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 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.
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 even better 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, Triumph Brewery and more.