Looking Ahead: 14 Reasons You’ll Want To Be In Philadelphia In 2014

Posted by Kristina Jenkins

For folks wondering what’s new in Philadelphia in 2014, the short answer is: a ton.

A long list of new public spaces, exciting exhibitions, milestone birthdays and anniversaries and all-new attractions slated for completion in 2014 give first-time visitors and Philadelphia residents plenty more reasons to adore the City of Brotherly Love.

Outdoor types can use Philly’s new Bike Share program to check out the new Venice Island or Pier 53 at Washington Avenue Green. Families can head to the Philadelphia Zoo for the new big cat outdoor trail or to the new wing of The Franklin Institute, where loads of interactive exhibits await. And history fans can explore the nation’s rocky past at the National Constitution Center’s Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello.

Read on for our roundup of what we can look forward to in Philadelphia in 2014.

Public Spaces and Outdoor Pursuits

Dilworth Plaza: The $55 million renovation of Dilworth Plaza will transform the west side of City Hall into a multi-use public space, complete with six tree groves and shaded green sitting areas, an outdoor café, a performance space and activity areas for outdoor markets and an ice-skating rink in season. A specially commissioned work of public art by internationally recognized artist Janet Echelman will be integrated into the programmable fountain that will use colors to trace the path of trains in real time. The plaza is scheduled to open in late summer 2014.

Pier 53 at Washington Avenue Green: Philadelphia’s waterfront renaissance will continue with the creation of yet another park along the Delaware River waterfront. Slated for a summer 2014 opening, the $2.15 million Pier 53 at Washington Avenue Green will pack a lot into its one-acre footprint. Markers will relate the site’s history as the nations’ first navy yard and an immigration station where thousands first landed on American shores. Visitors will enjoy strolling the paths that lead to a distinctive beacon created by artist Jody Pinto at the edge of the pier, relaxing along the green spaces accented by intertidal plantings or checking out a diverse range of outdoor programming. Pier 53 at Washington Avenue Green will be the northern anchor of a planned ecological park and recreational trail system.

Venice Island in Manayunk: When construction on Venice Island in Philadelphia’s Manayunk neighborhood is complete in spring 2014, visitors will enjoy a gleaming new 250-seat performing arts center; an outdoor amphitheater; and play areas, including a “sprayground” water feature and athletic fields—all set amid an oasis of greenery and gardens. Access points located at Lock and Cotton Streets off of Main Street.

Bike Sharing: Pedal power will take over the city in late summer/early fall 2014 with the introduction of Philadelphia’s Bike Sharing program. Cyclists will have access to hundreds of bikes when at least 50 Bike Share stations are installed throughout Center City and parts of University City. Eventually, the first phases of the program will include nearly 2,000 bikes at approximately 200 sharing stations found between the Delaware River and West Philadelphia and from the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia to the Temple University campus in North Philly. The system will allow cyclists to pick up a bike at a station in one area and drop it off at another once they have reached their destination.

Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk: Philadelphia will get its own boardwalk when the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk is completed in late summer/early fall 2014. The 15-foot wide, 2,000-foot-long ADA-compliant path will jut out over the Schuylkill River and provide runners, bikers and pedestrians with easy connections to the Schuylkill River Trail between Locust Street and the South Street Bridge. Those who simply want to take in the scenery or photograph it can do so at any of the four overlooks that offer city and waterfront views.

Openings, Re-openings and Expansions

FringeArts: FringeArts (formerly Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe) finally has a year-round facility now that the former firehouse pumping station beneath the Benjamin Franklin Bridge has been transformed into an arts destination. The 232-seat theater (with retractable seating) is already up and running and will be hosting concerts, theater performances and other events throughout the year. It also includes 830 square feet of rehearsal studio space. The grand opening of the destination restaurant is set for spring 2014, and the outdoor plaza will do triple duty as outdoor seating, a community gathering place and performance site.

