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Move for Homes Blog

Philadelphia Parks for Outdoor Exercise

by Joe Tatum, Volunteer Manager

Spring is fast approaching, and after a year of being inside more than usual, it is easy to forget all of the wonderful green spaces Philadelphia has to offer. Sometimes, we want to go back to our favorite spots, while other times we just want something new and different.

Hopefully, this list will help you prepare and get excited for Move for Homes! Some parks are more accessible via bicycle and have more room to do a more comprehensive movement, while others are short and more conducive to yoga or a short walk. For other movements such as climbing or horseback riding or surfing, you may have to find spots outside Philadelphia. Maybe you can catch some waves on the Schuylkill. 

As much as possible I will also tell you some of my favorite local businesses to patronize while you’re at a particular park or trail, if you’re like me and want to eat, drink, and exercise all in one go. I hope this inspires you to adventure throughout Philadelphia this summer!

A map that links our to a Google Map of all locations mentioned below.

Click the map to expand and find all park locations mentioned below.

Room to Move

Bartram’s Garden 

A true hidden gem of Southwest Philadelphia, this area not only provides beautiful views and a variety of vegetation, but it also focuses on local food sovereignty by partnering with the local community to grow food alongside neighbors. Habitat for Humanity has partnered with them in the past to build garden boxes with which neighbors could grow their own food. It is definitely worth a visit if you enjoy pensively sitting next to a pond for a few minutes and then sauntering down the road to see an orchard and gardens. They have picnic tables that are perfect for a lunch treat, with plenty of varied scenery throughout. It is easily accessible via the 36 trolley, but they also have enough parking to accommodate vehicles. 

FDR Park 

This park has everything. A skate park, sports fields, trails, giant stone gazebos, and parking lots galore. A one-way road encircles the park, so I’d recommend driving around once to settle on which part of the park you want to make home base. A wonderful South Philadelphia stable, you can sit at a giant stone gazebo and gaze into the water, skateboard with some new friends, or kick a ball around. If you enjoy pups, you are in luck. There is a trail that goes around the park during which you are bound to encounter at least one hound. There are also picnic tables, sometimes an ice cream truck, and a play area for the kids. What more can you want? Did I mention the Philadelphia Flower Show will be there this year? 

Morris Arboretum 

This arboretum is kind of far from Center City, but it is completely worth the trip. With elevated treehouses, beautiful gardens, and lovely green spaces, this space has everything you need for a wonderful day out with the family. Be sure to reserve a ticket in advance. Though tickets are $20 per adult, there are many discounts and access points for those who need them. 

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge 

Often forgotten, John Heinz Wildlife Refuge features a large lake with a path around it that is perfect for walking and sightseeing. If you live in South or Southwest Philadelphia, this can be the perfect space to have a calm walk around the lake to view nature in all its glory. 

Great Views 

Rocky Steps 

One of the most definitive views in Philadelphia, the Rocky Steps is named after their iconic feature in the film Rocky. What most people do not consider is that during his training montage in the film, Rocky had previously run through South Philadelphia, traveling North and ending at the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps. If you want the true Rocky experience, take a long walk or run through the city, ending at this iconic location. There is often something going on at these steps- yoga or Zumba classes, peaceful protests, small shows, and always a few tourists. It is also right next to Kelly Drive and Martin Luther King Drive, both of which are perfect for cycling. Currently, Martin Luther King Drive is fully blocked off from automotive traffic so you have the entire road to move. There is easy access to IndeGo bicycles, which can be a great option for anyone who wants to travel from there to other parts of the city. 

Lemon Hill Mansion 

Lemon Hill Mansion is a multifaceted outdoor area. On one side of the mansion is a beautiful view of the city, including the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It is great for the end of a walk, ride, or jog if you are inclined to sit for a bit. On the other side of the mansion is a large gazebo, perfect for socially distanced hangouts with friends. There are grassy areas for stretching or playing with a pup or two. It is very close to Waterworks, which links with the Kelly Drive trail along the river, so it’s a great location for doing both in one go. 

Belmont Plateau 

If city views and sunshine are your favorite things, this spot is for you. Though far from Center City, this park sits on top of a hill that overlooks the entirety of the Philadelphia skyline. You can do a variety of activities in this open space, including traversing the trails through the trees at the bottom left portion of the hill. You’ll often find Philadelphians relaxing with friends, or playing frisbee.

Drexel Park 

This spot is on Drexel University’s campus, and it has a wonderful close-up view of the Philadelphia skyline. It’s a smaller park, but you will frequently see dogs of all sorts. Relaxing and well maintained, this park can provide some serenity within the bustle of the city. It also is very close to a location in the local brunch chain, Sabrinas, if you want to get some takeout brunch, sit, and meditate while looking at the skyline and thinking through the ways in which we are all connected in this dense cityscape. 

Cira Green 

One of the most unique and special spots in Philadelphia, Cira Green is a park that sits on the eleventh story of a parking garage. Simply walk into the parking garage under the small sign indicating Cira Green (next to the OCF Coffee shop, at which you can get some coffee to accompany you to the park), and enter the elevator to your left. There is a large button indicating Cira Green. After exiting, you go up a small flight of stairs and walk out to a rather large green space nestled between two large buildings. There are clear glass panes at the front of the park, which makes for great photographs, as well as an elevated green space for sitting in the grass. Sometimes there is a beer garden, and at times there is a large screen silently playing television shows. Apart from these distractions, this is a lovely spot to get some sun and air in a distinctly urban environment. 

