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Surprise: The RiverRink is a Beach!

Summer fun at the Waterfront is very different this year, but it’s open!

One of our favorite things to do in the summer is to visit the Delaware River Waterfront for beautiful views, boardwalk-style fun, skating, food, and more. This year, as quarantine spring slid into generalized pandemic summer, we began to give up hope. We walked along Penn’s Landing for the atmosphere and exercise—and luckily Spruce Street Harbor Park remained open—but we glanced wistfully at the shuttered shipping containers that would be selling us treats in normal times. July 4th came and went, with no fireworks or concerts. Then, whisperings and cryptic social media perked us up to something happening down by the river… but what? Could our summertime sadness really be lifting?


Well, dear readers, we have some great news for you. The Waterfront is happening! Summerfest is (mostly) open, there are three new beer gardens, and even Independence Seaport Museum has reopened. Things look a lot different, so read on to learn all about what you can (and can’t) do this summer on the Delaware. As with everything, practice social distancing, stay home if you’re sick, and wear a mask (they’re required) at all times when enjoying the waterfront destinations.


Summerfest at Penn’s Landing

This Summer, a modified Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest features a new “beach”, (replacing the rollerskating rink) — complete with sand, picnic tables, and umbrellas. Each table is physically-distanced at least six feet apart. Chickie’s & Pete’s and Skelly’s Amusements have returned, serving up carnival treats, Crabfries, and more to enjoy outside at the picnic tables.


While you can’t skate this year, you can still play mini-golf, lawn games, ride the carousel and Ferris wheel, and play a variety of carnival games for prizes! Plus, food from Chickie’s & Pete’s, carnival food (think funnel cake and fried Oreos), and soft-serve ice cream are all available to enjoy at the picnic tables on the beach or on the porch of the Lodge where the rocking chairs are set up for the season. Speaking of chairs, don’t miss a family photo in the giant red Visit Philly chair!

Spruce Street Harbor Park

Walk around to SSHP and enjoy more food like fish tacos from Garces’ Buena Onda, burgers from Garces’ Village Burger, French Toast Bites, ice cream, boardwalk eats, and more Chickie’s & Pete’s. Plus, the new Water Garden is a brand-new floating café that is part of the new Philly River Strollthree new outdoor beer gardens located at Spruce Street Harbor Park, Cherry Street Pier, and Race Street Pier. Two-hour reservations are required for The Water Garden to assist with capacity restrictions and contract tracing. While the signature colorful hammocks of SSHP are missing this year (because coronavirus), you can still catch the nightly light shows.


Independence Seaport Museum

The museum is limiting admission with a timed ticketing system (with half-hour slots) and is open on weekend only. Tickets are on a first-come, first-serve basis so advanced tickets are highly recommended.  Visitors will be able to explore new installations on the second floor as well as experience the museum’s permanent exhibits, including River Alive. National Historic Landmark ship Cruiser Olympia will also be open for visitors to board, but the Submarine Becuna will remain closed. Follow social distancing and remain 6 feet apart from other guests—markers will be placed on the floor as reminders.


The Delaware River Waterfront attractions Summerfest and Spruce Street Harbor Park will be open Mondays—Fridays from 5—11 pm and weekends from noon—11 pm. Independence Seaport Museum is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am—5 pm.


Admission is free for all locations along the waterfront, but attractions like Ferris wheel, golf, 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.



Photographs by Laura Swartz.

Contributing Writer