Since the city’s founding, Philadelphia has enjoyed and promoted its incredible parks and green spaces.
William Penn was so inspired by the eastern hardwood forest that greeted him in the New World that he named his colony Penn’s Woods, or Pennsylvania. Another Penn gem, Philadelphia’s five main squares date back to the original city — all part of the founder’s plan for a “greene countrie town.”
Today, the Philadelphia region is blooming with lively urban parks, re-imagined recreational landscapes and spirited pop-up gardens. From the massive trail systems of Fairmount Park and Wissahickon Valley Park to the delightful riverside enclaves of the seasonal Spruce Street Harbor Park and Race Street Pier, residents and visitors enjoy relaxing, picnicking and playing in these public spaces that honor Penn’s vision.
Read on for our picks for the top 25 parks and open spaces in Philadelphia.
Fairmount Park, a 2,050-acre gem, offers more than 50 miles of designated trails, 43 sculptures, two performing arts centers, the Philadelphia Zoo, Shofuso Japanese House and Gardens, historic mansions, the Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse and renowned museums. Tip: Head to Belmont Plateau (above) for unreal skyline views.
Where: Various locations in Fairmount Park including Belmont Plateau, 1800 Belmont Mansion Drive
Bordering Chestnut Hill and Germantown to the south, the 1,800 wooded acres of the Wissahickon Valley Park include the lovely Wissahickon Creek, 50 miles of hiking and walking trails and Pastorius Park, a favorite refuge for picnics and summer concerts. Forbidden Drive, a wide, no-cars-allowed road beside the creek, intersects with a number of gorgeous trails that criss-cross the park.
Where: Various locatioins in Wissahickon Valley Park including Forbidden Drive
The one-square-block park that gives the surrounding neighborhood its name is more popular with sunbathers, readers, families, artists and even dogs than city founder William Penn ever could have imagined. Festivals, farmers’ markets, fairs and general merriment make it the city’s best-known — and perhaps, most-enjoyed — park.
Where: Rittenhouse Square, 210 W. Rittenhouse Square
Re-opened in May 2018 after a two-year $26 million renovation, JFK Plaza — better known as LOVE Park — now features an updated fountain, benches and new greenery in the popular space. And the spiffed-up LOVE sculpture is once again the perfect backdrop for hundreds of photos each day.
Where: LOVE Park, 15th & Arch streets
Spanning eight miles of riverfront winding through the heart of Philadelphia, Schuylkill Banks is open year-round for walking, jogging, cycling, picnics and dog-walking. Part of the Schuylkill River Trail, the park stretches along the Schuylkill River and links the western edge of Center City to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Fairmount Park and Kelly Drive via the Schuylkill River Park and Trail. Schuylkill Banks offers outdoor movie screenings in the summer, while scenic cruises and kayak tours on the river take in various historic sites. Also available: fishing, kayaking and boating.
Where: Schuylkill Banks, 2501 Walnut Street
Open spring, summer and fall.
This spring-into-fall destination attracts impressive crowds with bocce and lawn games, tree-slung hammocks and colorful lights, floating barges with over-the-water seating, a boardwalk with a variety of food options and a beer garden serving craft beers, draft cocktails and frozen beverages. The park is programmed throughout the season with a variety of free events that are open to the public.
Where: Spruce Street Harbor Park, 301 S. Columbus Boulevard
One of William Penn’s five original squares has served as an animal pasture and as a burial ground for victims of the 1793 yellow fever epidemic, African Americans and several thousand soldiers who died during the Revolution. The square is now a popular place for picnicking, reading and playing Frisbee as well as other leisure activities. It’s also the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution, a monument featuring an eternal flame and a statue of George Washington.
Where: Washington Square, 210 W. Washington Square
Franklin Square, one of William Penn’s original five squares, transformed a decade ago into a fun family park featuring an 18-hole, Philly-themed miniature golf course, restored marble fountain, large playground and old-fashioned carousel starring some famous Philly animals. When hunger strikes, the seasonal SquareBurger delivers with burgers, fries and Cake Shakes.
Where: Franklin Square, 200 N. 6th Street
The quarter-mile stretch of the former Reading Railroad that makes up the $10.3 million first phase of the Rail Park officially debuted in June 2018. The space includes plantings, artwork, seating areas and giant wooden swings.
Where: Rail Park, Broad and Noble streets to 11th and Callowhill streets
In the shadow of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, the first project in DRWC’s Master Plan for the Central Delaware River opened in 2011. Race Street Pier features two levels for recreation. The upper terrace, dubbed the Grand Sky Promenade, rises 12 feet toward the bridge and is paved with Trex, a sustainable, synthetic decking material made out of reclaimed plastic and wood. A multi-tiered seating area — perfect for watching the tide roll in — connects the promenade to the lower terrace. DRWC and Aetna sponsor free yoga classes seven mornings a week from April through November.
