Schuylkill Banks & East Fairmount Park
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids Philadelphia (AMC Books)
Address:Kelly Drive at Art Museum Circle, Philadelphia, PA
Hours:Park trails and grounds open daily, 8 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Fee: Free
Bathrooms: At Lloyd Hall on Boathouse Row
Water/Snacks: A water fountain is at the Water Works parking area; also in Lloyd Hall; snack carts are along Boathouse Row

It’s the best place in the city to enjoy the Schuylkill River: walk, bike, or paddle.

Breathtaking Schuylkill River vistas reward a walk up steep bluffs to the Water Works overlook.
Photo by: Susan Charkes

The Schuylkill Banks is a newly completed waterfront park that stretches along the eastern banks of the Schuylkill River between the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the Banks’ northern end and Locust Street at its southern end. Its 1.2 miles of level, stroller-friendly, paved paths, ideal for waking or biking, swoop along the landscaped riverbanks, protected from traffic, while giving great views of the city skyline. Plans are in place to extend the trails south, eventually connecting to existing trails in Gray’s Ferry and Bartram’s Garden. Enter the park from the Water Works pathway below the Museum of Art; by crossing Martin Luther King Drive south of the museum; or by crossing the CSX tracks at 23rd and Race Street or 25th and Locust Street.

At the Water Works, a group of repurposed historical structures along the river just northwest of the Museum of Art, you’ll find awesome vantage pointsof the river and the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center, a fun, interactive exhibit space about watersheds that school-age kids will enjoy. The paved walkway up the rock cliffs to the high point is steep but stroller-friendly.

Paddlers can take advantage of the tidal river. A park concessionaire gives scheduled kayak tours of the lower Schuylkill, and it is permissible to put in a kayak or canoe at the Walnut Street dock as long as it does not interfere with organized events. However, there’s no motor vehicle access to the Schuylkill Banks, so boats need to be wheeled or carried to the launch.

Young anglers can enjoy several easily accessed fishing locations, under the Walnut Street bridge and elsewhere along the banks.

The Schuylkill Banks’ official boundary is at the Water Works, but the path continues into East Fairmount Park. Follow it by walking between the Water Works complex and the rock cliffs, around the circular Water Works parking lot to Water Works Drive, where the path merges into the Schuylkill River Trail. The SRT continues along Kelly Drive through East Fairmount Park. Its paved, wide surface along the river is great for kids to bike or walk, and it accommodates strollers. This section of the SRT is very popular not only with families but with bikers, skaters, and runners, so it can get crowded on weekends; a gravel drive that parallels it is good for pedestrians. On the other side of Kelly Drive are more trails to explore. Starting at Fountain Green Drive is the Boxers’ Trail, a paved, 3.8-mile bike and hike trail that goes to Strawberry Mansion by way of Smith Playhouse, following theroute of a training path reputedly run by boxing legend Joe Frazier. Other easy walking trails meander through Laurel Hill Cemetery (Kelly Drive at Hunting Park Avenue), which overlooks the river from high bluffs.

Remember: Dogs must be leashed.

Plan B:

In the west side of Fairmount Park you’ll find more trails, as well as the Please Touch Museum and the Philadelphia Zoo.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Head up Fairmount Avenue to find many small shops and restaurants.


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