The 20 Coolest Urban Adventures In Philadelphia

Published On 08/19/2016 Published On 08/19/2016
Matt Stanley/DRWC
Eat, Drink, See & Do
B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia
Eat, Drink, See & Do

1. Longwood Gardens

Kennett Square, PA
1001 Longwood Rd, Kennett Square, PA 19348
Besides being home to the best bathrooms in America (seriously, these skylit, green-walled pods have won awards), Longwood Gardens is worth visiting for its sprawling and ever-changing grounds. Every space of the garden is dedicated to the season’s different specialties, whether it’s the 86-acre Meadow Garden’s hiking trails and wildflowers, or Peirce’s Woods' eight distinct areas celebrating different habitats. It’s impossible to see everything in just one visit, so slow down, take it in, and... take a bathroom break.  View on Map

2. Reading Viaduct Park

1398 Noble St, Philadelphia, PA 19123
This once-abandoned rail station, towering over 9th Street, is in the midst of redevelopment into Philly’s own version of NYC’s Highline Park. For now, get a preview of the space at this year’s pop-up garden and take last-chance moody photos of the overgrown plants and rusted train tracks beyond. View on Map

B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia

3. Lake Nockamixon

Quakertown, PA
1542 Mountain View Dr, Quakertown, PA 18951
Drive north to Bucks County, and get wet. Lake Nockamixon caters to all your water activity needs and bravery levels, with sailboats, paddleboats, canoes, motorboats and rowboats at your call, from six launching areas. If you head there in the colder months, check out trailways for hiking and biking, and a 20-mile equestrian trail. There are cabins for over-nighters, so take time to do it all. View on Map

4. Eastern State Penitentiary

2027 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130
This massive, and architecturally stunning, former prison gets most attention during Halloween when it turns into one of the most legit scary haunted houses in the country. But a visit to Eastern State Penitentiary will pump your adrenaline any time of year. An indoor-outdoor audio tour spoken by none other than Steve Buscemi explores the abandoned cells of criminals past, winding corridors, and eerie passageways. View on Map

5. Chamounix Equestrian Center

Fairmount Park
8 Chamounix Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19131
Group and private lessons are available for nascent horseback riders -- at a leisurely enough pace to still enjoy Fairmount Park. It's not all in the saddle either, as getting your hands dirty caring for the horses is part of the deal. You'll not only feed your mighty steed, you'll also muck the stalls. To really take it to the next level, try polo lessons; the center is home to Penn's polo team and hosts polo clinics regularly.  View on Map

R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

6. Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

South Street
1020 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Local artist Isaiah Zagar brings the urban jungle to life with a walkable art installation that would bring any Feng Shui practitioner out in a cold sweat. This bric-a-brac of found objects, from tile to bikes to glass, is also a museum, community center, and performance space in one. There are so many nooks and crannies that every visit yields a new discovery, so even if you’ve passed the space a hundred times, it's always worth another look.  View on Map

7. Go Vertical

Northern Liberties
950 N Penn St, Philadelphia, PA 19123
Go Vertical is Philly’s only rock climbing gym and one of the largest of its kind on the East Coast with around 250 climbing routes. You don’t have to be an experienced climber to enjoy -- novices are welcome at Climbing School, which offers belay, sport leading, and general introductory courses daily. You’ll be Spider-Man in no time. View on Map

8. Aqua Vida

Penn’s Landing
301 S Christopher Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Aqua Vida pushes yoga and bootcamp veterans to new limits by taking fitness to the water. Classes include floating yoga, where not only do you need to get those downward dog and warrior poses just right, but the stakes are extra high as you try to balance on a paddle board. Dolphin pose anyone?  View on Map

R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

9. Laurel Hill Cemetery

Bala Cynwyd
3822 Ridge Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19132
Laurel Hill is more than the final resting place of many important shapers of American history, it's also an outdoor sculptural garden and horticultural masterpiece. It regularly hosts outdoor films, theater performances, and tours, like every second Saturday and fourth Friday's "The Hot Spots and Storied Plots." And of course, it's always worth a wander for no reason in particular.  View on Map

10. Morris Arboretum

Chestnut Hill
100 E Northwestern Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19118
The winding garden paths of Morris Arboretum host wildlife and modern art side by side, and at 92 acres, enough hidden tunnels and elevated walkways to keep the most intrepid urban explorer busy. The tree canopies, at over 50ft above ground level, span 450ft and are complete with a human-sized bird’s nest. View on Map

11. Pier 68

Pennsport/Delaware River Waterfront
Pier 70 Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19148
In the ongoing effort to transform six miles of the Delaware Waterfront into a welcoming oasis for onlookers and water adventurers alike, Pier 68 is undergoing some big changes. In addition to a waterfront view and opportunities to learn about the river’s ecology, the pier offers recreational fishing -- something heretofore not considered much at Philly’s waterfront. Additionally, the space itself is outfitted with ample lounge areas, including a tree canopy and angled lawn.  View on Map

