In 2015, Philly is going to become more modern, catching up on amenities other big cities have had for years. There’s also a big election on the horizon — and we’ll host one of the most well-known people on the planet, which means other American cities will suffer from Philly envy.
Here are five things you’ll be able to do in Philadelphia this year:
1. Witness the Pope make his first trip to America
Pope Francis is expected to be in Philadelphia Sept. 25-27 as part of the World Meeting of Families conference. His exact itinerary has not been finalized, but the World Meeting of Families conference features many speeches, Adult and Youth congresses, cultural and musical performances and a papal mass. The papal mass is set for Sept. 27 and will take place on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. What does this visit mean for you as a Philadelphian? For one thing, you’ll be able to get close to the top boss of Catholicism. Your best bet to see him is probably at the papal mass. Secondly, you might be able to make a tidy profit via Air BNB. With two million travelers expected in a city with 11,500 hotel rooms, places to stay will be in high demand. So whether you own your place or you’ll need to hide your business decision from your landlord, consider renting your apartment/house for a premium price this weekend.
2. Observe: Philly’s new Master of the Universe view will open this summer
The view from atop City Hall is nice and all, but Philly is getting a true observation deck this summer. It’s going to be 57 stories up, at One Liberty Place (the downtown skyscraper with the spire on top). The same people who operate the deck at the John Hancock Tower in Chicago, a company called M56, are building this observation deck. No specific date has been set for when the deck will be ready.
3. Vote for a new mayor
The Democratic mayoral primary will be held this May, and the general election mayoral race will be in November. It’s already been a nutty race, with two candidates declaring and dropping out and the supposed lead contender not having declared yet. So far, the official candidates are former D.A. Lynne Abraham, state senator Tony Williams, lawyer and former Common Pleas judge Nelson Diaz and former city solicitor Ken Trujillo. City Controller Alan Butkovitz and Terry Gillen, former leader of the Redevelopment Agency, have already dropped out. City Council President Darrell Clarke is considered a front runner, but he hasn’t declared yet (he has hired a strategist). Sam Katz, the filmmaker and longtime politician, is also being speculated as a possible independent candidate to run against the winning Democrat in the fall. He’s run for mayor as a Republican three times unsuccessfully.
What to think about all this? First of all: Register to vote if you want to help decide the city’s future leadership. As Patrick Kerkstra of PhillyMag wrote, this election could decide whether the next several years will feature a leader more likely to support the reform-minded millennials or the longtime Philadelphian party hardliners who aren’t as interested in redeveloping the city.
4. Ride around the city as part of the new bike share program
The date isn’t certain yet, but Philadelphia is supposed to get 600 bikes and 60 stations as part of a bike share program in the spring. For the last several months, residents have had the opportunity to nominate possible locations for the stations. You can see the favorites here.
5. Throw Away Your SEPTA tokens forever
The SEPTA Key is coming. Instead of having to purchase tokens or pay for rides with exact change, you’ll now get to store money for SEPTA trips via bus, subway and trolley on a digital card (Regional Rail will switch in 2016). Like bike share and the observation deck, there’s no set date. SEPTA is planning on 2015, though, so long as there aren’t any major obstacles as it does its testing.
6. The Forbes Under 30 Summit is here (again)
Philadelphia’s reputation as a city for young people grew a little further over the weekend when Forbes announced it would hold its annual Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia indefinitely. The 2015 summit will be Oct. 4-7 at the Convention Center. This year several hundred more people are expected to get invites to the event that featured 2,000 attendees last year.