To celebrate spring, we asked some well-known Philadelphians to share their favorite outdoor spots in the city. What’s the mayor’s happy place? Where does the district attorney like to ride a bike? How about The Inquirer’s metro columnist, or the CEO of Saxbys?
Find out below, then tell us your favorites via the form at the end of this story.
What’s your favorite outdoor place in Philly?
Jim Kenney, Philadelphia mayor
“Franklin Square Park. It’s one of our great public spaces, and it has become an amazing example of what can be accomplished through a public-private partnership in our parks. Franklin Square has a rich history as one of the city’s five original squares, and today it brings joy to people from all walks of life. Of course, I also have pretty fond memories in this place because it’s where I get to spend time every year as Buddy the Elf. I am also looking forward to returning in May for the annual Living Flame Police and Fire Memorial Service. As the son of a firefighter, the memorial that sits on the east side of the park and the annual service have always been special to me. You have to try the Tastykake milkshake they sell at Square Burger, play a round of mini-golf, or ride the carousel while you’re there.”
Mike Newall, metro columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer
“The Navy Yard. Its beauty, its history. The oldness, the newness, the vastness, the ghosts (there are a reported few), the wildflowers and wildlife, including, yes, the cellar-dwelling fish. In the Navy Yard, you feel so set apart, even with the skyline right there looming. And though the yard has again become a thriving space in recent years — 13,500 people work in the 165 companies based there — it can still feel undiscovered. For me, anyway. Most weeks, I’m there daily — jogging, walking the dog — and I still come across new little charms. There’s one spot I admire every time I’m at the Navy Yard: a long-abandoned officer’s quarters with a wide porch overlooking the Delaware. It’s tattered, but it’s beautiful. I’m not telling which one it is, though. In my daydreams, it’s mine. Someday.”
Donna Bullock, Pa. House representative for District 195
“The Philadelphia Zoo. It is the country’s first zoo and if you ask my family, it is also the best zoo. Its where I see my boys explore and learn. It inspired our family to visit zoos around the country. We visited zoos in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, and California. We still think Philadelphia is the best. The Philadelphia Zoo is landlocked, but that hasn’t stopped it from growing. Visitors can now explore Zoo360, the world’s first system of see-through mesh trails that cross over pathways, connect habitats and encourage animals to travel up and around exhibits, visitors and other animals. It’s really cool to see a lion catch a glimpse of the lemurs hopping through crossing trails.”
Nick Bayer, founder and CEO of Saxbys
“There are so many amazing outdoor spots in Philly, but I’m going to go with the Schuylkill River Trail – specifically between Taney Park and Boat House Row. As I live and work in this area, I’m on the trail all the time – 12 months of the year. I love taking conference calls while walking the trail – maybe my most memorable was when I was on a call with Drexel’s President John Fry and he told me he wanted to partner on what has since become our Experiential Learning Program – exclusively student-run cafes on campus. The good feeling from that call is the positive vibe I take with me on all the calls I take from the Trail.”
Larry Krasner, Philadelphia district attorney
“He really enjoyed biking Kelly Drive and the Schuylkill River Trail with Judge Lisa Rau, his spouse, when he lived in the NW; perhaps the most memorable instance of this activity was putting snow chains on his bike tires to ride to his law practice during a nasty snow storm.”
– As told by Dustin Slaughter, DAO spokesperson
Steven Grasse, founder of Quaker City Mercantile
“As a Philadelphia history nerd, my easy answer is Washington Square Park. It’s one of William Penn’s five original squares and it’s full of dead bodies. It was used as a burial ground for Revolutionary war soldiers (which is why the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is there). I believe there are all sorts of other dead bodies buried there too, from criminals to freed slaves to yellow fever victims. Yet, despite this morbid history, it’s the prettiest and most quaint of the five original squares.”
Mark Squilla, District 1 councilman
“Burke Playground at 2nd and Jackson. As a community activist, we worked with then-Councilmember Frank DiCicco to rehab the entire facility. This park is opened and closed every day and programmed by the community. One of my favorite programs in the park is their Christmas event. Being Santa with Buddy the Elf (Jim Kenney) at Burke is such a feel-good moment when you get to share all those smiles and excited looks with the neighborhood children.”
Kylie Flett, director of PR and strategy at Punch Media
Rick Friedman, director of Philadelphia Fine Art Fair
“A favorite outdoor spot for me lately is right outside the 30th Street Amtrak station. I’ve been traveling often, setting up for our inaugural fair, so every time I get off the train and into the majestic grand concourse lobby, I step right outside into the fresh air. I usually sit for a few minutes in the neighboring plaza outside on one of the benches (even in the winter) and grab a pretzel and coke from a food cart. It’s the perfect place for people watching, everyone busting in and out of the famous train station. After I catch my breath, I walk a couple of blocks up Market Street to head over to our venue, the 23rd Street city Troop Armory, a dramatic, mind-boggling, historical 18th-century castle, that will be transformed April 4-7, 2019 into the city’s first contemporary art fair.”
Irene Levy Baker, author of 100 Things To Do In Philadelphia Before You Die
“This may seem cliché but my favorite outdoor spot in Philadelphia is Rittenhouse Square. You see everything from chubby toddlers imagining the goat is a real animal to well-dressed locals walking dogs they treat like humans, to the workaholic juggler to the hire-a-poet who, occasionally snags his spot. I love catching snippets of conversations from passersby and creating the rest of their story. But, my favorite thing to spot is a bridal party taking photos or, better yet, proposals in progress.”
What Philly Twitter had to say
After receiving a couple of responses via email, we decided to get more 21st-century about our method of surveying. On Twitter, people gave us the down-low on where to picnic, jog or listen to jazz in the open air. Though answers varied, some motifs that ran through.
Philadelphians love a good view — like the one that can be gazed upon from Cira Green, as @passivelurker and @soyerikagrace pointed out — and they also enjoy locales where people watching (and dog spotting) are optimal. And most folks are suckers for a hike along the Wissahickon (as @pinecohn eloquently put it, “Wissahickon trails baby”).
Neil P. Bardhan, executive director of Broad Street Review
Michael Hanisco, creator of @PhillySnark
Liliana Frankel, freelance writer
Andie Levine, coordinator at Philly PR Girl
Winston Hearn, web engineer for Vox Media
Chelsea Chamberlain, history Ph.D. candidate at Penn
What’s your favorite Philly outdoor spot?
Now we want to know your faves. Use the form below (or access it directly here).