Updated: Jan 19, 2022
Trying not to get Omicron? Here are 12 outstanding outdoor walks and 2 driving tours that are great for families, dates or anyone looking for free places to explore. Sure, it's cold outside. Throw on a hat, grab some mittens and let these entertaining excursions take your mind off the temperature.
1. Discover Artist Isaiah Zagar's whimsical mosaic murals made of tiles, colorful glass bottles, bits of mirror, folk art statues bicycle parts and found objects. You can see the murals decorating homes and businesses near 10th & South on this free self-guided tour. If you want to see more (& you probably will!) visit Philadelphia Magic Gardens, a mostly-outdoor, one-of-a-kind attraction. Advanced tickets are needed for Philadelphia Magic Gardens.
2. Immerse yourself in 27 acres of woodlands at the Abington Art Center where a .65 mile loop takes walkers past permanent structures, like a stone tower, and structures designed to decay over time and return to nature. Look for bronze, stainless steel, aluminum, wood, plexiglass and tree-based sculptures by regional, national and international artists.
3. Walk along the Schuylkill River Banks, which was named “Best Urban Trail” by USA Today. The 8-mile-long park runs along the Schuylkill River from Christian Street north along Center City, past a dog park, skateboard park, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Fairmount Waterworks, Boathouse Row and right into Fairmount Park.
4. Meet an exuberant ballerina, a life-size giraffe and a larger than life rabbit on the Haddonfield’s Outdoor Sculpture Tour. About two dozen sculptures are peppered along the neighborhood’s main streets. It takes an hour or two to walk the 1-1/2 mile tour. Longer if you window shop or linger at the shops, restaurants, chocolatiers, bakeries, ice cream parlors, bookstore and brewery on King’s Highway. A map and descriptions are available on the website.
5. Stroll through Laurel Hill Cemetery, the final resting place of Civil War generals, victims from the Titanic, Philadelphians with names like Strawbridge and Rittenhouse. A more recent resident is former Phillies announcer, Harry Kalas whose gravesite is marked with a giant stone microphone and seat from Veterans Stadium. Besides the interesting monuments, the cemetery offers breathtaking views of the Schuylkill River. It’s open from sunrise to sunset and welcomes walkers, runners, bicyclists and other visitors.
6. Visit the beautifully-landscaped grounds of Bucks County Community College’s Newtown campus to take the Bucks Sculpture Walk. You’ll see several pieces by Stella Elkins Tyler, who bequeathed the property to the college in 1963, plus statues of real-looking people engaged in every day activities created by Seward Johnson and works by about two dozen additional artists. The free sculpture exhibit features art on loan as well as permanent works. A walking map is available online, as is a family-friendly scavenger hunt.
7. The University of Pennsylvania also offers a campus sculpture tour. Highlights include one of Philadelphia’s three Love statues, a statue of Ben Franklin sitting on a bench; and a giant button by Claus Oldenburg, who also created the Clothespin at 15th & Market streets, across from City Hall.
The greater Philadelphia region is home to dozens of colleges and universities. The campuses are welcoming places to wander, with or without a map.
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For Anyone Who Loves the Philadelphia Region
100 Things To Do In Philadelphia -- Includes major attractions and hidden gems plus tips to enhance each experience. Ideal for visitors, transplants or long time residents.
Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia -- Tells the sweet & spicy stories behind more than 90 Philadelphia restaurants plus tips on how to snag reservations at Philly's trendiest restaurants, where to spot celebs, how to get into the city's secret speakeasies and more.
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8. Walk around the city to take in murals that earned Philadelphia the moniker “mural capital of the world.” Thanks to Philadelphia Mural Arts, the city is home to more than 4,000 of these massive artworks including trompe l’oeil murals, portraits, abstracts and paintings of lush greenery. The mural arts program started in 1984 to eradicate graffiti and the murals often grow meaningful to communities, drawing people together. Visit the website for self-guided walking tours.
9. Take a couple of laps around Rittenhouse Square. This picturesque square was one of the original five squares planned by Philadelphia founder William Penn. It’s typically bustling with fashionably dressed residents, business executives, dog walkers and young families. And it’s not unusual to spot musicians, exercise classes, wedding proposals and bridal parties posing for photos. Kids love to hang out with Billy, the goat, a statue by Philadelphian Albert Laessle. There are also statues of a lion and a frog. The gate on the guardhouse was designed by Sculptor Eric Berg and features animals that might be found in the park. He also created Philbert, the pig in Reading Terminal Market; the Drexel dragon in West Philly; the Philadelphia Zoo’s warthog, gorilla and toad and more. For stories about Eric Berg’s work in the Philadelphia region: click here.
10. Explore new neighborhoods or get to know your own neighborhood better on an architectural walking tour created by the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. Each self-guided mini-tour includes a history of the neighborhood, map, photos and descriptions of the buildings you pass along the way.
11. Hear artists talk about their work when you download the app for the Souderton Art Walk. Learn about the Chestnut Street Mural depicting night and day by local Harry Boardman; Souderton Headlines, a public art installation that makes use of vintage newspaper vending machines; and more. Or follow the online map.
12. Get to know some of the outdoor art in Philadelphia better on a self-guided walking tour designed by the Association for Public Art. There’s a lot of ground to cover, as Philadelphia has one of the largest collections of outdoor art in the nation. One of the fun things about these tours is that you can search by themes, such as animals, Black and African themes and artists or Ben Franklins.
Bonus content: Driving tours in Bucks, Chester & Montgomery Counties
1. Hop into the car and take a leisurely drive along the rolling hills of Bucks County. You can use the Heritage Conservancy Barn Voyage self-guided driving tours on the Visit Bucks County website. Start with Barns 101 to learn about the types of barns you’ll discover then set off to explore the barns in Upper Bucks County and Central Bucks County. There’s a driving tour of the county’s covered bridges too.
2. Visit the covered bridges in Chester County using this driving tour courtesy of the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau. As you enjoy the bridge and landscape, stop to check out the local businesses along the way where you can get local food, wine, beer and more.
3. Envision the encampment at Valley Forge National Historical Park in King of Prussia on this 1-hour self-guided driving tour. The tour tells the story of Valley Forge and its role in the Revolutionary War. It incorporates characters’ voices and period music. Plan on spending 2-3 hours, if you get out to explore the stops.
by Irene Levy Baker, author, 100 Things To Do In Philadelphia and Unique Eats & Eateries of Philadelphia. Looking for things to do this winter? Want the scoop on what's new in Philadelphia? Visit www.100ThingsToDoInPhiladelphia.com for signed books. For free shipping, use promo code TheCityPulse.
Click here for more blog postings by Irene Levy Baker including a list of restaurants with heated outside dining, restaurants with fireplaces, only-in-Philadelphia exhibits and more.