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Philadelphia celebrates independance in July

SmarterTravel

Fireworks and free music mark the Fourth in Philly, while continuing airline competition and some creativity in finding accommodations combine to keep costs down for a midsummer visit. Plus, you can pack light. The City of Brotherly Love sees an average daily high temperature of 86 in July, so a few pairs of shorts and some t-shirts should do. Don’t forget to bring an umbrella, though, as July is also Philadelphia’s wettest month.

What to do

On July 2, the superstar-packed, free Live 8 concert, held 20 years after the original Live Aid shows, will take place at the Philadelphia Museum of Art while similar shows are going on in Berlin, London, Paris, and Rome. This massive production has the ambitious goal of saving millions of lives in Africa through debt relief for some of the world’s poorest nations. Dave Matthews, Will Smith, Bon Jovi, and Stevie Wonder are among the scheduled Philadelphia performers.

But Live 8 isn’t the only free show with a higher purpose in town. On July 4, the Museum of Art once again becomes a stage, this time for the Sunoco Philadelphia Freedom Concert, which is aimed at raising awareness of HIV/AIDS. Performers include Sir Elton John, Patti LaBelle, Bryan Adams, and the Philly Pops.

Of course, it wouldn’t be July 4 in Philadelphia without fireworks, and they’ll be lighting up the night sky on several occasions. See GoPhila.com for details on the many free fireworks displays, parades, concerts, and all of the holiday weekend events.

How to save

Summer flights can be pricey, but average fares to Philly have dropped dramatically across the board since Southwest Airlines began flying there in May 2004. The Philadelphia Inquirer even cites one report that estimates annual travel savings of more than $1.2 billion because of the so-called “Southwest effect.” Southwest’s Philadelphia presence created competition with US Airways, which uses the city as a hub, causing the carrier to match Southwest’s pricing with its GoFares. No matter what, the likelihood of finding a low fare is very high. You can read about the latest Southwest deals in our Air section.

With so many big events happening at one time, hotels are likely to be scarce. To find lodging, according to Cara Schneider of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, the best bet is to look for hotels farther away from the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Schneider recommends Old City and University City, which are each about 10 to 15 minutes from the Parkway, as well as the airport area.

Harriet Lessy of the Philadelphia-based public relations firm Buzz Communications, suggests City Line Avenue or near the stadium, as well as some of the bed and breakfasts that are “just about within walking distance of the Parkway and certainly in the heart of things.” GoPhila.com is also a good resource for accommodation information, with a particularly helpful list of neighborhoods that links to the hotels in those parts of town.

While it can be tough to find cheap accommodations in July, you can save money by choosing attractions and entertainment options that are free or just require a small donation. City Hall is a good place to begin, as you can get a free view of the entire city from the building’s observation deck. Call 215-686-2840 for reservations. Continue your tour at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which asks visitors to pay what they wish on Sundays. Another popular attraction is Independence National Historical Park, home to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, which offers free admission, though advance reservations are necessary.

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