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7 Reasons Why Philly Belongs On Your Summer Itinerary

You may not realize it, but the city of Philadelphia has played a significant role in African American history – from abolition to hip-hop and beyond. Did you know, for example, that the first abolitionist organization in the United States, The Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, was founded in Philly in 1775? That’s a full year before the city would host the Second Continental Congress, which, of course, ended with the Declaration of Independence.

While the city is gearing up for the 250th anniversary of US independence in 2026, Philadelphia has always touted its role in the fight for the freedom of Black Americans proudly, with multiple historical sites dedicated to stops along the Underground Railroad. But Philly’s contribution to the fabric of African American culture doesn’t stop there. As hip-hop celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, Philadelphia’s contributions are undeniable: from half of Jay-Z’s legendary Roc-A-Fella Records roster, to Jimmy Fallon’s house band (or The Legendary Roots Crew, as hip-hop fans have known them for years), to our favorite 90s sitcom (and its 21st-century reboot) about a young man who was sent to live “with his auntie and uncle in Bel-Air.”

Today, this vibrant city is a melting pot of cultures, home to countless Black-owned restaurants and shops and host to some of The Culture’s favorite festivals. So why haven’t you been there recently or at all? Here are seven reasons to add Philly to your must-visit list this summer.

1. Festivals For All Seasons And All Reasons

From The Roots Picnic in early June to Made in America, which takes place over Labor Day weekend, Philly summers belong to the culture! The city’s many music festivals cover a multitude of genres, tastes and interests. Philly is also home to the Odunde Festival, the largest African American street festival in the nation, which celebrates its 48th year in 2023 (June 11), and the BlackStar Film Festival (August 2-6), which spotlights films by Black, Brown and Indigenous artists from around the world as a visual homage to the storytelling traditions of the African diaspora and global communities of color.

2. Feed Your Mind And The Rest Will Follow

Among the diverse minority-owned businesses in Philadelphia is a treasure trove of Black-owned bookstores, each with its own standout feature that makes it a must-do during your visit. Bailey Street Books, for example, houses an impressive collection of rare, vintage and limited-edition books by Black authors; Hakim’s Bookstore has been a staple in the community for 60 years; and Marc Lamont Hill’s Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books offers a fly living room vibe if you want to kick it for a few. And you can’t say “Philly” and “bookstore” without mentioning Harriett’s Bookshop, author and educator Jeannine A. Cook’s living tribute to Harriet Tubman’s countless unspoken contributions.

3. Get “funky fresh, dressed to impress, ready to party”

MC Lyte made it a hot line, and Philly native Ms. Jade helped Missy Elliot make it a hot song. Because Philadelphians definitely know a little something about getting fly. So if cool fashion finds are your thing, there’s plenty to be found here: Black Soul Vintage for the thrifters; Banni Peru for the fashion girlies following in Cardi B’s and Teyana Taylor’s footsteps; Common Grounds for the true sneaker fiends; Damari for the lovers of bespoke threads; and many more.

4. A Full Juneteenth Experience

In 2016, the Pennsylvania Juneteenth Initiative’s inaugural Philadelphia Juneteenth Parade and Festival drew an impressive 5,000 attendees. Since then, its audience has grown to nearly 25,000 revelers who are treated to a parade featuring multiple floats along its 1.5-mile route, and an all-day festival with food, music and celebrity guests. This year, the celebration will kick off a full week in advance, with the Miss Juneteenth Pageant on June 10. On the Friday ahead of the festival (June 16), PAJI will host the Honor The Ancestors Breakfast at the Belmont Mansion, home to the Underground Railroad Museum. On June 18, the main event will consist of the Juneteenth Parade from 12-2 p.m., the Juneteenth Marketplace and Art In The Park at Malcolm X Park from 2-8 p.m. and the Juneteenth Music Festival from 3-7 p.m. at the intersection of 52nd and Larchmont. Juneteenth in Philly also marks the beginning of the 16-day Wawa Welcome America festival with a block party at The African American Museum in Philadelphia. Last year, attendees enjoyed a full day of performances, a marketplace showcasing local Black-owned businesses, and activities including art making and line dancing.

5. Black History 365

Like we mentioned, Philadelphia played a significant role in the fight to abolish slavery. Today, the city boasts over 30 African American cultural and historic sites. These include the founding home of the African Methodist Episcopal church, Mother Bethel A.M.E.; the Underground Railroad Museum at Belmont Mansion; and The African American Museum in Philadelphia, the first major museum dedicated to Black American history in the country. The city is also full of interactive historical experiences such as the Once Upon A Nation Storytelling Benches, which allow visitors of all ages to hear lesser-known stories about our country’s beginnings from professional storytellers located throughout the Historic District.

6. Philadelphia Is For Art Lovers

If art is your jam, Philly has a ton of cool exhibits coming to its many museums this year that are worth a visit, giving art lovers plenty to keep them occupied. The family-friendly Disney100: The Exhibition at The Franklin Institute (February 18 – August 27) breaks down the making of some of the company’s most iconic characters and films into 10 themed galleries with interactive installations. The Barnes Foundation is also set to host an artistic study of South Africa during and post-apartheid (through May 23) as captured by South Africa’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, Sue Williamson and Lebohang Kganye. And Rising Sun: Artists in an Uncertain America (March 23 – October 8), a collaborative exhibition curated by and housed at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and The African American Museum in Philadelphia, is sure to offer another level of inspiration by exploring America’s ongoing democratic crisis.

7. The Food!

Chances are “eating a cheesesteak in Philadelphia” is probably on your Philly to-do list, and it should be! But the city’s culinary scene has plenty of other deliciousness going on. Over the past few years, Philly has emerged as a culinary destination, with everything from casual takeout counters like Tommy DiNic’s, the Reading Terminal Market sandwich shop known for its roast pork, to the James Beard Award-winning modern Israeli restaurant Zahav, where landing a reservation takes some very worth-it planning. There’s also South Philly Barbacoa, which starts selling its famous lamb barbacoa tacos at 5 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday; Vetri Cucina and Fiorella, showcasing star chef Marc Vetri’s takes on traditional Italian dishes; and Vedge, for those who prefer their high-end culinary experiences plant-based.

To start planning your trip, check out the resources at VisitPhilly.com. And for more inspiration or to learn more about the people and places that make the city special, listen to the Love + Grit podcast.

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