5×5: The Best Ways to Find Escape in Philadelphia

Escape within your city! The best Philly hangouts from locals who know

In my opinion, Philly is at its best in the throes of summer. As soon as the hot sun emerges, outdoor markets, festivals and beer gardens spring up around the city like flowers. Residents emerge tentatively from their row homes after a long hibernation, thankful for a little sun and warmth and ready to take full advantage of all the City of Brotherly Love has to offer, from farmers’ markets to flea markets… maybe even checking out a tourist destination or two (…but don’t tell anybody). With so much going on throughout the city this season, it can get a little overwhelming. So much so that a local might find themselves in need of a little respite from time to time (tourists, too. History takes a lot out of you!). To get the scoop on the best places to find escape within Philadelphia, we turned to those who’d know best. Photographers, city explorers… a little of both. The five…er, four people below possess endless curiosity and an enviable sense of adventure, the perfect combination to aid in your discovery of the best places to escape to when you’re craving a little summer retreat but not craving the mileage of a road trip.

Whether you’re visiting Philly, already a local, or simply looking for inspiration for unique places to discover within your own city, the recommendations below will set you on the path towards adventure: Welcome to 5×5.

[lead image by Conrad Benner]

[photo by Pano K.]

Conrad Benner, Photographer & Founder of StreetsDept.com
@StreetsDept + StreetsDept.com

Bartram’s Garden
5400 Lindbergh Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19143

Bartram’s is one of Philly’s best kept secrets. (Well, I guess until now.) America’s oldest living botanical garden, Bartram’s is 45 acres of pure serenity on the banks of the Schuylkill River in Southwest Philly. And even better, the soon-to-be Bartram’s Mile will extend this little sliver of urban paradise even further up the river, eventually connecting it to Center City and the Schuylkill Banks park with a bike/walking trail! Pro-tip: Bartram’s sells maybe the best local honey I’ve ever had the fortune of eating by the spoonful.

Cira Green
80 S 30th St, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Cira Green is a brand new public space perched atop an 11-story parking garage in University City overlooking the Schuylkill River and the Center City skyline. If you’re looking for the perfect picnic spot, you just found it. Also, sunsets are particularly spectacular from this park because it’s one of the few public spaces in the city that offer a view of the horizon. Absolutely breathtaking! Charge your phone because you will be snapping the crap out of this place.

Arterial Agents
700 Sansom St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Arterial Agents is a brilliantly curated little coffee shop, specialty grocer, and magazine stand. Oh, and they sell dog food, too! If magazines are truly having the big comeback that everyone keeps talking about, and I hope they’re all right, then this is the place you want to spend some time perusing. The windowsills are stacked with inspiring title after inspiring title, including a number of magazines I had never heard of before but am more than glad to know now.

 [image by Conrad Benner]

The Woodlands 
4000 Woodland Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Right in the heart of West Philadelphia, The Woodlands are where you’ll want to spend most of your days. (See what I did there?) A gigantic, historic cemetery, The Woodlands is used much more as a park today. It’s honestly one of my favorite places to just take a meandering walk to clear my head or brainstorm new ideas.

 [image by Conrad Benner]

Viaduct Rail Park
340 N 12th St #419, Philadelphia, PA 19107

While this space is technically off-limits, the Viaduct has been a beloved urban exploring ground for many, many years. I’ve gone several times. Literally almost everyone I know has gone before. And soon, everyone will be able to go without hopping through a hole in the fence. That’s because the Viaduct will soon become the Viaduct Rail Park, something I’m very much looking forward to! And for those as impatient as I, the soon-to-be public space is currently hosting a pop-up beer garden offering anyone interested a little tipsy peek at the park’s future.

 [image by Conrad Benner]

Addison Street at Night 
Addison St.

Just, without a doubt, one of my favorite streets in Philly. Every night, all the trees lining the two block stretch of Addison street between 17th and 19th light up in a wholly movie-magic kinda way! Be prepared to feel feelings. Feelings will be felt. Bring a date.

 [image by Chaucee Stillman]

Chaucee Stillman, Photographer & Founder of Streetsandstripes.com
@streets_stripes + Streetsandstripes.com

Timber Creek Dog Park
Chews Landing Rd & Taylor Ave, Blackwood, NJ 08012

Just outside of Philly is one of the best dog parks I’ve ever been to. Nestled in 60 acres of woods is Timber Creek Dog Park. The fenced in area is so large that it feels like you’re just taking a walk in the woods with your pack. My two pups Jax and Juno love exploring off-leash and there’s lots of room to run, chase squirrels and meet all kinds of dogs.

[image by Chaucee Stillman]

Memphis Taproom Beer Garden
2331 E Cumberland St, Philadelphia, PA 19125

Memphis Taproom is a favorite of mine all year round, but I especially look forward to when they open up the beer garden. During the summer you can stop by for a movie night, a game of corn hole, or grab something to eat at the food truck parked in the back. Memphis is also great at offering a ton of vegetarian and vegan options (both inside the restaurant and outside on the food truck).

