Things to Do Outdoors Over Memorial Day Weekend That Don’t Involve Going Down the Shore

Avoid crowds while getting some fresh air over the holiday weekend.

memorial day things to do outdoors

Looking for Memorial Day things to do outdoors? Cooper River Park is one place you can stretch your legs and enjoy some fresh air. Photograph by Dan Lidon

If you’re looking for some Memorial Day weekend things to do other than go to the Jersey Shore, here are some suggestions. I’m sure this going without saying — right?! — but be sure to adhere to all current COVID-19 guidelines while you’re out having fun.

Go Hiking

If you don’t have access to a car and you live in the city, going for a hike can, of course, be tricky. I’ve heard plenty of complaints and seen plenty of photos of overcrowded hiking and walking trails in Philly.

We took a ride to Heinz the other day and turned around once we saw the huge crowd at the park. No thanks — coronavirus or no coronavirus. So, basically, if you want to go hiking in Philly proper over Memorial Day Weekend, it’s the luck of the draw.

But if you’ve got wheels, consider some of the Pennsylvania state parks in the region. There are more than you think. Trails have been open at the parks throughout the coronavirus crisis. But the big problem was that the bathrooms were closed.

Good news: Bathrooms in the state parks are now open. (Just make sure to wash your hands!)

Go here for an interactive county-by-county map showing you all of the state parks in Pennsylvania. There are plenty within an hour of the city. Go here for a list of nearby hikes with waterfalls and grand views.

memorial day things to do outdoors

Peace Valley Park in Bucks County is currently open. Photograph by Dan Lidon

Go Fishing

You may have heard about the country’s food supply chain problems. Now might be a great time to rediscover the art of catching your own food. We’re still enjoying the venison from my son’s deer hunt last October at Heinz Wildlife Refuge. But since hunting may be a bit too much for you, I suggest fishing.

If you want to go fishing over Memorial Day Weekend, the easiest option by far is to visit Linvilla Orchards. The farm has a large pond. My son likes to call it a lake. But … it’s a large pond. Either way, he caught a six-pound rainbow trout at Linvilla a few weeks ago, and we all ate it for dinner. Delish.

Linvilla is open for fishing this Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, and you do not need a fishing license. Pre-registration is required. It’s $9.99 per angler. If you want to keep a fish, that will cost you another $14.99. In our case, he fished, I didn’t, and it was well worth the $25 to see the joy and pride in his face.

Your other option is to buy a fishing license and fish wherever the heck you want. And if you don’t have any gear, your best bet is probably — sorry in advance — Walmart. They’ve got plenty.

Go Camping

Pennsylvania state parks have started reopening to campers, but there aren’t any Pennsylvania state parks close to Philly where you can camp over Memorial Day weekend. (If you’re up for a longer drive, consult the state park website here for availability.)

Privately owned campgrounds are a different story. Governor Wolf allowed all privately owned campgrounds in Pennsylvania to reopen on May 1st. And plenty have done just that. Some are just tent sites. Some offer cabins. It’s a little last minute, but we did find some availability over Memorial Day weekend. Check the Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association website for more details.

memorial day things to do outdoors

Check out some of the historic headstones at Gloria Dei Church. Photograph by Caroline Cunningham

Go Headstone Hunting

Headstone hunting? Yes, I said headstone hunting.

Philadelphia is a city overflowing with history. So it’s no surprise that there are a lot of important historical figures buried here, and seeking out their graves can be a fun (?) way to, uh, kill an afternoon. A morbid little scavenger hunt, if you will.

Philly Mag writer Claire Sasko put together this fascinating guide to cemetery exploration in the Philadelphia area.

It includes the grave locations for people like Benjamin Franklin, Marian Anderson, Thomas Eakins, and Harry Kalas. Though I have to admit, I kinda love the more random ones such as the guy who was Napoleon III’s dentist. And then there’s the fake grave of Adrian Balboa (as in Rocky’s wife).

The gingko tree in Bartram’s Garden. | Photo by Claire Sasko

Go Tree Hunting

I’m getting the impression that my colleague Claire isn’t exactly a fan of Netflixing all day and night. In addition to her grave exploration guide, Claire also came up with a guide to locating some of the coolest, oldest and most storied trees in Philadelphia.

You know those stinky gingko berries? It turns out that the oldest gingko tree in America is right here in Philadelphia.

And you know that Philly residents really love a tree on their block if they’re willing to give up parking spaces to accommodate its existence.

Go Biking

Sure, a bike ride sounds like a great thing to do over Memorial Day weekend. But what if you don’t have a bike? Or what if you do have a bike and it has two flat tires?

If you do have a bike but need to get it fixed, bike repair shops are actually considered essential businesses in Pennsylvania, so get that bike in the shop ASAP!

But if you don’t have a bike, Philadelphia’s bike share program Indego is offering month-long memberships for just $5 per month or $2.50 if you have a PA ACCESS card. That membership gets you unlimited one-hour rides.

And you can also check with your local bike shop about longer term rentals. For instance, Fairmount Bicycles will put you on a sturdy, full tuned-up and refurbished bike for $200. That’s not per month. That’s until this whole mess is over, as somebody at the shop put it. “You’d have it for at least two months,” he said.

Once you get a bike, grab this helpful bicycle map of Philadelphia from the Bicycle Coalition.

Go Rock Climbing

Yeah, your local rock climbing gym is closed. But you know what’s not closed? Rocks.

You see, before there were rock gyms, people used to find big rocks and climb them. And I’m not just talking about in Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming. You can actually go rock climbing out in nature in the Philly area.

If you’re not a highly experienced climber with all of the fancy equipment that goes along with trying to scale a 200 foot tall rock face, no worries. There are several great options for bouldering, which does not require harnesses or ropes.

You can actually find good beginner boulders right here in Philly in Wissahickon Valley State Park. Other spots to look up include Ralph Stover State Park (an hour north of Philly) and Haycock Mountain (a little more than an hour, also north).

Join the public Facebook group Philadelphia Area Climbers if you need some guidance.

Go Boating

Got a kayak or other type of boat? Lucky you. Governor Wolf allowed public and private marinas across the state to open on May 1st.

You’ll find plenty of open boat slips and launches in state parks in the region as well as at local spots like Peace Valley in Bucks County and Bartram’s Garden in Southwest Philly.

Coming to think of it, being alone in the middle of a big lake sounds like one of the safest places you can be right now. Well, assuming you remember a life preserver.