Picnic in the Park(s)

You’ve got your picnic basket and a free afternoon. We’ve got the gorgeous green space and grab-and-go fare.
How many other urban landscapes do you know with nearly 300 acres, more than 6,500 trees, over 240 species of plants, trees and shrubs, ten specialty gardens, five urban parks, and an accredited arboretum title? Plus there’s more than 45 restaurants to discover as you zig and zag across this oasis in the city. Tis the season to get outdoors, soak up the sun, and get your green on.
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3601 Locust Walk
The Arch
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Steam rising from the cement? Seek refuge – and take advantage of the warmer weather! – on the nearest patch of green grass. Before you join the crowd at Blanche P. Levy Park, aka College Green, swing into Mexican quick-serve concept Tortas Frontera for help packing a picnic that’ll have onlookers brimming with envy. Their locally sourced tortas (griddle-baked, savory sandwiches) are travel-ready and just as good as they sound. Once you’ve eaten your fill, pop over to the Peace Garden by the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center for some additional Zen. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you spot the iconic silver peace symbol sculpture. Other clues: the grove of distinctive Chinese elms (take a good look at the bark on those trees!) and dozens of daffodils and azaleas. 

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3728 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

If you’re looking for a bench with your name on it, Edward W. Kane Park is a good bet. And if oak leaf hydrangea, grape hyacinth, and rose of Sharon mean anything to you, bring your camera. Once a surface parking lot, Kane Park is now home to a bevy of garden beds, an elevated lawn (frisbee, anyone?), and a paved pathway. The variety of peak season plant life is a big draw for staff, patients, and family members looking for a change of scenery from nearby Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania – as is Shop Penn newcomer Just Salad, a popular answer to the quick and healthy lunch conundrum. Serving seasonal salads, wraps, grain bowls, toast boxes, smoothies, and more (with many items ringing in under $10!), this neighborhood favorite may best be enjoyed with a gentle breeze and book on your lap.

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3716 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Want more local intel? Penn’s campus may have 100 acres of green space, but three of them are particularly enchanting. Jot this down for your next lunch break: The James G. Kaskey Memorial Garden and Park (otherwise known as the BioPond). Before you set out for this hidden gem off Hamilton Walk, stop by Gia Pronto Kitchen to upgrade your bag lunch (think signature salads, single-slice pizza, not-your-average panini) and maximize your time outside. While many spend years on campus without discovering this woodland and aquatic pond, the area is a true urban oasis. Home to a variety of flora and fauna, with countless footpaths winding through serene gardens and secluded forests, there couldn’t be a better setting to unfurl a picnic blanket and spend some quiet time among the (500) trees.

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3401 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Speaking of on-campus jewels, there are a couple of others to consider adding to your back pocket. Exhibit A: public commons and pedestrian walkway Shoemaker Green. What’s going on behind the scenes of the 2.5-acre site? A sustainable site management plan to improve water quality, minimize runoff, reduce the effect of the urban heat, and increase local biodiversity. Amble over to Shoemaker Green Rain Garden – yes, as pretty as it sounds – where floodplain species flourish and brown-eyed Susans and blue flag irises abound. And for sustenance, duck into Franklin’s Table Food Hall (on your way up Locust) for açaí bowls, avocado toast, falafel salad, and just about anything else you fancy.

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Smith Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Brysi Café is another convenient option for sandwiches, smoothies, coffee, and juice  – particularly if you’re over by Penn Park. This 24-acre park is a playground for active urbanites, and comes complete with picnic areas, playing fields, tennis courts, and a multiuse stadium. The University can attribute a 20% increase of campus green space in 2011 to Penn Park, and plant lovers will appreciate the 500+ mainly native trees selected to spruce up the former industrial site. From a longtime Quaker: If you’d like a shot of the city skyline through the trees, keep your eyes peeled for Paley Bridge. And consider this your must go/eat guide. There’s no backdrop quite like Penn, both on and off the beaten path.   

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