Philly’s Summer Playground: Delaware River Waterfront Is Open for the Season
Summerfest at the RiverRink, Spruce Street Harbor Park, and more are open for all the warm weather fun!
Rejoice, Philly! After the longest winter ever, it’s finally time to return to sunshine, warm weather, and that Delaware River waterfront life. Spruce Street Harbor Park and Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest open for the season today, May 11, flanking Penn’s Landing with both a playground and oasis perfect for all ages. The park will open seven days a week starting May 24, but you can check it out this weekend and next weekend before then! Here’s what you can look forward to at our own little slice of boardwalk perfection right here in the city.
The Blue Cross RiverRink is Philadelphia’s only outdoor roller skating rink, and has amazing views of the river and Ben Franklin Bridge. Adults can rent traditional roller skates as well as inline skates, and the RiverRink even has toddler skates that go over the shoes and tighten to fit (and are much easier to balance on).
Skating admission is $3 (free for kids under 4, all Independence Blue Cross Cardholders and employees, as well as first responders and military personnel). Skate rental is $10. You can buy tickets online or at the box office outside the rink.
In addition to skating, there are so many fun activities for kids and adults of all ages. After you take off your skates, stick around Summerfest for more games, like Artful Golfer mini golf (9 holes; $5 per person), a few different carnival games where you can win stuffed animals, and lots of arcade games throughout the indoor areas.
At the far end of Spruce Street Harbor, you’ll find yet another arcade! This one is made of a shipping container to match the other stands at the SSHP boardwalk, and contains Skee-Ball, air hockey, claw crane games, Ms. Pacman, and two racing games. There are also some coin-op ride-ons outside the arcade. In addition to the arcade, SSHP has bocce courts, ping pong, shuffleboard, and giant games like chess and Jenga. SSHP also added some playground-style swings last year, which have returned to the sandy area near the paddle dock.
Last year, Summerfest got a major upgrade with the addition of the Midway, adding carnival rides to its already festive vibe. Happily, the Midway has returned this year with the Ferris wheel and carousel. The Ferris wheel is 60 feet high, lights up, and offers an unparalleled aerial view of Summerfest and the waterfront. Rides are $4 per person.
Paddle your way around the Penn’s Landing basin in a kayak, rowboat, pirate ship, swan or dragon! There is but one dragon boat—may the odds be ever in your favor. You can buy tickets at the booth next to the dock adjacent to the Independence Seaport Museum. Tickets are $8 per person for a 30 minute rental (or $5 if you’re a member of the Seaport Museum).
No prior experience or licenses are required to rent a boat, but since everyone must wear a life jacket, kids do need to be at least 3 years old to ride, even on a swan boat. The minimum age for boat rentals is 6 years old, and 9 years old for tandem kayaks. Children must be at least 11 years old to take out a single kayak. All children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
Paddle Penn’s Landing is currently open every day, through September 30. The last boat leaves the dock at sunset each night.
Where to even begin? There are so many Philly favorites in one spot, as well as summertime fun foods like funnel cake, lemonade, cotton candy, and more to give you all the boardwalk carnival feels.
Let’s start with the frozen treats, because we’ve got lots of hot summer days ahead of us, and luckily there is plenty of deliciousness to cool us off. That’s all thanks to Franklin Fountain, who has not one, not two, but three outposts here. On the RiverRink side, there is Franklin Fountain’s Clubhouse Cabin, which serves ice cream, cotton candy, and more.
On Spruce Street Harbor Park’s boardwalk, you can find the S.S. Franklin, a stand made of an old shipping container that serves ice cream as well as waffles, milkshakes, and floats. In between the two, you will find the Franklin Sugar Shack, which has “Fancy Ices” (homemade fruit water ice), soft serve, and tropical-inspired drinks like sugar cane juice.
Garces favorites like Distrito tacos and Village Burger can be found at Spruce Street Harbor Park (look for the tacos over near the floating barge oasis and beer stand). New for this year, HipCityVeg joins the SSHP food lineup, serving vegan fast-casual eats like a “Philly Steak” that’s the closest we’ve tasted to the real thing. HipCityVeg will also have vegan desserts like banana whips and shakes.
