Field Guide: Spring & Summer in Philly
It is sunny and nearly 70 degrees today in Philadelphia so my hopes for taking in warm-weather activities are at an all-time high. Cold breezes and wet rain have been bringing me down and with a rowhouse back patio constantly teasing me, any bit of sunshine and warm weather is much needed.
Below, a few of my favorite ways to spend time outdoors in Philly.
Street Art Tours with StreetsDept
Have we talked about how much free arts and culture Philadelphia has to offer? Walking this city is the best way to soak in the growing arts scene, more diverse and inclusive than ever. Local blogger, Conred Benner covers Philly street artists on foot, with camera in tow on StreetsDept.com and now you can join him on walking tours (#StreetsDept2ndSat -- happening on the second Saturday of every month during warm weather) all over the city to meet the artists and community organizations you may not have been exposed to otherwise. I recently joined his South Philly street art tour and was blown away at how much art we pass by on a daily basis without knowing the artist, the story behind it, or even realizing it's art! From tile work to graffiti to yarn bombs to stickers to stained glass, there's such a beautiful, diverse community of mission-minded people who are covering this city with meaningful artwork and activism. Enjoy some of my favorite pieces below and sign up for a tour here. Tickets start at $15 and the tours usually last around two hours.
Free house crawls with Love Your Block
When I first moved to Philadelphia, my knowledge of the city's neighborhoods were very limited. My criteria for finding a home was pretty simple: live in a rowhome on a tiny street and be near the Italians so I would have easy access to delicious food. Luckily, I found both pretty quickly. Better yet - I discovered a real estate company that runs free house crawls to explore other corners of the city. It's called Love Your Block and it's the best way to spend a weekend afternoon. Crawls start at a neighborhood coffee shop to learn more about the area's historical context and typical housing architecture. From there, crawlers browse five to seven homes of varied price ranges and designs (my dream house is on Elfreth's Alley for a under $800K) while learning about the market value and potential opportunities -- and challenges -- that come with home ownership. Hosts and company owners, Laura and Tiffany, even propose a fun challenge a la 'Price is Right' wherein we try to guess the price of the house after learning about its features (like number of bedrooms, bathrooms and if there's a roof deck). The best part for me, who is curious about Philly's housing market and working her way towards saving for a bigger house, is that I get a glimpse into the kind of dream house I can afford in the future while bringing along friends to enjoy a day exploring areas of the city I don't get to see often. Plus, the crawl ends at a bar or restaurant to discuss the homes we saw - the good, the bad, the ugly AND the extreme.
Window shopping up and down Passyunk Avenue
South Philly is a cultural hub in and of itself, and I find weekend afternoons are most enjoyable when I take a leisurely walk along Passyunk Avenue. The Ave, as the cool kids call it, is lined with boutique and antique shops, award-winning bars and restaurants, and fascinating stores. On most weekends you can find me at a corner dive bar or inside shops like Occasionette or Jinxed, stocking up on goods for my row house.
Touring inside City Hall
I am constantly amazed at the architecture in Philadelphia, and no building do I favor more than City Hall at Broad and Market. For only $6 you can go to the top of the tower and say hi to Billy Penn himself, or take in 360-degree views of Philly from the top of the newly-opened Observation Deck.
Skyline views from Bok Bar
Philadelphia continues to stretch its borders, and one of the most surprising views comes from an old technical high school turned into a pop-up space in deep South Philly, called Bok Bar. Bok opened the school’s terrace to the public in summer 2015 with a makeshift beer garden and rooftop restaurant, with more upgrades still to come. Hang on the rooftop Wednesdays through Sundays and bring cash to enjoy summery drinks and Asian-inspired eats.
People watching along the Schuylkill Banks
Philadelphia is stepping up its public green space game, and Schuylkill is a great example of this. An excellent way to take in the sights is to walk, run, skate, or bike the riverfront along the Schuylkill River. In the summer, I enjoy admiring families and couples who picnic on the lawn before taking a roundabout walk home in the evening when the lights sparkle along the river.
Bike rides up Kelly Drive
For a bonus warm-weather outdoor adventure, I highly recommend taking the 1.2-mile bike ride from the Schuylkill River Trail up north to Kelly Drive. Enjoy the scenery, lined with beautiful boat houses, gardens, fountains, and historical mansions.
Day tripping to city limits
Serious bikers and joggers travel the breadth of Kelly Drive all the way to the northwest to the neighborhood of Manayunk. Here, small-town charm comes in the way of local beer and grub at Manayunk Brewing Company, Victorian storefronts, and calming riverfront views. If you want to go further, rent a car and follow the Bucks County Ale Trail stopping at my favorites, Neshaminy Creek, Vault Brewing Company and Triumph Brewery to name a few.