With paddle boats and Philly’s largest outdoor restaurant, Penn’s Landing has become a destination for summer fun

Liberty Point is like Spruce Street Harbor Park’s more sophisticated best friend.

One of the many seating areas at Liberty Point restaurant at the Independence Seaport Museum

One of the many seating areas at Liberty Point restaurant at the Independence Seaport Museum

Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

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Standing between canopy-covered tables and terraced stone seating, gazing out over blue water as you watch bartenders shake cocktails and families fall on baskets of food, it’s hard to remember you’re in the middle of Philadelphia.

But that’s new restaurant Liberty Point, with 1,400 seats backing its boast of being the city’s largest.

Wrapping around and above the Independence Seaport Museum, the new outdoor dining spot from FCM Hospitality strengthens the transformation of the long under-appreciated, long under-utilized Delaware Riverfront.

Philly’s waterfront at Penn’s Landing now feels like a true summer destination.

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Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

The area is only in the early stages of a planned $2.2 billion overhaul, which will bring 3.3 million square feet of new development including mixed-use towers, ground-floor retail, and a new public park stretching over the I-95 corridor (but not a new Sixers arena).

Crowds already come to the small green space carved into the basin there, thanks to Spruce Street Harbor Park. Launched in 2014, it was one of the first successful activations by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, the public-private entity that’s also behind the Cherry Street Pier and is a partner in Liberty Point.

And SSHP is back for another season — with the hammocks, light shows, giant chess, boardwalk-style food, and Oasis Barge Bar that made it cool to come to the river again.

But now the chatter and excitement doesn’t stop at the edge of the park. Thanks to the draw of the new restaurant, the flow of pedestrians continues north and east, rounding out over the waterfront.

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Dock catch your eye? You can rent the colorful, dragon- and swan-shaped paddle boats lined up in the basin ($12 for a half hour), and head out onto the water to access cooling breezes plus up-close views of the historic ships docked to the south. If you plan in advance you can sign up for a kayak excursion there, too.

Or continue walking and hit the line of ice cream, water ice, and dippin dots trucks that line the riverbank’s edge.

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Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

Turn again and you’ll see the entrance to the restaurant, a steep flight of steps that leads to a blond-wood cacophony of interlocking patios and bars, all with great views.

Reservations are a good idea for groups, but you can usually find a spare stool or two.

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Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

With a menu of snacks and sandwiches that doesn’t top $20, and both beer and cocktails on tap, you’ll be able to eat and drink while looking at the Ben Franklin Bridge, ships making their way into port, and the SS New Jersey, docked across the river in Camden.

It all makes for a pretty impressive scene. If you’ve got friends visiting for the weekend, or just want to take a mini summer vacation without leaving home, Philadelphia’s waterfront is now a highly valid option.

Scroll down for more pics of Paddle Penn’s Landing and Liberty Point.

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