See the Philly skyline from Fairmount Park — Photo courtesy of Briana Ingram / iStock / Getty Images
Exploring the Philadelphia region by bicycle is a great way for visitors to enjoy some physical activity while learning about the historical significance of the city. As the original United States capital, Philly is home to many important sights related to early American life, and a multitude of other fascinating landmarks and must-visit attractions. These include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Fairmount Park, Rittenhouse Square, Boathouse Row and many others.
Biking through the city and the surrounding areas gives you the flexibility to sightsee on your own timeline. If you don’t have a bike, you can rent one at several local shops (where you can also rent helmets and locks) or use the official Philly bike-share company, Indego. Some destinations, like Valley Forge National Park, offer convenient bike rental options on-site.
Whether you’re traveling with a family, group or solo, biking is a wonderful, budget-friendly way to experience Philadelphia. Chart a route to these bike-friendly destinations around the city.
Learn about the Revolutionary War at Valley Forge National Park
Explore Valley Forge National Historic Park — Photo courtesy of R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia
Where to start? An excellent place for a bicycle excursion is Valley Forge National Historic Park. Located in nearby Montgomery County, PA, this park is about 24 miles from Philadelphia’s Center City District and is home to over 3,500 acres of meadows, rolling hills and historical sights. Make the Visitors Center your first stop, as this park has bike rentals available during the warmer months (along with miles of paved paths).
This expansive park played an important role in the Revolutionary War, as George Washington’s Continental Army spent the harsh winter of 1777-1778 encamped here for many months. The troops built numerous log cabins and other structures — some of which still remain. You can tour the park on your own or set up a guided experience.
Enjoy river views along the famous Kelly Drive
Breeze along the river via Kelly Drive — Photo courtesy of R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia
Nothing says Philadelphia quite like riding your bike along picturesque Kelly Drive. This road runs along the Schuylkill River and divides West Philadelphia from Center City. It’s always a popular destination for walkers, cyclists, skaters and folks interested in all kinds of recreational activities. You’ll roll past a variety of interesting sights here, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where you can hop off your bike to run up the famous “Rocky Steps.” You’ll also pass the iconic Boathouse Row, a city landmark that’s especially magical at dusk when the houses are illuminated. It’s a great spot to enjoy the city’s rowing culture, so you just might see any number of collegiate teams practicing — or even racing — on the river.
Roll through historical Laurel Hill Cemetery
Pedal through a famous Philly cemetery — Photo courtesy of R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia
Also along Philadelphia’s Kelly Drive is the beautiful Laurel Hill Cemetery. This 78-acre national historic landmark is a lush, award-winning arboretum in addition to being a final resting place. Riders pedaling along the Schuylkill River Trail across the street can enter the expansive cemetery grounds through an easily accessible, bike-friendly entrance, complete with a bike rack.
The cemetery is known as a favored burial place for many of Philadelphia’s prominent political and business figures. Additionally, movie buffs are always interested in visiting the fictional grave of Adrian Balboa, wife of the famed movie legend, Rocky Balboa.
Admire Fairmount Park’s lovely sights and scenery
Enjoy the scenery at beautiful Bartam’s Garden — Photo courtesy of R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia
If you bike into Fairmount Park, you’ll discover so much to see and do across its more than 2,000 acres, including a paved biking path that runs over 8 miles. The park spans both the eastern and western banks of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River, and features several historical mansions, each with its own unique story and significance. These include Historic Strawberry Mansion, Lemon Hill, Mount Pleasant, Laurel Hill and Woodford.
In West Fairmount Park, you can also bike to the lovely Shofuso Japanese Tea House and explore the surrounding grounds. Depending on the season, you might see bright-pink cherry trees in bloom. Continue pedaling south to Bartram’s Garden in nearby Southwest Philadelphia. With claims of being the oldest surviving botanical garden in North America, it’s free and open to visitors daily. It’s easy to ride on their flat, paved trail that meanders a little over a mile through the various parts of the garden and then stretches south along the river.
Visit the parks and squares around the city of Philadelphia
Catch the blossoms in Rittenhouse Square on your ride — Photo courtesy of C. Smyth for Visit Philadelphia
For an urban ride, stop by any of the original public squares located throughout Philadelphia. Designed by William Penn, who planned the city in the 17th century, these five open spaces are strategically placed around town and are popular local gathering spots.
Cyclists can take in the beauty of City Hall and enjoy Dilworth Park, the area that surrounds the building. During certain times of the year, this open space hosts markets and special events, such as the city’s annual holiday tree-lighting ceremony. There’s also plenty of seating and a splash pad for kids to cool off during the hot summer months. (Across the street is the famous Love Park, so don’t miss the opportunity to get a photo with the iconic Love sculpture)
On the west side of Center City, the posh Rittenhouse Square is a tranquil, leafy destination. It’s home to an abundance of shaded park benches, statues, monuments, and beautiful trees and flowers. Across town is Washington Square Park that features a historical fountain and a monument to the tomb of the unknown soldier. Further east is Franklin Square, ideal for family fun and outdoor recreational activities, as it features a nearly 200-year-old fountain, a carousel, a mini-golf course and other kid-friendly activities.
Meanwhile, on the northwest quadrant of the city is Logan Square, which is actually in a circle layout and frequently referred to as “Logan Circle.” Its centerpiece is a gorgeous, ornate fountain that’s adorned with three main sculptures that represent the three rivers surrounding the city.
Spend the day at Washington Crossing Historic Park
Visit the historic and beautiful Washington Crossing, PA — Photo courtesy of R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia
Learn more about the American Revolution by heading about 60 miles north of Philadelphia to the sprawling Washington Crossing Historic Park. This is the historical spot where Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware River on Christmas 1776 to surprise the Hessians and then go on to win the Battle of Trenton. Here, you’ll find beautiful river views, a fascinating museum and replicas of colonial structures. This park offers educational programs and various events throughout the year, including reenactments of the famous crossing, walking tours and special exhibits.
It’s important for visitors to know that across the river, there’s another Washington Crossing State Park in New Jersey, with its own welcome center and (smaller) museum. Riding your bike along the canal towpath (on either side of the river) allows you to take in picturesque towns along the Delaware, including New Hope, Lambertville (and others, depending on how far you wish to explore). You’ll enjoy tranquil riverside views as you ride past buildings, inns, mills and other landmarks dating back to the American Revolution.