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A large stone tunnel surrounded by trees. Courtesy of PORT Urbanism

17 hidden gems of Fairmount Park

From old stone tunnels to trails off the beaten path

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Note: This list was first published in June, 2017 and has been updated for with the newest information.

Clocking in at 2,054 acres, Fairmount Park offers a lot of ground to cover. There are the usual haunts, like Boathouse Row and the many historic mansions that dot the park’s landscape. But there are plenty more spots, from gardens to sculptures to architectural gems, that are a little more hidden.

And, rain or shine (but most likely rain, considering the forecast today) these secret spots, tucked away in the massive park are worth checking out.

To highlight the best of the best, we turned to the experts of Fairmount Park: The Philadelphia Parks and Recreation department staff and the folks at the non-profit Fairmount Park Conservancy. These people are on the ground at Fairmount Park every single day, so they truly know the ins-and-outs of this tremendous green space.

Make sure to take their suggestions and visit the park while the temperatures are still warm (relatively speaking).

Have another spot that’s not on this list? Feel free to share it in the comments.

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1. Concourse Lake

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Concourse Lake Trail
Philadelphia, PA 19131

Concourse Lake is the perfect place for a leisurely stroll. Be sure to keep an eye out for birds and other critters. Tom Witmer, operations manager for the park department’s Natural Lands Restoration, has said, “The lake itself, the planted wetland, and the expanded forest on the west end all make the site attractive to wildlife.”

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2. Carousel House Farm

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On the grounds of the Carousel House in West Fairmount Park you’ll find a small, but significant organic farm. The house itself serves as a rec center for persons with disabilities, and it offers a lot of events that involve the garden. Elisa Ruse-Esposito, Farm Philly program manager, describes it as a “small organic farm packed with yummy and beautiful plants as well as lots of thoughtful programming.” 

An aerial view of a round farm building surrounded by countryside. via Google Earth Pro

3. Shofuso Japanese House and Garden

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Horticultural and Lansdowne Drs
Philadelphia, PA

This stunning traditional-style Japanese house was designed by midcentury modern architect Junzo Yoshimura in 1953 and built in Japan. Chances are you’ve been here for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, but otherwise the Shofuso Japanese Garden House remains a hidden gem in West Fairmount Park. And don’t just admire it from afar—it has one of the most beautiful interiors in the city.

The exterior of the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden. The house is surrounded by colorful flowers, shrubs, trees, and grass. Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

4. Fairmount Park Horticulture Center

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North Horticulture Drive
Philadelphia, PA

The park’s Horticulture Center is free all year, “a green oasis especially in the dead of winter,” says Ruse-Esposito. Fun fact: The center was built on top of the site of the former Horticultural Hall, once the biggest building in the world when it was constructed for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. Today, the Horticulture Center is one of the most popular and beautiful places to get married in Philadelphia.

And while you’re there, don’t miss the center’s Pollinator Garden. Says Michael O'Brien, Horticulture Center Supervisor, “When I'm stressed, I take a short walk to the Pollinator Garden and enjoy the solitude while letting the stress slip away watching large communities of bees buzzing along landing on flowers, each with a true purpose.”

The interior of a greenhouse. The walls and ceiling are glass and there are many varied plants and trees.

5. Journeyer

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Belmont and N. Horticultural Dr.
Philadelphia, PA

Near the Horticulture Center (#4) and Shofuso Japanese Garden House (#3) is this soaring sculpture called the Journeyer. It was erected in 1975 and dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the founding of the U.S., serving as a symbol of the journey it took to get to this point. The Journeyer is a favorite of AeLin Compton, stewardship coordinator, who says, “It's just a great statue—elegant and rugged all at the same time.”

A large statue of a man in a hiking outfit with a walking stick. The statue is surrounded by trees. Courtesy of Flickr/Tony Fischer

6. Pavilion in the Trees

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Artist Martin Puryear’s Pavilion in the Trees has been a beloved spot in West Fairmount Park since its 1993 installation. The Pavilion was inspired by Puryear’s longing for a treehouse as a child. Today, it’s a beautiful, meditative hidden gem.

“It’s not exactly easy to find, but it is a wonderful piece of public art that allows you to be away from it all as well as a wonderful way to connect with the trees, wildlife, and birds all around you,” says Rob Armstrong, preservation and capital projects manager for Parks and Rec.

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7. Saint George and the Dragon

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Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Black Rd.
Philadelphia, PA

It’s quite possibly the most fierce statue in the city,” said Jason Mifflin, Community Initiatives Specialist, of the Saint George and the Dragon statue. “Thousands of people pass by it on MLK every day but don't know about it.” The designer of the bronze statue is unknown, but it was cast by Elkington and Co. in 1877 and brought to the city for the Sons of St. George of Philadelphia.

