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As temperatures finally begin to drop in Philly, autumn feels are coming to the fore. If you love fall traditions, you’re not alone: studies show that for a variety of reasons, the changing of the season makes a lot of humans happy.
Why not celebrate that happiness with some photos? Throw on your favorite fall ‘fit and some comfy walking shoes, rope a friend or significant other as your tripod, and head out.
From classics to places less well-known, here are eight spots in the middle of the city that offer great views and backdrops of foliage, art, or architecture — all for free.
The Electric Street
1300 Block of South Percy Street
Looking for something to light up your nighttime pics? You’ll find it between Wharton and Reed and 9th and 10th streets in South Philly. The Electric Street is officially the name of one art installation — by David Guinn and Drew Billiau, its colorful LED lights compliment intricate patterns painted on the building behind it — but the whole alleyway has become an art destination. Covered with miniature dioramas and yarn-bombed flowers, the winding narrow street makes a great setting anytime of day.
Anne D’harnoncourt Sculpture Garden
2600 Ben Franklin Pkwy.
With its famous steps and view of City Hall, the east side of the Philadelphia Museum of Art offers a ton of great photo opportunities, but don’t sleep on the other side. Walk around the back to find an acre of terraced enclaves, each with several pieces of sculpture. Unlike the artwork inside, these are pieces you can touch, and they make for perfect perches as you strike a pose, capturing the river or the Beaux Arts lines of the museum behind you.
Laurel Hill Cemetery
3822 Ridge Ave.
Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. April 1 to Oct. 31; 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Nov. 1 to March 31
What better way to celebrate the season than at a historic cemetery? Founded in the 1800s, the 78-acre burial ground is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s split into three sections: north, central and south, with each boasting rolling hills, sculptures, and beautiful architecture. Between the monuments, weeping willows and fall foliage, the snapshots you create here will be…well, to die for.
Folding the Prism mural
1200 Spring Garden St.
If you’re looking for a simple burst of color as a backdrop, this Callowhill mural makes an excellent choice. Inspired by the neighborhood’s history of textile production, the building-size painting by artists Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn is a collection of interlocking geometric designs in a variety of shades that fit almost any mood.
Kelly Drive, behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Hugging both sides of the Schuylkill River’s Philadelphia path, Fairmount Park offers dozens if not hundreds of photo ops. One of the best: the 15 historic boathouses that house social and rowing clubs from across the city. Paths winding down to the water’s edge let you capture wharfs and docks for a nautical scene, or choose the other side for a background of gables and brickwork. The outlines light up in different colors depending on the holiday, adding extra excitement to night shots.
Cherry Street Pier
121 North Columbus Blvd.
Hours: 12 to 10 p.m. Mon. – Thurs; 12 to 11 p.m. Fri.; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sat.; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun.
With old rail tracks still running through the center of the cavernous interior, this former municipal pier-turned-home for artist workshops is both Industrial and modern. There’s interesting iron architecture above, glimpses of the river outside, and ample space for posing pics. Add to the fall vibe by picking up cinnamon spice French Toast Bites from Lokal Artisan Foods at the beer garden while you snap a shot under the twinkling string lights at sunset.
5400 Lindbergh Blvd.
The 50-acre grounds of this historic garden offer a variety of ways to get your flora and fauna fix. The main garden features an impressive array of native plants, including a 200-year-old Yellowwood and the oldest male Ginkgo tree in North America. For a rustic feel to your photos, head to the Bartram Barn, which was built in 1775, or John Bartram’s original stone home, which looks kind of like an Italian villa met a Roman emporium.
East Cumberland and Beach Street, on the Delaware River
What started as private property and is on its way to becoming a public park is already a showstopper on many local feeds. Full of its namesake artwork, the former rail pier offers vibrant swirls of color juxtaposed by gray concrete, backed by a picturesque waterfront view with Center City at the tip. The vertical lines of the structure offer an aesthetic perfect for portrait mode. Take note: in its current state, the property is home to some poison ivy, so a pair of fall boots might a good idea.