Overhead Outdoor Trail at the Philadelphia Zoo: Philadelphia’s big cats are getting a new overhead outdoor trail system at the Philadelphia Zoo. When the galvanized steel mesh and woven wire elevated trail is complete in spring 2014, visitors will be able to view lions, tigers, jaguars and other animals as they roam overhead throughout sections of the nation’s first zoo. The big cat trail will rise from 11- to 16-feet above ground and will cross over the main visitor pathway. The Philadelphia Zoo is the first in the country to implement an animal trail system that stretches throughout the grounds and is designed for a wide variety of species.

Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion at The Franklin Institute: In June 2014, The Franklin Institute will open the doors to its 53,000-square-foot Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion. The centerpiece of the dazzling three-story addition is the 8,500-square-foot exhibit Your Brain, featuring an unprecedented collection of interactive, high-tech exhibitions. The expansion will also feature a rain garden and a larger, climate-controlled traveling exhibition space for limited engagements. The first two summer features are: Circus! Science Under the Big Top and 101 Inventions That Changed the World. Outside, a Shimmer Wall, by internationally renowned artist Ned Kahn and comprised of 12,500 clear anodized aluminum squares, will be installed, creating a work of public work of art that responds to the wind and is ever-changing.

Meadow Garden at Longwood Gardens: The expanded Meadow Garden at renowned Longwood Gardens will re-open in summer 2014 amidst a setting of native wildflowers and plants spread out over 86 acres. Visitors can wander through new trails, discover wildlife and learn more about the garden’s evolution over time at four learning pavilions and in the historic Webb Farmhouse, also slated to open in conjunction with the Meadow Garden.

Reasons To Celebrate

Year of The Bard: Shakespeare at 450: Throughout 2014, the Free Library of Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre and other cultural organizations present Year of the Bard: Shakespeare at 450, a yearlong celebration packed with special events and festivities to entice devotees and new fans. Highlights include a January 29 exhibit of some of the Free Library’s priceless Shakespeare holdings, while other monthly events include lectures, an insult contest, digital and live exhibitions, pop-up and theatrical performances and a big birthday bash on April 23.

30th Anniversary of the Mural Arts Program: Since its inception as an anti-graffiti project 30 years ago, the Mural Arts Program has worked with more than 30,000 youths, produced more than 3,600 murals and established itself as internationally recognized leader in the field of community-based public art. The anniversary year will feature a host of programs and activities, including an ambitious gateway rail project with Berlin-based artist Katharina Grosse in spring 2014, the 30th Anniversary Celebration Event in early summer 2014 and a Street Art Festival inspired by the program’s roots in October 2014.

Exciting Exhibitions

Upcoming Exhibitions at The Penn Museum, Barnes Foundation and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts: The Penn Museum On March 1, 2014, the Penn Museum will unveil Native American Voices: The People Here and Now, a long-term exhibition that explores how contemporary Native Americans maintain their religious, political, linguistic and artistic independence. The World Is an Apple: The Still Lifes of Paul Cézanne, a temporary exhibition coming to the Barnes Foundation from June 14 to September 22, 2014, will feature Cézanne masterpieces, plus a handful of works by other artists, all tracking the evolution and scope of Cezanne’s influence on the genre. In what will be the first major American survey of his work, the David Lynch exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, on view September 5, 2014 through January 15, 2015, will bring together 75 works of art from American and European collections, as well as from the artist’s studio.

Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello at the National Constitution Center: Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello, coming to the National Constitution Center April 9 through October 19, 2014, explores Thomas Jefferson’s contradictions and examines the dilemma and stain of slavery. In addition to Jefferson’s personal possessions, the exhibition will feature items from the slave quarters on Mulberry Row, along with interactive woodworking and furniture-making activities. The exhibit also illuminates the lives of some of Monticello’s enslaved people through videos and oral histories from generations of the Hemings, Gillette, Granger, Hern and Hubbard families.

Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American at the National Museum of American Jewish History: Baseball transcends cultural boundaries and has long served as a way for immigrants coming to America to learn and understand American values. Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American will be the first large-scale exhibition to weave together the history of American sport and leisure and national identity with the story of Jewish immigration and integration into American life. Baseball’s legends and myths, heroes and flops tell the country’s story at the National Museum of American Jewish History, March 13 to October 26, 2014, before beginning a national tour.