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May 21, 2024

Philadelphia's busy 2026 will include TED talks, new Mural Arts project

The city is positioning itself as the center of celebrations for America's 250th birthday.

History Tourism
Semiquincentennial Philly Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia is starting its semiquincentennial celebrations early with a TED series and Mural Arts projects that will begin this year and stretch into 2026. The city has programs planned for America's 250th birthday.

Philadelphia tourism officials have revealed more of what's in store for 2026, which is shaping up to be historically hectic year.

Some of the marquee events are well-known at this point. In March 2026, the Wells Fargo Center will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Six FIFA World Cup matches will follow that June and July, along with the MLB All-Star Game at Citizens Bank Park. That summer, America will also mark its 250th birthday, the semiquincentennial, and in December, "Rocky" will turn 50.

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Visit Philadelphia, along with several city councilmembers and Gov. Josh Shapiro, teased more of the programming that will pad out the packed schedule at a Tuesday news conference. The headliner was a new TED series, which will actually begin this summer and stretch into 2026. TED Democracy will start this year with three "fireside chats" that will be livestreamed in front of an audience. The first will be held at the Barnes Foundation on July 9, with writer and comedian Baratunde Thurston. Full details on the other two chats, which will take place in September and November, have not yet been released, but Shapiro will speak at one of them. 

TED speakers will then visit Philadelphia throughout 2025, culminating in a February 2026 full-day program focused on "the exploration of democracy and what it means to modern society."

Mural Arts is also starting early on its project. Printmaking by the People will launch this fall with artist-led workshops where participants will make prints and posters about the "meaning of the semiquincentennial, shared values and desired changes." It'll continue into 2025 and 2026, resulting in a "major" new mural.

Philadelphia's Historic District will introduce a weekly program in 2026 celebrating inventions dreamed up in the city (think bifocals but also Mother's Day) with "prominent" No. 1 sculptures at their place of birth. ArtPhilly, meanwhile, will host a 10-day arts festival in May 2026.

Other events Visit Philadelphia is rolling into semiquincentennial plans, regardless of their date, include the Red, White, & Blue To-Do on July 2 — which will, if all goes according to plan, repeat on every subsequent year — the 250th birthday celebration of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps in October 2025 and an exhibit on the Declaration of Independence at the Museum of the American Revolution, running Oct. 18, 2025, to Jan. 3, 2027. Aspiring politicians can also head to Carpenters' Hall for a Young People's Continental Congress program featuring student "delegates" from the original 13 American colonies on July 15-19, or wait until the next year for a version featuring delegates from the entire country.

Angela Val, president and CEO of Visit Philadelphia, said planning to make the city the "epicenter" of semiquincentennial celebrations began 13 years ago. More details will be announced as the big date draws nearer, but Val is also encouraging organizations with events planned for 2026 to submit their details for marketing consideration.

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