Philly fave Chickie’s and Pete’s can be found on both sides—Summerfest and SSHP—as well. On the SSHP boardwalk, you can get favorites like Crabfries and boneless wings. At the RiverRink Lodge, Chickie’s and Pete’s Crabshack has the regular options as well as an entire array of fresh seafood—don’t worry, every table has a roll of paper towels, so get cracking (literally) with abandon.
One sad note: before you get excited about fried chicken sandwiches and a sugary “Bag o’ Donuts,” we regret to report that Port FedNuts—the waterfront’s Federal Donuts outpost—has set sail.
Now to drown your sorrows: beer! Among other highlights, the waterfront is a great location for some day drinking with your kids in tow. You’ll find beer gardens and bars on both sides of the waterfront stretch. New for this year, SSHP has frozen drinks, including strawberry daiquiris and margaritas!
Now grab that craft beer and hit the hammocks! In addition to all the fun activities, the Waterfront is also a lovely place to just sit back and relax. Spruce Street Harbor Park has over 50 handmade hammocks throughout the park (though it doesn’t feel like that many, especially on weekends when they are very hard to get!), as well as two hammock lounges you can reserve for up to 20 people.
Spruce Street Harbor Park also has an oasis made of three landscaped barges, a net lounge, and floating gardens. Here, you can relax while suspended 4 feet above the water on nets! There are also lots of colorful Adirondack chairs throughout SSHP, including the giant red Visit Philly one, so don’t forget to snap some photos there!
On the Summerfest side of the waterfront, you can take a seat at the wooden rocking chairs on the porch of the Lodge (including little kid-sized ones), as well a private little cottage near the Lodge, with shade, seating, and nautical décor. Summerfest also has a giant Visit Philly chair, so you don’t have to walk all the way to SSHP for that photo op.
The season kicks off this weekend with UNIVESTival at SSHP and the opening of the RiverRink and Midway at Summerfest. UNIVESTival is a three-day celebration with live music, make-and-take crafts, face painting, live performers (like wirewalking and magicians), prizes, and more.
If you loved coming to the RiverRink for Storytime at the Lodge over the winter, it’s back for the summer too! Each week, you and your kids can enjoy a new book and interactive entertainment with Listen, Learn, and Play. These free storytimes will be held weekly beginning June 2, on Saturdays at 11:30 am.
New for this year, PopUpPlay will host a variety of free kids’ activities with monthly themes like science, civic engagement, building, and water. These interactive activities will involve art, music, science, and physical movement. You can find PopUpPlay events every Sunday at 11:30 am at Spruce Street Harbor Park.
The PECO Multicultural Series will take place at the Great Plaza throughout the summer, starting with the Irish Festival on June 3. These festivals include live performances, food, vendors, and more to celebrate different cultural traditions at each festival.
Every Thursday night in July and August, come at 8:30 for Screenings under the Stars, a free outdoor movie series at Penn’s Landing. Movies include Black Panther, Coco, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and more.
There is also plenty of live music planned, from Smooth Jazz Summer Nights at Penn’s Landing to Waterfront Sessions at SSHP and much more. Be sure to check the schedule on the DRWC website to keep track of all their happenings.
Of course, this is not even including very special events like Sail Philadelphia over Memorial Day weekend and the spectacular fireworks celebrating Independence Day and Labor Day. There is so much to do at the Waterfront this summer, and we can’t wait!
Spruce Street Harbor Park and the Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest open for the season on May 11 for the weekends, and then all week long beginning May 24. Spruce Street Harbor Park opens at 11 am every day; and stays open until 11 pm Sunday to Thursday, and 1 am on Fridays and Saturdays. Summerfest opens at 1 pm on weekdays and 11 am on weekends; and stays open until 11 pm Sunday to Thursday, and 1 am on Fridays and Saturdays.
Admission is free for all locations along the waterfront, but attractions like rides, skating, games, and food are pay-as-you-go.
Parking is available on the streets, as well as in lots located at Market Street, Walnut Street, and Lombard Circle at Columbus Boulevard. The waterfront attractions are all accessible via SEPTA bus lines and the Market-Frankford line with minimal walking. You can also take the Phlash bus, which stops directly at Penn’s Landing. If you prefer biking, there are multiple Indego stations as well as bike parking on site.
Photographs by Laura Swartz.