There are lots of enticing outdoor spots to picnic, walk, jog, run and bike in Philadelphia, making it easy to social distance. And it’s a great time to visit sights that might ordinarily be overlooked.
Top Spots to Social Distance in Philly
Laurel Hill Cemetery
This historic cemetery is interesting, beautiful, secluded and it welcomes visitors who are vertical (as opposed to the horizontal “residents”). Laurel Hill opened in 1836 and was the nation’s first cemetery designated as a National Historical Landmark. Stroll the architecturally-designed paths through the 78-acre cemetery and you’ll discover incomparable vistas of the Schuylkill River, elaborate marble and granite tombstones and mausoleums with local names like Rittenhouse and Strawbridge. The cemetery is the final resting place of General George Meade and about 40 other Civil War-era generals, six Titanic passengers, and, more recently Phillies sportscaster Harry Kalas. The grave of the award-winning sportscaster is marked by seats from Veterans Stadium and a large stone microphone. Walkers, runners and bicyclist are welcome. Gates are open daily from 7 am- 7 pm. Tip: Download the mobile app for a self-guided tour.
John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove
The beauty and variety of the birds along Perkiomen Creek inspired John James Audubon’s lifelong passion. Although he only lived there from 1803 to 1806, it’s where he developed the technique that would make him one of the world’s best known wildlife artists, led to his seminal work, The Birds of America, and put in flight the creation of the Audubon Society.
The new John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove preserves Audubon’s first home in America and the two hundred-acre estate. While the museum is currently closed, there is a play space where children can pretend to build a nest or take flight and five miles of marked trails for bird watching. Tip: The early bird gets the worm. The earlier you visit, the more birds you’ll see.
Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia
There’s no better way to enjoy the city’s rich architecture than by taking one of the walking tours offered by the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. Enthusiastic volunteers, many of whom are retired architects, lead the tours, pointing out details you may have never noticed and can’t believe you have missed. Being able to identify Italianate row houses on Spruce Street, seeing the influence of Philadelphia architect Frank Furness; or noticing identical twin townhouses created for sisters getting married the same summer, really enhance strolls through the city. The architectural walking tours are ideal for inquisitive locals who relish the idea of learning more about their community and seeing the buildings along their regular routes with fresh eyes or discovering neighboring areas. Visitors will enjoy the variety of architecture in Philadelphia and the history and personality of its neighborhoods.
The tours are currently being offered with safety protocol in place. During tours, the guide and all participants must wear masks covering their nose and mouth at all times, All participants must stay 6 feet apart. Check the website for details. Tip: If you prefer to go it alone, you’ll find self-guided tours on the Preservation Alliance’s website too.
Fairmount Park, the nation’s largest urban park, is a great place to explore and, yes, it’s bigger than NYC’s Central Park. Set out on your own for a walk past Boathouse Row, working boathouses for social and rowing clubs. Pick a trail for a hike or bike ride. Or visit the Shofuso Japanese House and Gardens, a traditional Japanese-style house alongside tranquil gardens with a waterfall, a koi pond, and greenery. The grassy areas along MLK Drive are an ideal place to picnic, as it’s currently closed to traffic from Eakins Oval to the East Fall Bridge. Among the park’s current group offerings are guided hikes, trail runs and yoga classes. Attendance at events is capped at 25, in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines. All participants will be required to wear a face mask, stay six feet apart and to stay home if they or members of their household are showing any symptoms of COVID-19.
Tip: Drive by at night to see one of Philadelphia’s most iconic scenes - the beautifully lit Boathouses along the Schuylkill River.
Mural Arts Philadelphia
Philadelphia is the mural arts capital of the world with more than 4,000 delightful, quirky pieces of public art. Walking around the city you’ll stumble upon trompe l’oeil murals, portraits, abstracts, and paintings of lush gardens. The murals aren’t just amazing and amusing, they also bring together communities. The Mural Arts Program started in 1984 to eradicate graffiti and is committed to the idea that art ignites change. Each mural is like an autobiography of its neighborhood, representing something meaningful to the community.
Mural Arts Philadelphia is once again offering guided tours. For the safety of guests, a proper face covering is required (no exceptions). Groups are limited to 10 people at a time. Tickets must be purchased in advance (no walk ups).
Tip: Visit here to find the murals around you in real time.
Now’s the time to snag spots on tours. With access to your own guide, it’ll feel almost like a private look at architecture or murals in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.