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Fairmount Park, Philadelphia

Fairmount Park Fairmount Park Photo by Tony Fischer via Flickr

Philadelphia has one of the most beautiful urban parks in the country, and it is the largest landscaped park in the USA. Fairmount Park lies on the banks of the Schuylkill River and covers more than 9,200 acres, it provides endless open spaces, works of public art and recreational facilities to those taking a break from the concrete jungle. The park's tall trees obscure the city buildings from view and you can literally feel that you've stepped into the countryside. The public are welcome to come and picnic, play, jog, bike, cycle or walk in the idyllic surroundings. The park is home to some of the city's top attractions like the Philadelphia Zoo; Please Touch Museum; Memorial Hall; Fairmount Water Works; the Japanese House and Garden; the oldest botanical gardens in the world – Bartram's Garden; the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Lloyd Hall which provides indoor recreational facilities. Apart from the landscaped areas there are parts of the park where natural foliage, wildlife, wood areas and natural landscape have been left untouched.

The park is actually a group of 63 smaller parks as well as the original Fairmount Park which covers 4,100 acres. South Park extends from below the Fairmount Water Works to Callowhill Street Bridge; East Park covers Lemon Hill and Sedgeley; West Park is where you'll find the zoo and the Centennial Expositional grounds. The park was the site of the 1876 Centennial Exposition and several structures remain from this period.

Museum of ArtOne of the latest additions is the Schuylkill River Trail which runs for 140 miles (230km) extending beyond the park from Pottsville, PA to Fort Mifflin. Visitors to the park can enjoy the abundant public art, the outdoor sculptures include the Florentine Lions (1887) and the Iroquois by Mark di Suvero. In the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial Sculpture Park you can see bronze and granite sculptures by a number of artists. There are several historic houses within the park like the Mount Pleasant mansion which is now used as a gallery for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There is also the Belmont Mansion which dates back to 1745, The Monastery (1747) and the Historic Strawberry Masion which offers tours of the interior.

Be sure to go to Belmont Plateau to get an amazing view from 243 feet above the river, and take a look at the 19th Boathouse Rowcentury Boathouse Row. The Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse is a must-do family attraction within Fairmount Park. Here kids under 10 can explore the giant mansion and slide down a huge wooden slide which can seat 12 kids at a time! The playground (which is one of several in the park) covers 6.5 acres.

Fairmount Park is open from sunrise to sunset and the amenities are open to the public for free, apart from some of the wilderness trails and off-road biking and horse riding areas where a permit is needed.

LocationFairmount Park, Philadelphia, PA 19119