Philadelphia’s highly-touted Wawa Welcome America! festival features 10 days of events culminating July 4th with what organizers call the nation’s largest free concert, expected to draw 500,000 people this year. The event’s magnitude is fitting to celebrate the Declaration of Independence in the city where it was signed.
But the festivities’ noticeable absence from several 2012 “best-of” lists, including two ranking destinations based on hotel rooms booked through discount websites Hotwire and Priceline – the latter in which Philly didn’t even crack the top 50 – have many asking where is the love?
“Philadelphia throws a great party for both July 4th and New Years Eve crowds in the city,” said Cara Schneider of Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation. “One thing this year is that the holiday falls in the middle of the week. People are less likely to stay in town when they can’t make a three-day weekend out of it.”
Schneider said that, based on current estimates, Philly’s 10,000 hotel rooms are anywhere from 50 to 100 percent booked near the 4th, maxing out the Fridays before and after, in part due to two conventions coming to town.
“It’s harder to plan around floating holidays – holidays that don’t fall on the same day every year,” she said, adding that many people don’t make reservations ahead of time but may still decide to stay over.
Schneider also cited the city’s status as a “drive-to destination.”
Schneider further pointed to a 2006 survey of July 4th visitors showing that 49 percent were residents of the five-county region, further supporting her contention that event attendance is robust, even if stay-over rates aren’t always.
“People from the suburbs, Chester County and other places nearby tend to come to Center City, it’s where they want to be,” she said. “They come to the mothership for the holiday.”