G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

12. Shofuso Japanese House and Garden

Fairmount Park
Lansdowne Dr & Horticultural Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19131
The 1.2-acre Shofuso House and Garden was originally built as part of a MoMA exhibit to celebrate Japanese culture, and will have you seriously question if you are still standing on Philly soil. (You are, just 17th-century Japanese style.)  Tour the house, feed the koi that live in a pond beneath a 75-year-old cherry tree, and check out the monthly traditional tea ceremony.  View on Map

13. Ridley Creek State Park

1023 Sycamore Mills Rd, Media, PA 19063
Less than 30 miles from Center City you’ll find Ridley Creek, the most transformative easy-access escape you can get from the city. Well-manicured lawns and exotic plants across its 2,600 acres appeal to day trippers and campers alike, and thirteen miles of hiking trails don’t hurt either. You can also tour the grounds by horseback or try one of the biking or hiking routes to get a feel of the diverse grounds. Fly fishing, cross-country skiing, and archery are other activities that draw visitors throughout the seasons. View on Map

14. Schuylkill Banks

Center City
2501 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
The Schuylkill is now home to an eight-mile park from MLK Drive to South Street, and is fast becoming the destination for water activities right in the city. Stay dry with walking tours and outdoor movies, or from one of four boardwalks with spectacular views of the city. Or see it all from a kayak or canoe as you make your way south to Bartram's Garden. Once there, you should have worked up the courage to give stand-up paddleboarding a try.  View on Map

15. Bartram’s Garden

Schuylkill River
5400 Lindbergh Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19143
Speaking of... this 45-acre waterfront park is known for its unparalleled views of the Philly skyline, and also as the birthplace of gardening in America. Admission is free, and there are always artists' workshops, jazz performances, and other horizon-broadening happenings on the calendar, as well as weekly river paddles at sunset.   View on Map

Tyler Sprague/Flickr

16. Race Street Pier

Delaware Waterfront
Race Street & N. Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Beneath Ben Franklin Bridge is a picnic-friendly, bi-level riverside park, perfect for taking in river views -- in close quarters at high tide, when the river is less than five feet below the lower pier. Check out the lawn's outdoor fitness classes through fall, like early morning and twilight yoga. Also defect to New Jersey via the walk across the bridge.  View on Map

17. Spring Mountain

Schwenksville, PA
757 Spring Mt Rd, Schwenksville, PA 19473
You don't have to be a skier, or even wait til wintertime to have fun at Spring Mountain. The elevated canopy tour includes the opportunity to zipline between tree tops, geocache, and rock climb  --something you should have practiced at Go Vertical, above. Through the fall you can explore the grounds at night, take the canopy tour after dark and then -- the best part -- ride back down in a hay wagon.  View on Map

Kevin Jarrett/Flickr

18. Spruce Street Harbor Park

Delaware Waterfront
301 S Christopher Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19106
One of the most notable pop-up parks in Philly, Spruce Street Harbor is an oasis of hammocks, outdoor games, water nets, multiple beer gardens, roller skating, and a floating barge restaurant. You can be as active or as relaxed as you want here, whether that means reserving a waterfront hammock lounge and savoring a drink in peace, chilling at the urban beach, or lacing up those skates before retiring to the net lounge. There are also tons of games, from bocce and giant chess to shuffleboard and Jenga -- all of which you can play to the backdrop of live music from local artists.  View on Map

19. Valley Forge National Historical Park

Valley Forge, PA
1400 N Outer Line Dr, King of Prussia, PA 19406
Valley Forge Park attracts Revolutionary history nerds for obvious reasons -- it was the winter encampment of George Washington and his troops in 1777. It's home to dozens of cannons, soldiers’ huts, and the refurbished headquarters of the man himself. It's worth a visit regardless of your history buff-ness, however; the six-mile trail is cyclist-, pet-, and pedestrian-friendly,  and it's a significant 75-mile connection to the Appalachian Trail.  View on Map

20. The Circuit Trails

Various Locations
2501 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19103 (entrance to Schuylkill River trail)
Philly and surrounding areas boast an intricate network of trails for runners, bikers, and walkers, totaling 750 miles --- with an additional 50 miles coming soon. The reopened Manayunk Bridge Trail, as well as the Schuylkill River Trail, and the Pennypack Trail are good starts for aspiring explorers. The former enables visitors to cross the bridge that connects Manayunk and Lower Merion, for some of the best views of the Schuylkill River Valley.
  View on Map

Though still in the process of construction, Reading Viaduct Park is modeled after the Promenade Plantee in Paris and the High Line in New York, and built along one of the most important rail lines in hist...more

This gorgeous lake located in Nockamixon State Park in Quakertown is the perfect escape from city life. Here you can picnic, hike, or even rent a boat for a leisurely sail while enjoy your tranquil surroun...more

