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Philadelphia and South Jersey Staycation Ideas and Local Activities: Lake Nockamixen and Fairmount Park Forbidden Drive

Updated on July 22, 2011

If you live in or near Philadelphia or South Jersey and are planning a stay at home vacation (staycation) this year, the last thing you probably want to do is to visit all of the tourist attractions in Philadelphia. After all, you're not a tourist and you probably don't want to be shuffling around the Liberty Bell with a crowd of people. Save those destinations for when you're entertaining out of town guests and instead choose these local gems, Fairmount Park and Lake Nockamixen, for your Philadelphia and South Jersey vacation.

Beautiful Wissahickon Creek
Beautiful Wissahickon Creek
Disc Golf at Sedgley Woods, Fairmount Park
Disc Golf at Sedgley Woods, Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park

At 9200 acres, Fairmount Park is the largest inner-city park in the United States and takes up more than 10% of the land in the city of Philadelphia. There are several different sections of the park, each with it's own character and activities.

Wissahickon Valley Park: There are several access areas with parking. One is along Northwestern Avenue near Germantown Avenue. Another is located on Bells Mill Road between Stenton and Ridge. You can also park at Valley Green and finally, there's an access location on Lincoln Drive near Wissahickon Avenue.

The beautiful Wissahickon Creek runs through this valley. On either side you'll find numerous trails, large boulders, and breathtaking scenery. This area is great for a hike or trail bike ride. An interesting hike is from Valley Green to Devil's Pool. Starting at Valley Green, hike southeast on the side of the creek opposite Forbidden Drive, taking the lower path. You'll hike over large boulders and eventually will reach a pond fed by a rushing creek. You can wade in it, swim, or join the brave that jump from the cliff into the pond.

Another, easier hike is Forbidden Drive, which got its name when cars were banned from it. Running along one side of the river, this flat, wide stretch of dirt road is ideal for those who aren't ready for the rigors of the trails or if you're going with young children.

A perfect day activity here would be to spend some time hiking, biking or fishing, followed by a bite to eat at the Valley Green Inn, which is located on Forbidden Drive or Bruno's on the corner of Northwestern and Germantown Avenues. The Valley Green Inn is a historic building where you can sit on the front porch and eat, taking in the creek with its numerous geese and all of the surrounding beauty. Bruno's has an old-time diner feel with milk shakes and a variety of foods.

East Fairmount Park: Located along the Schuykill River, the East side of the park is home to Kelly Drive and Boat House Row. As most locals know, Kelly Drive is a great place to run, bike or rollerblade because there's a four mile long paved path. A lesser known activity on the east side of the park is Disc Golf at Sedgley Woods. Located at 33rd and Oxford Streets and established in 1977, it's the second oldest Disc Golf course in the country. This park is open to the public and charges no fees to play. The course is filled with mature trees and makes you feel like you're a world away from the city. What a great way to spend a few hours on vacation. Follow that with a meal in the Art Museum area for a great staycation activity.

West Fairmount Park: West Fairmount Park is home to the Philadelphia Zoo, the nation's first zoo. If you've never been there, or even if you have, it's a great destination for a staycation. Aside from the grounds and animals, visitors can go on a hot air balloon ride. There are also events throughout the summer, such as a Wine Safari and the Summer Ale Festival for adults or free concerts for people of all ages. It's easy to spend an entire day here as one day of your staycation.

Nockamixen Marina
Nockamixen Marina

Lake Nockamixen

Not many locals know about Lake Nockamixen, a wonderful place to spend a day or a weekend. This 5200 acre State Park, located in Bucks County, is dominated by the 1450 acre lake and offers a myriad of activities including sailing, fishing, kayaking, boating, camping, picnics, swimming, disc golf, and horseback riding.

The park is located five miles east of Quakertown and nine miles west of Doylestown on PA-563.

Camping: Ten cabins are available for rent year round on the south side of the lake. These two bedroom cabins offer full kitchens and bathrooms with electric heat. Outside you'll find a grill, fire-ring, and picnic area. The minimum rental time in the summer is one week and in the other seasons it's two nights.

Swimming: Nockamixen State Park has a swimming pool with two water slides and fountains that the kids will love.

Boating: The park has a boat rental concession available where you can rent canoes, motor boats, kayaks, pontoons, rowboats or paddle boats. Rates are reasonable and the lake is large enough to enjoy for hours. There's also a marina and boat landing so if you have your own boat you can launch it here (up to 20 hp motors are allowed). There are also many sailboats in the marina and on the lake, although they're not available for rentals. If you have your own, this is a great place to get some sailing time in.

Horseback Riding: Horses are available for rent at nearby Haycock Stables. You can then explore fourteen miles of trails throughout the park.

Disc Golf: The park offers a Disc Golf course. This 18 hole course is located near Parking Lot 13.

Fishing: The lake is a warm water fishery where you can find Walleye, Bass, Catfish, and more. Permits are required. There's a fishing pier at the mid-point of the lake.

The activities shown here are enough to keep you busy for a week or more of staycation in the Philadelphia area. Not only will you save money over flying somewhere but you'll also discover new and exciting things to do right in your own backyard.


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    • tilinaoita profile image

      tilinaoita 6 years ago

      Great article. This should be a beautiful location to take into consideration for one of my next travels.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Wow.... this was amazing place. Very well written and thanks for give us nice description. I hope I have a chance to visit this park and lake someday. Beautiful place with stunning pictures. Well done, my friend. Rated up!


    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 6 years ago from South Carolina

      Great hub. I live in southern Delaware but can easily do a day trip to the Philadelphia area. Didn't know about the places that you've written about. Am going to book mark this hub for future reference.

    • SD Dickens profile image

      SD Dickens 6 years ago

      Thanks Peggy!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Fantastic idea for those in the area of Philadelphia and South Jersey. Those parks are all inviting and I was impressed with the accommodations in cabins as shown in that YouTube video. Up and useful rating!