Bring your umbrella — or better yet, your sweet tooth — to Fairmount this Saturday. The forecast is calling for a rainstorm of Tastykakes at the annual Bastille Day Festival at Eastern State Penitentiary and the Fairmount neighborhood.
Now in its 22nd year, the festival commemorates the storming of the Bastille by French revolutionaries with an epic block party, a reenactment filled with song and dance, the raining down of Tastykakes and more.
Bastille Day Festival Fast Facts
- The festival runs all day Saturday, July 16, with events starting at 2:30 p.m.
- The centerpiece is an hour-long show from The Bearded Ladies Cabaret starting at 5:30 p.m.
- Enjoy music, games, neighborhood dining deals and more
- Events center outside of Eastern State Penitentiary and expand along Fairmount Avenue
The Bastille Day Festival brings an all-afternoon block party to Fairmount Avenue, the Eastern State Penitentiary and restaurants and bars in the neighborhood.
Festivities begin at approximately 2 p.m. with the debut of the French Family Carnival, a new festival feature full of music, games and entertainment taking place along Fairmount Avenue. Be on the lookout for an inflatable obstacle course, a Tastykake-eating contest, water balloon toss, jumbo Jenga and Twister, face-painting and craft activities.
Most activities are free, excluding some that require a small fee.
The Food & Drink
A number of Fairmount bars and restaurants will open their doors to festival attendees, too, with tons of specials. Really, the entire neighborhood gets in on the fete!
London Grill and Paris Wine Bar serve as hubs, celebrating Bastille Day on Saturday with a French-inspired menu, live music by the West Philadelphia Orchestra (6:30-9:30 p.m.) and $4 Kronenbourg all day.
Elsewhere in Fairmount, look out for a pig roast (2-5:30 p.m.) and $4 Kronenbourg at Urban Saloon, special menus at The Belgian Café and Trio BYOB, and more Kronenbourg specials at spots such as Bridgid’s and Rembrandt’s.
Bastille Day Cabaret Show
Kicking off at 5:30 p.m., the city’s popular Bearded Ladies Cabaret will perform a free show with Eastern State Penitentiary as its backdrop.
The hour-long spectacle of song, dance and “beheading” is a tongue-in-cheek retelling of the French Revolution with special appearances from notables including Napoleon, Joan of Art, Benjamin Franklin and a gigantic French baguette.
It culminates less than an hour from its start in a mock-storming of the Bastille. Be there as dozens of French revolutionaries charge towards the grim walls of the “Bastille” (Eastern State Penitentiary), and prepare for cries of “Let them eat Tastykake!” as more than 2,000 Tastykakes are flung from the prison’s towers.
Street admission and sights of the show are both completely free. A limited number of VIP tickets are available for $40 per person and include seating, beer, refreshments and a front row view of the exciting performance.
After the storming of the walls, the revolution spills into the charming neighborhood of Fairmount, as restaurants and bars host wonderful French-inspired dinner specials and alfresco celebrations throughout the evening.
Festival-goers can also score discounted admission to the Penitentiary, which will reopen for rare twilight tours. Twilight tours are $8 for tickets online or $10 at the door and are not recommended for children under the age of seven.
For a comprehensive list of post-festival after-parties at local restaurants and venues, click here.
Traveling to the Fairmount neighborhood is simple via walking, biking, public transit and taxi. Parking is fairly limited, and streets will be blocked off for the all-day street fair, so driving is not the ideal option.
For travel by SEPTA, hop on the number 48, 43, 33, 32 or 7 bus.
Traveling to Fairmount is also easy via Indego Bike Share. There are two docking stations located mere blocks from the festival — at 23rd and Fairmount streets and 20th and Fairmount streets.