How to Celebrate Fourth of July in Philly With or Without Fireworks

The show must go on.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thwarted many of the world’s plans this year, from canceled concerts to shuttered restaurants. Usually, Philly goes all out for the Fourth of July with a week of events -- like the famous Wawa Welcome America festival -- leading up to the holiday, including live performances and community parties. Much of that in-person fun is canceled, but the show(s) will go on, equipped for a social distancing world, meaning all events will be held virtually and, sadly, no fireworks. While Independence Day may look different this year, there are a number of ways to stream and celebrate America, in the town that started it all.

Enjoy online concerts all weekend long

Usually taking over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Wawa Welcome America is going virtual this year. Starting Sunday, June 28, daily concerts will be streamed live on NBC10’s social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube) starting at 7pm each night. Highlights include gospel and hymn performances from Zak Williams & 1/Akord, a patriotic program from the Philadelphia Orchestra, and a concert from the Philadelphia POPS featuring Philly native and Broadway star Allison Blackwell, trumpeter and POPS artistic director for jazz Terell Stafford, and vocalist Michael Cavanaugh.

The week culminates with an all-day lineup of entertainment for Independence Day. Local hits station Q102 will live stream pop tunes starting at noon. At 3pm, Mina SayWhat of 100.3 RnB will host a two-hour block of performances and, at 5pm, a lineup curated by Philadelphia Music Ambassador Chill Moody takes the virtual stage including Lester London, LiMM, DioMara, Great Time, and Hank McCoy.

The day’s crowning event is a concert starring Tony, Emmy, and Grammy award-winning singer and actress Cynthia Erivo (accompanied by the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia) and musician and actor Jason Derulo. While the artists will perform live from The Met, the concert hall will be empty. Viewers can tune in at 8pm on NBC10 and Telemundo62 to watch the concert. 

While there won’t be any IRL fireworks to gaze upon this year, a recording of last year’s fireworks display over the art museum will be broadcast during the concert.

Take a virtual museum tour

Another aspect of the virtual event this year is some educational programming. Starting at 9am every day, take virtual tours and behind-the-scenes looks at exhibits at 19 of the city’s museums and cultural institutions, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, African American Museum in Philadelphia, National Museum of American Jewish History, Penn Museum, Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center, and many more.

Wawa Welcome America
Wawa Welcome America

Let the kids get in on the fun

At 8:30 am each day on Welcome America’s website, Independence Blue Cross Blue Shield will host wellness seminars, ranging from info sessions on exercise, nutrition, stress reduction, and outdoorsy activities.

Also throughout the week, Power 99 DJ Cappuchino, along with her daughter Ava, will host virtual kids’ activities, like a 2 pm look at the Philly Zoo’s animals (streaming live on the Philadelphia Zoo’s Facebook) on June 29 and a virtual tour of a Wawa dairy in Wawa, Pennsylvania on July 2 at 10 am.

Sure, things are a little weird this year, but at least you won’t have to stake your claim to a decent-ish fireworks viewing spot. Kick back, order some takeout, and celebrate Independence Day from the comfort of your own home.

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Allie Volpe is a Philadelphia-based contributor for Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter.