Pope Francis' first papal visit to the United States is in September, and Philadelphia hotels are already going fast. So far it's his only planned stop, although invitations to New York City and Washington, D.C., have been extended.
He will be attending the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia at the city's Convention Center from Sept. 22 to 27. Pope Francis last month announced his plans to attend. Here are five things you need to know:
--It's going to be big: The World Meeting of Families, started by Pope John Paul II and held every three years, is dedicated to strengthening bonds of Roman Catholic families around the world. About 10,000 delegates are expected to show up to the multiday event.
--It's going to be crowded: An estimated 1.5 million people are expected to flood the city to witness a Papal Mass on Sept. 27. A half-million are expected to attend the Festival of Families on Sept. 26. Exhibits and events around the pope's visit start before the meeting on Sept. 20 and continue for a week.
--How to sign up for the event: The Associated Press reports that Philadelphia's 11,500-plus hotels are selling out quickly. If you register to attend the World Meeting of Families (prices start as low as $125 per person), you will have access to hotel rooms at set prices. The website currently has a choice of hotel options with more to come in January.
--How to find a room in the city: What if you just want to go see the pope without attending the meeting? Ed Grose of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Assn. suggests persistence if you want to stay at a centrally located hotel and walk to events.
"I would not give up on trying to find a room in Center City because things happen that may open up, cancellations could open up rooms," he said Monday.
--Look at hotels outside Philadelphia too: Consider staying outside the city at places such as University City (2 miles), the airport (9.3 miles) and City Avenue neighborhood (7 miles).
Paula Butler of VisitPhilly also suggests staying in a nearby state, such as New Jersey (Cherry Hill is 9 miles away) or Delaware (29 miles away). These outlying destinations have good public transit options if you don't want to take your chances on driving into the city.