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Celebrating 250 years of independence

Gospel on Independence at Wawa Welcome America Festival. / Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia.

City and state leaders and others recently kicked off the nation’s 250th anniversary of independence by announcing the first wave of a multi-year schedule of programming, events and activities through 2026.

“Philadelphia is the birthplace of American democracy and has been the leading destination for advocates, innovators and leaders since the first Continental Congress — and that long tradition continues through to today,” said Gov. Josh Shapiro. “As our nation prepares to celebrate its 250th anniversary in 2026, Philadelphia and the entire commonwealth of Pennsylvania will be the place to be. From the TED Democracy Series starting this summer to the FIFA World Cup and the MLB All-Star Game, the commonwealth is ready to host millions of visitors and show off our incredible towns and cities, like Philadelphia, to the world.”

The announcement was led by the official launch of TED Democracy in Philadelphia, a series focused on the future of democracy, hosted in partnership with Visit Philadelphia.

“Philadelphia has a long history of being a gathering place for new ideas — and in 1776, thought leaders came together to sign the Declaration of Independence, creating the foundation for the United States and modern democracy,” said TED CEO Jay Herratti. “Now, Philadelphia is teaming up with TED — another convener of ideas — to create a platform that could shape the next 250 years of democracy globally. This partnership is a testament to the impact we can create when we come together to focus on solutions and encourage action. The entire TED organization is looking forward to kicking off this impressive slate of events and digital launches alongside Visit Philadelphia.”

The first TED Fireside Chat in the series will feature Emmy-nominated host, producer, writer and public speaker Baratunde Thurston. Shapiro will headline a TED Fireside Chat later this year. The TED Democracy series aligns with more than a dozen other activations and events Philadelphia will be hosting over the next two years.

“Philadelphia is truly the center of American history and now we will be the center of this historic 250th anniversary celebration,” said Mayor Cherelle Parker. “We’ve built a collaborative plan that explores different aspects of our historic place in the founding of American democracy, while also supporting a number of exciting celebrations to bring people from around the country together here in Philadelphia and join us over the next two years and beyond.”

Philadelphia’s semiquincentennial lineup includes:

• Red, White & Blue To-Do: John Adams famously declared that July 2 should be a day of “pomp and parade.” So, starting July 2, 2024, and occurring annually, the Philadelphia Historic District partners will host this patriotic celebration taking place throughout America’s most historic square mile with parades, concerts and more.

• The Young People’s Continental Congress: In July of 2024 and 2025 Carpenters’ Hall will host this youth-focused event bringing together delegates from across the country to explore the themes of democracy and to engage in civic dialogue.

• 250th Birthdays of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps: In October 2025, Philadelphia will be partnering with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps as well as Homecoming 250 in hosting their 250th birthday celebration.

• The Declaration’s Journey: The Museum of the American Revolution will host this exhibition exploring the history and global impact of the Declaration of Independence from 1776 to today. The exhibition will run from Oct. 18, 2025 through Jan. 3, 2027.

• 52 Weeks of Firsts: The Philadelphia Historic District will commemorate the Philadelphia-born creativity and ingenuity that has been shared globally over the last 250 years with weekly acknowledgments starting January 2026.

• NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament: March Madness comes to Philadelphia in 2026 when the city will host first- and second-round tournament play at the Wells Fargo Center.

• ArtPhilly What Now: This citywide arts festival will launch in May 2026 and will highlight Philadelphia’s arts institutions, neighborhood arts initiatives and artists.

• FIFA World Cup 26: In June and July 2026, Philadelphia will host matches at Lincoln Financial Field culminating in a knockout stage match on July 4, 2026. The World Cup FanFest will also run through July 17, giving soccer fans a great place to meet up, watch matches and celebrate victories.

• Wawa Welcome America: The city will host a July 4 celebration.

• 2026 Major League Baseball All-Star Game: Citizens Bank Park will host this multi-day event honoring baseball’s best and celebrating America’s favorite pastime.

• Printmaking by the People – Citywide Voices of 2026: Mural Arts Philadelphia team will begin concepting in 2024, and in 2026 will present this crowd-sourced mural that will create a lasting visual legacy that honors the semiquincentennial, shared values and desired changes.

“Philadelphia has a bold vision for 2026 as a historic opportunity to help define the next 250 years in America,” said Michael Newmuis, 2026 Director for the City of Philadelphia. “Our milestone events will not only further position Philadelphia on the national stage — they will establish Philadelphia as America’s new front door where folks from across the world will arrive and experience the best of our great nation and its future.”

“This is a celebration that is more than a decade in the making and it really demonstrates why Philadelphia should serve as the epicenter of the marking of this moment in history,” said Visit Philadelphia President and CEO Angela Val. “We are deeply proud of our role in building this great nation and we will continue to work with this amazing coalition to deliver a multi-year program of events, activities and activations that celebrate that history while also optimistically looking ahead to how our nation will continue to grow and evolve over the next 250 years.”

To learn more about Philadelphia’s Semiquincentennial activities, go to visitphilly.com/2026. ••

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