Fairmont Park, Philadelphia
Located in Fairmount Park, the largest city park in the US, are the Fairmount Park Mansions. These seven eighteenth and early nineteenth century historic homes were established as rural retreats by prominent families of the city. These lovely homes give the visitor a glimpse into Philadelphia's rich history.
If you visit during the Christmas season, the Philadelphia Art Museum offers a candlelight tour of the houses decorated for the season.
Our guided bus tour took us on Kelly Drive, along the Schuylkill River northwest of downtown. Along the way we saw the beautiful houses along the river that make up "Boathouse Row".
The combination of park and Victorian houses seems out of place so close to Philadelphia Center City. It is a shame we never had time to go back for a walk there. Fairmount Park is a popular spot for walker, joggers and artists - it is so calm compared to the bustling activity on nearby Ben Franklin Parkway!
The Wissahickon section of Fairmount Park is the place to lose yourself in the woods while still in the city. I often take 4-5 hour hikes and never cover the same ground twice in the same day. It can be a simple walk on Forbidden Drive with its wide gravel path or trails that wind up and down the sides of the Wissahickon Valley. I used this area as practice before I hiked the Appalachian Trail. Sometimes the mountain bikes are going a bit too fast for a multi-purpose trail but they are generally polite and you can't fault them for enjoying themselves so much.
You can even have a full course meal at the Valley green Inn, sitting on the porch watching the bikes, horses and people go by.
Inside Fairmont Park, you'll find this authentic reproduction of a 16th/17th century Japanese house which you can visit for only $2.50 for adults (children are free). It was constructed in Japan in 1953 and then shipped to the US. The pond and gardens and house are all impressive and make for a relaxing excursion from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Don't forget to check out Fairmont Park, which makes Central Park in New York look like a putting green!
Fairmont Park is the largest metro park in the nation with bike paths, hiking trails and lots and lots of open space.
You truly feel as if you are out in the country away from all the pressures and stress of city life.
You can stroll along the Wissahickon Creek or toss a football in the fall.
A great place to get away.