If you're looking for a great horror show in Philly, but you're nowhere near a North Philly SEPTA stop, hit up Eastern State Penitentiary (a real-life horror house) for paranormal tour of cells and cellars...more

Longwood Gardens
$ Philadelphia

Consisting of 1,077 acres of gardens, Longwood offers exhibits in horticulture -- where you can learn about the plants blooming in season in their different gardens -- s well as theater and musical perform...more

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens is a gallery and community arts center where you can walk through anytime of day. The space hosts low cost public programs and provides access to mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar’s m...more

Laurel Hill is much more than just the final resting place of the many people who shaped American history. Here you will also find various specimens of art, architecture, and horticulture, not to mention h...more

With 250 climbing routes open at all times, and climbing classes that vary from beginner to expert, Go Vertical gives you more bang for your rock climbing. Plus, you get your exercise in while having fun!

Electric Factory
Spring Garden

This concert venue has been in business over 40 years, bringing Philly sweet jams, from the Beastie Boys to Mos Def.

There's 92 acres of greenery to explore at the Morris Arboretum, a Victorian arboretum filled with countless sculptures, birds, trees, and flowers. The University of Pennsylvania acquired the Northwest Phi...more

Once a nondescript stretch of the Delaware Waterfront, Pier 68 has transformed into a nature respite from one of the most bustling areas of the city. Take in the river views and learn about its ecology, or...more

Whether you're on bike or foot, the Manayunk Bridge Trail -- which reopened in 2015 after decades of being closed to the public -- will make your journey a bit more scenic. As you cross the Schuylkill Rive...more

The Schuylkill River Trail will be 130 miles when it's finished, and extends 26.5 miles in Philly alone. The paved trail gets busy on the weekends with runners, bikers, and commuters, so make sure you know...more

This Montgomery County trail really let's you get in touch with nature; the five-mile stretch is ideal for hikers, bicyclists, dogs, and -- oh yeah...equestrians. Saddle up and enjoy this bit of nature in...more

This traditional 17th century Japanese home and garden is tucked away in Philly's sprawling Fairmount Park. It was originally designed as part of a MoMa exhibition, and today it's 1.2 acres include a koi p...more

Located just 30 minutes outside of Philly, Ridley Creek offers a lush and abundant green setting that'll offer a quick fix for your stifled city body. The park spans more than 2,000 acres, and offers over...more

An eight-mile park that hugs the Schuylkill River from MLK Drive to South Street, Schuylkill Banks offers everything from outdoor movies to kayak tours and scenic cruises -- on top of regular park stuff, l...more

A historic 45-acre park along the Schuylkill River, Bartram's Garden has some of the best views of the Philly skyline. And, fun fact, it's also considered the birthplace of gardening in America.

The Race Street Pier sits on the Delaware River, right under the Ben Franklin Bridge. Its two levels each offer recreation options, like yoga classes, or you can sit on the lower terrace and watch the tide...more

A regional ski resort that's right outside Philly, Spring Mountain has skiing, snowboarding, and tubing when things get chilly. In the warmer months, though, you can check out their zipline adventures or c...more

Depending on the time of year, the Waterfront boasts dozens of activities thanks to the Spruce Street Harbor Park. Beer gardens pop up in the summer, and the views of nature impress regardless of the seaso...more

This is the actual winter encampment location of George Washington and his troops in the winter of 1777. Functioning as a living memorial to Washington and his troops' sacrifices during the war, you can ex...more

Paddleboard yoga! Need we say more? This refreshing take on yoga will test your balance even more than typical yoga does (looking at you, tree pose), with the added benefit of cooling water breezes and --...more

Philly's Fairmount Park contains multitudes, one of which is the Chamounix Equestrian Center. The Center is based out of the full service Chamounix Stables and is primarily dedicated to providing equestria...more

Paesano's Philly Style
$$ Italian Market/Bella Vista

Despite being smack dab in the center of the Italian Market, Paesano's is making hoagies that are anything but old-school. Paesano’s menu features fantastical flavor combinations -- top choice has got to g...more

From three Andrew Bro-nums, Bottle Bar East's a two-story beer-mart-cum-bar-cum-gastropub-cum-game-room that looks like a cross between the factory in Rudy... Ruuuudy...RUUUUDY... RUUUUUUUDY... and the ult...more

$$ Fishtown

Stock serves Vietnamese cuisine of high quality—grass-fed beef make up hearty broths. Vegetarian options are available like maitake and shiitake mushroom soup, complete with coconut milk, crushed peanuts,...more

Union Transfer
Spring Garden

Located in what was until recently Spaghetti Warehouse, and before that a train depot, Union Transfer's an all-ages concert hall, harkening back to its heritage by slathering its patrons in delicious marin...more