Events

Where to Watch the 4th of July Fireworks in Philly

fireworks
Kolby Koeck/Shutterstock


If America were a person, the “city of birth” section on her birth certificate would read Philadelphia. (Step aside, DC and Boston.) As a result, Philly takes Independence Day very seriously. Between the weeklong series of events leading up to the big day, to the free concert on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philly puts on a grand display of patriotism. Whether you fancy yourself a morning person, a night owl, or an all-day rallier, we’ve got your Independence Day covered from fireworks (and where to watch them) to the epic Party on The Parkway (and how to get there).

Morning

Start your holiday off by heading to Historic Philadelphia for the Salute to America Independence Day Parade, a jaunt that begins at 11am at 5th and Chestnut Streets. More than 4,000 participants, including marching bands and military units, will dance, play music, and ride on sparkly and extravagantly adorned floats past Independence Hall and through the historic district. Bring chairs, sunscreen, and cool beverages if you want to make a thing of it.

While the parade hubbub is going down, Termini Brothers Bakery staff will be just a few blocks away, decorating a five-tier cake and arranging 2,500 red, white, and blue cupcakes into the shape of an American flag inside the Independence Visitor Center at 6th and Market Streets, starting at 9am. Watch them do their thing and make sure to be there at 1pm (right after the parade is set to finish) to get some free sweets when Betsy Ross leads a “Happy Birthday” singalong and cuts the cake.

How to get there: Navigating to Independence Mall by subway or bus is the best way to go. There’s a 5th Street Independence Hall stop on the Market-Frankford Line and bus routes 5, 9, 17, 21, 33, 38, 42, 44, 47, 48, 57, and 61 have stops nearby. If you’re coming from outside of the city, it’s best not to drive as many streets in the area are closed to traffic.

Afternoon

The Benjamin Franklin Parkway is the epicenter of all things festive today and things get underway starting at noon. All day long, dozens of food trucks and vendors, pop-up beer gardens, music stages, kids activities, and an actual zip line populate the Parkway from 19th Street to 25th Street. Dubbed Party on the Parkway, it’s a great, free all-ages daytime activity to get you warmed up for the day’s main event, which is also conveniently located on the Parkway. No coordination necessary!

How to get there: Again, roads surrounding the Art Museum will be closed to vehicular traffic, so you’re best leaving your ride at home. SEPTA Regional Rail and PATCO are your best bet if you’re coming from out of town. You’ll want to walk to the Parkway itself (Spring Garden, Race-Vine, and City Hall subway stations will get you fairly close to the event).

The Benjamin Franklin Bridge
The Benjamin Franklin Bridge | Christian Carollo/Shutterstock

Evening

The daytime party at the foot of the Art Museum turns into a nighttime one with some grade-A musical talent. Starting at 7pm, the stage at Eakins Oval will be graced by musical acts Jennifer Hudson, accompanied by the Philly POPS BIG Band, and Meghan Trainor. Even better? It’s all free, no ticket necessary.

How to get there: See above. Again, public transit is the best option.
Once the sun sets -- around 9:30 or so -- the United States Army Field Band will tune their instruments to provide the musical backdrop to the night’s crowning event: fireworks. The dazzling pyrotechnic display is shot from behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Wondering where to get the best views? Look no further.

Benjamin Franklin Parkway
It makes sense to park yourself on the Parkway for the daylong celebrations and scope out a spot for the fireworks. Don’t forget chairs and blankets.

Paine’s Park
The skate park along the Schuylkill River Trail is just a stone’s throw away from the back of the Art Museum, providing an alternate angle of the show.

Schuylkill Banks
The grassy area along the Schuylkill will be a hotspot for fireworks viewers -- with good reason. It’s scenic, comfortable, and easily accessed from Chestnut Street, Walnut Street, and South Street. Again, definitely bring your own blanket.

Boathouse Row
Head to Kelly Drive and set up shop along Boathouse Row. In fact, anywhere along Kelly Drive will serve as a solid viewing spot.

Belmont Plateau
Stake your claim on this elevated area of Fairmount Park. You won’t be as close to the action (which may be better for kids or folks with sensitivity to sound) but the views will still be there.

Assembly Rooftop Lounge
The rooftop bar at The Logan Hotel gives you a view nine floors above Logan Square. Plus, fire pits. You know what that means: You’ll want to get here early to mark your territory.

Bok Bar + Irwin’s
If you want to avoid the Art Museum area as a whole, head to these South Philly rooftop bars (both located on the roof of the same building) where you’ll get pristine views of all the neighborhood fireworks displays as well as the official ones on both riverfronts (more on that later).

Fireworks over Delaware river between Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ
Alexey Smolyanyy/Shutterstock

You thought we were done? Just across the Delaware River, Camden, New Jersey hosts their own Independence Day festival at Wiggins Park, starting at 5pm, headlined by musical act Boz Scaggs. Come for the entertainment, stay for the beer garden, food, and, of course, fireworks -- those will kick off at 9:30pm and will be visible both in Camden and in Philly.

How to get there: The Riverlink Ferry is the best way to traverse the Delaware River, departing from Columbus Boulevard and Walnut Street on the Philly side and docks next to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden. The whole ride takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Or you could hop on PATCO and get off at the City Hall Camden stop.
However, if you’d prefer to marvel at the eastern fireworks display from this side of the river, there are a number of spots to do so.

Spruce Street Harbor Park
Be warned: This riverfront pop-up park will likely be a madhouse. But if you're willing to brave the crowds and take in the scenic lights, this is a great spot to get cozy.

Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest
How about roller skating while the fireworks burst? Or some arcade games before the show? You can do all of that at this outdoor roller rink.

Race Street Pier
An oft-photographed place due to its location right under the Ben Franklin Bridge, this open-air pier is also an ideal place for fireworks gazing.

Moshulu
This classy restaurant on a former tallship offers fine dining and finer fireworks viewing. They’ve also got a deck with a club-like atmosphere if you’d rather enjoy a few drinks in the breeze instead of a meal.

 

Or just get to a rooftop bar

Perhaps the best way to celebrate a nation that brands itself as a “City Upon a Hill” is to get to some higher ground. Granted, a rooftop isn’t exactly a hill, nor is a bar a city, but a rooftop bar is surely close enough for ceremonial purposes. Beyond the ones listed above, we’ve rounded up the best rooftop bars in Philly here, featuring upscale spots, more PBR-leaning places, and even some that have dancing. Just pick the one that'll make you feel proudest to be an American.

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Allie Volpe is a Thrillist contributor.