Philadelphia, known for being the largest city in Pennsylvania, is filled with many outdoor activities for families with children. From hiking or biking local trails to frolicking in playgrounds and splash pads to exploring piers, museums, and so much more, there is plenty for families to enjoy outdoors. Today, Philadelphia native and mom of 2, Crystal Sanchez, is sharing 25+ awesome things to do outside with kids in Philadelphia. 

outdoor activities in Philadelphia with kids

Philadelphia with kids

Nestled along the banks of the Delaware River, Philadelphia, often referred to as the “City of Brotherly Love,” is a treasure trove of American history, culture, and boundless outdoor adventures. When it comes to creating unforgettable experiences for the entire family, Philadelphia has an incredible array of options that will have your kids wide-eyed with excitement.

From sprawling parks and interactive museums to charming neighborhoods and captivating historical sites, the city offers a perfect blend of fun and education. In this post, we’re about to unveil a personally curated list of the best outdoor activities in Philadelphia with kids, ensuring that your family’s exploration is nothing short of remarkable! 

Reasons to add Philadelphia to your travel bucket list

As the birthplace of American democracy and a melting pot of diverse cultures, Philadelphia’s outdoor spaces are more than just playgrounds; they’re gateways to discovery. Whether you’re a local looking to switch up your routine or a visitor eager to immerse your family in the city’s vibrant atmosphere, you’ll find activities that cater to all ages and interests. Get ready to embark on a journey of exploration as we dive into a wide range of outdoor escapades, where each step reveals a new layer of the city’s rich history and contemporary charm.

In this post, we’ll venture into the heart of Philadelphia’s outdoor wonders, exploring iconic landmarks, recreational spaces, and hidden gems that are sure to captivate the imagination of both young and old. Whether you’re wandering through historic streets, marveling at awe-inspiring art installations, or playing in a local splash pad, Philadelphia has something to offer for every member of the family. So, let’s unlock the secrets of this incredible city while enjoying quality time with your kids in the great outdoors.

outdoor activities in Philadelphia with kids

Best outdoor activities for kids in Philadelphia

While Philadelphia may be your typical city, with towering buildings, busy streets, and an urban landscape, it is so much more than that. Throughout the city, there are many open green spaces and outdoor activities that families can enjoy together. Some of these places are so massive and engulfing that they almost make you forget that you are within the city limits when visiting.

Within the thousands of acres of dense forest and miles of trails, in Philadelphia, families can enjoy hiking, biking, horseback riding, birdwatching, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and endless exploring without ever leaving the city. 

Best parks for families in Philadelphia

Wissahickon Valley Park

With 1,800 acres of dense forests and over 50 miles of trails, Wissahickon Valley Park offers families lots of places to explore and activities to enjoy and it’s one of the best outdoor activities in Philadelphia with kids. With a creek running alongside many of the trails, there are sights and sounds to enjoy all throughout the park. My family enjoys coming here to bike and explore the wildlife, creek and historic points of interest. It’s common to see many locals out on leisurely walks or bike rides as well as families out fishing or wading in the creek.

Pennypack Park

Pennypack Park covers more than 1,600 acres of woodlands, meadows, wetlands, and fields located in the Northeast section of Philadelphia. While not as popular as Wissahickon Valley Park, it’s very similar. Pennypack Park offers trails for biking and hiking, as well as a lot of amazing opportunities to explore and observe the wildlife.

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum

Serving as a refuge for rare plants and wildlife, this wildlife refuge spans over 1,000 acres and ten miles of trails. This Wildlife Refuge attracts hikers, runners, bird watchers, and anglers and is located in the Southern section of Philadelphia.

FDR Park

FDR Park offers the perfect opportunity for recreation and relaxation. With its abundance of recreational sites and sports fields, 40 acres of lakes for fishing, canoeing and kayaking, playgrounds, a skate park, and trails, there’s a little bit of everything for everybody at this park.

Smith Memorial Playground

This 6.5-acre playground is perfect for children age ten and younger. It is beautifully landscaped with state-of-the-art equipment and has an indoor and outdoor play space. Kids can climb, bounce, swing, ride, and even pretend to be a train engineer. The biggest highlight of the playground is the 1905 Giant Wooden Slide. 

Dilworth Park

Dilworth Park features an interactive fountain, lush lawn, and tree grove seating areas, which feature a café. During the colder months, the fountain is transformed into an ice skating rink, which is enjoyed by children and adults alike. In the summer months, festivals, live music performances, outdoor movie screenings, and happy hour specials bring an audience to the park at all hours of the day and night. Our favorite time to visit this park is during the holidays when this park is transformed into a Christmas Village.

Franklin Square

Of Philadelphia’s original five squares, Franklin Square is the most child-friendly. With a mini golf course, fountains that dance to the sound of music, a playground, a carousel, and a cafe, it’s not surprising that this square is the most popular amongst families.

