Imagine a traffic-free Broad Street, cleared of cars so you can walk, skate, run, bike, or dance right in the middle of the road. That image will be reality this Saturday at Philly Free Streets, which will close North Broad Street to vehicles for five hours, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event will stretch four miles, from Arch Street in Center City to Butler Street, just above Germantown Avenue.
Partly inspired by Pope Francis’ visit in 2015, when large swaths of the city were closed to car traffic, Philly Free Streets launched in 2016, shutting down eight miles of road, including much of South Street. Last year, the event drew 50,000 people to North Broad.
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Whether you want to groove to Beyoncé, hang with the Phillie Phanatic, or explore North Broad’s rich history, here’s what to look forward to at this yearly pedestrian party. Any Broad Street Line subway stop between City Hall and Erie stations will put you right in the action.
With an open road and temperatures in the mid-80s, Philly Free Streets presents a prime chance to get outside and move. Runners can pretend it’s a half-Broad Street Marathon obstacle course. Bikers can catch a ride at any of the three Indego bike share stations along the route, near Arch, Girard, and Oxford Streets. Power walkers can join Mayor Jim Kenney for a jaunt north, departing at 9 a.m. from the School District of Philadelphia Headquarters (Noble Street). For full-body toning, check out the 30-minute workouts from Charge Performance and Wellness above Vine Street at 8 a.m., 9 a.m., and 10 a.m.
If that sounds like too much exertion, consider more recreational alternatives. Head to Butler Street at 9 a.m. for a Beyoncé-inspired dance class, or take an 11 a.m. old-school dancing lesson at the historic Uptown Theater (between Susquehanna Avenue and Dauphin Street) featuring cha-cha-cha, the bop, and salsa. Or learn jump rope from the experts at Philly Girls Jump (Sullivan Progress Plaza, just below Oxford Street between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.). Further north, GirlTrek will be set up for hula hooping and jump rope at the Clearfield Street rest area.
Further north, a pop-up picnic area will be set up where Germantown Avenue intersects Broad Street and Erie Avenue. Bring your own food, or visit nearby Max’s Steaks, which famously made a cameo in the Rocky movie Creed. Take a 10-minute stroll down Germantown Avenue, and you’ll also find popular halal spot Paprika and Jamaican joint Hot Pot Cuisine.
Skip the trek (and the traffic) to the Shore and hang out at the Beach on North Broad (Master Street). Fifty tons of sand will fill a 1,500-square-foot area, complete with jumbo Adirondack chairs, umbrellas, hammocks, and games. “The beach” will stick around Saturday (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Sunday (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.). During Philly Free Streets, families can learn hula-hoop tricks with the Spin Coalition (10 a.m.), take photos with the Phillie Phanatic (11 a.m.), and play beach-blanket bingo (noon).
Kiddos will also love Mural Arts’ Murals on the Move, a make-and-take arts station at Fairmount Avenue. Visitors will also have the opportunity to chalk-paint the Fairmount Avenue triangle.
North Broad Street is rich with history, home to places like the New Freedom Theatre, serving the city’s African-American community for 50-plus years and training such actors as Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr., and the Uptown Theater, which hosted the likes of James Brown, Michael Jackson, and Diana Ross in its heyday, from the 1950s to the ’70s. To hear many tales of the area, including those of civil rights activists and jazz musicians, embark on Philly Free Streets’ “Then & Now: Black History” scavenger hunt. Participants can pick up directions for the self-guided tour at any of the six designated rest areas (Callowhill Street, Poplar Street, Cecil B. Moore Street, Susquehanna Avenue, Lehigh Avenue, and Clearfield Street).
In seeking North Broad’s architecturally significant sites (the Divine Lorraine and the Met, among them), keep an eye out for several ornate 19th-century brownstones near Dauphin Street. They were once home to Philadelphia’s commercial elite, like movie theater tycoon Jules Mastbaum, and department store founder Joseph N. Snellenburg of N. Snellenburg & Co., once the largest clothing manufacturer in the world.
Take home a keepsake at the Plant Your Own Succulent workshop (Callowhill Street). Afterward, visit the nearby Rail Park (13th and Noble Streets) to stroll through its refuge of native plants. And at the Poplar Street rest area, the city’s Office of Sustainability will offer games and activities to learn how hot your neighborhood is and what you and your neighbors can do to beat the heat.
Go on an art adventure with pay-what-you-wish admission at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Race Street) and Mural Arts Philadelphia mural talks (Spring Garden Street, Lehigh Avenue, Susquehanna Avenue). Participants can also join a tribute to activist and poet Sonia Sanchez during the official reopening of the Sonia Sanchez and James Dupree Renaissance Garden (8:30 a.m., Diamond Street). Several artists will interpret one of Sanchez’s poems with different mediums, and the public will vote on their favorite.
To foster your own creativity, join the Painting with a Twist sessions at the Zion Baptist Church (Venango Street) or help Vision Zero and Mural Arts paint a median at Lehigh Avenue.
Curated by La’vanter Boutique owner Jamil Scurry, a fashion show takes over the stage at Butler Street at 11 a.m. Before or after, walk two blocks south to Zion Baptist Church (Venango Street) for a free manicure — offered by Philadelphia Police Department officer Marcus Salas.