A statue of a man on a horse. There is a dragon under the horse. The horse is about to trample the dragon. via Wikimedia Commons

8. Stone Arch Bridge

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Chamounix Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19131

Deep in the Chamounix Woods in East Fairmount Park hides this stone arch bridge that was once part of the old Fairmount Park trolley line that operated from the 1890s to the 1950s. It’s hard to find, but start by taking the trail from the Chamounix Hostel. You can’t miss it: The bridge, says Mifflin, is “a very unique architectural piece.”

A large stone tunnel surrounded by trees.

9. Greenland Nursery

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Ford Rd
Philadelphia, PA

Curtis Helm, a project manager with Urban Forestry & Ecosystem Management, calls Greenland Nursery an “oasis within West Fairmount Park.” The 12.5-acre nursery dates back to the 19th century, and today is operated by the Parks and Rec department. It grows about 10,000 plants each year.

An aerial view of farmland and farm buildings. The farm buildings are surrounded by trees. via Google Earth Pro

10. Giant Wooden Slide

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3500 Reservoir Dr
Philadelphia, PA

The Smith Playground in East Fairmount Park is home to the Giant Wooden Slide, which is exactly what it sounds like. The 12-foot-wide, 44-foot-long covered slide is more than 100 years old and has been a family favorite for just as long.

A giant covered slide. The slide has walls and a ceiling. The walls have cutouts for windows. via Wikimedia Commons

11. Centennial Arch by Frank Furness

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1 ford rd
Philadelphia, PA

If you’re walking along Kelly Drive, look across the street at the intersection of Kelly and Strawberry Mansion. You’ll find remnants of the Frank Furness-designed Centennial Arch, which was designed and built for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. In recent years the brownstone arch has been in precarious shape, but with the help of the TreeKeepers program, a green-focused workforce development crew, a lot of the debris and rubble has recently been removed. Just take care crossing the street to explore this gem!

A large arched door over a stone staircase. Courtesy of Andrew Emma, TreeKeepers program manager

12. Dell Music Center

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Ridge Avenue & Strawberry Mansion Drive
Philadelphia, PA

Fairmount Park is home to two major music venues, one being the Mann Center and Dell Music Center. The latter plays host to plenty of summer concerts and outdoor movies each year. Says Facetta Greene, who works at the music venue, “I love the Dell Music Center because it's a beautiful space in East Fairmount Park where you can enjoy great live music on a starry summer night at an affordable price.

13. Sedgley Woods

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3300 W Oxford St
Philadelphia, PA 19121

Welcome to Sedgley Woods, the second oldest disc golf course in the country. The wooded terrain makes the game all the more challenging, but Parks and Rec’s commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell says it’s all about the one-of-a-kind atmosphere that Sedgley Woods offers.

“I don’t think there is anywhere else in the park system (or maybe the world) where you can wander through the woods, play disc golf with guys named Stash and Goat, sneak into the ruins of an historic mansion, connect with wildlife in a meadow, and eat Scrapple from a portable grill—all during the same visit.”

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14. Meadow at the Cliffs

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3300 W Oxford St
Philadelphia, PA 19121

Behind Sedgley Woods, you’ll find a large meadow at the site of the now deteriorated Cliffs Mansion. Its remnants remain, and there’s a large tree that overlooks the meadow and offers some shade. Says Mifflin, “It has beautiful fall colors and is a great place to spot a fox or one of the many hawks that hunt there.”

In the foreground is a grassy meadow. In the distance are trees and a house. Courtesy of Flickr/chrisstorb

15. Turtle Rock Lighthouse

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15 Kelly Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Behold: The only lighthouse in Philadelphia. Turtle Rock Lighthouse was built in 1887 by Frank Thurwanger for $2,663 right next to the historic Boathouse Row. Originally, it was powered by gas, but today it is electric and also home to the Sedgley Club, which now circles the base of the lighthouse.

A building with a lighthouse. via Wikimedia Commons

16. The Cliffs

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Built in the mid-1700’s, this former stone house was bought by the Fairmount Park Commission nearly a century later. In the late 20th-century, the home was vandalized and burned down. Now ruins are all that’s left, but they have taken on a new life as a kind of canvas for graffiti artists. While it might be a shell of its former self, at least it’s a cool looking one.

A post shared by Nina Krantz (@nkrantz04) on

17. Catholic Total Abstinence Fountain

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Avenue of the Republic
Philadelphia, PA 19131

This “fountain” (it doesn’t work as a fountain so much anymore) is a staple of Fairmount Park, and was suggested by a reader to be added to this list. It was built in 1874 for the Centennial Exposition. It features a granite base, a statue of Moses, and several prominent Roman Catholic figures surrounding Moses. The sculptures no longer function as a fountain, and the Moses statue is missing several of its original details, but it’s certainly worth a look.

