By Sam Klugherz
The most notable place to bike in East Fairmount Park, the section of the Park east of the Schuylkill River, is undoubtedly the acclaimed Schuylkill River Trail. However, there are destinations equally as worthy of visits a little further east into the Park. We encourage you to check out these destinations while riding in East Fairmount Park to not only enjoy your time in one of the largest urban parks in the country, but also to gain a greater understanding of the history and significance in the Park and feel more connected to Philadelphia as a whole. You will find a route map of a ride to these destinations at the bottom of this page.
Having opened less than a year ago, the Discovery Center is a great place to check out to learn more about the importance of Fairmount Park habitat preservation in Philadelphia. Located on Strawberry Mansion Reservoir, the Center was developed in partnership between Philadelphia Outward Bound School and the National Audubon Society. A beautiful pedestrian-only trail around the reservoir, which you can enjoy once you park your bike, and indoor educational exhibits are open to the public throughout the week. The exhibits are focused not only on the bird wildlife within the Park, but also on the larger ecosystem and conservation efforts in the area.
Smith Memorial Playground
If you’re riding through East Fairmount Park with children, visit the Smith Memorial Playground for exceptional fun. The free playground destination features an indoor playhouse designed specifically to be a play space for kids, in addition to 6 ½ acres of expansive fields and outdoor play equipment. Smith prides itself on being a play area promoting unstructured free play for children. Smith also hosts plenty of fun special events and activities throughout the summer and offers a space for birthday parties or private events.
Woven into the landscape of Fairmount Park is the extensive network of historic mansions which make for a scenic ride through the Park. The six main houses, often referred to as “Charms of Fairmount Park,” each have significant stories and personalities that justify a visit to be seen in person. The largest “Charm” in the Park is the well-known Historic Strawberry Mansion, a Federal-style structure famous for being the summer home of prominent residents over three centuries. The four other “Charms” east of the Schuylkill River include Laurel Hill, Lemon Hill, Mount Pleasant, and Woodford. All five mansions can be reached by riding north through East Fairmount Park and stopping at the mansions along the way. For a bike route that visits a few of the historic sites in addition to four of the Philadelphia Orchard Project (POP) orchards, check out the Petal Pedal tour route created in partnership between the Bicycle Coalition and POP. Additionally, visit parkcharms.com for more information about the history and significance of the six “Park Charms.”
If you’re planning on sticking around in the Strawberry Mansion area of East Fairmount Park, a great place to visit if you’re riding with children is Mander Playground. The playground includes an indoor recreation center, an outdoor playground with swing sets, picnic tables, basketball and tennis courts, a baseball field, a pool, and a renovated sprayground. The sprayground water features are ideal for cooling off after a ride through East Fairmount Park on a hot summer day with kids. There are bike racks for parking on the road adjacent to the park. Check out the Mander Playground Facebook Page for up-to-date information and upcoming events.