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FunTimes Magazine

Black Philly on the Move: Exploring Hidden Parks, Trails, and Outdoor Activities

Mar 06, 2024 12:00PM ● By Gift Joe

Photo by Kevin Liu

Philadelphia, the birthplace of the United States, is known for its rich history and iconic landmarks like the Independence Hall, Benjamin Franklin Museum, Betsy Ross House, and more. But, once you’ve visited all the top sites, what’s next? You may be looking to explore something not so regular and wondering where to find such. Aside from the popular historical sites, the city also boasts a wealth of hidden gems for those in the know - and you are about to be one of them.  

Attracting millions of tourists every year, Philly is an outdoor paradise that provides a breath of fresh air amid the urban hustle for solos, couples, families, and friends.

Have you been searching for some of the best places to walk, hike, or engage in other outdoor activities that not many people know about? We have got you covered with some of the hidden parks, scenic trails, and outdoor activities that will leave you with lasting memories.

Bartram’s Garden

Image Source: Bartram's Garden

This peaceful oasis in the middle of South Philly is America's oldest living botanical garden, featuring Bartram's 18th century home and farm buildings, historic botanical garden, wildflower meadow, water garden, freshwater wetland, parkland, river trail, and a museum shop. This little piece of history is full of natural beauty. It is one of the hidden gems where one can enjoy the outdoors. It is a great place to stroll as you enjoy wildflowers, plants, and trees whose history stretches back centuries. Visitors can also go bird watching, catch a breeze along the River Trail, and enjoy the beautiful view of the Philadelphia skyline.

The Shofuso Japanese House and Garden 

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

If you want a relaxing afternoon, away from the chaos of touristy spots, this beauty, located in Fairmount Park just a few miles from Center City, is the place to be. This traditional-style Japanese house reflects the history of Japanese culture in Philadelphia, from the 1876 Centennial Exposition to the installation of its contemporary paintings in 2007. The Japanese house, the garden with a tiered waterfall, and the koi pond are the definition of a Philadelphia hidden gem. March is a particularly good time to visit when the cherry blossoms on the property and right outside the walls are blooming.

James G. Kaskey Memorial Park

 Image Source: University of Pennsylvania

This ecological oasis on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania is a beautiful and peaceful place to be surrounded by nature and get away from the noise and pollution of the city. This hidden gem, known to many as the BioPond, is home to a variety of flora and fauna. With its countless footpaths winding through serene gardens and secluded forests, there couldn’t be a better setting for some fun and quiet time.

Wissahickon Valley Park

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

It is a great place to unwind and escape from the hustle and bustle of the city with different fun things to do. The park is heavily wooded with so many trails for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and running. Whether you're an avid hiker, a trail runner, or just seeking a scenic walk, you will have an experience to cherish as you stroll through this undisputed gem of Philadelphia’s park system.

Southeast Asian Market

This open-air market is a cultural and community hub where you can take your tastebuds on a tour, sampling the different flavors from Cambodia to Thailand and others. There are so many local dishes from different countries, along with groceries and trinkets. You could sit out on the large lawn to picnic after patronizing the local entrepreneurs.

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum

Located right by the airport, this hidden gem in Philadelphia is a great place for a run and to see an amazing sunset. Visitors can explore a rich diversity of fish, wildlife, and plants native to the Delaware River Watershed. For the sports enthusiasts, you can enjoy 10 miles of low-lying trails for hiking and biking, as well as 4.5 miles of tidal creek (accessible via boat ramps) for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing access. Wildlife enthusiasts can spot 300-plus varieties of resident and migratory birds and numerous land animals, including several endangered and threatened species such as eastern redbelly turtles and coastal leopard frogs.

Rail Park

Image Source: The Rail Park

You would probably never know this existed unless you were lucky to find out about it. Once home to the Reading Railroad viaduct, a section of overgrown, unused rail lines was transformed into a public park for all. The free, pet-friendly space has native plants and trees, walking paths, and even swings above Center City, offering a unique perspective on Philadelphia's urban landscape.

Fountain Street Steps

Image source:

This is another hidden gem not many know about. Also known as “Water Under The Bridge,” this set of stairs connecting the Schuylkill River trail to Manayunk’s main street will make you feel like you’re walking on water. This stunning work by mosaic artist Beth Clevenstine and muralist Paul Santoleri has 70 steps adorned in colored glass that combine to look like a waterfall. This is one of Philly’s best-kept secrets, hidden in plain sight.

Ringing Rocks County Park

Explore this mysterious 128-acre boulder field where all of the rocks ring like a bell when struck. Bring along your hammer to take a swing and experience the wonders of Mother Nature at work. You don’t want to miss experiencing this unexpected and unforgettable sound. This is a great spot for a picnic break, a date, or just an avenue to relax in nature.

Treehouse World

Image Source: Treehouse World

This park provides a stimulating outdoor experience for the whole family. There’s an activity for everyone, from small kids to bigger kids. Treehouse World is not just for kids, adults can also enjoy the unique activities at the park. There are a dozen themed treehouses and a bevy of outdoor activities such as rock climbing, ax throwing, bungee jumping, and zip lining. There’s even a small animal farm on-site.

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