A Center City Summer

Ah, summertime in Philadelphia. Temperatures are rising, days are longer, kids are out of school. This week marks the official start of the summer season. Even when we're all still at our busiest, everything feels a little slower at this time of year — a shift in the sultry atmosphere, giving us permission to pause and enjoy what's around us.

For kids, summer is a time for adventure, exploration, and fun. For parents, summer means filling long days with memorable moments. This can feel like a daunting task, but Center City is ready for your family with time-tested favorites and brand new experiences.

For young children, there is no place more magical than Sister Cities Park.  Here, they can cool off by splashing in the Earth Fountain or wading in the shallow pond. After enjoying a snack from the Sister Cities Cafe, they’ll follow the winding pathways in the Children’s Discovery Garden to discover push-button water jets, a sensory-friendly twig hiding hut, and scalable rocks. At the summit of their expedition, they’ll find a large play net nestled in a platform, perfect to climb and bounce their summer energy away. Or, maybe they’ll want to relax with a book from the park’s brand new Little Free Library.

discovery garden
parkway pals

On Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, families gather for Parkway Pals, a popular program funded by the Center City District Foundation that combines play and education. Institutions such as the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Ballet and the Fabric Workshop and Museum create immersive free programs that children love. It's no secret that kids learn best through new experiences and play, and Sister Cities Park offers both.

A short walk away, another family-friendly favorite can be found in the shadow of City Hall: Dilworth Park. Its expansive fountain is a popular summer draw, giving kids a fun way to beat the heat as they run through the dancing water spouts. The pop-up Rothman Orthopaedics Roller Rink is open through July 17, and the Albert M. Greenfield Lawn features colorful swings and Adirondack chairs you can sink into while the kids explore.

You don’t have to leave Dilworth for great food options but if you want to explore, plenty of choices exist within walking distance. Marathon Grill elevates the typical kids’ menu from the standard chicken fingers to grilled chicken parmesan and mini matzoh ball soup, served by welcoming staff who know what, and how, kids want to eat. Alice Pizza offers over 19 types of personal pizzas, so you’re sure to find something that will please even picky eaters. If you’re looking for a pint to accompany lunch (you should be, you deserve it!), Iron Hill Brewery is just a few blocks away.

dilworth fountain

The newly opened Sugar Factory takes sweets to an epic new level, so if you want to be your child’s hero (for at least a day) this is the place to be.  Van Leeuwen Ice Cream’s outpost on 13th Street offers dairy and vegan ice cream options, all made with simple ingredients. In a rush? Buy a pint to take home.

Childhood, like summer, is fleeting. A simple day exploring Center City can create memories they’ll cherish forever, and perhaps revisit with their own children someday. The best part? These summer traditions aren’t a plane trip or a long drive away — they’re right here on your doorstep.