When William Penn designed Philadelphia in 1683, he laid out the city in a grid, with City Hall in the center and four public squares in each quadrant. Clockwise from the northwest, Logan Square, Franklin Square, Washington Square and Rittenhouse Square have endured for over three centuries, each a leafy haven in the bustling city.

Beyond these green spaces, though, Philly is home to many more public parks. Fairmount Park alone clocks in around 9200 acres, making it the biggest urban park in America. Here’s our list of the 10 best places to picnic, meet for a tennis match, read on a quiet bench and generally soak up mother nature in the City of Brotherly Love.

Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park is a system of 63 parks and of green spaces, encompassing hiking trails, gardens and historic mansions, bisected by the Schuylkill River. There’s a seemingly endless array of things to do here. If you’re looking for tranquility, visit the Shofuso Japanese house and gardens in West Fairmount Park, with a traditional Japanese tea house and koi pond. 

If you’re visiting with kids, head straight for the wooden slide, built in 1905, at Smith Memorial Playground. (Also find a sprawling play structure and plenty of green space for running around). For an iconic Philly view, walk down the Schuylkill River trail to Boathouse Row, taking in the historic rowing clubs along the way.

eople sit on the grass at an annual community festival as local bands perform and arts, crafts and food vendors line pathways in a park in the West Philadelphia neighborhood, in Philadelphia, PA.
Clark Park is the perfect destination for outdoor entertainment © Bastiaan Slabbers / Getty Images

Clark Park

With basketball courts, soccer fields and a robust roster of events, the 9-acre park in the University City neighborhood of West Philadelphia is a central feature of the community. Check the schedule for flea and farmers markets, free outdoor movie screenings, concerts, and, in the summertime, Shakespeare in Clark Park. Look out for the bronze Dickens and Little Nell statue, situated near 43rd Street and Chester Avenue, made by artist Francis Edwin Elwell in 1890.

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Sister Cities Park

Located between City Hall and the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the small but mighty park is a welcome oasis in the center of the city. 

The splash fountain is a big draw, where kids dart through to keep cool on hot days, and a shallow pond and discovery garden both provide plenty of entertainment. A small lawn is shaded by a few tall trees – perfect for picnicking.

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Fountains of Dilworth Plaza in Center City Philadelphia at dusk.
Dilworth Park doesn't have much green space but is filled with lots of things to do © Tyler Sprague / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Dilworth Park

The park surrounding City Hall – the center of the city where the mayor and other city officials work – doesn’t have much green space, but a fountain and summer garden draws visitors in the warmer months, as well as events like outdoor fitness classes. 

Winter brings a scenic skating rink, plus festive holiday markets. Any time of year, grab a La Colombe coffee and made-in-house treat at Pressed, inside the Notary Hotel, and take it to a bench in the park for some prime people-watching.

Closeup of an illuminated Chinese lantern in the shape of a dragon.
The Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival is one of the many year-round events held at Franklin Square © John Greim / LightRocket via Getty Images

Franklin Square

The green space occupying the city’s northeast quadrant, just a few blocks north of historic Old City, has a host of year-round activities like the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival. Center City’s only carousel, Philly-themed mini-golf course (lookout for a pint-sized replicas Liberty Bell and LOVE sculpture) and a brand-new covered beer garden. 

Everything is centered around a 180-year-old fountain, where a show with lights and music takes place every 30 minutes. 

Come hungry – Square Burger offers the Cake Shake, a Tastykake milkshake made with the old-school bakery’s butterscotch krimpet. The square also hosts events year-round, like the Chinese Lantern Festival, held every spring.

Rittenhouse Square

The small but beautiful patch of green space is in the center of one of the city’s toniest neighborhoods. Take a self-guided tour of the park’s sculptures, including Lion Crushing a Serpent by the French Romantic sculptor Antoine-Louis Barye to Billy, the beloved (and often climbed over) bronze goat by Albert Laessle. 

Pick up lunch in one of the nearby fast-casual restaurants – sandwiches made on housemade milk buns at Huda, or coffee and sourdough pastries at Vibrant coffee shop – and find a wooden bench or patch of lawn to dine and people watch.

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People sit in hammocks under tall trees at Spruce Street Harbor Park in Philadelphia. In the background people sit in chairs.
Spruce Street Harbor Park is a popular Philadelphia spot © Hannah Beier / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Spruce Street Harbor Park

Along the Delaware River, bordering the east side of the city, find Spruce Street Harbor Park. In the summer months, hammocks and Adirondack chairs cover the lawn, and the floating Barge Bar slings cocktails and local beers. 

A series of shipping containers sell treats like Dre’s water ice and ice cream – made from scratch frozen treats inspired by Andre Andrews’ grandmother’s recipes. Nearby, you can rent a swan or dragon boat and paddle along the water to get a different view, or sign up for stand-up paddleboard yoga classes. 

In colder months, move a little north to Race Street Pier, a one-time shipping pier transformed into a promenade, lawn and amphitheater-style seating to sit and take in sweeping views of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

FDR Park

The largest park in South Philadelphia, FDR Park is home to lakes for fishing and kayaking, sports fields, 21 picnic groves and pavilions (you can reserve one by filing for a permit), and a renowned skatepark that has attracted skateboarding pros. 

In 2019, the park also closed its nearly 80-year-old golf course, remodeling the 150-acres into a wetland meadow, with walking trails and fields. It’s also a draw for bird watching and, in the fall, leaf-peeping when the foliage starts to change colors.

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Schuylkill River Banks

The Schuylkill River Trail runs about 120 miles from Frackville in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, northwest of the city, through Montgomery, Chester and Berks Counties, to Philadelphia. But with public art on display and a prime view of the city skyline, this stretch of green space along the river between Locust and South Streets makes a lovely spot to break from a bike ride or run. Nearby, also find a dog park, basketball courts and a popular playground.


Technically named JFK Plaza, the two-acre park in Center City got its nickname from artist Robert Indiana’s iconic red sculpture on display. The plaza got a revamp recently, with a spruced-up fountain, benches and the forthcoming Loveluck restaurant, slated to open by early spring 2022. 

In the meantime, visitors can stop at the Lawn, open through the fall while the weather is nice, for burgers and cocktails at picnic tables, with sandboxes to entertain the kids.

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