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When travelers think of Philadelphia, they often think of the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and other historic sites. Yet, one of the things that makes the City of Brotherly Love really special is the great outdoor spaces springing up around the city — illuminated beer gardens with giant games, an interactive fountain in the shade of City Hall, an award-winning trail along the river and more. These urban spaces are helping the city attract everyone from Pope Francis to the Democratic National Convention to the 2017 NFL Draft.
1. Seasonal Beer Gardens
One reason Philadelphia regularly makes national lists of best beer cities is its awesome seasonal beer gardens. Independence Beer Garden, which overlooks Independence Hall, features 40 regional and domestic craft beers on tap, adirondack chairs, picnic tables, ping-pong, and other games lit by strings of twinkle lights. Spruce Street Harbor Park, is an illuminated paradise along the Delaware River, the city’s eastern border. Amenities include floating food and drink barges, striped hammocks strung beneath color-changing lights, cozy seating areas and over-sized games. Huffington Post called it “one of the best urban beaches in the world.”
2. Schuylkill Banks
A good place to walk off those beers is at Schuylkill Banks, along the Schuylkill River, which makes up the city’s western border. The trail takes bicyclists, runners, walkers, skaters along the river and through Fairmount Park providing lovely views of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Boathouse Row. It is part of the Schuylkill River Trail, which winds its way from Center City to Valley Forge National Historical Park and it was named “Best Urban Trail” by USA Today.
3. Laurel Hill Cemetery
Laurel Hill cemetery a lovely last resting place — and place to rest — with more great views of the Schuylkill River. The city’s first cemetery is a national historic landmark that is the eternal home to General George Meade and about 40 other Civil War-era generals, six Titanic passengers and scores of prominent Philadelphians with beautiful tombstones and mausoleums. Tours are available and runners, bicyclists, and skaters are welcome.
4. Dilworth Park
The west side of City Hall has been renovated and is once again a gathering place, as envisioned by City Founder William Penn. Dilworth Park is a welcoming space with ice skating in the winter and an interactive fountain that’s a real crowd pleaser in hot months. It has a cafe and nearly nightly activities including happy hours, live music, art installations, yoga and outdoor movies.
5. Philadephia’s Magic Gardens
Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland, J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts and L. Frank Baum’s Oz take readers to incredibly creative alternative worlds using words. Isaiah Zagar uses his art to create an equally unforgettable universe called Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. It’s an outdoor labyrinth built of broken tiles, bicycle parts, folk art statues, colorful glass bottles, mirrors and found objects on the walls, ceiling and floor. Walking up, down and around his massive outdoor art installation, which takes up half a block, is indeed magical. You’ll find more of Zagar’s mosaic murals on walls throughout the neighborhood. Guided and self-guided tours of the neighborhood murals are available.
6. Outside Dining
In the 20 years since outside dining first became legal in Philadelphia, the city has been transformed. There are now more than 365 dining establishments with outdoor seats sprinkled throughout the city, giving it an almost European feel. The largest number of outdoors seats can be found in Old City and Rittenhouse Square. 18th Street, which runs along the east side of Rittenhouse Square (another outstanding outside space mentioned as a bonus), is an especially popular place for outside dining and drinking. Not only does food just seem to taste better outside, but these coveted tables provide a view of the Square, with fashionably dressed residents, business executives and young families plus jugglers, street musicians, landscape artists painting on easels and much, much more.
Philadelphia’s wonderful outdoor spaces are giving people even more things to love in the City of Brotherly Love.
Written by Irene Levy Baker, author of 100 Things To Do In Philadelphia Before You Die. For additional outstanding outdoor spaces and much more, follow the book on social media:
Photo by: Matt Stanley
September 13, 2016