Travel

Philadelphia Activities

Activity neighborhood
Boat House Row
1 Boathouse Row, West Philadelphia
When the Shuylkill Navy was founded back in 1858, each of the member rowing clubs built stunning boathouses along the river to host trainings and, of course, house their boats. Today, the Navy is active as ever, hosting regattas for every level of skill and competition, and the gorgeous houses (which are lit up with lights in the evenings) still stand, in excellent condition. The best view of the houses—and regattas, if you’re lucky enough to catch one—is from the Schuylkill River Trail, which is equally perfect for long bike rides into the suburbs or quick morning walks, cup of coffee in hand.
Eastern State Penitentiary
2027 Fairmount Ave., Fairmount
With its dramatic gothic architecture (complete with gargoyles and dark grey stone) now crumbling, Eastern State Penitentiary may actually be creepier now than it was in the 1970's, when it last held prisoners. Largely believed to be haunted, the now-empty prison hosts after-dark programming during Halloween that's largely considered to be some of the scariest in the country. During the day, scaredy cats can visit for history-rich tours, learning about the famous escapes, prisoners (Al Capone stayed here), and the Quaker philosophies that guided the architecture and programming in its earliest days. Admission comes with a free audio tour that's narrated by Steven Buscemi.
Nava Yoga Center
1200 Constitution Ave., Building 489, Suite 220, The Navy Yard
Located within the Navy Yard, Nava’s classes really run the gamut: They vary in length from 45 to 75 minutes, normal temperature or heated, plus they offer an ongoing eight-week beginner series. What they’re really known for, though, is a collaboration with surgeons, physical therapists, and trainers at the Vincera Institue to design yoga therapy protocols for everything from injury recovery to general conditioning—with an emphasis in stress reduction. Note: All classes here are drop-in only (meaning you don’t need to worry about signing up in advance, but should aim to get to the studio with a few extra minutes to spare).
Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
1020 S. St., Washington Square West
As its name suggests, this massive, interactive art installation—including indoor-outdoor galleries and a labyrinth—is, in fact, magical. Artist Isaiah Zagar works predominantly in mosaic, which he meticulously constructs from tiles, old plates, glass, old tires, and more (if his art looks familiar, you likely saw some of his smaller scale murals peppered throughout the city). You can easily see the entire space in under an hour, with plenty of time left over to explore the rest of the neighborhood. Pro tip: Grab your tickets online ahead of time.
RiverRink
101 S. Columbus Blvd., Old City
Philly is bordered on the east by the Delaware River (you can see New Jersey on the other side), and the city has taken great pains to activate the areas along the waterfront. One of our personal favorites: the kid-friendly wonderland that takes over Penn's Landing during the summer months. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the Delaware River Waterfront organizes an outdoor roller skating rink, with other carnival activities like mini-golf, games, and a Ferris wheel. Food-wise, you can pick up hard-shell crabs and cheesesteaks with a side of old-school crinkle fries at Chickie and Pete's, and there's an ice cream stand from Franklin Fountain in the summer. They recently debuted a winterized version around the holidays, when the roller rink gets covered in ice, and ice cream gets swapped out for egg nog and hot chocolate.
The Liberty Bell
6th St. & Market St., City Center
You pretty much can’t throw a stone in this part of Philadelphia without hitting something beautiful and historic. (But maybe don’t do that.) Case in point: You can plan a walk that starts at the Liberty Bell—one of the most iconic symbols of American sovereignty—and reasonably also include Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed), Carpenters’ Hall (where Congress met while Philadelphia was the capital), Christ Church (where George Washington and Benjamin Franklin once had assigned pews), and the Betsy Ross House (where the building’s namesake sewed an early American flag)—in a single, leisurely afternoon.
Ulises
31 E. Columbia Ave., Fishtown
Named for the Mexican artist Ulises Carrión—who founded a groundbreaking space in Amsterdam in the '70s, dedicated to artists’ publications—this small, aspirational art-book store is just a few years old, and already something that feels like part of the fabric of the North Philly community. Filled with contemporary artists’ books and independent art publications, Ulises is also very much an exhibition space: They host events around quarterly themes; through October 1, Ulises presents “Migrations,” a meditation on how communities experience refuge and movement, explored through artists’ video, photography, and readings—plus screenings and lectures.
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