Travel

Escape Philly Without Leaving Town By Visiting These 11 Places

You could use a break.

Make no mistake: Philly is a magical city. From its vibrant neighborhoods to its quaint parks, the city is rife with curiosities at every turn. But sometimes the bustle and routine of city life can throw you into a funk and you might need a little escape. With larger travel plans effectively put on hold, it’s possible to get away without venturing outside of city lines. Achieve your exotic travel goals in these dreamy courtyards, secret enclaves, and other unbelievable Philly locales.

Immerse yourself in greenery at Bartram’s Garden

Kingsessing
This historic 45-acre botanical garden is named for John Bartram, who purchased the land in 1728 and collected seeds and plants from North America to foster there. Those collections of plants, along with the stone house John Bartram lived in, are available to view today, transporting you back to a colonial garden wonderscape.

Explore these graffiti-laden cliffs

Fairmount Park
For a glimpse of modern ruins within the city, look no further than The Cliffs. Behind the grounds of Sedgley Woods Disc Golf in Fairmount Park is the ruins of a historic country house, built in 1753. After vandalism and arson in the 1980s destroyed most of the structure, its masonry remains, adorned in graffiti. 

Walk along creeks on a former golf course

FDR Park
After frequent flooding and a downturn in sales caused the golf course at this South Philly park to close for good in 2019, the abandoned amenity now feels like wild, uncharted territory. With overgrown green, lush trails, and some lovely green creeks, this may be one of the closest brushes with actual nature you’ll get in South Philly.

Pretend you’re in Europe at John F. Collins Park

Center City
Sandwiched between a pizza joint and a bagelry is one of Center City’s most serene hideaways. With vines of ivy crawling up and down the walls and native trees like redbud, dogwood, sugar maple, hickory, and American holly shading the space, this narrow enclave evokes European romanticism without leaving North America.

Walk through history at Mount Moriah Cemetery

Kingsessing
Although Philly has its fair share of famous cemeteries (Laurel Hill, Christ Christ Church, Old Pine), it’s Mount Moriah, which closed in 2011, that has a sense of abandonment. The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery are currently working to restore the cemetery to its former glory, and right now, visiting it feels like a trip through history, with Civil War veterans, former mayors, and Medal of Honor winners buried there.

Channel your inner Tony Soprano at Palizzi Social Club

Center City
This Italian-American supper club has been around for more than 100 years, serving up stellar cocktails, raviolo, veal, and more in a South Philly rowhome. Due to the pandemic, Palizzi is popping up in a secret garden courtyard for members only (so make sure you have your card with you). With only six tables, and two seatings per night, the dining experience will evoke an old-school family-style Italian affair.

Create your own Oktoberfest at Rieker’s Prime Meats

Fox Chase
Take a trip to Germany without leaving Philly at this German delicatessen. The counter is stocked with plenty of German sausages and the quaint environs feel pleasantly old world. The scents and foods are authentic and evoke an escapist experience — and you only have to go to Fox Chase to do it.

Let James G. Kaskey Memorial Park inspired your plant goals

UPenn BioPond
On the University of Pennsylvania campus is a former site of waste hills, sand, and gravel transformed into a botanical garden. With hundreds of unique plant types, the garden is a green haven amid a college campus environment, ideal for pretending you’re a Victorian lady reading a book in the park.

Teleport to Tokyo at Shofuso Japanese House and Garden

Fairmount Park
This 17th century-style Japanese house was built in Nagoya, Japan in 1953 and was disassembled and reassembled in Fairmount Park a few years later. Surrounded by a period-specific garden, featuring a pond and waterfall, the grounds are perfectly manicured and will immediately transport you to Japan. (Bonus points: Fairmount Park is also home to other historic houses, which are also available to visit.)

Recreate a rom-com on Stamper Street

Headhouse Square
This tiny cobblestone side street between Pine and Lombard and 2nd and 3rd streets is lined with ivy and other plant life, plus there’s a romantic courtyard toward 2nd Street that’s surrounded by early 1800s homes. It’s a scene that feels straight out of a movie.

Create enviable Instagram content at Wine Garden West

Cedar Park
Romantic tropical vibes abound at this outdoor wine garden. Complete with a lush living wall adorned with a “The Wine Garden” neon sign, it’s the perfect place to snap a few photos. Don’t forget your frosé, vegan ice cream, or water ice.

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Allie Volpe is a Philadelphia-based contributing writer, who created this Twitter thread that highlights hundreds of off-the-beaten-path escapes, recommended by locals.