Grindcore House
1515 S 4th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147

It’s probably a good thing that I don’t live close to Grindecore because they’d have all my money by now. Grindecore is an all vegan cafe and coffee shop and they make a killer “turkey” sandwich. They also make their own vegan cream cheese spreads (my favorites are the chive and the scallion cream cheeses). Whenever I’m in south Philly I can always find an excuse to stop by, it’s just too good.

[image by Chaucee Stillman]

Tyler State Park
101 Swamp Rd, Newtown, PA 18940

Close enough to be easy to get to, but far enough to feel like a quick break from the city, Tyler State Park has a lot to offer. It’s home to a lot of college memories… picnics on the lawn, hiking along the water… there’s plenty of space with room to breathe. It’s also really well maintained and never feels too crowded.

Honey’s Sit ’n Eat
800 N 4th St & 2101 South St

Pro tip: go here by yourself. Honey’s is popular for a reason — their food tastes damn good. There’s usually a wait (unless you go there for breakfast during the week) so I love grabbing a barstool, which is great for perching up and people watching.

[photo by Jimmy O’Donnell]

Kelly Smith, Photographer
@kellysmithphoto + kellyelainesmith.com

Random Tea Room
713 N 4th St, Philadelphia, PA 19123

I do love my spacious, minimally styled coffee shops as much as the next guy, but this cozy corner of Northern Liberties never fails to make me feel right at home. Extensive doesn’t even begin to describe the menu of tea options — you’ll never have the same kind twice. The shop really is just a small room, so there are only a few places to sit, but if you’re lucky enough to snag my favorite table (pictured here), it’d be a crime to not sneak in a few healthy rounds of checkers with the pieces stashed inside the drawer on the left.

 [image by Kelly Smith]

The Philadelphia Museum of Art
2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130

I know this is a tourist go-to and a predictable choice when visiting Philly, but the art museum really is one of my favorite places to be solitary and unwind when life gets too hectic. The greatest exhibit I’ve seen was a feature on Paul Strand’s photography they showed in 2014. Spending hours poring over every single photo that had been beautifully curated from his years and phases of work solidified lazy Sunday strolls through the museum as one of my favorite ways to keep myself centered.

 [image by Kelly Smith]

Race St Pier
Race Street & N. Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19106

One of my favorite views in Philadelphia is of the Ben Franklin Bridge from Race Street Pier. My house is conveniently located so that the end of Race St. Pier is a great halfway point for a pre-workday running loop, and the way the orange sunrise light streams over the Delaware River and through the pier rails always makes an early sweat session worth the effort.

 [image by Kelly Smith]

Petit Jardin En Ville
134 N 3rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

The only place in Philly I’ll buy bouquets. Claudia is a passionate floral designer whose vibrant, french-inspired arrangements and selection of vintage wares are a tiny oasis in the middle of Old City — the shop’s name translates to “little garden in the city” and it couldn’t be more fitting.

 [image by Kelly Smith]

The Loew’s Hotel – 33rd Floor
1200 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

I never fail to bring out-of-town friends to my favorite view of the skyline from the 33rd floor of the Loew’s Hotel. Like the art museum, it’s a bit of a tourist destination that is a wonderful place to reflect when you go solo.

 [image by Kelly Smith]

Jana Kirn, Social Media Creative Coordinator, Free People

Soy Cafe
630 N 2nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19123

For vegans (and non), this No-Libs gem is the perfect go-to for healthy eats and fresh juices. The menu covers all regions of the globe, serving up vegan/vegetarian dishes suitable for any time of day. I’d recommend a wrap, steamed buns, and spicy soy dip. If the weather’s nice, BYOB and head to the back courtyard for some brunch.

Bulk Vintage
4324 Tackawanna St., Philadelphia, PA 19124

If you have some time, a keen eye, and a love for vintage clothing, a trip to Bulk Vintage in North Philly needs to be priority. Picture a warehouse, then picture about 100+ boxes packed full of vintage garb, labeled conveniently for shoppers to sift through. Yes, a place like this exists. You may have to dig to find the piece you’re looking for, but that’s all part of the fun.

Fishtown/ East Kensington

If you’re looking for a cup of good coffee, a bar with craft beer, unique shops, or some of the best food in Philly, plant yourself in Fishtown/East Kensington. It’s a fun place to be with a lot of fun people, and this is the part of town I’ve called home for the past 3 years. You’ll find a sweet blend of music, art + culture that’s recently been infused into a long-time Philly neighborhood. Walk down Frankford Ave. to get a taste!

The Ritz Theatre
Two locations: Walnut St. & S 2nd St

If you want to keep it low-key and catch a flick, check out the showings at one of the Ritz Theatres downtown. From new releases and foreign films to the independent movies you’ve never heard about, it’s a spot worthy of feeding one of the parking meters in center city.

Wissahickon Valley Park

The quickest escape from the city is just a short 30-minute drive away. Wissahickon Valley Park has over 50 miles of trails winding through lush wooded hillsides. My friends and I always hang out here during the summer. Try to find Devil’s Pool — there will be a fresh swimming hole awaiting you. And If you like taking photos, bring your camera. This is one of my favorite places to shoot in the city!

  [image by Kelly Smith]

+ What Philly hideouts would you add to our list? Be sure to share in the comments!

Free People Blog