From Fairmount Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country, to tiny pocket parks located in prime shopping and dining areas, Philadelphia offers a wonderful variety of places to relax and enjoy the outdoors. So pack up a picnic lunch and get outside the next time you visit Philadelphia.
Check out the following guide to the best outdoor spaces in Philadelphia:
1. FDR Park
Located near the sports complex in South Philadelphia, FDR Park is a green oasis in Philadelphia. For sports lovers, the park offers fishing, golf, tennis, baseball and even boating. There are also a variety of walking and running trails to enjoy. If you’re looking to relax, bring a picnic lunch and spread out on the lawn. In addition, the American Swedish Historical Museum, the oldest Swedish museum in the country, is located on the grounds. Plus, the park is conveniently located at the last southbound stop on the Broad Street Orange Line.
Photo credit: FDR Park’s Facebook Page.
Located near Rittenhouse Square, John Collins Park is a secret spot to relax after a day of sightseeing or shopping. Hidden between two buildings, you’ll forget you’re in the middle of the city at this urban oasis. The park is shaded by trees and has a fountain, as well as tables, chairs and benches to enjoy a bite to eat. Pro tip: stop at Di Bruno Brothers, a gourmet grocer across the street, for a baguette with roasted peppers and fresh mozzarella (or choose another cheese from their extensive selection). There are also several other options to pick up lunch on Chestnut Street.
Photo credit: CCD Parks webpage.
Located along the Delaware River under the Ben Franklin Bridge, Race Street Pier offers great views during the day and spectacular sights at night. Tiered seating terraces link the upper and lower level. Practice your yoga moves, enjoy a picnic lunch, or just watch the boats and barges flow by. High tide brings you right up to the river’s edge. Plus, there is free Wi-Fi for those who cannot entirely “unplug”.
Photo credit: Race Street Pier’s webpage.
Named by USA Today as the Best Urban Trail in America, Schuylkill Banks is a great location for both residents and visitors of all ages. Enjoy a picnic lunch, take a kayak or riverboat tour, practice yoga or watch a movie on select Thursday summer evenings. For those who enjoy fishing, there are over 40 species of fish, including catfish, perch, sunfish and carp. Pro tip: A fishing license is required for anglers 16 and over.
Recently opened in 2014, the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, a 2,000 foot long “over the river” path, extends the Schuylkill River trail from Locust Street to South Street. Four scenic overlooks allow pedestrians, runners and bicyclists to relax and enjoy spectacular waterfront views of the Philadelphia skyline and University City.
Photo credit: Schuylkill Banks webpage.
5. Shofuso Japanese House and Garden
Built in Japan in 1953 using traditional Japanese materials and techniques, Shofuso was first exhibited at MoMa and moved to Philadelphia when the exhibition closed. The Japanese house and garden, which cover over an acre of Fairmount Park, is open April – October. Special events include tea ceremonies and the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in April. There is a koi pond where visitors are welcome to feed the beautiful fish, and a small gift shop.
Photo credit: Shofuso’s webpage.
For a great outdoor experience without driving to the ocean, Spruce Street Harbor Park is one of Philadelphia’s favorite warm-weather spots’ it’s even been lauded as one of the world’s best urban beaches. Located along the Delaware River and open seasonally, Spruce Street Harbor Park offers a wide variety of activities: you can relax in a colorful hammock above the water, enjoy the water gardens located on a series of floating barges or savor a beer or cocktail and sample iconic local food. Don’t forget to save room for dessert at Franklin Fountain! In the evening, colorful hanging lights illuminate the park. For fun, there are outdoor games with something for all ages to enjoy. New in 2017 is the carnival-style midway with games and rides.
The park also features a number of unique summer events, such as live music every Thursday, June-August. On the second Sunday of each month from May-September, visitors can enjoy watching a classic TV show followed by a movie. At the Great Plaza nearby, roller skate at Blue Cross RiverRink SummerFest. Smooth Jazz Summer Nights take place every Friday in August. And every Thursday, May-September you can enjoy a screening of a recent movie at Screenings Under the Stars.
Photo credit: Spruce Street Harbor Park’s webpage.
A National Natural Landmark, Wissahickon Valley Park offers more than 50 miles of rugged trails to walk, hike or bike. Pro tips: trail permits are required for hikers using the upper trail, and A license is required for anglers 16 and over. The Wissahickon Creek is stocked with trout each spring and is also home to bass, sunfish and other warm water species. There are horse stables nearby which offer lessons for all ages. The park is also a great spot for bird watchers, attracting over 200 species, and has been designated an Important Bird Area by the Pennsylvania Audubon Society. Please visit the event website for a schedule of organized bird walks and additional park information.
And to satisfy your hunger after an afternoon of hiking or biking, there are dozens of picnic areas and pavilions located throughout the park. The iconic Valley Green Inn, built in 1850, serves lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch with indoor and outdoor seating available.
Photo credit: Friends of the Wissahickon webpage.
If you are looking for additional things to do in Philadelphia, check out When in ROAM for a Philadelphia travel itinerary. ROAM utilizes actual concierges who will create a customized trip guide to Philadelphia based on your age, budget, and personal preferences.
Have fun enjoying the great outdoors on your next trip to Philly!
This article was written by Fran Nachman, a Philadelphia ROAM concierge and hotel concierge. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Area Concierge Association as President, Treasurer and Philanthropic Director, and is currently the Director of Business & Social Events. In 2012 Fran was awarded Where Magazine’s Key to the City. Having traveled the world, she loves coming back to her hometown where there are always new restaurants, bars and venues to discover and share with visitors.