The Pope’s visit on September 26th and 27th has Philadelphia, the Main Line, and South Jersey in a state of anticipation and excitement! Finally, the wait is almost over and all of the planning is starting to kick into gear!
The Pope’s upcoming visit has to be among the most impressive events in Philadelphia’s history. While mega-stars such as Taylor Swift and Beyonce have performed here recently to sellout crowds, apparently neither of them has the superstar power of Pope Francis. His visit is inspiring one of the city’s most exciting celebrations of all time – as well as creating major disruptions in local townships like Media Borough, where a state of emergency has already been declared. As longtime residents well know, it takes nothing short of an act of God to shut down the Schuylkill for three days!
The so-called “Francis Festival Zone” is a 4.6 square mile section of Center City that will be virtually closed to private vehicles on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Most of this zone will be free of security checkpoints and will be easy for pedestrians and cyclists to navigate. What does this mean for the Philadelphia area? The biggest and most exciting street party in Philadelphia history! Read on to find out where to stay and how to get there when the Pope makes his arrival!
Accommodation for Visitors During the Pope’s Visit to Philadelphia
Despite some early projections that made it seem like accommodations for out-of-town visitors would be scarce during the papal visit, there are still plenty of hotel rooms available in Philadelphia and in surrounding areas for September 25th–27th. Area hotels such as the historic Wayne Hotel and the comfortable Springhill Suites Philadelphia Airport still have rooms available for the weekend. The Rittenhouse Hotel, Sonesta Philadelphia Downtown, and Sheraton Philadelphia are just a few of the hotels within the festival zone that still have availability.
Those who prefer a home away from home can still find a range of options on AirBnB. And finally, families from the area are hosting out-of-town visitors so that as many people as possible can have the Pope Francis experience. Check out the World Meeting of Families website for more details.
Transportation To and From Philadelphia During the Pope’s Visit
The best way to get from the Pennsylvania suburbs or from New Jersey into the Francis Festival Zone will be to take public transportation. Absolutely everyone involved in the planning of this event is adamant that approaching the zone by car is a recipe for disaster.
In case you need proof that driving during the Pope’s visit is a really bad idea, check out all of the ways that you will not be able to get to and from the city in your car:
- The Schuylkill Expressway will be closed eastbound from I-476 to I-95 and westbound from I-95 to Route 1 (Roosevelt Blvd/City Ave)
- The Vine Street Expressway (I-676) will be closed in both directions from I-95 to I-76
- As the Pope will be spending Saturday night at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, City Avenue will be closed from Belmont Avenue to Lancaster Avenue
- The Ben Franklin Bridge will be closed to vehicle traffic beginning on Friday and lasting into Monday, but pedestrians and bikers will be able to travel the two miles between Camden and Philadelphia on foot.
Using Public Transportation to Philadelphia to See the Pope
So now that driving is hopefully off the table for you during the papal visit, just be prepared for the fact that getting around will require some extra planning and a bit of patience.From the New Jersey suburbs, some PATCO trains, NJ Transit River Line services, public transit buses, and shuttle services will be running directly into the festival zone.
In Pennsylvania, SEPTA is operating regional rail service from eighteen suburban locations into the city and is more than doubling its capacity to accommodate demand. Note that special public transport passes are required on Saturday and Sunday, but you can use your commuter pass if you’re coming into the city on Friday. The special weekend passes are still available at the Media and Primos stations, as well as at Suburban, Jefferson, and University City stations in the city.
Media Station is one of the eighteen stations that will be in operation, but note that there will be no available parking there. You can check the Media Borough website for more information about taking the Media local train to the city. Trains between Delaware County and the city will let out at University City station, putting you right in the center of all the action. In fact, anyone riding SEPTA or Patco into the festival grounds will have less than a one-mile walk to the Ben Franklin Parkway or Independence Mall.
In addition, many SEPTA buses will operate regular weekend services to 69th Street, where passengers can board the Market Frankford line to 30th street. Note that these services do not require special passes.
Taxi and Bike Services
Some taxis will also be permitted within the festival zone, although demand will obviously be high. If you want a quicker way of getting around the festival zone than relying on your own two feet, the Indego bike sharing service will have four staffed locations to make sure you can get a bike. These are:
- Rittenhouse Square, northwest corner, on Walnut Street
- Foglietta Plaza, Front and Dock streets
- 30th Street Station, at 30th and Market streets
- Broad and Spring Garden streets
Note that some regular Indego stations will not be available during the Pope’s visit, so make sure to check Indego’s Special Services for available stations from September 25th–27th.
Additional Information for Navigating the Pope’s Visit
We hope that this article has helped you plan your visit to Philadelphia for the historic Papal visit September 26th and 27th. For further information, please visit the following websites:
- http://www.worldmeeting2015.org/plan-your-visit/travel-information/travel-information-for-family-individuals/ for a useful and simple summary of all transport options originating from every possible starting point.
- http://www.septa.org/fares/papal-map.html for a special interactive SEPTA map detailing the available services during the visit.
- http://www.worldmeeting2015.org/get-involved/host-a-family/ for information on hosting a family during the visit.
Above all, be safe, plan ahead, and have fun!