7 Secret Parks to Hang in This Summer

Tired of overly friendly dogs, chess hustlers and wayward Frisbees? Try a lie-in at one the city’s under-the-radar pocket parks.

Spring wasn’t so hot this year.

Scratch that. It was hot — often way too hot for spring. It was pretty cold other times, and the rest of the time it rained. But don’t fret! We are just two days away from the summer solstice. Yes, the days only get shorter from here, but no matter: The start of summer is a day for rejoicing.

You don’t need me to tell you that the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff got it right: Summertime is for chilling in the park with your friends: “Back in Philly we be out in the park/A place called the Plateau is where everybody goes.” But it’s not 1991 anymore, and not everyone wants to go to Belmont Plateau. Sometimes you want someplace a little quieter. You might not know these under-the-radar Philadelphia parks, but that doesn’t mean they’re not cool places to hang.

John F. Collins Park


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Location: 1707 Chestnut Street
You already know this if: You work in Center City West
Perfect for: Eating lunch on a summer day

Formerly a really cool-looking Morris Wax Shoes, John F. Collins Park is an even better replacement. It opened as Chestnut Park on June 5, 1979, was primarily designed by Collins and is now run by the Center City District. It’s a small, concrete plaza that features live music on Tuesdays and Thursdays and offers a lot of shade when it’s sunny.

The Biopond


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Location: Off Hamilton Walk, near 38th Street
You already know this if: You’re a Penn student or a West Philly stoner
Perfect for: I hear that’s where Penn kids go to smoke pot, but be careful!

Founded in 1897 by botany Professor Dr. John M. MacFarland, the Biopond is a lush garden right on Penn’s campus. Step into it and it’s as if you traveled through a portal out of the city. This is a place you need to experience.

Bardascino Park


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Location: 10th and Carpenter
You already know this if: You live in Bella Vista; you’re a 73-year-old Italian man
Perfect for: Playing bocce!

Regular readers may know my affinity for bocce, and Bardascino Park features a wonderful bocce court. You can also read there or whatever, but who cares? Bocce bocce bocce!

Paolone Park


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Location: Between Sears and Medina and 7th and 8th streets in South Philly
You already know this if: You live on the 700 block of Sears and Medina streets
Perfect for: Chilling until a nosy neighbor comes over to talk to you

Spearheaded by Democratic committeeman Louis P. Paolone Sr. in the 1980s, the park’s not much more than some trees, a few gardens and a grass field. I didn’t know about it until I stumbled upon it on the way home from a friend’s place on South 7th Street a few years ago. This is incredibly close to two blocks of houses, so keep it quiet.

Benjamin Rush State Park


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Location: Roosevelt Boulevard, along the border with Bensalem
You already know this if: You’re really into RC aircraft
Perfect for: RC aircraft; community gardening; football or other grass-based sports

This is a huge park, 275 acres, and runs between the Boulevard and Poquessing Creek in the Far, Far Northeast. (If you need to place it, it’s across from the former site of Byberry Hospital.) It’s a largely undeveloped park, save for a large community garden. Also, the Northeast Philadelphia Radio Control Club runs there.

Coxe Park


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Location: Cherry, between 21st and 2nd
You already know this if: You live in Logan Circle or you happened to walk down Cherry Street one day
Perfect for: Low-key playing

I’m not in Logan Circle much, so I was quite surprised when I walked down Cherry Street one day to find a park and playground hidden between buildings. It’s similar to Three Bears Park but with less foot traffic. It’s quieter. It also has old-school playground equipment, if you want your kid to live on the edge play like a real human being.

Mystery Addison Street Park


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Location: Addison Street between 7th and 8th
You already know this if: You live right on this park
Perfect for: Reading, being quiet

This is the quietest, most unknown park in Center City. I can’t even pull up a name for it. Literally, just go here and read and nothing else.

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  • koob

    D-Mac,

    For the first 18 years of my life, I lived at 718 Medina St.! As the article you linked to says, Medina doesn’t even run for a whole block before merging with Sears before it gets to 8th. The 700 block of Medina is the only block of Medina that exists. It never picks up again at any other point in the city. When my dad was a kid there used to be houses where the park is now and when I was a little kid, it was basically just a dirt lot with a lot of junked cars. I remember being at the dedication ceremony and Jim Tayoun was there to dedicate the plaque to Louis P. Paolone. There is a weeping cherry tree that my family paid for that is still there. We played so many games of “stuck in the mud” and “tackle the man with the ball” in that tiny park and yes, we got yelled at many, many times by the neighbors. Below is a picture of me riding a pony at a friend’s birthday party on Medina St. that had to have been pretty close to when the park first opened because there are hardly any trees yet. I’m guessing I was probably around 9 or 10 so this was probably in 1985 or 1986. The article mentions that the dedication took place in 1989 so the park had definitely been around for a few years before they named it. That was definitely a treat to see it listed as one of your hidden parks.

    -Koob

    • Jeremy Drummond

      I live at 728 Medina St (Rebel’s house). I would love to see any old pictures of the block you can find. email to drummondpa@gmail.com if you have the time.
      Thank you for sharing!

  • Melissa Amilani

    On Walnut between 4th and 5th St. there is a rose garden (no roses, but still a nice little spot) donated by the Daughters of the American Revolution.