Lonely Planet Writer

The Champs-Élysées of Philadelphia celebrates 100 years

Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway is turning 100 next October, and the city is kicking off a 14-month long celebration with art installations, exhibitions, and parties beginning this September.

The Philadelphia Museum Art crowns the city’s culturally rich Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Image by B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia

“Our beloved Parkway is better-than-ever at 100,” president and CEO of Visit Philadelphia, Meryl Levitz, tells Lonely Planet. “It’s a tree-lined who’s-who of art, culture and science and home to some of the city’s biggest events.” Named after the inventor and Founding Father, and conceived by French planner Paul Philippe Cret and designer Jacques Gréber, the Parkway was originally modeled after the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Today, the one-mile thoroughfare that runs from around City Hall to the Philadelphia Museum of Art is the cultural backbone of the city, replete with artistic institutions, public squares, and green spaces. During the celebration, many of these places will host themed exhibitions, too. Corridor of Culture: 100 Years of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, at the Free Library of Philadelphia, showcases photos and illustrations of the Parkway’s creation and evolution over the last century, and Paul Philippe Cret and the Barnes Foundation highlights the planner’s connection to the famed chemist and art collector Albert C. Barnes.

One of the City of Brotherly Love’s best-known landmarks is the Love sculpture by artist Robert Indiana. Image by M. Fischetti for VISIT PHILADELPHIA

The celebration will be book-ended by two big festivals, starting on 8 September with Parkway 100 We Are Connected, which aptly features 100 activities (performances, tours, giant connect-the-dots puzzles to name a few), and ending with the Parkway 100 Finale on 16 November, 2018. Visitors can take a break at the myriad restaurants and bars along the avenue, including the Assembly Rooftop Lounge at the Logan Hotel. The hotel, which will also be marking the kickoff party with art tours and free chair massages, is home to the lofty bar situated on its ninth floor with some of the best views of the Parkway.

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Also during the year, two major art installations will light up the boulevard. Winter Fountains for the Parkway by Jennifer Steinkamp projects video scenes onto five giant, 13-foot domes from 1 December to mid-March 2018, while Fireflies by artist Cai Guo-Qiang, utilizes 27 pedal-powered, pedicab-like vehicles bedecked with glowing lanterns for four hours each evening (from Thursdays through Sundays, 14 September until 8 October 2017), creating a magical scene for both the riders and viewers.

“The Parkway 100 programs — summer Fireflies, Winter Fountains and the others — will draw people here to celebrate for the next 14 months” says Levitz. “We welcome them all, and look forward to showing off another side of our World Heritage City.”