How to Spend July 4th in Philadelphia, From Firework Shows to Historic Hotel Visits

Where to head in the birthplace of America for a modern Independence Day away.
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Jason Varney

When it comes to the best cities to visit for the Fourth of July, Boston and Washington, D.C. win out every year with their spectacular fireworks displays. For American-history buffs, however, there’s no better place to celebrate the birth of our nation than where it all began: Philadelphia.

Nicknamed the “Birthplace of America,” Philadelphia is now rife with buzz-worthy restaurants, luxury hotels, top-notch museums, and, of course, ample American Revolution history. Below, we’ve rounded up where to eat, stay, and play over a July 4 stay so you can get to know the modern version of our nation’s early capital city—plus where to see the fireworks for July 4th in Philadelphia.

The dining room at Wilder

Kielinski Photographers

Wilder's roasted Chesapeake oysters

Kielinski Photographers

Where to eat in Philadelphia

One of the nation’s oldest public markets, Reading Terminal Market draws locals and visitors alike to shop like they did when the market first opened in 1892. In between the collection of food stalls selling produce, freshly butchered meats, seafood, handmade cheeses, and warm donuts are dozens of restaurants serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some of the best eats include the famous roast pork sandwich at DiNic’s, with its thinly sliced roast pork, sharp provolone, and chopped broccoli rabe on a long roll; the roast duck and roast pork barbecue rice platter at Sang Kee Peking Duck House; and the Franklin cheesesteak at Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagies and Cheesesteaks, which features both American cheese and Philadelphia cream cheese.

No historic tour of Philadelphia is complete without a pint at McGillin’s Olde Ale House. Opened in 1860 when Lincoln was elected, the tavern is the oldest drinking establishment in the city and one of the longest continuously operating bars in the country. In addition to Irish stouts, there’s a large selection of Eastern Pennsylvania microbrews, as well as standard Irish fare like fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and seafood cake.

At Wilder, it’s all about fresh ingredients. The restaurant’s name is a nod to the abundance of peak-season vegetables on the menu, whether in handmade pastas, wood-fired pizzas, or savory main dishes like pork chop Milanese with fennel-and-peach salad. Housed in a historic building in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse neighborhood, the 4,500-square-foot, three-story spot also features a fun, unique design, complete with leopard-print bar chairs, electric blue booths, mismatched chandeliers, and Persian rugs on the walls.

A bookstore, art gallery, and intimate music venue, LMNO is also one of Philly’s hottest restaurants. The cuisine here is Mexican, and the menu is filled with creative takes on Baja cuisine, including five types of aguachile (don’t miss the Rojo with shrimp, scallops, crab, watermelon, and cucumber) and house specials like an 18-ounce, bone-in ribeye, served with flour tortillas and green papaya salad. After eating, be sure to check out the bookshop curated by photography-focused Dashwood Books, the gallery with rotating shows by local artists, and the listening room, which regularly hosts live music and DJ sets.

From Michael Solomonov of Philly hotspot Zahav comes this equally popular Israeli restaurant, serving skewers of meat, fish, and vegetables cooked over a charcoal grill. Meals at Laser Wolf start with salatim (an assortment of hummus, salads, and spreads) before moving on to kebabs of Bulgarian beef, tuna, and shawarma-spiced cauliflower, all seared a half-inch above 600-degree coals. Reservations are strongly suggested, as this Fishtown spot in a converted warehouse is on everyone’s list right now.

Room exteriors at Guild House

Jason Varney

Guild House once served as the headquarters for the New Century Guild, a working women's club formed in 1882.

Jason Varney

Where to stay in Philadelphia

The City of Brotherly Love extends in all directions from the rooms atop W Philadelphia’s 51-story skyscraper. In addition to some of the best views in town, the hotel has an art collection to rival most museums, including illuminated busts of Benjamin Franklin; a wall of colorful, ceramic skulls inspired by the Hyrtl Skull Collection at the nearby Mütter Museum; and abstract murals that nod to Philadelphia’s vibrant street art scene. One block from City Center, the hotel is a short walk from both Independence Hall and the Avenue of the Arts.

The boutique Guild House once served as the headquarters for the New Century Guild, a groundbreaking club formed in 1882 to support Philadelphia’s working women. Now, each of the 12 rooms in the elegantly refurbished Italianate townhouse nod to one of the Guild’s remarkable women. The Eliza Suite, named after Guild founder Eliza Turner, invokes her love for the Pennsylvania countryside with lush greens, botanical prints, and a custom-made pastoral mural. Elsewhere in the National Historic Landmark-turned-hotel, early 20th-century details like ornate fireplaces and antique light fixtures mix with modern amenities like a virtual concierge, bluetooth speakers, and smart televisions.

High tech meets high style at the 26-room Maj Hotel, where guests can check in, access their room, adjust the temperature, and put down the shades all from an app on their phone. Rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows and exposed-brick walls, and sites like the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rodin Museum, and Barnes Foundation are just right down the street.

Independence Hall

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What to do in Philadelphia

No trip to Philadelphia is complete without a stop at Independence Hall, especially for those who want to see the room where our Founding Fathers debated the principles of democracy. Built in 1753 to house Pennsylvania’s colonial government, the building became known as the spot where 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Eleven years later in the same room, delegates created the United States Constitution.

Steps away from Independence Hall sits the Liberty Bell Center, home to possibly the most iconic symbol of American freedom in existence. Here, visitors can get up close and personal with the famous cracked bell that once rang in the steeple of Independence Hall to announce American autonomy from Great Britain. Abolitionists, suffragists, and other freedom seekers later adopted the bell as a symbol of civil rights.

In Elfreth’s Alley, you’ll find 300 years of American history packed into one tiny street. Named for blacksmith Jeremiah Elfreth, the historic alley dates back to 1703 and is the nation’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street, lined with row houses that were home to artisans and tradespeople in colonial times. Today, visitors can walk the alley, take photos in front of the homes, and stop by the Elfreth’s Alley Museum, which celebrates the American working class that helped build our country.

When you’ve had enough history, head to the beloved Spruce Street Harbor Park, which runs along the Delaware River waterfront. Considered one of the best urban beaches in America, the park brings the party with pop-up restaurants, hammocks for lounging, floating gardens, fire pits, and trees covered in technicolor lights. You can start your Independence Day celebrations early here on July 1 with fireworks off the Cherry Street Pier starting at 9 p.m.

For an extra festive Independence Day, join one of the free celebrations taking place all over the city. There’s the Salute to American Independence Day Parade starting at Independence Hall; the day-long Party on the Parkway on Benjamin Franklin Parkway; the Wawa Welcome America July 4th Concert featuring Ava Max, Jason Derulo, Tori Kelly, and the Philly POPS; and a spectacular fireworks display above the Philadelphia Museum of Art to cap off the evening.