Philly Summer Fun in the Sun: Our Favorite Kid-Friendly Outdoor Attractions
Go play outside! These hotspots are perfect for outdoor family fun.
Little darling, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter. But look outside, the sun is shining! It will be summer before you know it, and there are some amazing spots that Philly has added and revitalized over the past few years to make our summers great! Better yet, there’s even more to look forward to as we get deeper into summer!
101 S. Columbus Blvd.
Whether you’re ice skating in the winter or rollerskating in the summer, this Penn’s Landing spot is great for the whole family. Visit the Lodge for some food and relaxation, Franklin Fountain for sweet treats, the indoor arcade, and of course the giant Visit Philly chair. Summerfest also has a Midway with carnival rides and games, as well as nine holes of miniature golf.
Cold weather bonus: In the winter, the roller-rink becomes an ice rink, and the Lodge gets cozy!
301 S. Columbus Blvd.
This boardwalk upon the Delaware River is a summertime oasis for families. From lounging in a hammock to paddling on the Delaware River to playing games, there is so much to do. Stop by on Sundays at 11:30 am when PopUpPlay hosts free weekly activities for kids!
121 N. Columbus Blvd.
This past fall, the long-abandoned Municipal Pier 9 was transformed into a vibrant mixed-use public space. Cherry Street Pier includes a market with local food vendors, artist workspace, pop-up events, and an incredible open-air garden created under the pier’s steel trusses (they’ve removed the roof), complete with a café and space to play with views of the river.
210 N. 18th St.
In the summer, the Children’s Discovery Garden is the best place to splash in the city, with a boat pond, little rocks to climb, and streams to follow. If that’s not enough splashing for you, there is also the plaza fountain, which features a series of spray jets—one for each “Sister City” positioned by their global relation to Philly.
Sister Cities Park also hosts free morning children’s programming, like storytime with the library or nature exploration, and the Free Library’s book cart is a nice way to take a break from swimming. A cafe on site is very convenient for post-play snacks. And be sure to attend the weekly adult- and kid-friendly summer concert series Live at Sister Cities Park on Thursdays.
Cold weather bonus: In the winter, the pond is drained to become Imagination Playground with big blue foam building blocks.
1 S. 15th St.
Located on the west side of City Hall, rows and rows of programmed jets spring up for kids to run through! Afterwards, there’s a lush lawn, on-site café, and plenty of seating to relax and grab a snack. Weekly live music and summer movies are just some of the other fun events to look forward to at this park as well.
Cold weather bonus: In the winter, the sprinklers are covered up and an ice rink appears, bringing months of fun activities at Dilworth Park, including the market across from Christmas Village, the Wintergarden maze, and the new holiday light show projected onto City Hall.
200 N. Sixth St.
Play Philadelphia-themed mini golf, ride the Parx Liberty carousel, and play in the playground! Come now through July 14 to catch the incredible Chinese Lantern Festival, featuring larger-than-life sculptures wrapped in colorful silk and filled with thousands of LED lights. The square’s renovated fountain will debut on July 31 (the anniversary of Franklin Square’s redesign), and to celebrate the Square will have an August full of free dance parties, theme nights, pop-up beer gardens, movie nights, games, and more!
Cold weather bonus: Visit during the holidays for their Electrical Spectacle light show and weekly festive activities.
1069 Germantown Ave.
The newest addition to our lineup comes with a giant robot centerpiece! Our new friend is named BeBot, and he stands 33 feet tall to signal a new era for Northern Liberties: Piazza Pod Park. This new space for adults, kids, and dogs to gather, eat, shop, and play gets its name from the colorful “pods” made from recycled shipping containers housing retail, restaurants, and more around the park’s perimeter. The pods include everything from a mini Tildie’s Toy Box to a cozy air-conditioned nursing pod, and of course lots of delicious bites and drinks. And a kids’ play area means that you can sip your frosé while the little ones play!
13th and Noble Streets (Phase 1)
Modeled after New York’s High Line, this park will revitalize three miles of unused rail lines into a usable, beautiful, public space for all. The Rail Park is situated on two obsolete train lines, and is envisioned to include three sections: the Reading Viaduct that soars overhead, the Cut that weaves between the streets, and the Tunnel that dives underground. For now, a quarter-mile section called Phase 1 is open (beginning at 13th and Noble streets), and we love it!
2451 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
This pop-up park brings color and community to Eakins Oval for one month in the summer. There are giant lawn games and sandboxes for the kids, live music, food trucks, and special events.
Gardens and Environmental Centers
In addition to our fun pop-up spaces, there are opportunities to experience some natural splendor right inside our city limits.
Morris Arboretum is always a kid favorite for its “Out on a Limb” treehouse adventure exhibit featuring a treetop canopy and giant bird’s nest to climb into. The Garden Railway is also not to be missed, and the little log cabin is also a fun visit.
Don’t forget to visit the natural materials playground space Adventurewoods at Awbury Arboretum, while you’re at it.
Or check out Bartram’s Garden, which runs kids’ programs all summer long, and offers boating and outdoor movies too. On a nice day you can even take a Schuylkill River cruise from Center City to the garden for some added fun.
At John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, you can grab binoculars and check out the birds, or rent a fishing pole (it’s free!) and see what you can catch. The refuge hosts walks, talks, and kayak tours, too.
There are also some wonderful environmental education centers that host lots of events and activities for kids to learn and explore the world around them. Check out the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, the Wissahickon Environmental Center, and the Pennypack Environmental Center for weekly hikes, activities, and more opportunities nature exploration as a family.
And if all that’s not enough, cross the river to Camden Children’s Garden, which includes several themed gardens, a butterfly house, a sprayground, and fun rides.
Drinking Outdoors (with Kids in Tow!)
You know how else you can enjoy summertime outdoors? Day drinking!
Summer means the return of Parks on Tap, the roving beer garden that pops up at a different park every week, bringing food, drinks, and a family-friendly environment (including games for kids). It is not just a brilliant way to plan an adult evening with your kids, but it’s a great way to discover all the amazing parks and neighborhoods in all corners of our city.
There are also great locales like the PHS Pop-Up Gardens (South Street and University City), Independence Beer Garden, Morgan’s Pier, and of course the Delaware River Waterfront attractions, all of which have fun and laidback environments that make room for both craft beers and sippy cups.
Bonus: Free Outdoor Evenings!
Photographs by Laura Swartz.