To celebrate the 4th of July this year, I donned my red, white, and blue and hit the road towards Philadelphia – the city where the holiday was created some 236 years ago.
Upon my arrival in Downtown Philadelphia, also called Center City, I noticed people from all walks of life moving as one mass. Following that crowd led me to a street fair complete with carnival game tents, food vendors, street performers, and even people dressed in period costumes.
Eventually the crowd stopped advancing and I realized that there was a stage far off in the distance. A few huge video screens ensured that everyone had a great view of the free concert that was just beginning. Clearly, it was time to order funnel cake, find a spot to relax, and enjoy the show.
The line up for the concert was an eclectic one to say the least. Native Philadelphia musicians The Roots (who were awesome) and DJ Jazzy Jeff joined the likes of Queen Latifah, Joe Jonas, rapper Common, and Darryl Hall (of Hall and Oates fame) and surprise guest, Lauryn Hill! Each performer put on a great set that was augmented by the electricity of the crowd.
The Brotherly Love was certainly in the air as I exchanged smiles and brief conversations with everyone else who had braved the 104 degree heat that day. Eventually, I decided to leave the concert site for a less crowded location to catch the fireworks. My thought was that in exchange for missing a bit of the concert, I would also avoid getting caught in the mass exodus that would surely come later.
I wound up at the bridge by the 30th Street Train station where a much smaller crowd confirmed that I had chosen a good spot. By this time, the sun had set, the heat had subsided and the moonlit river was a perfect backdrop for the lights about to illuminate the night sky.
From the moment that the fireworks began, they were impressive. Green, purple, and, of course, red, white and blue exploded in intricately timed formations. This was no fireworks display that I remembered from my childhood. The group of people around me shared in my awe as we watched starbursts within starbursts and shapes that seemed to develop out of thin air.
The fireworks display lasted about ten minutes and as far as avoiding the mass exodus, I didn’t. Streets that weren’t flooded with people were clogged with cars, all trying to leave the festivities. It took me about 30 minutes to make it down local streets before it was smooth sailing on the highway back home.
Looking back, the time spent in the heat and traffic was a small price to pay for the 4th of July celebration. Between the entertainment and the mood of the crowd (and let us not forget the funnel cake!) I enjoyed my Independence Day, Philly style.
For YOUR Trip: Philadelphia is more than just Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell – not that those are bad reasons to go. Check out visitphilly.com or centercityphila.org to help craft an itinerary or just wing it! Who knows, you might see me because I need to get back for an authentic Philly Cheesesteak.