Shopping? Take a hike! Philly has options to get outside on Black Friday

Philadelphia has 800 miles of trails. Groups are organizing walks to get folks outside on the biggest shopping day of the year.

Nicole Seahorne Hameen looks upwards while holding a pair of binoculars. Other members of the bird watching group are visible in the background, also looking skyward.

Nicole Seahorne Hameen (center) participates in a guided bird walk at FDR Park with the In Color Birding Club. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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Black Friday may be the biggest shopping day of the year, but what if you don’t want to spend the day spending money. What else is there?

This region has 800 miles of trails, according to the Greater Philadelphia Trails Network. Several organizations are suggesting folks take a hike on Black Friday.

Friends of the Wissahickon has programmed a 5-mile stroll through scenery that has made the Wissahickon Valley famous on television, movies, paintings, and literature. Spots such as the Wissahickon Memorial Bridge, where a car famously blew out in the 1981 film “Blow Out” with John Travolta; Forbidden Drive where “Queer Eye” host Karamo Brown led a wellness walk in season five; the Wissahickon Creek as painted by John Moran, who was better known for his Western landscapes but gave the Wissahickon a romantic rendering at least three times.

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A painting shows autumn trees and cows near the Wissahickon River.
The site of Thomas Moran’s 1864 painting, ”Autumn Afternoon on the Wissahickon, will be part of a guided cultural tour of the Wissahickon trails on Black Friday.(Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection)

The Wissahickon Valley was also immortalized by Kate Winslet as Mare Sheehan, seen fishing at Magargee Dam in the 2021 HBO show “Mare of Easttown,” and in 1844 Edgar Allen Poe devoted an entire essay to describing the natural beauty of a “Morning on the Wissahiccon.”

This is the second cultural walk through the valley coordinated by Friends of the Wissahickon. Trail ambassadors Jean McWilliams and Lisa Kleiman devised a similar one in the spring.

“As we were researching the cultural effects of the Wissahickon on American pop culture, we found that there was so much, too much to include in just a single walk,” Kleiman said. “So we’re coming up on part two.”

This is the first time the Friends of the Wissahickon has programmed a guided walk on Black Friday. Which is fine with McWilliams, who said she never shops on the biggest retail day of the year.

“I don’t think we had any strong anti-commercial feelings here,” McWilliams said. “We wanted to offer people an alternative, to do something that was fun and engaging.”

Jean McWilliams smiles while posing for a photo. Trees are visible behind her.
Jean McWilliams will a co-lead a cultural walk through Wissahickon Valley on Black Friday. (Courtesy of Lisa Kleiman)

The outdoor gear company REI has made a commitment to close all of its retail operations on Black Friday, in response to the “mass consumption and stress that comes with Black Friday.” Instead it launched a campaign called OptOutside, encouraging people to spend the day outdoors.

The OptOutside campaign has come to the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, a 22-mile nature trail in Mercer County. Visitors who walk the trail and submit selfies taken with the posted OptOutside signs can be eligible for prizes.

The Philadelphia birdwatching group In Color Birding and the wellness group for women of color Healing Through the Land have organized a Black Friday birding walk for the first time. In Color Birding, which advocates birding for people of color and those who may not feel comfortable walking in nature, will be taking a group through West Fairmount Park.

Great egrets stalk through the water lilies
Great egrets stalk through the water lilies at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. (Emma Lee/for NewsWorks)

“It’s a date that has a newfound desire to get outside, get away from the shopping a little bit,” said In Color Birding founder Jason Hall.

A man walks with his dog at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge
A man walks with his dog at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

November 24 is also Native American Heritage Day. The leaders of the birding walk are In Color Birding founding board member Nicole Seahorne and Krista Nelson, who are both descendants of Indigenous people. They will be identifying birds using their native Lenape names, referencing the Lenape Talking Dictionary provided by the Delaware Tribe of Indians.

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Expect to see red-tailed hawks (màxkalaniyat, “one who has red tail feathers,” pronounced MACH-kah-LAH-knee-AWT), cardinals (mhùkwinùnt, “ones who look bloody”, pronounced mow-KWEE-nunt), blue jays (tyas, pronounced TEE-ahs), and wrens (hinutët, pronounced hee-NEW-tit).

“We don’t typically have representation from folks with Indigenous backgrounds that could speak to us about the history of the place,” said Hall. “These are new things that we can bring.”

Naturally, you don’t need to join a guided walk to get outside on Black Friday, only the will do it and a decent pair of shoes. The Pennsylvania Environmental Council has a series of streaming audio stories, called TrailOff, created by Swim Pony performance group, that are geo-located to specific trails around Philadelphia.

Those who choose to walk along the Kensington and Tacony Trail near the Frankford Boat Launch can listen to “Conversations” by Jacob Camacho, an audio story based on the landscape told from a Lenape perspective.

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