Hidden Philly exposed for visitors

The strange and fascinating, the wild and the wonderful in the City of Brotherly Love.

Martin Luther King Jr Dr, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Philadelphia locals who love the outdoors are particularly fond of walking, jogging or biking the scenic 8.5-mile riverfront “Loop”. The Loop is what we call the recreational path that runs from near the Art Museum to the west side of the Schuylkill River on Martin Luther King Drive, then crosses the Falls Bridge in East Falls, and continues along Kelly Drive back to Boathouse Row, Lloyd Hall and the Art Museum. (Or it can be done in the reverse.) One of the best things about this route for cycling or jogging is that Martin Luther King Drive is closed to vehicular traffic from 6 am to 5 pm on Saturdays and Sundays from April through October. (A small portion of the road from Eakins Oval to Sweetbriar Drive re-opens to traffic at 12 noon.) Bike rentals are available from Wheel Fun at Lloyd Hall. The view of Boathouse Row above is just one of many scenic views from Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive (formerly known as West River Drive) on the west banks of the Schuylkill.
5400 Lindbergh Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19143, USA
Bartram’s Garden is a unique and worthwhile attraction in southwest Philadelphia. Its location on beautiful riverfront land is known to have been occupied seasonally by Native Americans as early as 3,000 BCE. The tract of land that includes Bartram’s Garden was settled as an outpost of a New Sweden colony on the Schuylkill River. John Bartram (1699-1777) was a third-generation Pennsylvania Quaker who purchased this land from Swedish settlers in 1728, and then began gathering the most varied collection of North American plants in the world. A self-taught botanist, Bartram collected seeds and plant specimens, and plants from his garden were exchanged with patrons in Britain. In 1765, Bartram was appointed as the “Royal Botanist” by King George III. At home, Bartram founded the American Philosophical Society with his friend Benjamin Franklin. Bartram’s Garden offers guided tours of both the historic garden as well as the 1728 family homestead. Visitors can explore the lovely garden and grounds of the estate all year round, although spring through fall are the best times to visit. The garden’s Green Room provides hands-on activities for kids based on monthly themes in science and nature. The nursery at Bartram’s Garden cultivates hard-to-find plants that are available for purchase in the garden shop.
820 Spring Garden St, Philadelphia, PA 19123, USA
Welcome to the largest indoor/outdoor flea market in Center City Philadelphia. It is so much fun wandering through this market on Spring Garden Street. In the warmer months, the same organization that sponsors this location takes the flea market outdoors to various neighborhoods. The indoor market is open the first and third Saturdays of the month from November through March. There is a wide variety of vintage and antique merchandise for sale. Parking is available onsite. There are a few food trucks set up at the market if you get hungry, and an ATM machine in case you run out of cash.
2501 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA
One of the most unique and interesting experiences available to Philadelphia visitors is a boat tour of the Schuylkill River. There are several tours available from May through October, the most enjoyable of which is the tour that visits Bartram’s Garden, the home of colonial American botanist, John Bartram. The Bartram’s Garden tour lasts 3 hours and includes both the boat tour and a 2-hour stop at the garden with a guided tour of the 1728 house. A shorter tour lasts one hour and both tours highlight the past, present and future of the Schuylkill River. Tours depart from the Walnut Street dock, located under the Walnut Street Bridge on the east bank (Center City side) of the Schuylkill River, and may be cancelled in inclement weather. Drinks and snacks are available for purchase on the boat. Tours are not recommended for children under the age of 4. The Patriot is a reproduction of a classic 1920s mini commuter yacht built and is certified by the U.S. Coast Guard to carry up to 35 guests. Patriot Harbor Lines runs a variety of tours on the tidal Schuylkill, including Hidden River Tours, City Lights Tours, and private charters. Learn more at http://www.phillybyboat.com/
1 Boathouse Row, Philadelphia, PA 19130, USA
Tucked in between Boathouse Row and the Fairmount Water Works, and just a short walk from the Art Museum, the Cosmic Cafe at Lloyd Hall is a great place to enjoy breakfast, which is served all day. The cafe also serves excellent coffee and baked goods, creative sandwiches and wraps, yogurt, smoothies, ice cream, and more. This is a wonderful spot to get an inexpensive meal and the cafe offers many options for vegetarians. The idyllic location on the river at Kelly Drive attracts bicyclists, joggers, rowers, and dog walkers. It’s open year-round, but the best time to visit is spring through fall, when the weather permits outdoor dining. This is one of my favorite spots for people watching. (Muscled men in spandex, oh my!)
19 S 22nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA
There’s truly no other place in the world like this unique and disturbing museum. It’s probably best that photography is strictly prohibited inside, because that might spoil the bizarre surprises that wait for those who haven’t been yet. The Mütter is a medical museum in Center City that’s part of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Be forewarned: Its world-renowned collections are often somewhat disquieting—biological oddities, anatomical and pathological specimens, wax models, and antique medical equipment. (Wooden cabinets in one gallery hold drawers full of objects that people have swallowed!) The gift shop may be the most interesting museum store you’ll ever visit, and might be the only place that sells conjoined-twin cookie cutters.
3822 Ridge Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19132, USA
Laurel Hill Cemetery is a hidden gem that many locals don’t know about, and those who do have put it on their bucket list of places to go. The cemetery is also on many “first” lists: The first planned rural cemetery for the city. The first architecturally designed cemetery in the US. The first US cemetery designated a National Historic Landmark. A sprawling 78 acres of hillside overlooking the Schuylkill River, Laurel Hill is now within the city limits but when conceived in 1836, this area was considered a rural suburb. Laurel Hill was the final resting place for Victorian gentry, Civil War generals, a signer of the Declaration of Independence (who was re-buried here), architects, spiritualists and industrialists, and local hero and beloved Phillies sportscaster Harry Kalas (on whose grave are blue seats from the old Veterans Stadium). To appreciate the architecture of the tombstones and mausoleums, visitors can wander the winding paths on a self-guided tour. Download a map from the website or get one in the gift shop (Yes! There is a charming gift shop). Or consider checking the website for unique and informative tours, held year-round. Spring and fall are the best times to go; the grounds are elegantly landscaped and maintained. If you drive, there is a parking lot across from the cemetery’s gatehouse entrance. By public transit, Septa’s Route 61 bus from Center City stops near the entrance. There is a small museum across from the gift shop that shouldn’t be missed.
1020 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147, USA
No photograph can capture this extraordinary art space created by mural artist Isaiah Zagar down at the quiet end of South Street in Philadelphia’s Center City—you have to see it to believe it. It’s also not easy to describe: an alternate universe? A magical mosaic environment? A creative outsider’s brilliant vision? A terrarium of otherworldly folk-art delights? Decide for yourself when you take a self-guided tour of this one-of-a-kind, ever-expanding project. The site includes an immersive outdoor-art installation crafted from found objects and handpainted tiles, as well as indoor galleries. The opening hours vary due to occasional public and private events; make sure to check the online calendar.

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