West Fairmount Park
GOOD FOR: All Ages
RATING:


Source:Outdoors with Kids Philadelphia (AMC Books)
Address:Belmont Avenue and Montgomery Drive, Philadelphia, PA
Hours:Trails and grounds: 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily;
Fee: Admission to grounds is free. Admission to Shofuso: adults, $6; children ages 3 to 17, $4
Contact:

phila.gov/parksandrecreation, 215-683-0200; fairmountparkconservancy.org, 215-988-9334; shofuso.com, 215-878-5097; Kelly Pool, 281 North Concourse Drive, 215-685-0174
 

Bathrooms: None
Water/Snacks: None
Map:

Walk or bike around historical buildings, take in Belmont Plateau’s skyline views, visit a Japanese house, and discover hidden sculptures.

Enjoy some quiet time at the exquisitely serene Shofuso Japanese House and garden in West Fairmount Park.
Photo by: Susan Charkes

West Fairmount Park is a huge expanse of green that spreads out along the plateau high above the Schuylkill River. While the Please Touch Museum, in Memorial Hall, is the park’s justly celebrated family showpiece, the trails, gardens, and other outdoor features deserve to be as well-known a destination. The park, which is being improved under a long-term plan, is conveniently located and popular.

Memorial Hall dates from the 1876 Centennial Exposition, when 236 acres of Fairmount Park were dotted with numerous pavilions and exhibit halls that showcased American scientific and technological accomplishments. "Centennial District" is the official name for this part of the park. Keep an eye out for the numerous sculptures, both old and new, that line the paths and peek out from hidden alcoves.

From the museum, pick up any of the paved paths to walk, stroller, or bike around the park. Several options exist for a route around the area. A marked 5K loop path begins behind the museum. You can make a short, easy loop walk or ride by starting near the museum at the colossal gateway of the Smith Memorial Arch, and heading north to the Horticultural Center then back along Belmont Avenue. To extend the loop, follow signs up to Belmont Plateau, which provides a fabulous skyline view of the city. The 27-acre Horticulture Center and Centennial Arboretum contains several small gardens for kids to explore: a butterfly garden, a hummingbird garden, and a sensory garden, maintained by visually impaired gardeners.

During the warm months, Shofuso Japanese House opens to visitors. The replica seventeenth-century house, with its tatami floors and bark roof, along with the surrounding beautiful Japanese-style courtyard garden and large koi pond, are exotic enough that older kids will enjoy a short tour.

Concourse Lake, currently being restored with plantings, signage, play and picnic areas, and paved paths, is a 7.5-acre lake off of Belmont Avenue, between Avenue of the Republic and South Concourse Street. The restoration project, scheduled for 2013 completion, will make the lake an attractive, stroller accessible destination for children to discover shoreline wildlife.

Kelly Pool, a free public swimming pool, is next to the Please Touch Museum.

Remember: If visiting Shofuso, you must remove your shoes to enter; socks or stockings are required.

Plan B:

The Philadelphia Zoo is nearby. Across the Schuylkill (take the Spring Garden Street bridge) is the Smith Playground for young kids, and bike and walking paths along Kelly Drive.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Where to eat: Centennial Café, in the park off Belmont Avenue, is open seasonally. Other than the museum snack bar, food options are scarce. It’s best to bring a picnic.



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