The Tranquil Side of Philadelphia: 5 Ways to Escape the City Without Actually Leaving

While there’s a lot to love about Philadelphia, for some visitors, the sights, lights, and sounds of hectic city life can be a bit overwhelming. This goes double for business travelers, who often spend their time in the City of Brotherly Love engaged in fast-paced, high-stress meetings and conferences.

To those visitors in need of a little repose, Philadelphia offers one of the most extensive and impressive park systems in the country. Below, we highlight five of the best spots for travelers who want to spend a little time in the great outdoors without ever leaving the city.

  1. Awbury Arboretum

  2. Located in Philadelphia’s Historic Germantown, Awbury Arboretum boasts 55 acres of “diverse wildlife habitat,” as well as the Francis Cope House, which was built in 1861. The house’s namesake, Francis Reeve Cope, was a Quaker man who played a significant role in the development of Pennsylvania. Cope directed the Lehigh Valley Railroad, oversaw the William Penn Charter School, and served on the boards of both Bryn Mawr and Haverford colleges, to name only a few of his achievements.

    Visitors are welcome to tour the first floor of the Cope House, which is a hit with architecture buffs the world over, thanks to its simple, yet elegant design. If that doesn’t strike their fancy, visitors can also go birding, participate in classes and events, or take a self-guided tour of Awbury’s heritage trees.

    Perhaps best of all, visitors can easily reach the arboretum via rail or bus, courtesy of Philadelphia’s SEPTA public transportation system.

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  3. Fairmount Park

  4. No trip to Philadelphia is complete without spending some time in Fairmount Park. In fact, it’s almost impossible to avoid Fairmount, given that the vast expanse covers more than 9,200 acres of beautiful land.

    Fairmount’s picturesque trails are perfect for long walks, thrilling hikes, and horseback riding. Moreover, visitors to Fairmount can tour a number of historic Colonial mansions, watch a Japanese tea ceremony, and maybe even catch a free outdoor concert.

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  5. Bartram’s Garden

  6. Bartram’s Garden is the oldest botanical garden in all of North America, which is impressive in its own right. Of course, it helps that the garden is also 45 acres of parkland, wildlife habitats, tidal wetlands, and meadows. In short, there’s a little something for everyone.

    The centerpiece of the gardens is John Bartram’s house, an elegant stone mansion and courtyard that, in its prime, hosted the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.

    Packed with history and natural beauty alike, Bartram’s Garden should be on everybody’s to-see list when they visit Philadelphia.

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  7. John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum

  8. America’s first “urban refuge,” the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1972 as a way to preserve the Tinicum Marsh. Since the refuge’s inception, the marsh has thrived, and it is now home to more than 80 species of birds—more than 300, if one counts those that stop on their migratory flights.

    Birders love the Heinz Refuge, but there’s also plenty more to see. A variety of rare mammals, reptiles, and amphibians live in the refuge’s 285-acre freshwater tidal marsh.

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  9. Washington Square Park

  10. What separates Washington Square Park from other spots on this list is the fact that the park is located right inside of Center City. This arrangement lends an interesting atmosphere to the space: surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city on all sides, Washington Square Park offers a calm, quiet refuge from the daily grind.

    Washington Square Park is most notable for two attractions: the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier, a monument to all who served in the Revolutionary War, and the sycamore moon tree, which was grown from a seed carried to the moon during the Apollo 14 mission. The moon tree that currently stands in the park is a clone of the original moon tree, which had to be removed due to its ill health.

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Philadelphia is home to both the “concrete jungle” and the serenity of nature. For travelers who want to spend a day outdoors—or simply slow down for a couple of minutes—the city offers a number of ways to escape into the natural world.