Have fun on July 4th, even though it's on a Wednesday this year

Spectators watch fireworks, which brought to a close the Queen's Jubilee Concert in front of Buckingham Palace, London, Monday, June 4, 2012. The concert is a part of four days of celebrations to mark the 60 year reign of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)
Spectators watch fireworks, which brought to a close the Queen's Jubilee Concert in front of Buckingham Palace, London, Monday, June 4, 2012. The concert is a part of four days of celebrations to mark the 60 year reign of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan) (AP)
Posted: July 03, 2012

RIDDLE US this: When does Independence Day make you feel less independent? When it's on a Wednesday, that's when. Wedged into the middle of the week, lodged between ho-hum Tuesday and yawn-worthy Thursday, this year's Fourth makes a long weekend impossible. Most of us will be stranded where we are.

The Shore's outta the question. The mountains? Um, maybe not. Might as well stick around and make the best of it. Ride the wild tide into Wawa's Welcome America! (exclamation point theirs). Do the Liberty Bell, or Independence Hall — you know the deal. Or try something different, like an airplane-shaped pool or partying with Elmo.

Here are some ideas.

1. Follow the Crowd

The outdoor movies. The Colonial characters. The 4.5-ton hoagie. The patriotic yet predictable annual weeklong hubbub of Wawa's Welcome America! culminates with a daylong (noon-7 p.m.) "Party on the Parkway," a family affair fueled by Radio Disney (but whose secret highlight will surely be the new, extra-kid-friendly Sister Cities Park at 18th and the Parkway) and the obligatory multi-performer concert and fireworks in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This year, Queen Latifah, Daryl Hall, Common, Joe Jonas and headliners The Roots will get sweaty onstage as we stay up past our bedtimes to watch the sky blast and sparkle. Don't worry about driving to any of the above, either; SEPTA is running extra service all around the festivities.

Party on the Parkway, Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 20th Street to Eakins Oval, noon-7 p.m., Jam and Grand Finale Fireworks, 20th and the Parkway, 7-11 p.m., welcomeamerica.com.

2. Run through History

What would George Washington do, if he were around on Wednesday? Chances are, he'd go jogging in his old 'hood. (That's why they call it the President's Challenge fitness test, right?) City Running Tours bustles around America's most historic square mile, through Headhouse and Washington squares, past Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Christ Church and Elfreth's Alley. It's not a race. But don't come in last.

Meet at Liberty Bell, 6th and Chestnut streets, 8:30 a.m., $25, 877-415-0058, cityrunningtours.com.

3. Party in a Castle

Doylestown does the Fourth in old-fashioned fashion. Antique-y activities center around Fonthill, Henry Mercer's quirky, must-see concrete castle. There will be a bike parade (pennyfarthing, anyone?), vintage baseball ("Warning on the hurler!"), old-timey games (those stick and hoop thingies) and an ever-timeless watermelon eating contest.

Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle, 525 E. Court St., Doylestown, 215-348-9461, mercermuseum.org, noon-4 p. m. Adults, $4, ages 5-17, $1, 4 and under, free.

4. TAKE A Dip in a 747

A quick trip across the Walt Whitman bridge yields "Mad Men"-era fun. The Flying W is a circa-1960s resort with an airplane-shaped pool and genuine tiki bar. Guests of the motel swim free; everyone else pays just a few bucks to splash around in the wings. (Don't like plane-shaped pools? The property also has a flight school and 18-hole golf course.)

Flying W Resort, 60 Fostertown Road, Medford, N.J. Day pass (before 3 p.m.) adult, $10, kids, $6.50, up to age 2 free. 609-267-8787, flyingwairport.com.

5. Play with Puppets

Not to be outdone by displays at the big city and beaches, Big Bird, Elmo, Grover, Oscar the Grouch, et al, have their own patriotic shindig at Sesame Place. Reserve ahead for the buffet barbecue dinner, or just come for the rides, parade, Bert, Ernie and ensuing fireworks.

Sesame Place, 100 Sesame Road, Langhorne. Admission from $37.99. Barbecue 5-6 p.m. or 7:30-8:30 p.m., adults, $25, ages 2-11, $17, under 2, free. Neighborhood street party parade, 9 p.m., fireworks 9:25 p.m., 866-GO-4-ELMO, sesameplace.com.

6. Stay at Home

Two TV choices, really. Go all-American, or go … Euro. ABC Family runs 12 hours of "America's Funniest Home Videos," (that's a lot of falling down), 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Food Network's got "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" continuously from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Spike replays "Band of Brothers," 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., while Bravo rehashes the ever unique to the U.S.A. "Don't Be Tardy for the Wedding," 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Feeling less than patriotic? ESPN and ESPN2 feature the Wimbledon tennis championships, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., respectively; NBCSP airs the Tour de France, 8 to 11:30 a.m. and again 8 to 11 p.m.

7. Putt on 30th Street

30th Street Station's newish "Porch" has put up a nine-hole mini golf course this month for anyone willing to (temporarily) swap valid photo ID for a putter, ball, scorecard and stubby pencil. It's a far cry from Pebble Beach — or even goofy boardwalk putt-putt courses — but it'll to keep the kids from uttering the classic summertime refrain of "I'm bored!" At least for a half-hour or so.

The Porch at 30th Street Station, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., free, 215-243-0555, universitycity.org.

8. Eat Out

What with all the backyard-based cooking out, the Fourth is a notoriously slow night for restaurants. Take advantage. Stephen Starr's places are open, so maybe you can crane your neck to see the fireworks from the roof deck of the Continental Midtown (1801 Chestnut St., 215-567-1800, continentalmidtown.com), or finally get a good table at Rittenhouse Square's swank Parc (227 S. 18th St., 215-545-2262, parc-restaurant.com). And you can dine, or enjoy a cocktail, and watch the Parkway light show at Bistro St. Tropez (2400 Market St., 4th floor, Marketplace Design Center, 215-569-9269, bistrosttropez.com).

9. Go TO Colonial Country

Costumed re-enactors at Chester County's bucolic Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation, a 112-acre, circa-1720 farm, mock up a Loyalist vs. Revolutionary scuffle of sorts for "When in the Course of Human Events." The day also includes a reading of the Declaration of Independence, Colonial living demos (hearth-cooking, textile-making, long-rifling) and a BYO picnic.

Ridley Creek State Park, Media, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., $10 adults, $8 ages 4-12, 610-566-1725, colonialplantation.org.

10. Forge Ahead

If the last time you visited Valley Forge, you weren't smarter than a fifth-grader (but only because you were in fourth grade), why not return to Washington's former campsite for a look-see? On Wednesday, the National Park will host a cookout, Declaration-signing and artillery demos.

Valley Forge National Historic Park, 1400 N. Outer Line Drive, King of Prussia, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., free, 610-783-1099, nps.gov/vafo/index.htm.

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