Philly’s wildly popular Free Streets event is coming back this Saturday, and—along with all the outdoors activities—it’s bringing dancing, art, and history-centered exhibits.
The annual event kicks off at 8 a.m. Saturday with a ribbon cutting at JFK Boulevard, followed by a 9 a.m. power walk, led by Mayor Jim Kenney. From 8 a.m. until 1 p.m., a section of North Broad up to Erie Avenue, will be shut down to cars, allowing Philadelphians to run, bike, and walk through the northern part of the city.
“We know that Philly Free Streets brings together people from across our city.” Kenney said in a statement ahead of the event. He added that data from the events past two years has shown that residents from 42 zip codes around the city have shown up for the event. “And we hope to have an even bigger turnout this year on North Broad Street,” he said.
With such a big event—eight miles, total—there’s a lot to keep track of. So we’ve boiled down the key things you need to know before you embark on the third installment of Philly’s Free Streets.
What events and exhibits will be along the route?
While Free Streets is ideal for people who love to walk, run, and bike, it also has a lot more to offer this year in the way of art and history exhibits peppered throughout the Broad Street route.
Near the start of the event, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Drexel Medicine, and The School of Pennsylvania Ballet will all hold child-friendly activities. Also, Kenney will start a power walk at 9 a.m. on JFK.
At Callowhill Street, expect to find a scavenger hunt about African-American history on and around North Broad. There are stops all up Broad for this hunt.
Near Cecil B. Moore street, you can join in coloring a “Jazz themed median” mural, which will then be used for Jazz on the Ave, starting at noon. And, speaking of art, expect to find murals all up and down Broad, as well as several chalk painting events.
Up by Temple, at 3500 N. Broad, there will be yoga at 10 a.m., followed by several fitness classes at 11 a.m. and noon.
That’s all only a small sampling of the events and exhibits promised for the third year of Free Streets. For more, check out the Free Streets website here.
What can you expect with road closures and parking restrictions?
Naturally, when the city closes off eight miles of one of its most major thoroughfares for five hours, it makes sense to get ready for some traffic disruptions.
First and most significant, is the closure of North Broad itself, which will be shut down from JFK to Butler Street, beginning at 6 a.m. Saturday. The roads will be reopened at 5 p.m. the same day.
Luckily, east-west cross traffic will be allowed on JFK, Vine, Spring Garden, Ridge, Girard, Diamond, Lehigh, Allegheny, Erie, and Butler.
One-way streets on or near the Free Streets route will be closed down to everyone except businesses and residents who live there.
Parking restrictions will begin even earlier. The PPA will start enforcing parking restrictions—meaning towing cars—at 2 a.m. Saturday until the ban is lifted at 5 p.m. The parking restrictions primarily affect streets coming off of Broad, but you can get the full list here.
SEPTA won’t see too many major disruptions due to the event. The Broad Street Line is expected to run normally, and the city encourages people to use it to get to different stops along the Free Streets route (that is, if you don’t want to walk).
What items are allowed at the event?
Strollers, bikes, roller skates, skateboards, and animals (on a leash) are all a-okay, but the city is implementing some restrictions. Namely, don’t bring alcohol, fireworks, drugs, weapons, open flames, or—of course—motorized transportation.