The Best Outdoor Activities in Philadelphia

Philadelphia is an incredible city with lots of wonderful attractions. But sometimes you just want to be outside, soak up the sunshine and breathe the fresh air. Don’t fret! There are some great outdoor activities in Philadelphia and the region to keep you occupied.

When it comes to things to do outside in Philly, there are no limits to the number and diversity of activities. From hiking to lounging on the beach, you can fill your days with adventure…or just do nothing at all.

Here is our list for all of the great outdoor things to do in Philly:

Relaxing at Spruce Street Harbor Park

Floating gardens and people sitting on floating platform in Delaware River
Grab a seat and enjoy the water views.

Since 2014, Spruce Street Harbor Park has been one of the best urban beaches in America. Located on the bank of the Delaware River, this is the spot to come and hang out on the water in downtown Philly. Whether you swing in a hammock, recline in an oversized chair, or perch yourself at a table, there is just something relaxing at being this close to the water.

Add in food trucks, cool LED lights at night and watching the passing boats on the river, this spot has everything you need to kill an afternoon. Bring a book, grab some tacos, and enjoy Philadelphia outdoors in the summer!

Experience Peace at Shofuso House and Garden

House and gardens
The gardens at Shofuso are as impressive as the house

The Shofuso House and Garden is the gem of Fairmount Park. This Zen-like retreat was constructed in Japan in 1953 in the same traditional 17th century-style and using traditional building methods. The home was moved to this site in 1957, where the traditional Japanese gardens had been built in 1909.

The beautiful gardens surrounding the home contain a traditional koi pond, small stone monuments and cherry trees. Do not the cherry blossom bloom here in the spring. While there are blossoms throughout the city, this spot is magical.

Birding at John Heinz NWR

Adjacent to the Philadelphia International Airport, the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is an oasis away from the city. Here, birds and other wildlife call the largest freshwater tidal basin in Pennsylvania home.

There are lots of trails and the spot offers the best bird watching in Philadelphia. Visit to spot a new bird species, or take a kayak out on the water for a different vantage point.

Walking in Wissahickon Valley Park

The Wissahickon Valley Park is a narrow sliver greenery through Northwest Philly near the Chestnut Hill section of the city. Named after the Wissahickon Creek that flows through this gorge of the same name, this park is one of the best outdoor spaces in the city.

Just slightly smaller than the massive Fairmount Park, the Wiss (as locals call it) is a fantastic place to hike or mountain bike. Whether you are interested in a relaxing stroll on Forbidden Drive or a challenging trek along the Orange Trail of the gorge walls, this is one of the best outdoor places in Philadelphia and is a great way to spend a day.

Touring Valley Forge

Log cabin in field
There are several replica log cabins in Valley Forge

Every child in America learns the history of Valley Forge. This is America’s most important Revolutionary War site. In the winter of 1777, General George Washington led his troops away from the city. Over 2,000 of his died during the long, cold winter.

Today, the Valley Forge National Park is a beautiful suburban park in Montgomery County with over 3,500 acres. Walkers and bicyclists make use of the five-mile paved loop trail. It’s not uncommon to see families having a picnic and it is a great place for flying a kite or sledding in the winter.

Hit the Beach

In the summer, it seems like the entirely of Philly leaves the city and heads ‘down the shore.’ There are over 15 great beaches near Philadelphia on both the New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland coastlines. This is a chance to hit the boardwalk, get some sand between your toes, and work on that tan.

While the water is the same cool Atlantic Ocean, each beach town has its own distinctive ambiance and vibe. The young, party crowd heads to Seaside Heights and families turn their attention to Margate. And just like the classic debate on the best cheesesteak in the city, everyone has their own opinion what is the best shore town.

Strolling in Laurel Hill Cemetery

Overhead view of the Schuylkill River crossed by a bridge in the distance
View of the Schuylkill River from Laurel Hill

If the idea of visiting a cemetery does not sound relaxing, you would be wrong. The Laurel Hill Cemetery is an entirely different kind of cemetery. Since it opened in 1836, it has been a place of beauty and enjoyment.

Laurel Hill is in the East Falls section of the city and sits on a bluff at a bend in the Schuylkill River. From the hilltop perch, there is a commanding 250-degree view of the river channel. The nearly 30,000 monuments, headstones and mausoleums in the cemetery are designed with an eye to aesthetic beauty.

People visit to gawk at the monuments, walk the beautiful paths and take in the incredible river views. On warm summer days, you will find people having picnics under the large trees throughout the cemetery.

Peer at the Cherry Blossoms

Over time, the Japanese government has gifted cherry blossoms to various cities in the U.S. The city of Philadelphia received over 1,600 cherry trees in 1926 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of American independence. While other (lesser) cities are more famous for their cherry blossoms, everyone knows the best ones are in Philly!

The cherry blossoms can be seen for a brief period of time in the spring. The Japanese garden at Shofuso is a popular viewing spot. But some of the best blossoms can be found on the west side of Art Museum and along the Schuylkill River banks. But some of the most unique viewing is along the streets of Center City, particularly Panama and Manning Streets.

Swimming in a Local Lake

In Philadelphia, we are blessed with close proximity to a number of excellent freshwater lakes. These large bodies of water are great for fishing, boating, kayaking and even swimming. There’s nothing quite so refreshing as dipping into a lake to cool off on a hot summer day.

Two of our favorite lakes near Philly are Bellmawr in New Jersey or Blue Marsh near Leeport. Both have great swimming and other amenities.

Gawk at Graffiti Pier

Small mural of Edgar Allen Poe and graffiti
Small mural of local boy Edgar Allen Poe

One of the great outdoor Philadelphia adventures is gawking at the sites at graffiti pier. The modern street art movement was started in Philly in 1967. Since then, the art form has taken of.

In North Philly, an abandoned railway pier stretches into the Delaware River. The concrete columns are completely covered in tags and murals. This site has been recognized as a cultural institution and the city is turning the space into an urban park. Seeing this unusual spot is one of the best outdoor things to do in Philadelphia.

Walk with Goats at Awbury Arboretum

One of the most unusual outdoor activities in Philadelphia is goat walking at the Awbury Arboretum. Located in the Germantown section of the city, this large arboretum and park is a greatly underappreciated crown jewel in the city’s greenspace.

The Philly Goat Project maintains a small herd at The Farm at Awbury Arboretum. The goats keep the weeds down, but are also engaged in therapy work with people with disabilities. Participating in a goat walk is a cool way to see the park.

Relax in Bartram’s Garden

Located on a beautiful stretch of the Schuylkill River, Bartram’s Garden is the oldest botanical garden in North America. King George III’s private botanist, John Bartram, started building this beautiful space in 1728, long before the United States became an independent country.

This is a great place to walk the paths, look at wildflowers, and watch boats on the river. It is also one of our favorite places for a picnic in the city.

Smell the Flowers at Bowman’s Preserve and Tower

Fall foliage near river
The view of the Delaware River from Bowman’s Tower

Located in Bucks County near the Delaware River, this 134-acre private nature preserve offers great walking paths surrounded by native wildflowers and trees. As the seasons turn, the local blooms can be seen throughout the park. This is also a great spot for birding.

From the top of Bowman’s Hill Tower, a 125-foot-tall tower, there are commanding views of the Delaware Valley and Bucks County. This is the best spot to take in the fall foliage in the region.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *