawa Hoagie Day
Thousands. Of. Free. Hoagies. Oh, and an eight-ton hoagie salute to the troops. Did you get that? We don’t think you really need to hear any more. If you catch any one event throughout this week, it should probably be this one. | Noon. Independence Mall & National Constitution Center Lawn, 525 Arch St.
Kimmel Center’s Great American Picnic on the Plaza
A festival within a festival. Enjoy live performances from actual Broadway casts and from the U.S. Navy Band Cruisers. Don’t be too embarrassed to sing along to the music from a host of notable Broadway shows. We know you probably secretly know all the songs, anyway. | 5 pm. Commonwealth Plaza, The Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad St.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 3
POPS on Independence
This annual performance by the stellar 65-piece orchestra is part of the “POPS Salute Series,” which is a collection of events thrown with the purpose of honoring the troops. This year, they’re performing with Susan Egan – the original Belle in “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway. You don’t know a Philly tradition until you’ve witnessed the POPS play live. | 7 pm. Independence Mall, 520 Chestnut St.
THURSDAY, JULY 4
Celebration of Freedom Ceremony
Freedom may not be free, but luckily this festival is. Mayor Kenney will be announcing the winner of the Magis Award, the recipient of the Wawa Foundation Hero Award will be revealed, and the Declaration of Independence will be read. It’s all about service and being proud of our country, so why would you miss out on watching your fellow Philadelphians being honored for their service? Yeah, we will guilt you into going to this and applauding your neighbors for actually doing something to better our city. | 10 am. Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut St.
Salute to American Independence Day Parade
This year’s parade is brought to you by…the Philadelphia International Airport! We, the people shall unite to march through the nation’s birthplace and show our pride. You can expect all the extravagant patriotic displays you’d get on the 4th of July – marching bands, military units, tiny flags – except way more badass because it’s all happening on the most historic square mile piece of land in the country. We fucking love you, Philly, and we salute you. | 11 am. Independence Mall, 520 Chestnut St.
Party on the Parkway
The festivities don’t have to slow down, even though it’s the last day. This party is going on all day and offering all different types of family-friendly activities. Local musician Chill Moody will warm up the crowd with a pre-show featuring other Philly musicians and artists. A zip line will run up the parkway. If only it was always there – it’d probably help solve the shitty traffic around there. | Noon. Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Wawa Welcome America July 4th Concert & Fireworks
The annual blowout concert will be headlined by Jennifer Hudson and Meghan Trainor. The colorful fireworks set off after the show will be choreographed to a “custom patriotic soundtrack,” which is a first for the festival. The entire week of celebration culminates in this crazy display of how grateful we are to be free Philadelphians. | 7 pm. Benjamin Franklin Parkway.