Guided hikes and movie nights: A fall 2021 guide to exploring Philly’s parks

As the delta variant drives a surge in new COVID-19 cases, the outdoor recreation boom may continue. Here’s a guide to exploring Philly’s parks this fall.

A group of people are pictured walking in a Philadelphia park

File photo: The Fairmount Park Conservancy plans to bring a variety of recreational, environmental, and cultural programs to neighborhood parks this fall. (Fairmount Park Conservancy)

Amid reliably “high” transmission rates of COVID-19, the possibility of spending more time indoors this fall looks increasingly iffy.

Since the onset of the pandemic, public health experts have agreed: Parks are a safer bet in the age of the coronavirus. Physical distancing is easier in spacious outdoor settings, and outdoor transmission of the virus is less common as the natural breeze disperses airborne particles.

That early consensus was followed by an outdoor recreation “boom” many officials attributed to pandemic-related closures and restrictions. In 2020, Pennsylvania state parks saw nearly 10 million more visitors than the year prior, up 26.6% for a total of 46.9 million visitors.

Last fall, 86% of 1,001 Pennsylvanians surveyed said that time spent in public green spaces had been essential to their mental and/or physical health during the pandemic. As the delta variant of the virus drives a surge in new cases, parks may see that trend line continue.

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Here’s a guide to exploring Philly’s parks this fall.

What’s new?

New park attractions include a farmer’s market in Fairmount Park. Located at the CASE Building, the market runs every Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. through Oct. 25.

Park 101 — a series of in-person events led by guides or experts — is also set to launch this fall. Organizers aim to dismantle some of the barriers that prevent people from being able to access certain activities, including kayaking and skateboarding. A list of upcoming events can be found online.

Among the new park features will be a free PHLASH shuttle at FDR Park. The weekend shuttle will pick up passengers at the NRG SEPTA station at Broad Street and Pattison Avenue, making stops at the FDR Park Hubs at the playground, Asian market, and soccer fields.

Visitors walk through the farmer's market at Fairmount Park
Visitors walk through the farmer’s market at Fairmount Park. (Fairmount Park Conservancy)

Arts and entertainment

This year, more than 20 Philly parks are hosting movie nights featuring family-friendly films. A full movie night schedule can be found online.

At Hatfield House, a cultural and community hub in East Fairmount Park, upcoming activities include a Spirit of the Drums event and performance on Oct. 13, and a riding event with the Fletcher Street Urban Rider Club on Oct. 24. More information on Hatfield House events can be found online.

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People sit on a park lawn to watch a movie on a projector screen
More than a dozen Philly parks plan to host movie nights. (Fairmount Park Conservancy)

Park staples

The Fairmount Park Conservancy recently updated Fairmount Park’s 10-mile run and charted a new 10-mile course throughout South Philly, with stops in the Navy Yard, Mifflin Square Park, and Marconi Plaza. Full routes can be found online.

For runners who want to become more familiar with Fairmount Park and FDR Park trails, or for those training for the Broad Street Run, professional fitness coach John Goldthorp leads Training on Trails runs every Wednesday. Those interested can sign up to participate online.

For people interested in meeting their neighbors while getting some exercise, We Walk PHL offers a free walking program that spans 18 parks across the city and runs from September through October.

A young girl pushes leaves with a broom at a Philly park
Volunteers prep a Philly park for winter. (Fairmount Park Conservancy)

Volunteer work

Residents who want to give back may join conservancy staff for Tree Care Tuesdays or Wednesday Weeding sessions at rotating locations. The volunteer events are open to everyone, and all tools are provided. A full schedule of volunteer opportunities can be found online.

Later this fall, more than 100 volunteer groups will host park cleanups as part of Love Your Park Fall Service Day on Saturday, Nov. 13. To prepare Philly’s parks for winter, volunteers will plant trees and bulbs, rake leaves, and eliminate litter. Those interested in volunteering can register online beginning Oct. 13.

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