Stretching across more than 2,000 acres, Philadelphia's Fairmount Park is one of the largest urban green spaces in the country. Within it are not only countless wooded landscapes and nature-filled terrain to explore, but also curated gems of all sorts that invite you to get outside and play.
Soar across a 200-foot-long zip line, swim in a free Olympic-size pool, and dance to a live band at multiple open-air venues, all within the park. Few better places exist to take in a breath of fresh air and enjoy a quick reprieve from city life, right in Philadelphia.
Whether young or old, it's hard to resist the allure of gliding down a 39-foot-long, 13-foot-wide slide. At Smith Memorial Playground, those of all ages are invited to play across 6.5 acres of Fairmount Park, which includes not only the Ann Newman Giant Wooden Slide, but also swings, numerous climbing areas, and a 24,000-square-foot playhouse that little ones love. Other fun news: Admission is free.
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 3500 Reservoir Drive. Free. 215-765-4325, smithplayground.org
Reap an elevated experience of Fairmount Park at Treetop Quest, featuring a 50+ obstacle course full of Tarzan swings, rope ladders, zip lines, and more. The four-acre adventure park invites you to test your American Ninja Warrior skills (as if competing on the insane obstacle-filled NBC show) and see if you have what it takes to conquer five sky-high levels. Meanwhile, an easier "Chickpea Level" is also available, welcoming kiddos as young as 4 to come out and enjoy the experience. Tickets can be purchased online at treetopquest.com/philly.
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, 51 Chamounix Drive. $17-$51. 267-901-4145, treetopquest.com
Philadelphia is home to more than 70 public — i.e., free — pools throughout the city, and one of the largest is in Fairmount Park. Located next to the Please Touch Museum, the John B. Kelly Pool features an Olympic-size swimming area, outfitted with lap lanes and plenty of space for families to splash around. Surrounding the pool is a large grassy lawn where you can also hang out, perhaps with a blanket and book to ride out a summer afternoon.
11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 42nd St. & Parkside Ave. Free. 215-685-0160, beta.phila.gov/parks-rec-finder
Tucked into East Fairmount Park is one of the oldest disc golf courses in the country, featuring a 27-hole course that winds its way through the area's natural landscape. Disc golf is a game that mixes Frisbee with golf, where the goal is to glide weighted disks into baskets, or "holes," in the fewest number of throws, or "strokes," as possible. To get started, each player needs only a single disc, which can be purchased, and sometimes rented, right at Sedgley Woods on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The course is open daily, year-round, from sunup to sundown, and no admission fee is required to play. What better excuse to spend the afternoon trekking around outdoors?
Daily from sunup to sundown, N. 33rd & W. Oxford Streets. Free. sedgleywoods.com
Train like boxing champ Smokin' Joe Frazier at Boxers' Trail, a nearly four-mile route that overlooks the Schuylkill and passes by several historic Fairmount Park mansions. Thanks to Fairmount Park and the Fairmount Park Conservancy, the trail has come a long way since the 1960s when fighters like Frazier ran its course. Today, the restored path exists as a well-kept mix of asphalt and crushed stone, starting at Sedgley Woods and concluding at Strawberry Mansion. While fairly quiet during the week, the trail draws a lively crowd every fall at the annual Boxers' Trail 5K, taking place this year on Saturday, Sept. 8.
Open daily, 3800 Mt. Pleasant Drive. Free. myphillypark.org
Stroll around the 5K loop that lines Concourse Lake, and you can expect at least a few wildlife sightings. In the 14-acres that surround the stormwater reservoir, more than 140 native trees and 24 species of shrubs attract birds of all sorts to the area. Turtles and toads can often also be spotted in and around the lake, which lay halfway between the Please Touch Museum and the Mann Center for the Performing Arts.
Belmont Avenue and South Concourse Drive. Free. concourselake.org
Playtime at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts often comes in the form of grooving and moving: The venue brings in bands and performers from around the country, May through September. One of the country's largest nonprofit, open-air music centers, the Mann this summer is set to host everyone from Grammy Award-winner Smokey Robinson to popular indie singer Mac DeMarco to pop star Jason Mraz. Tickets to festival-style shows, like Reggae in the Park and Philly Bluegrass Revival, are also available this season. Take your pick and settle in for a night of music under the stars.
Times and prices vary per event. 5201 Parkside Ave., 215-546-7900, manncenter.org
Like the Mann, the Dell Music Center fills Fairmount Park with music from its 5,000-plus seat amphitheater. Erykah Badu, Patti LaBelle, Rakim, and more pack this year's entertainment lineup, as does a Black Panther movie night and an all-day, DJ-spun party in the park. Managed by the City of Philadelphia's Parks and Recreation, the Dell's season runs through September, with events held rain or shine.