The Rail Park 

While short, this is Philadelphia’s response to the New York City High Line park. Repurposing an old railway, the Rail Park has a shortelevated walkway with beautiful plants, benches, and swings on which to sit. If your movement is to walk or meditate, this can be a lovely spot to be among people but in a lovely section of Philadelphia. It is very close to a favorite brunch spot, Café Lift, as well as Love City Beer for local beer selections in a large indoor or outdoor space. 

Parks with Shade 

Clark Park 

A West Philadelphia staple, Clark Park has everything one might need in an urban park. Shady trees envelop the space, with a central gravel area set up with tables and chairs at which locals play tabletop games. A playground and grassy area complete this park that feels reminiscent of European city parks. Green Line Café can provide beverages for those who would like one while doing their movement in this beautiful park, with the perfect combination of serenity and activity. 

Rittenhouse Square 

This is one of the more recognizable parks in Philadelphia. Located in the upscale neighborhood of Rittenhouse, this park is a typical square park layout with intersecting sidewalks throughout. It has shade throughout, and you can frequently see shows or buskers performing throughout. It is perfect for laying and reading, doing yoga, or people-watching (which I would consider an activity in and of itself). Many local eateries and snack options surround the park, and it is close to the local bookstore Shakespeare and Co. At 17th and Walnut, where you can find plenty of reading material for your enjoyment or education. 

Washington Square 

Similarly designed, with a similar atmosphere, Washington Square Park is another city square park on the other side of town. If you enjoy walking historic streets and then being active in a calm yet steadily bustling park, this may be a perfect place for you. With shade and grass to spare, this often forgotten Old City park can be a great place to move or relax. 

Norris Square Park 

This park is a beautiful hidden gem of Philadelphia. Located in Old Kensington, this is a beautiful and somewhat large park that is not heavily utilized. There are sunny and shady areas throughout, and it is relatively close to businesses in the Fishtown neighborhood. It is a great place if you want to explore a new area of the city and have a great place to begin or end your journey. 

Hayes Arboretum 

Located in Germantown, this park is best if you have a vehicle to get you there. This is one of the most beautiful little spots in Philadelphia. Enter through the main entrance and go to the house and park in the lot. There are trails that go from that spot, all of which circle back around to the main house area. There are picnic tables (if they are not being used for summer camps) in the shade at the beginning. One of the most unique aspects of this area is the secret garden you can discover along one of the trails. Delights abound in this quiet arboretum. 

The Wissahickon 

This is perhaps the most popular option for those who love to do activities outdoors such as hiking, biking, or running. Wissahickon Valley Park spans over 1800 acres and includes 50+ miles of trails. Whatever movement you enjoy, you can find something to do here. There are also coffee shops and restaurants throughout, which can offer tasty food and beverages on your journey. 

Jefferson Square Park 

This is another typical square park design, with access to many South Philadelphia businesses. It is a great gathering place with plenty of sun and shade for everyone. Be sure to visit the Italian Market, Morning Glory Diner, or one of the many Vietnamese restaurants nearby before or after doing your movement in this lovely Philadelphia park. 

Near the Water 

Race Street Pier 

Perfect for yoga, Race Street Pier lies just under the Ben Frankin Bridge, jutting out into the Delaware River for picturesque views of the Camden waterfront. Just across Delaware Avenue from La Peg (which has great food, drinks, and houses Philadelphia Fringe), Race Street Pier offers seating and space for all sorts of activities that do not require much space. One dock over, at Cherry Street Pier, you can find art exhibitions, food trucks, restrooms, and shelter should weather become inclement during your stay. This can be a great spot to stop if you are biking along the river. It is also close to Old City which includes historic Philadelphia as well as restaurants and shops. 

Schuylkill Banks 

Situated along the Schuylkill River, this park provides green space at which to rest that is just next to a bike path that goes along the river. From this path, you can either take Kelley Drive bike path or MLK Jr. Drive across the river, each providing a wonderful pathway along the river for biking, jogging, or walking. If you choose to do a loop beginning with the Philadelphia Museum of Art along Kelly Drive, crossing at the East Falls Bridge, and returning on MLK Jr. Drive, you will have gone 11.6 miles. 

Penn Treaty Park 

This serene waterfront park located in Fishtown commemorates where William Penn first made the peace treaty with the Lenape tribe to found Philadelphia. The William Penn statue on top of City Hall intentionally faces this park to signify that treaty. The park itself features grassy areas perfect for any activity related to flat open spaces. It is also close to the water, which provides lovely views. 

The Navy Yard 

While many businesses are nestled into the southernmost park on this list, there are many delights to be found in this flat area. Resembling a college campus, there is a large green space in the center of the park, which provides an area in which people can do flat land activities. On weekends, few people are out and about, making this area free from crowds, which makes it ideal for secluded physical activity. 

Spruce Street Harbor Park 

This park has much to offer. Residing along the water, it offers food trucks, seating, and hammocks in the shade. It is often rather crowded on the weekends and evenings, but if you can stop by on a weekday, it can offer a lovely space to meditate. It is close to Old City and the waterfront, which means it is a great stop if you try to hit many Philadelphia parks in one day. 

Again, you can find all these parks by visiting this map!