Delaware River Waterfront Opens for the Season
Summerfest at the RiverRink, Spruce Street Harbor Park, and more are open for all the warm weather fun!
Rejoice, Philly, it’s time to return to sunshine, warm weather, and that Delaware River waterfront life. Spruce Street Harbor Park and Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest open for the season on May 10, flanking Penn’s Landing with both a playground and oasis perfect for all ages. The park will open seven days a week starting May 24, but you can check it out this weekend and next weekend before then! And in addition to our little slice of boardwalk heaven, the new Cherry Street Pier remains open with even more fun, food, and festivals all spring and summer.
President of Delaware River Waterfront Corporation Joseph Forkin sums it up best: “When we activate public spaces, we add value to the lives of Philadelphia residents and visitors who enjoy hundreds of events each summer, most of them free. We’re proud to contribute to the cultural and economic vitality of the waterfront, the city, and the region.”
Here’s all you can look forward to on the Waterfront this season!
The Blue Cross RiverRink is Philadelphia’s only outdoor roller skating rink, and has amazing views of the river and Ben Franklin Bridge. Adults can rent traditional roller skates as well as inline skates, and the RiverRink even has toddler skates that go over the shoes and tighten to fit (and are much easier to balance on).
Skating admission is $3 (free for kids under 4, all Independence Blue Cross Cardholders and employees, as well as first responders and military personnel). Skate rental is $10. You can buy tickets online or at the box office outside the rink.
In addition to skating, there are so many fun activities for kids and adults of all ages. After you take off your skates, stick around Summerfest for more games, like Artful Golfer mini golf (9 holes; $5 per person), a few different carnival games where you can win stuffed animals, and lots of arcade games throughout the indoor areas.
At the far end of Spruce Street Harbor, you’ll find yet another arcade! This one is made of a shipping container to match the other stands at the SSHP boardwalk, and contains Skee-Ball, air hockey, claw crane games, Ms. Pac-Man, and two racing games. There are also some coin-op ride-ons outside the arcade. In addition to the arcade, SSHP has bocce courts, ping pong, shuffleboard, and giant games like chess and Jenga. SSHP also added some playground-style swings, which have returned to the sandy area near the paddle dock.
A couple years ago, Summerfest got a major upgrade with the addition of the Midway, adding carnival rides to its already festive vibe. Happily, the Midway has returned this year with the Ferris wheel and carousel. The Ferris wheel is 60 feet high, lights up, and offers an unparalleled aerial view of Summerfest and the waterfront. Rides are $4 per person.
Paddle your way around the Penn’s Landing basin in a kayak, rowboat, pirate ship, swan or dragon! There is but one dragon boat—may the odds be ever in your favor. But this year, the fleet is expanding with a flamingo and yellow duck (both four-seaters)! You can buy tickets at the booth next to the dock adjacent to the Independence Seaport Museum. Tickets are $8 per person for a 30-minute rental (or $6 if you’re a member of the Seaport Museum).
No prior experience or licenses are required to rent a boat, but since everyone must wear a life jacket, renters must weigh more than 35 pounds to ride. The minimum age for tandem kayaks is 9; children must be at least 11 years old to take out a single kayak. All children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Paddle Penn’s Landing is currently open every day, through September 29. The last boat leaves the dock at sunset each night.
Where to even begin? There are so many Philly favorites in one spot, as well as summertime fun foods like funnel cake, lemonade, cotton candy, and more to give you all the boardwalk carnival feels.
Let’s start with the frozen treats, because we’ve got lots of hot summer days ahead of us, and luckily there is plenty of deliciousness to cool us off. That’s all thanks to Franklin Fountain, who has not one, not two, but three outposts here. On the RiverRink side, there is Franklin Fountain’s Clubhouse Cabin, which serves ice cream, cotton candy, and more.
On Spruce Street Harbor Park’s boardwalk, you can find the S.S. Franklin, a stand made of an old shipping container that serves ice cream as well as waffles, milkshakes, and floats. In between the two, you will find the Franklin Sugar Shack, which has “Fancy Ices” (homemade fruit water ice), soft serve, and tropical-inspired drinks like sugar cane juice.
Garces favorites like Distrito tacos and Village Burger can be found at Spruce Street Harbor Park (look for the tacos over near the floating barge oasis and beer stand). HipCityVeg is also back in the SSHP food lineup, serving vegan fast-casual eats like a “Philly Steak” that’s the closest we’ve tasted to the real thing. HipCityVeg will also have vegan desserts like banana whips and shakes.
Philly fave Chickie’s and Pete’s can be found on both sides—Summerfest and SSHP—as well. On the SSHP boardwalk, you can get favorites like Crabfries and boneless wings. At the RiverRink Lodge, Chickie’s and Pete’s Crabshack has the regular options as well as an entire array of fresh seafood—don’t worry, every table has a roll of paper towels, so get cracking (literally) with abandon.
If you find yourself north at Cherry Street Pier, grab Birdie’s Biscuits, Indonesian fare from Hardena, comfort food from Cooperage, and even Little Baby’s Ice Cream– all served out of repurposed trolley cars!
Among other highlights, the waterfront is a great location for some day drinking with your kids in tow. Cherry Street Pier has beer, wine, and also features Philadelphia spirits for its signature drinks including the Cherry St. Mule and the Pier 9 Punch. You’ll also find beer gardens and bars on both sides of the RiverRink-SSHP waterfront stretch. Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest will feature a variety of local beers and summer cocktails including watermelon mojitos. During peak times, a second bar will open on the wraparound porch. And SSHP alone has three bars serving over 15 local beers, draft cocktails, and wine– including one bar in a floating barge!