Where: Race Street Pier, Race Street & N. Columbus Boulevard
In 2014, City Hall’s western-facing front yard transformed from a concrete sweep to a $55 million multi-use park, complete with tree groves, benches, a cafe and areas for outdoor events and performances. A large programmable fountain offers children a place to romp and splash in warm weather. During the winter, an ice rink brings skaters to the park. The site’s Greenfield Lawn provides a place to relax, and sloping glass roofs look down on the major transit hub below the park.
Where: Dilworth Park, 1 S. 15th Street
In the heart of Philadelphia’s Historic District, Independence Mall offers a grassy green lawn on which to relax and take in views of the many cultural institutions nearby, including Independence Hall, the National Constitution Center, the Liberty Bell Center, National Museum of American Jewish History and more. The space is also home to an array of different events throughout the year, including Opera on the Mall, POPS! on Independence and Wawa Hoagie Day. Pro tip: The National Parks Service oversees more green spaces throughout Independence National Historical Park, including the Rose Garden and the Magnolia Garden.
Where: Independence Mall, 525 Market Street
This elevated park, which debuted in 2015, sits 95 feet above the street and wows guests with skyline views and cool breezes. Atop the Cira Centre South parking garage, the site employs blue-green roof technology and storm water management techniques to reduce impact on the environment and sewer system.
Where: Cira Centre, 2929 Arch Street
Open summer and winter.
In winter, riverside pop-up village Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest features Philadelphia’s largest outdoor skating rink, cozy lodge with fireplaces and food from local restaurateurs and festive winter drinks, twinkling lights, outdoor fire pits and arcade games. Come summer, the space transforms into Summerfest, which includes an outdoor roller-skating rink, mini-golf, boardwalk-style rides and games and an air-conditioned lodge outfitted with rocking chairs for relaxing and people watching.
Where: Blue Cross RiverRink, 101 S. Columbus Boulevard
Ben Franklin surely would have appreciated this eight-acre pop-up park, which occupies Eakins Oval, a little-used parking lot on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Food trucks, movies, a beer garden, free health and fitness classes, theme days and a ground mural designed by PORT Urbanism and painted by Mural Arts Philadelphia bring the space to life for one summer month. The park is imagined and executed by Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation.
Where: The Oval, 2451 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) takes over two underused lots for its PHS Pop Up Gardens at South Street and uCity Square. The greening projects (called “horticultural interventions” by staffers) transform the otherwise barren spaces with beautiful horticultural designs. The popular hangouts feature curated food and beer menus, with proceeds supporting PHS programs that address challenges such as healthy eating, food accessibility, environmental sustainability and urban livability.
Where: Various locations including PHS Pop Up Garden, 1438 South Street
Kids of all ages adore this landscaped park tucked along the Parkway. The site stars a Children’s Discovery Garden, a pebble-bottomed boat pond, the Logan Square Café, a pint-sized hill that evokes the Wissahickon Valley and a programmed fountain that pays tribute to Philadelphia’s 11 sister cities. On warm Thursday nights, music lovers bring their own bottles and snacks for picnics and performances. Center City District maintains and programs the park.
Where: Sister Cities Park, 210 N. 18th Street
Established in 1895, Clark Park is a popular neighborhood gathering place — no matter the weather. Once used by the city as a dumping ground, the park spans nine acres that now feature trees, grass, lush greenery and a popular year-round farmers’ market on Saturdays.
Where: Clark Park, 4300-4398 Baltimore Avenue
A 24-acre urban recreational area on the banks of the Schuylkill River, Penn Park includes bike trails, walkways, places for formal and informal athletics and plenty of green space, as well as an enclosed air structure for all-weather play.
Where: Penn Park, 3000 Walnut Street
According to legend, Pennsylvania founder William Penn signed his peace treaty with the local Lenape tribe under an elm tree just off the Delaware River in 1683. Though the tree fell in a storm in 1810, the city officially opened Penn Treaty Park on the surrounding land in 1894. Today, a statue of William Penn greets local picnickers and dog walkers, and throughout the year, people from all over the city come for special events and festivals.
