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Top 10 Nature Nooks and Crannies in the City of Philadelphia

Updated on August 17, 2015

In addition to my latest article about Philadelphia’s Top Parks and Natural Retreats, I wanted to write an article highlighting the top nooks and crannies of this sprawling city! While I definitely enjoy diving into the serenity of the impressive parks mentioned in that article, I know most Philadelphians need something closer to Center City and the surrounding city areas. If that’s why you’re here, then let’s jump right into the Best Kept Nature Secrets of Philadelphia:

Race Street Pier

Just as Penn Treaty Park offers the best view of the Ben Franklin Bridge over the water, Race Street Pier offers the best view of the river without the Franklin Bridge. This fairly new establishment features a small lawn facing south and oversized steps on the east that act as seats for those looking to watch the Ducks (amphibious boats that drive onto land right next to the pier) dawdle down the river. The Walt Whitman Bridge forms a backdrop at the very end of the river and the outskirts of Camden can be seen across the Delaware. (Located at the corner of Race and Christopher Columbus Blvd.)

Magnolia Garden

Tucked away in the heart of Old City, this space is a favorite visit in mid-March to April when the magnolia trees are blooming; however, this nook offers a large fountain, bird bath, and plentiful seating for a quick lunch break during work or a stop on the evening walk. Located on Locust Street between 4th and 5th Streets, this park is park of the Secret Gardens of Independence Park.

The 18th Century Garden

Another truly hidden gem in the Secret Gardens of Independence Park, you won’t find this marked on Google Maps (at least not at time of writing). Situated on the northern side of Walnut Street between 3rd and 4th, this garden boast gorgeous flowers and hedge work with a veranda to provide the perfect amount of shade in the summer time.

Kaskey Park (The Bio-pond at UPENN)

This is a real University City treasure tucked into the folds of one of our nation’s oldest universities, University of Pennsylvania. The pond teems with curious turtles and the occasional Koi fish. Scattered benches and a cascading waterfall provide a go-to spot for a break from the fast-paced student lifestyle or the hustle and bustle of the 9 to 5 grind. Access to the park is from the north off Hamilton Walk or from the south off 38th and Guardian Drive.

Schuylkill River Park

This patch of green on along the banks of the Schuylkill features an impressive lawn of grass for throwing a Frisbee or having a quaint picnic, but I must admit that as a dog-lover the reason this place ranks on my list is the dog park. Dozens of dog owners and their companions converge on this simple dog park and there is always a friendly pet (and owner!) that will surely brighten your day, even if you don’t have a dog yourself! The park is even separated into smaller dogs and larger breeds. (Located east of 25th and Spruce St.)

Rittenhouse Square

Mentioned by nearly every city guidebook, Rittenhouse deserves the unavoidable mention on this list. A perfectly crafted square on the southwest corner of Walnut and 18th, this park is always abuzz with talented musicians, picnickers, readers, chess players, and the occasional weekend farmer’s market or festival. A wonderful place to take a walk and relax, Rittenhouse Square is also a stone’s throw away from many of Philadelphia’s shopping and coffee opportunities. (Located at 18th and Walnut St.)

Washington Square

The mirror of Rittenhouse Square on the other side of Broad Street, Washington Square features the same atmosphere of cool, shaded relaxation and casual city lounge area. An added perk is the humbling Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the Revolutionary War which contains an Eternal Flame that – you guessed it – is always burning. Within easy walking distance of Independence Mall and the popular Liberty Bell, you might as well throw in a visit to Independence Park across the street as well. (Located at 6th and Walnut St.)

Fitler Square

Considered as a stop by Fitler Square if you’re already heading to the Schuylkill River Park as it’s a tiny but charming patch of nature. The central fountain and flowers are the highlight, guarded at the west entrance by turtle statues and on the east by a lounging goat statue. Weekly farmer’s markets are also an attribute to this small square located on 23rd and Pine.

Spruce Street Harbor Park

Again, one of the frequently mentioned summer attractions in Philadelphia, I felt it couldn’t be left off the list. Situated at the end of Spruce Street along the Delaware River, the best time to visit this park is in the waning sunlight hours of the evening. Lounge in a rope net overtop of the river or in one of the plentiful hammocks scattered throughout. Witness it transform into a glowing sanctuary reminiscent of the Avatar movies as the sun sets and be sure to grab a local beer and play some of enjoyable games such as cornhole, giant chess, oversized Jenga, shuffleboard, bocce ball, and many more! (Located at Spruce St. and Christopher Columbus Blvd.)

Penn Treaty Park

This park is recommended for two reasons: it has the best view of the Ben Franklin Bridge over the water in Philadelphia and you’re allowed to fish at this location. The peninsula of this park offers great scenery and lighting for evening photo shoots. Other popular activities include picnics on the rolling grass and a follow-up trip to nearby Sugarhouse Casino to press your luck after you’ve watched the sunset. (Located at N. Delaware Ave. and Beach St.)

BONUS: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

The main entrance to this museum on UPENN’s campus hosts Warden Garden and a quiet fountain that can be accessed for free! Surrounding the pond are tables and chairs with umbrellas for an enjoyable meal or conversation in any weather condition. Oh, the museum’s neat, too. (Located at 3260 South St.)

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