Social distancing outside: Where to walk without crowds

If you need to get out of the house while practicing social distancing, Philly offers options less popular than the Schuylkill and Wissahickon.

North Broad Street (Mark Henninger/Imagic Digital)

North Broad Street (Mark Henninger/Imagic Digital)

To go outside for a walk, or not? In the age of COVID-19, that is one of the many questions running through the minds of people all over, including Philadelphia.

Philadelphia’s current stay-at-home order prohibits gatherings of any size and limits the reasons in which people can go outside.

But for now, Philadelphians are permitted to seek the outdoors for exercising purposes — when “you’re going out for a walk or a run, a bike ride,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Tuesday at a virtual press conference.

“You’re going to do that by yourself or only with family members, and come back, keep your distance from people and wash your hands,” Farley added.

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If you’re feeling compelled to stretch your limbs and get some fresh air, Philly offers plenty of options likely to be less crowded than the Schuylkill and Wissahickon Trails.

MLK Jr. Drive

The city closed Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to motor vehicle traffic on Friday to allow people to keep their distance while walking, biking and running along the tree-lined road. It’s a scenic spot for a long walk.  While you are enjoying the fresh air and mood-boosting greenery, thank the open streets advocates who petitioned to make your adventure possible.

Tacony Creek Park

According to public health experts, parks are a safer bet during this time because there’s so much space, making it easy to keep six feet apart from other people. Tacony Creek Park in Northeast Philadelphia is a great option for those looking to be out in nature.

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The Woodlands

The Woodlands is a 54-acre 19th-century rural cemetery and garden located in West Philadelphia. The tranquil grounds are now a “modern green oasis” for residents to enjoy and remain open during this time. Just make sure to stay six feet away from others — and steer clear of gravestones. We don’t need any more bad juju.

The Navy Yard

The Navy Yard is only open to the public from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. starting on Tuesday, March 24. Although the hours are subject to change, the Navy Yard is positioning itself as a place to “step out and reset” during this precarious time. They have a list of ten ways to enjoy yourself at the Navy Yard, ranging from nature walks to fishing and more.

North Broad Street

North Broad Street is the perfect strolling street — it’s wide enough for you to keep a distance from others and there’s plenty of architectural eye-candy. Make sure to look up and notice the ornate cornices on the Divine Lorraine and the grand touches on the Burk Mansion. Catch the ‘Boner4ever’ tag before it’s gone. For those that were supposed to run the now-postponed Broad Street Run in May, this might be the street to visit.

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum

Stop by America’s first urban refuge for some nature, peace and wildlife. You can admire the open waters, bird watch, walk the refuge trails and so much more. This National Wildlife Refuge is the ideal place to practice meditation or breathing exercises — simply close your eyes and listen to the sounds of nature. It’s the calmness we all need right now.

Remember, heading outside, and getting a move on can help reduce stress but it is critical to practice social distancing in public and follow the CDC’s guidance on personal hygiene. Otherwise, it might not be safe at all.

Things to keep in mind before heading outside:

  • If you are sick or experiencing any symptoms related to COVID-19, stay at home
  • Figure out where you’re going and how you’re heading there
  • Bring with you any supplies you may need like water, hand sanitizer, etc.
  • Be prepared to cross the street or move more slowly or faster in order to maintain a distance from others
  • Plan ahead for bathroom breaks as many parks and public spaces have closed restrooms
Courtesy of the National Recreation and Park Association.

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