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You’re Invited! 3 Reasons to Celebrate July 4th in Philadelphia

by Suzanne Fluhr on May 24, 2019 · 17 comments

Philadelphia Fireworks

Many countries around the world celebrate the day they became independent from their colonial overlords. Here in the United States, our big deal Independence Day celebration occurs on July 4th.

Independence Day is a super duper really big deal in my home town, Philadelphia. After all, Philadelphia is where the “we’re really doing this”, declaration of independence from Great Britain actually happened. This is why we like to invite everyone to come celebrate July 4th in William Penn’s City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection).

During the summer of 1776, some audaciously insanely optimistic forward looking men from the then 13 British American colonies met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and definitively started the experiment that is the United States of America.

The Congress Voting Independence by Robert Edge Pine, completed by Edward Savage1

This oil painting titled “Congress Signing the Declaration of Independence” was started by artist Edward Edge Pine in 1785, and completed by Edward Savage in 1790. It was used as a guide by historians recreating the chamber in today’s Independence Hall. (Lic.: Public Domain)

Armed conflict with Great Britain had been underway in the American colonies for over a year before delegations from each colony met in sweltering Philadelphia in June of 1776 to draft an “official” declaration of their grievances, and to declare they no longer considered themselves British subjects.

Five delegates were appointed to draft the Declaration of Independence. They in turn prevailed upon one member of that committee, Virginian Thomas Jefferson, to pen (literally, pen–quill and all) the first draft. With edits by the others, this is the document adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 2, 1776.

John Adams of Massachusetts (later the second President of the United States), grasped the magnitude of the event. The following day, he wrote to his wife:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. 

Wait? What? July 2nd?

Amerexit?

O.K. So, maybe he got the date a little wrong, but he was remarkably prescient about how we in the United States would each year celebrate the anniversary of this momentous act of leaving the then formidable British Empire:

I am apt to believe that [July 2nd] will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

After a few more edits by the entire Congress, the Declaration was finally sent to the printer on July 4, 1776. The Declaration wasn’t actually signed by representatives of all 13 colonies until August 2, 1776, but July 4th is the important date that stuck and is exuberantly commemorated every year.

Declaration of Independence

We are accustomed to seeing this 1823 facsimile of the Declaration of Independence prominently featuring July 4th, 1776 as the date of the document.

3 Reasons to Celebrate the 4th of July in Philadelphia

1)  You Can Walk in the Footsteps of the Founding Fathers

Thomas Jefferson slept here in Philadelphia. So did Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and 53 other signers of the Declaration of Independence. (BTW, George Washington was on a military campaign and did not sign it). They were willing to stick their necks out and admit in writing they were committing treason —  from the British point of view. After all, one man’s revolution is another’s rebellion. Benjamin Franklin was spot on when he noted sardonically that:

We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.

Here in Philadelphia, we claim to have “the most historic square mile in the United States”. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it. Two historic sites are most relevant to the Fourth of July celebration:

Independence Hall

Independence Hall, South Facade, Philadelphia

The southern facade of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, you can visit Independence Hall. The two foundational documents of the United States of America (the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the United States Constitution (1787) ) were debated and signed in this building. At the time, it was the State House of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The construction of this fine example of colonial Georgian architecture started in 1732.

Combine your visit to Independence Hall with an up close and personal visit to the Liberty Bell.

The Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell, Philadelphia

Looking at the Liberty Bell from the outside of the Liberty Museum. Independence Hall is reflected in the window.

When I was growing up in Philadelphia (a loooong time ago), anyone could simply walk into Independence Hall and touch the Liberty Bell, then displayed simply next to a staircase on the first floor.

However, in 1976, the Liberty Bell was moved to a stand alone pavilion for the Bicentennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence. In 2003, it was moved to the current Liberty Bell Center and museum where it can be viewed inside the museum with Independence Hall visible beyond. At night, it can be seen illuminated from outside.

The museum tells the story of the Liberty Bell. I’m not sure what transatlantic consumer protections were available in those days, but in 1752, the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly ordered the bell from an English foundry. The bell cracked when rung for the first time in Philadelphia. Local metal workers melted that one down and recast it here in Philadelphia. It did its ringing job, hanging in the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House until some time in the early 19th century when it cracked again. It acquired its Liberty Bell moniker in the 1830s when it was adopted as a symbol by Abolitionists opposing slavery. The impressive crack with which we are familiar today represents an unsuccessful attempt to “fix” the bell.

In our modern day celebration of July 4th in Philadelphia, descendants of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence symbolically “ring” the bell.

Plan your Visit to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center 

You can plan your visit to these 2 historic sites and others in the National Independence Historical Park on the website of the National Park Service.

Museum of the American Revolution

As long as you’re in the neighborhood, take the time to visit The Museum of the American Revolution, one of Philadelphia’s newest history museums and a mere 6 minute walk from Independence Hall (according to Google Maps). 

2) Philadelphia Celebrates July 4th for Six Days!

Philadelphia Fireworks

Benjamin Franklin was right in predicting that Independence Day would be celebrated with “Illuminations” (fireworks).

We don’t mess around in Philadelphia when it comes to July 4th. We celebrate all week!!! We call it the “Wawa Welcome America” celebration. While we Philadelphians admittedly love to whine, especially about potholes, the Philadelphia Parking Authority, and our professional sports teams, in this context “Wawa” refers to our regional version of Seven Eleven.

From June 29th through July 4th, Philadelphia hums with free public events celebrating the nation’s birthday, in the place it was born. There are block parties, movie nights, and parades, ending with what John Adams would call spectacular “illuminations” — fireworks to us 21st century types.