Now grab that craft beer and hit the hammocks! In addition to all the fun activities, the Waterfront is also a lovely place to just sit back and relax. Spruce Street Harbor Park has over 50 handmade hammocks throughout the park (though it doesn’t feel like that many, especially on weekends when they are very hard to get!), as well as two hammock lounges you can reserve for up to 20 people.
Spruce Street Harbor Park also has an oasis made of three landscaped barges, a net lounge, and floating gardens. Here, you can relax while suspended 4 feet above the water on nets! There are also lots of colorful Adirondack chairs throughout SSHP, including the giant red Visit Philly one, so don’t forget to snap some photos there!
On the Summerfest side of the waterfront, you can take a seat at the wooden rocking chairs on the porch of the Lodge (including little kid-sized ones), as well a private little cottage near the Lodge, if you can snag it before everyone else. Summerfest also has a giant Visit Philly chair, so you don’t have to walk all the way to SSHP for that photo op.
Create and Celebrate Art
As we detailed in our preview of the exciting new space, Cherry Street Pier is home to several artists’ studios made from converted shipping containers with large glass windows—created to be completely public facing so that visitors could see how art is made, and so that the artists could meet and interact with new audiences. In addition to seeing the artists at work, there are exhibitions and craft markets planned at Cherry Street Pier all season long.
Also plan to come for monthly Kid’s Sip n’ Paint sessions. On the first Sunday of every month, resident artist Flygirrl will lead the kids through painting a dynamic piece of art that they’ll get to take home with them. Reserve your child’s canvas (and juicebox) online each month.
The season kicks off this weekend, as the Blue Cross RiverRink, Spruce Street Harbor Park, and Cherry Street Pier all get activated with festivals, skating, rides, food, and lots more family fun.
On May 11, SSHP will host A Day of Color from 1—9 pm. Celebrate the Waterfront’s opening weekend with free face painting, fun with the Clay Studio, balloon art, airbrush tattoos, and more. Registration is required. Register online HERE (or register on site that day) and pick the color you want to represent the entire day. Then rotate from station to station and enjoy a variety of free activities based on the color you choose!
Then on May 12, visit SSHP for the first of their weekly Sundays with PopUp Play— each week, enjoy a variety of free, themed, kid-friendly activities the whole family will love. From building catapults and forts to special sea creatures, this interactive program celebrates the magic of play through art, music, and science. Then head to Cherry Street Pier for the Dream Philly Festival from 1—4 pm, which aims to create an inclusive and participatory celebration where people of all ages can share their dreams. At the center of the festival will be an exhibit of thousands of student-crafted Dreamline Banners showcasing the dreams of children from around the world. Learn how to create your own banner through a fabric workshop, stop by Studio 5 for Dream Match (an opportunity to connect with organizations and individuals who’ve created dream), enjoy food vendors, poetry performances in The Platform, dream merchandise, and take home your very own free dream-in-a-bottle kit.
Kick off summer (and the Waterfront attractions beginning their all-week-long hours) with three full days of entertainment, activities, and more. SSHP will host live musical performances, make-and-take activities, and even some giveaways. Fireworks cap off the weekend of fun and welcome summer with a bang!
Movies, Music, and More!
Every Thursday night in July and August, come at 8:30 for Screenings under the Stars, a free outdoor movie series at Penn’s Landing. Movies include Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, Captain Marvel, Incredibles 2, and more. And if that’s not enough movies for you, this year Cherry Street Pier will start their own Movie Mondays beginning June 17!
The PECO Multicultural Series will take place at the Great Plaza throughout the summer, starting with the Irish Festival on June 2. These festivals include live performances, food, vendors, and more to celebrate different cultural traditions at each festival.
There is also plenty of live music planned, from Smooth Jazz Summer Nights at Penn’s Landing to Waterfront Sessions at SSHP and much more. The Philadelphia Orchestra is even planning a very special free concert on June 28, Be sure to check the schedule on the DRWC website to keep track of all their happenings.
Of course, this is not even including very special events like the spectacular fireworks celebrating Independence Day and Labor Day. There is so much to do at the Waterfront this summer, and we can’t wait!
Spruce Street Harbor Park and the Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest open for the season on May 10 for the weekends, and then all week long beginning May 24. Spruce Street Harbor Park opens at 11 am every day; and stays open until 11 pm Sunday to Thursday, and 1 am on Fridays and Saturdays. Summerfest opens at 1 pm on weekdays and 11 am on weekends; and stays open until 11 pm Sunday to Thursday, and 1 am on Fridays and Saturdays. Cherry Street Pier is open all-year-round, opening every day at 11 am.
Admission is free for all locations along the waterfront, but attractions like rides, skating, games, and food are pay-as-you-go.
Parking is available on the streets, as well as in lots located at Market Street, Walnut Street, and Lombard Circle at Columbus Boulevard. The waterfront attractions are all accessible via SEPTA bus lines and the Market-Frankford line with minimal walking. You can also take the Phlash bus, which stops directly at Penn’s Landing. If you prefer biking, there are multiple Indego stations as well as bike parking on site.
Photographs by Laura Swartz.