Where: Penn Treaty Park, 1301 N. Beach Street
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Tania Gail (@taniagail) on Jun 17, 2018 at 2:40pm PDT
A post shared by Tania Gail (@taniagail) on Jun 17, 2018 at 2:40pm PDT
With nearly 1,000 acres, 10 miles of trails and many species of native wildlife and plants, the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum protects the largest fresh water tidal marsh in Pennsylvania. The marsh, a key stop in the Atlantic flyway, is well-known among birdwatchers — 80 species nest here and 300 have been recorded. As for recreation, the network of low-lying trails attracts joggers as well as walkers, and there’s a boat ramp for canoe and kayak access.
Where: John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, 8601 Lindbergh Boulevard
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Mike Ricciuti (@mikesphotoworld) on Jun 11, 2018 at 7:19pm PDT
A post shared by Mike Ricciuti (@mikesphotoworld) on Jun 11, 2018 at 7:19pm PDT
Named after the Lenni Lenape Indian word for slow-moving water, Pennypack Park stretches nine miles, following Pennypack Creek southeast as it runs from Montgomery County to the Delaware River. The landscape of this rambling city park — clocking in at a massive 1,600 acres — covers rolling hills, open meadow and many miles of paved and unpaved trails that are great for hiking, biking, running and horseback riding. You’ll also find numerous historic buildings, including a working farm.
Where: Pennypack Park, 8500 Pine Road
FDR Park’s fields, lagoon, creek and lakes are nestled among the industry and neighborhoods of South Philly. The area is a bird-watcher’s paradise and boasts spaces for golf, tennis, rugby, baseball and softball. The park’s gazebo is a great place to set up a picnic lunch. Of special note is the FDR Skate Park, a public spot designed and built by local volunteer skateboarding enthusiasts.
Where: FDR Park, 1500 Pattison Avenue & S. Broad Street
Opened in 2017, Southwest Philadelphia’s Bartram’s Mile is a 1.1-mile greenway along the Schuylkill River with stellar skyline views. The verdant water-facing space offers bikers, walkers, runners and bird watchers an appropriate connection to Bartram’s Garden, a historical botanical garden and outdoor attraction located on the trail. Note: Bartram’s Mile is a part of the Schuylkill River Trail, though it doesn’t yet connect with the popular Center City portion of the trail.
Where: Bartram's Mile, 3000 S. 56th Street
Featuring 20 acres of parks, The Navy Yard complex is both visually stunning and fun to explore. The Central Green is an oasis for recreation, featuring a fitness station, a hammock grove, bocce courts and ping-pong tables. And don’t miss the Riverfront Greenway, a mile-long path along Admiral Peary Way with great views of the Delaware River.
Where: The Navy Yard, 4747 S. Broad Street
Following the enthusiastic reception of the permanent Race Street Pier, DRWC debuted South Philadelphia’s Washington Avenue Pier in 2014. Visitors can climb an artistic beacon created by artist Jody Pinto, take in river views from an elevated boardwalk and follow markers that relate the site’s history as a major immigration hub and the nation’s first navy yard.
Where: Washington Avenue Pier, Columbus Boulevard & Washington Avenue
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A post shared by Nizzie (@nizzie1912) on Jun 4, 2017 at 12:43pm PDT
Located in northeast Philadelphia, Benjamin Rush State Park takes the title of the only official state park within the city’s borders. Here, find 3.5 miles of biking and hiking trails along with one of the largest community gardens in the region. The park is also home to a space devoted to flying radio-controlled model airplanes, bringing a distinctive touch of sky-high entertainment to the greenery-filled grounds.
Where: Benjamin Rush State Park, 15001 Roosevelt Boulevard
The Philadelphia Water Department partnered with Parks & Recreation and residents of Manayunk to turn a municipal project into an island-sized children’s attraction. The utility built a four million-gallon underground water tank and a pumping station with a green roof. On top of the tank went a 250-seat performing arts center devoted primarily to kids’ theater, an outdoor amphitheater, a basketball court, a sprayground and lots of park space with stunning sunrise and sunset water views.
Where: Venice Island Performing Arts & Recreation Center, 7 Lock Street
Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter of GRAMMY-winning hip-hop band The Roots hosts “We Got You: Philly by Tarik,” our new travel series. In this episode, Tarik and TV star and entrepreneur Vanessa Simmons visit an outdoor oasis behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The duo also heads to the city’s only urban beach, where Vanessa gets a surprise visit from her uncle, Danny Simmons, an abstract artist and philanthropist who lives in Philly.
Where: Various locations including the Azalea Garden, Kelly Drive
Book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package for stays through November 30, 2018 and get FREE hotel parking as well as free tickets to the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art, a $25 gift card to the must-visit Reading Terminal Market, free Philly-themed mini-golf at Franklin Square and a $10 Lyft credit.
Iconic jogs, scenic cycling routes and awesome trails accessible from downtown Philly