Before the Fourth of July 2019 fireworks, Philly will host a free concert on its favorite big stage—the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. If it was good enough for Pope Francis, it’s good enough for Jennifer Hudson, Meghan Trainor, the Philly Pops and YOU!

Check out the full Welcome America schedule.

3) Philly is More Fun When You Sleep (and Eat) Over

Chandelier from the Hyatt at the Bellevue Hotel, Philadelphia

A chandelier from the historic 1904 Hyatt at the Bellvue Hotel, the Grand Dame of Broad Street. This hotel, built in the French Renaissance style, is one option if you “sleep over” in Philadelphia.

I admit I stole borrowed this slogan from the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors’ Bureau. I borrowed it because it’s true. If you sleep over, you can enjoy a night cap or two or three at one of Philly’s many restaurants and bars.

Of course, you’re always welcome to have a cheesesteak because cheesesteaks occupy an entire swath of the Philadephia Phood pyramid. However, on a healthier more upscale note, at least one food writer thinks Philadelphia is currently experiencing its third restaurant renaissance , thanks in large part to Stephen Starr’s restaurant empire.

Center City Philadelphia is eminently walkable and public transportation is good. So pick a Center City Philadelphia hotel and join us as we celebrate the Fourth of July. We even have historic hotels.

We’ll leave a light on for you.

Here’s an image to add to a Pinterest board to help you remember things to do on the Fourth of July in Philadelphia.  If you pin this image from here, you will automatically save the link to this post. 

 

Have you ever celebrated the Fourth of July in Philadelphia? No? Have you ever visited Philadelphia? No? Have you ever heard of Philadelphia?

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin May 25, 2019 at 3:25 pm

This article inspired me to re-visit my city’s history -live! I definitely have to see the Constitution Center and The Museum of the American Revolution. I’ve lately been interested in British/Scottish History in prep for a future trip, but my city has so much to offer that I’d better update my knowledge and spread the word.

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Paul May 25, 2019 at 10:41 pm

As we were going through the process of my immigrant husband applying to become a U.S. citizen, we thought spending a 4th of July in Philly would be a great live immersive pre-citizenship experience. I didn’t remember that it was a month after one of our notable class reunions, but, checking my notes I see that it was in 2015 that we enjoyed Celebration of Freedom Ceremony at independence Hall. It was the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment; the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the Immigration Nationality Act of 1965 and the 50th Anniversary of the first LGBT Protest which Philly claims pre-dates the Stonewall protest by a full 4 years. Who knew? We had a great few days. We stayed at The Embassy Suites Hotel which has rooms with balconies facing the famous Rocky steps of the Philadelphia Museum which is a front row seat to the fireworks. These rooms are premium priced and sellout early. We travel a lot and find the service sector of Philly welcoming and quite friendly.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 26, 2019 at 10:03 pm

I’m glad Philly was welcoming for your visit. We sometimes get a bad rap because of that time a million years ago when Eagles fans pelted Santa Claus with snowballs—ok, maybe a few of them were ice balls. I

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Anita May 28, 2019 at 4:34 am

Great article, Suzanne. Who knew we could be celebrating the national birthday a couple of days earlier…or a month later? Tom and I are big fans of historic hotels and good food, so a return to Philly sounds like a plan!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 28, 2019 at 11:33 am

Come for the history, stay for the food—or vice versa. Our CVB is welcoming to bloggers. Sue Reddel can provide you with some info about them.

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michele h peterson May 28, 2019 at 7:35 pm

I think Canadians have always been a little bit jealous of how BIG the July 4th celebrations are and Philly’s six day celebration is certainly envy-inducing. Our Canada Day celebrations on July 1st often are mid-week so just a small blip on the summer radar. I’ll have to try heading south some day to experience your Independence Day first hand.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 29, 2019 at 1:25 am

The English-French divide may account for some of lesser exuberance around Canada Day. Of course, we had a Civil War ourselves. Still, all Americans (United Statesers) seem to rally around the flag for the 4th of July. Confederate Day—-not so much.

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Karen Warren May 30, 2019 at 2:30 pm

I loved Philadelphia when I had a (very brief) stopover there last year. So much history… I agree it would be a great place to spend 4 July.

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Julie McCool May 30, 2019 at 5:15 pm

I’ve had a wonderful time exploring the historic sites in Philadelphia; it would be so fun to visit again for 4th of July. Nothing like walking and celebrating in the footsteps of our Founding Fathers.

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Elizabeth Tittle May 31, 2019 at 7:50 am

I have never visited Philly, but it’s certainly on my list. Wow! A whole week to celebrate Independence Day? I’m all for that.

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Sue Reddel June 1, 2019 at 2:13 pm

I don’t think we own enough stretchy pants to return to Philly anytime soon. It’s such a wonderful eating town and we hardly scratched the surface on our quick weekend visit. I had no idea that Washington didn’t sign the Declaration of Independence – I always learn something from you, my friend!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr June 3, 2019 at 4:00 am

I learned that myself while researching for this post.

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Kristin Henning June 2, 2019 at 11:05 pm

I’ll be nearby, in Boston, late June. But alas, we decided to return home in time for a family birthday on July 2. Yes, July 2! Enjoyed reading the historic tidbits.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr June 3, 2019 at 4:00 am

Well, according to John Adam’s, you can certainly start celebrating on July 2nd.

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Patti Morrow June 4, 2019 at 5:10 pm

Thanks for the invite! There aren’t many places better or more suited to celebrate July 4th (Boston is tied, IMHO, but I’m partial). I love the “walk in the footsteps” paths in both great cities. I’m also partial to the best cheesesteak in the world, but open to trying something different from Stephen Starr’s collection.

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