A post shared by Klee (@flykerrylee) on

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1. Concourse Lake

Concourse Lake Trail, Philadelphia, PA 19131

Concourse Lake is the perfect place for a leisurely stroll. Be sure to keep an eye out for birds and other critters. Tom Witmer, operations manager for the park department’s Natural Lands Restoration, has said, “The lake itself, the planted wetland, and the expanded forest on the west end all make the site attractive to wildlife.”

Concourse Lake Trail
Philadelphia, PA 19131

2. Carousel House Farm

Philadelphia, PA
An aerial view of a round farm building surrounded by countryside. via Google Earth Pro

On the grounds of the Carousel House in West Fairmount Park you’ll find a small, but significant organic farm. The house itself serves as a rec center for persons with disabilities, and it offers a lot of events that involve the garden. Elisa Ruse-Esposito, Farm Philly program manager, describes it as a “small organic farm packed with yummy and beautiful plants as well as lots of thoughtful programming.” 

3. Shofuso Japanese House and Garden

Horticultural and Lansdowne Drs, Philadelphia, PA
The exterior of the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden. The house is surrounded by colorful flowers, shrubs, trees, and grass. Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

This stunning traditional-style Japanese house was designed by midcentury modern architect Junzo Yoshimura in 1953 and built in Japan. Chances are you’ve been here for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, but otherwise the Shofuso Japanese Garden House remains a hidden gem in West Fairmount Park. And don’t just admire it from afar—it has one of the most beautiful interiors in the city.

Horticultural and Lansdowne Drs
Philadelphia, PA

4. Fairmount Park Horticulture Center

North Horticulture Drive, Philadelphia, PA
The interior of a greenhouse. The walls and ceiling are glass and there are many varied plants and trees.

The park’s Horticulture Center is free all year, “a green oasis especially in the dead of winter,” says Ruse-Esposito. Fun fact: The center was built on top of the site of the former Horticultural Hall, once the biggest building in the world when it was constructed for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. Today, the Horticulture Center is one of the most popular and beautiful places to get married in Philadelphia.

And while you’re there, don’t miss the center’s Pollinator Garden. Says Michael O'Brien, Horticulture Center Supervisor, “When I'm stressed, I take a short walk to the Pollinator Garden and enjoy the solitude while letting the stress slip away watching large communities of bees buzzing along landing on flowers, each with a true purpose.”

North Horticulture Drive
Philadelphia, PA

5. Journeyer

Belmont and N. Horticultural Dr., Philadelphia, PA
A large statue of a man in a hiking outfit with a walking stick. The statue is surrounded by trees. Courtesy of Flickr/Tony Fischer

Near the Horticulture Center (#4) and Shofuso Japanese Garden House (#3) is this soaring sculpture called the Journeyer. It was erected in 1975 and dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the founding of the U.S., serving as a symbol of the journey it took to get to this point. The Journeyer is a favorite of AeLin Compton, stewardship coordinator, who says, “It's just a great statue—elegant and rugged all at the same time.”

Belmont and N. Horticultural Dr.
Philadelphia, PA

6. Pavilion in the Trees

Philadelphia, PA

Artist Martin Puryear’s Pavilion in the Trees has been a beloved spot in West Fairmount Park since its 1993 installation. The Pavilion was inspired by Puryear’s longing for a treehouse as a child. Today, it’s a beautiful, meditative hidden gem.

“It’s not exactly easy to find, but it is a wonderful piece of public art that allows you to be away from it all as well as a wonderful way to connect with the trees, wildlife, and birds all around you,” says Rob Armstrong, preservation and capital projects manager for Parks and Rec.

7. Saint George and the Dragon

Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Black Rd., Philadelphia, PA
A statue of a man on a horse. There is a dragon under the horse. The horse is about to trample the dragon. via Wikimedia Commons

It’s quite possibly the most fierce statue in the city,” said Jason Mifflin, Community Initiatives Specialist, of the Saint George and the Dragon statue. “Thousands of people pass by it on MLK every day but don't know about it.” The designer of the bronze statue is unknown, but it was cast by Elkington and Co. in 1877 and brought to the city for the Sons of St. George of Philadelphia.

Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Black Rd.
Philadelphia, PA

8. Stone Arch Bridge

Chamounix Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19131
A large stone tunnel surrounded by trees.

Deep in the Chamounix Woods in East Fairmount Park hides this stone arch bridge that was once part of the old Fairmount Park trolley line that operated from the 1890s to the 1950s. It’s hard to find, but start by taking the trail from the Chamounix Hostel. You can’t miss it: The bridge, says Mifflin, is “a very unique architectural piece.”