Sister Cities

Located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Sister Cities Park is a welcoming space where young visitors can play in the Children’s Discovery Garden, which features winding pathways, scalable rocks, and a stream that leads you to a boat pond. Complete with a cafe and restrooms nearby, this is the perfect picnic spot for families. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy the outdoors in the heart of the city. 

Neighborhood Playgrounds

All throughout the city, you will find multiple playgrounds within each neighborhood. Many feature modern playground equipment, splash pads and sports fields.

Kelly Drive

While not quite a park, it is pretty close to one. Kelly Drive is one of Philly’s most popular biking and running sites. This nearly 9-mile loop takes you through a scenic route along the Schuylkill River with many landmarks along its route. During the warmer months, MLK Jr Drive is closed to vehicular traffic, which makes it a wonderful spot for bikes with little due to the open spacing. 

outdoor activities in Philadelphia with kids

Nature centers in Philadelphia

The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education

This nature center offers over 3 miles of hiking trails with several environmental art installations located throughout. With sensory gardens, an outdoor play space, and ponds and streams your little ones will have tons to explore here. This location also offers nature classes for families throughout the year.

Longwood Gardens

Pierre S. du Pont’s Longwood Gardens is a famed horticultural destination that will inspire kids with imaginative, child-size spaces filled with hands-on water features, handcrafted sculptures, and secret stairways — all part of the Indoor Children’s Garden in the Conservatory District. For warm weather fun, the Outdoor Children’s Garden offers a splashy Flower Fountain and plenty of seating for adults.

outdoor activities in Philadelphia with kids

Kid-friendly museums in Philadelphia with outdoor experiences 

Anne D’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden

Located between the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Boathouse Row, this sculpture garden features large-scale contemporary works of art and is free for the public to enjoy. Children of all ages love this park. My boys love exploring the garden while also scaling surrounding rocks and boulders. 

The Franklin Institute

Located at The Franklin Institute, Science Park is an outdoor play space that is open during the warmer months of the year. Featuring nets, ropes, and wonky play items, this play space is great for letting out some energy.

Adventure Aquarium

While not exactly outdoor, this aquarium is very nature-centric and great for the aquatic lover in your family. The two million gallons of water and 15,000 aquatic animals can’t help but impress. Just across the river in Camden, New Jersey, Adventure Aquarium has a Shark Bridge to cross; hippos and penguins to meet; stingrays to feed; and horseshoe crabs, starfish, and sharks to actually touch. The biggest wow here: Ocean Realm, a 760,000-gallon tank of sea turtles, stingrays, schooling fish and sharks, including an impressive seven-foot Great Hammerhead.

fun things to do in philadelphia with kids

Independence Seaport Museum

Along with interactive exhibits to explore, the Independence Seaport Museum also has historic vessels to explore located just outside of the museum. The Cruiser OLYMPIA and Submarine BECUNA are two historic ships that you can walk through. Located nearby are also a variety of boats that can be rented. 

Philadelphia Zoo

America’s first zoo and a forefront conservation organization, the Philadelphia Zoo is home to nearly 1,300 animals, many rare and endangered. The attraction has a first-in-the-world animal travel and exploration train system, Zoo360, enabling primates and big cats to move above and across the main visitor pathway. Exhibits include Big Cat Falls, McNeil Avian Center, PECO Primate Reserve and KidZooU, an interactive wildlife academy of dynamic displays, rare breeds, and indoor-outdoor learning. In addition to animal exhibits, you can take a spin on the carousel, ride on the train around America’s oldest zoo, feed the goats, and climb through the rope course.

Philadelphia Magic Gardens

This immersive mixed-media art environment, made of tiles, bottles, bicycle wheels, mirrors, and so much more, will offer kids plenty to look at and explore. I should mention that this art installation does have some minor nudity here and there, which is primarily seen through abstract artwork. I wasn’t too bothered by it, but I could see how someone else might be. Besides that, the entire installation is mesmerizing. There are fun scavenger hunt sheets located inside that families could use to further explore the grounds.

Elmwood Park Zoo

The 16-acre Elmwood Park Zoo is home to an animal collection of more than 100 species indigenous to the Americas, as well as African fruit bats and Asian red pandas. Many of the animals — the American bison, peregrine falcon, bald eagle, red panda, and American alligator — represent significant wildlife conservation success stories. The zoo also includes a spacious playground featuring interactive animal sculptures.

best museums in Philadelphia for kids

Philadelphia gardens and arboretums

Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center

Recognized as the third-best Japanese garden in North America, visitors are invited to explore the beautiful landscape, tour the house, and feed the koi fish. 

Morris Arboretum

Across 92 acres of sprawling gardens and natural areas, Morris Arboretum & Gardens uses education and imagination to reveal a collaborative relationship with nature through lively exhibits for the whole family. Home to rare and magnificent plants and trees, this arboretum offers story times and classes for children and also features a whimsical railway measuring over 300 feet. The Garden Railway (running on select dates throughout the year) features a miniature world of trains, bridges and small-scale buildings made of natural materials on a quarter-mile track and is a huge hit for little kids. The Treetop Canopy Walk exhibition puts visitors 50 feet into the trees for a bird’s-eye view of the forest and includes a larger-than-life Bird’s Nest, and Squirrel Scramble, an expansive hammock-like net which kids can scamper through.

