Ring in — literally: the Liberty Bell will be tapped — America's birthday from dawn until dusk on Monday, July 4th. (Photo credits: top and bottom right by G. Widman for GPTMC, bottom left by J. Smith for GPTMC)
Where’s the best place to celebrate July 4th? The place it all began: Philadelphia.
Monday, July 4th brings parades, historical commemorative ceremonies, an all-you-can-eat ice cream festival and so much more.
And it’s all leading up to Wawa Welcome America’s grand finale event on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, featuring an awesome star-studded outdoor concert and sensational fireworks.
We’ve got a rundown of all the events going on throughout July 4th day:
• Celebration of Freedom Ceremony: Celebrate our nation’s 235th birthday with a patriotic salute. Music, speeches and a reading of Declaration of Independence excerpts pay tribute to the history of our nation. Miss America 2011 will sing one of our country’s famous songs. Steps of Independence Hall, 6th and Market Streets, 10–11 a.m. FREE.
• Signers’ Day at Christ Church and the Burial Ground: Celebrate July 4th with our Founding Fathers. Signers’ Day activities at the Burial Ground include a Wreath Laying Ceremony to pay tribute to America’s early leaders, the opportunity to meet with Founding Fathers Benjamin Franklin and Robert Morris and History Scavenger Hunts. At Christ Church, there will be stories by Historic Philadelphia’s “Once Upon a Nation” storytellers, a special morning church service and the ringing of the Christ Church bells — the same bells that rang out with the Liberty Bell when the Declaration of Independence was read to the public for the first time. Christ Church Burial Ground, 5th and Arch Streets, and Christ Church, 2nd and Market Streets, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. FREE.
• Philadelphia Independence Day Parade: Wawa Welcome America takes the freedom celebration to the streets during the annual July 4th Parade, with this year’s route longer than ever before. The parade steps off at 11 a.m. at 5th and Chestnut Streets immediately following the July 4th Independence Day Ceremony (see above). The procession heads up Chestnut Street, passing Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, turns right on 9th Street, then proceeds one block north to Market Street where it turns right again. The company marches six blocks down though Historic Philadelphia and ends at Front Street. With more than 4,000 participants from a dozen states, 16 marching musical groups, nine floats, five military branches and a multitude of special performing teams, this is a can’t-miss celebration. Begins at 5th and Chestnut Streets, 11 a.m. FREE.
• Super Scooper All-You-Can-Eat Ice Cream Festival: It’s a sticky-fingered, melty-mouthed ice cream lover’s dream: the annual bottomless frozen treat fete returns to Penn’s Landing for its final day on Monday, July 4. A $7 donation to the Joshua Kahan Fund for Pediatric Leukemia gets you a spoon with which you can sample creamy ice cream and cold water ice from more than 20 vendors. Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing, 201 S. Columbus Blvd., noon–5 p.m., $7.
• Happy Birthday America celebration at the Independence Visitor Center: Toast to America with Philadelphia’s iconic dessert: Tastykakes. 10,000 of them, to be exact. First come, first served… so go early! Independence Visitor Center, 599 Market Street, 12:30 p.m., FREE.
• Bell Tapping Ceremony: The Liberty Bell will ring out symbolically to commemorate America’s independence, sponsored by Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration and Sons of the American Revolution. Liberty Bell Center, 500 Market Street, 1:45 p.m., FREE.
• Party on the Parkway: The Party on the Parkway Festival begins at noon, featuring seven blocks of exciting and educational activities, games, entertainment and food. There will be three music stages, a Multicultural Arts Pavilion with Latin Music Workshops and Chinese make-and-take arts and crafts, the MHP Liberty Strongman Classic featuring feats of strength involving concrete cyclinders and the like, and the Go 4th & Learn Kid’s Fun Zone featuring inflatable obstacle courses and moon bounces, face painting and crafts. Benjamin Franklin Parkway, noon-7 p.m., FREE.
• Philly 4th of July Jam and Grand Finale Fireworks: This is where and when the past eleven days of Wawa Welcome America July 4th madness culminates. The 4th of July concert is headlined by The Roots thanks to drummer Questlove’s role as Wawa Welcome America musical director. Other musical headliners include: Earth, Wind and Fire; Michael McDonald; DJ Jazzy Jeff; and Sara Bareilles. The concert will include a special tribute to the 40th Anniversary of Gamble and Huff’s iconic Philadelphia International Records, “The Sound of Philadelphia.” Giant screens and speakers will broadcast the concert all along the Parkway, which kicks off at 7 p.m. The fireworks follow with an ETA of 10:30 p.m. Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 7 p.m.-late, FREE.