Many of Philadelphia’s top outdoor experiences can be found along the Delaware River waterfront, including seasonal pop-up parks, historic ships, and piers that have been converted into riverside recreational spaces.
Historic ships moored along the Delaware River include a World War II submarine and a ship that saw action during the Spanish-American War, both of which visitors can tour. The Becuna patrolled the Pacific Ocean during World War II and sunk four enemy ships, later sailing the Mediterranean and Atlantic Oceans during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Launched in 1892, the cruiser USS Olympia is the only surviving member of the naval fleet used in the Spanish-American War and the ship’s last mission was in 1921, carrying the body of the Unknown Soldier from France to the U.S. Both ships are managed by the nearby Independence Seaport Museum, which features numerous exhibits exploring the history and significance of Philadelphia’s waterways. The museum also offers on-water programming in the spring and summer, including the ability to rent boats to paddle in the nearby marina or to join others on a kayak excursion along the Delaware River.
Moored beside the Olympia and Becuna is the Moshulu — the oldest and largest square rigged sailing vessel still afloat in the world. The decks of the historic ship have been converted into a restaurant with outdoor and indoor dining spaces featuring a seafood-centric menu of modern American cuisine. The Moshulu is also one of the many venues along the Delaware River that are available to rent for private events, celebrations or parties.
Stroll Race Street Pier, a picnic-friendly, multi-tiered park with breathtaking Instagram-worthy views of the sunrise and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge that soars overhead. For one of the best views of the entire Delaware River waterfront and the Philadelphia skyline, head to 5th and Race streets to walk or bike across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge’s pedestrian walkway, which connects downtown Philadelphia with Camden, New Jersey.
Spruce Street Harbor Park is a one-of-a-kind urban oasis and pop-up park located at Penn’s Landing along the Delaware River waterfront. This seasonal, family-friendly pop-up offers countless ways to unwind, from its popular hammock lounge to games like shuffleboard, beanbag toss and life-sized chess. Grab a bite to eat at one of the food vendors on the boardwalk or stop by the floating beer garden for craft brews. In the evening, the park has a magical vibe thanks to hundreds of multicolor LED lights strung above.
Head to the nearby Blue Cross RiverRink in the summer for roller skating, mini-golf, carnival rides, a Ferris wheel and more at Summerfest. This annual event typically kicks off in May and runs through Labor Day. In the winter, the space turns into Winterfest, a winter wonderland of twinkling lights, fire pits and Lodge, through March.
Built into the shell of a century-old municipal pier, Cherry Street Pier has been redeveloped into a sprawling mixed-use public space. Much of the original structure has been preserved, including the original stone headhouses and exposed ceiling beams, creating a cool, industrial vibe. The pier serves as a collaborative creative space for artists and entrepreneurs and features a performance and event space, food vendors, pop-up shops and more for visitors, open year-round. The Garden at Cherry Street Pier offers a unique waterfront dining experience in the pier’s open-air garden in the spring, summer and fall months.
More riverside dining awaits just north of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge at Morgan’s Pier. This seasonal dockside destination is open from the spring through the fall and features an open-air patio with a full-service restaurant and bar.
Grab a fishing pole and try your luck at Pier 68, for sun bathing and recreational fishing. Washington Avenue Pier, also called Pier 53, features an elevated walkway and the Land Buoy, a 55-foot tall, spiral staircase that is open to visitors to enjoy a great view. The pier is also meant to honor the thousands of immigrants who passed through what was once called “Philadelphia’s Ellis Island.” All Delaware River waterfront attractions and experiences will be connected by a soon-to-be-completed Delaware River Trail, offering protected lanes for biking, running and walking along Columbus Boulevard.
Take the RiverLink Ferry across the Delaware River to visit the Adventure Aquarium or the Battleship New Jersey. The Camden Waterfront also offers numerous vantage points for incredible Philadelphia skyline photos. Ferry service is available in spring through the end of September.
For those looking to stay nearby the Delaware River waterfront, consider booking a room at the Hilton Philadelphia Penn’s Landing — Philadelphia’s only waterfront hotel and home to Keating’s Rope & Anchor restaurant and bar, which features an outdoor patio overlooking Penn’s Landing. Other nearby accommodations include the recently updated Philadelphia Marriott Old City, Holiday Inn Express Penn’s Landing, Penn’s View Hotel and other hotels in Old City and Society Hill. Many of the hotels listed here also serve as excellent venue options for meetings and events. For resources to help you find a hotel for your next gathering, click here.
Cover photo: Penn’s Landing Harbor. Photo by M. Stanley courtesy of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation.