The Benjamin Franklin Parkway evokes Paris’ famed Champs-Élysées. But Philly’s grand boulevard has its own allure, with elegant cultural institutions flanking the mile-long stretch from City Hall to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This year, the thoroughfare turns 100, and the city is celebrating in a big way. Parkway 100 toasts the historic road’s centennial with events all around town, starting Sept. 8 through Nov. 16, 2018. Read on for our picks and visit the Parkway 100 website for more.
For History Buffs
Designed by Paul Crét and Jacques Gréber, the parkway took decades to build.
On Sept. 8, the Free Library of Philadelphia offers insight into the storied thoroughfare’s past and its impact on the city in “Corridor of Culture: 100 Years of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.”
On Sept. 23, the Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides presents a more active approach to getting to know the avenue. On The Great 12 Tour, stroll the passage and see iconic sites along the way, including the Swann Memorial Fountain. For something edgier, head to Eastern State Penitentiary, the legendary prison home of mobster Al Capone, where in just 15 minutes the curious can get a spine-tingling look at the newly opened Cellblock 3—aka the Hospital Block—with operating room and psychiatric department.
For Art Lovers
Fortunately, visitors on a tight budget can take advantage of the opening day festivities on Sept. 8, when five museums and landmarks throughout the Parkway Museums District—The Franklin Institute, The Barnes Foundation, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rodin Museum and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University—participate in a pay-what-you-wish open house. The rest of the month, this culturally rich town offers plenty of ways to stir the soul, from thought-provoking photography to eye-opening mixed media and iconic sculptures. Here are a few of our favorites.
“Fireflies,” a major public art installation debuts Sept. 14. Internationally acclaimed artist Cai Guo-Qiang lights up the streets with 27 luminous sculptures that take the form of pedicabs. Marrying form and function, the elaborately decorated vehicles transport riders throughout the area every Thursday through Sunday evening through Oct. 8.
At The Barnes Foundation until Oct. 2, “Mohamed Bourouissa: Urban Riders” highlights 85 pieces from the Algerian artist’s 2014 project focusing on North Philadelphia’s revitalization efforts. With these photographs, costumes, sculptures and a video, Bourouissa depicts denizens as “fantastic figures, transcending their economic circumstances,” according to the foundation.
Always a destination for unusual, yet intriguing displays, the Mütter Museum’s ongoing “Lisa Nilsson: Connective Tissue” showcases intricate Japanese mulberry paper constructions that explore both the beautiful—and grotesque—sides of human anatomy.
This year also marks the 100th anniversary of Auguste Rodin’s death. Remember the visionary sculptor and his powerful depictions of romantic love at the Rodin Museum, where a new, ongoing installation not only focuses on his famous “The Kiss,” but also on “I Am Beautiful” and “Eternal Springtime.”
On Sept. 8, check out the “We Are Connected Festival” for hundreds of free kid-friendly events like the unveiling of a new mural at Park Towne Place. Throughout the day, groove to live music by Worldtown Soundsystem and the University of the Arts School of Music jazz ensemble. Little ones themselves get down in melodic jam sessions, while mom and dad have a go at tango at The Oval (aka Eakin’s Oval) pocket park. When the sun goes down, look up to spot the illuminated hot air balloon.
On Sept. 30, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University opens “Tiny Titans: Dinosaur Eggs and Babies,” offering a rare look at these prehistoric creatures through their eggs and nests.