Bartram’s Gardens

Bartram’s Garden is a 50-acre public garden where visitors can go bird watching, stroll through the River Trail or flower gardens, and enjoy a spectacular view of the Philadelphia skyline. It is situated on the banks of the Schuylkill River and is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the United States. The garden was founded in 1728 by John Bartram, a Quaker farmer and botanist, who was a close friend of Benjamin Franklin. His garden became a center of scientific study and exploration. Today, Bartram’s Garden features a wide variety of trees, shrubs, and plants from around the world. Wander among the trees, birds, grasses and flowers – and then take the wooded path at the back of the gardens to the water, where you can catch a glimpse of the city skyline from afar.

Shady Brook Farm

Hundred-year-old Shady Brook Farm in Bucks County (just north of Philadelphia) is a real working farm and home to a fresh market, garden center, and plenty of pick-your-own opportunities. Seasonal festivals focus on what’s currently growing and feature hayrides, games and activities for the kids. Parents can enjoy a beer or cocktail and live entertainment at the on-site Stone’s Throw pub. During the winter, don’t miss the Holiday Light Show Drive Through Experience, with millions of lights illuminating acres of farmland and bonfire with hot cocoa and s’mores for purchase.

outdoor activities and things to do with kids in Philadelphia

Best locations for adventurous families in Philadelphia

Philly Pumptrack

Perfect for bike enthusiasts, the Philly Pumptrack is the perfect location for young riders to improve their skills in a safe riding environment. 

Treetop Quest Philly

Located among the trees, Treetop Quest Philly’s aerial adventure park will challenge you physically and mentally as you maneuver from tree to tree through obstacles and zip lines. This is a great option for older kids looking for a fun climbing experience

Pain’s Park Skatepark

In addition to the above-mentioned skatepark at FDR Park, Pain’s Park is one of several skateparks located in Philadelphia. Located in the heart of the city, this skatepark is a popular location for skaters.

Philadelphia outdoor activities for families

Delaware River Waterfront

The Delaware River Waterfront is made up of many piers as well as Penn’s Landing, the epicenter of it all. Penn’s Landing is the best place to take families with kids of multiple ages and interests, as it has a little bit of everything to offer: rides, skating, movie nights, a beer garden, and concerts throughout the summer. 

In addition to Penn’s Landing, numerous piers are spread out along the Delaware River. One of many, Spruce Street Harbor Park makes for cool, summertime memories, with colorful hammocks, floating gardens, and beautiful trees adorned in technicolored lights. While it does look cooler at night, it’s still very enjoyable during the day.

Mural Tours

Recognized as the “Mural Capitol of the World,” Philadelphia has a stunning collection of Murals located all throughout the city. And they’re all free, which is one of the best things to do when exploring the city. You can easily come across a handful of murals while walking around and getting from place to place. If you are interested in this urban art collection, taking a tour through a third party could be a nice way to spend the day. Self-guided tours are also an option.

Sport Complex

Philadelphia is home to many popular sports teams. If sports are your thing, be sure to catch the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field or the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park! 

fun things to do in Philadelphia with kids

Best outdoor historical sites in Philadelphia

Independence National Historic Park

The Liberty Bell Center and Independence Hall are two of the 25-plus attractions that make up America’s most historic square mile in Independence National Historical Park. The National Park Service’s Junior Ranger program gives kids a chance to earn a special badge sticker and certificate during their visit by attending at least one ranger program and completing five activities in the Junior Ranger Activity Booklet (in the visitor’s center).

Battleship New Jersey

Families can visit the nation’s most decorated battleship, docked just across the Delaware River on the Camden waterfront. The Battleship New Jersey offers self-guided tours of its seven levels and half-century of service, with experts available to answer questions in the Captain’s Quarters and Combat Engagement Center. You can even choose to spend a night aboard with an opportunity to fire saluting guns and sleep in sailor’s bunks during the award-winning Overnight Encampment program! Preschoolers can visit Jason’s Kids Kompartment, a safe play area with a kid-sized boat to captain, games, coloring books, and more.

Things to do outside in Philadelphia with kids

As you can see, Philadelphia is the perfect place to get outside and explore with your kids! Whether it’s a day of hiking through Wissahickon Valley Park or touring the popular Magic Gardens, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. We hope this post will help your family have a great time visiting Philadelphia! 

Have you ever been to Philadelphia?
What’s your favorite thing to do outdoors in the city?

About the author

Crystal is a photographer who homeschools her two young boys alongside running a newborn photography business. If she’s not photographing babies, she’s out with her family photographing their adventures together. Together they enjoy hiking, exploring nearby cities, biking, camping, going to the beach, amusement parks, and, of course, gathering with friends and family. Getting out and exploring with loved ones is their favorite way to spend their days.

You can find more from Crystal online in the following locations:
Instagram: @exploringadventureland
RWMC posts: Crystal Sanchez