Chamounix Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19131

9. Greenland Nursery

Ford Rd, Philadelphia, PA
An aerial view of farmland and farm buildings. The farm buildings are surrounded by trees. via Google Earth Pro

Curtis Helm, a project manager with Urban Forestry & Ecosystem Management, calls Greenland Nursery an “oasis within West Fairmount Park.” The 12.5-acre nursery dates back to the 19th century, and today is operated by the Parks and Rec department. It grows about 10,000 plants each year.

Ford Rd
Philadelphia, PA

10. Giant Wooden Slide

3500 Reservoir Dr, Philadelphia, PA
A giant covered slide. The slide has walls and a ceiling. The walls have cutouts for windows. via Wikimedia Commons

The Smith Playground in East Fairmount Park is home to the Giant Wooden Slide, which is exactly what it sounds like. The 12-foot-wide, 44-foot-long covered slide is more than 100 years old and has been a family favorite for just as long.

3500 Reservoir Dr
Philadelphia, PA

11. Centennial Arch by Frank Furness

1 ford rd, Philadelphia, PA
A large arched door over a stone staircase. Courtesy of Andrew Emma, TreeKeepers program manager

If you’re walking along Kelly Drive, look across the street at the intersection of Kelly and Strawberry Mansion. You’ll find remnants of the Frank Furness-designed Centennial Arch, which was designed and built for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. In recent years the brownstone arch has been in precarious shape, but with the help of the TreeKeepers program, a green-focused workforce development crew, a lot of the debris and rubble has recently been removed. Just take care crossing the street to explore this gem!

1 ford rd
Philadelphia, PA

12. Dell Music Center

Ridge Avenue & Strawberry Mansion Drive, Philadelphia, PA

Fairmount Park is home to two major music venues, one being the Mann Center and Dell Music Center. The latter plays host to plenty of summer concerts and outdoor movies each year. Says Facetta Greene, who works at the music venue, “I love the Dell Music Center because it's a beautiful space in East Fairmount Park where you can enjoy great live music on a starry summer night at an affordable price.

Ridge Avenue & Strawberry Mansion Drive
Philadelphia, PA

13. Sedgley Woods

3300 W Oxford St, Philadelphia, PA 19121

Welcome to Sedgley Woods, the second oldest disc golf course in the country. The wooded terrain makes the game all the more challenging, but Parks and Rec’s commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell says it’s all about the one-of-a-kind atmosphere that Sedgley Woods offers.

“I don’t think there is anywhere else in the park system (or maybe the world) where you can wander through the woods, play disc golf with guys named Stash and Goat, sneak into the ruins of an historic mansion, connect with wildlife in a meadow, and eat Scrapple from a portable grill—all during the same visit.”

3300 W Oxford St
Philadelphia, PA 19121

14. Meadow at the Cliffs

3300 W Oxford St, Philadelphia, PA 19121
In the foreground is a grassy meadow. In the distance are trees and a house. Courtesy of Flickr/chrisstorb

Behind Sedgley Woods, you’ll find a large meadow at the site of the now deteriorated Cliffs Mansion. Its remnants remain, and there’s a large tree that overlooks the meadow and offers some shade. Says Mifflin, “It has beautiful fall colors and is a great place to spot a fox or one of the many hawks that hunt there.”

3300 W Oxford St
Philadelphia, PA 19121

15. Turtle Rock Lighthouse

15 Kelly Dr, Philadelphia, PA 19130
A building with a lighthouse. via Wikimedia Commons

Behold: The only lighthouse in Philadelphia. Turtle Rock Lighthouse was built in 1887 by Frank Thurwanger for $2,663 right next to the historic Boathouse Row. Originally, it was powered by gas, but today it is electric and also home to the Sedgley Club, which now circles the base of the lighthouse.

15 Kelly Dr
Philadelphia, PA 19130

16. The Cliffs

Philadelphia, PA 19121

Built in the mid-1700’s, this former stone house was bought by the Fairmount Park Commission nearly a century later. In the late 20th-century, the home was vandalized and burned down. Now ruins are all that’s left, but they have taken on a new life as a kind of canvas for graffiti artists. While it might be a shell of its former self, at least it’s a cool looking one.

17. Catholic Total Abstinence Fountain

Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia, PA 19131

This “fountain” (it doesn’t work as a fountain so much anymore) is a staple of Fairmount Park, and was suggested by a reader to be added to this list. It was built in 1874 for the Centennial Exposition. It features a granite base, a statue of Moses, and several prominent Roman Catholic figures surrounding Moses. The sculptures no longer function as a fountain, and the Moses statue is missing several of its original details, but it’s certainly worth a look.

Avenue of the Republic
Philadelphia, PA 19131