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J. Smith for Visit Philadelphia®

Where to #OptOutside, according to Philly’s culinary talent

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This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, REI, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.

New American BYOs, private social clubs serving dynamite Italian classics, vegan fine dining — it can seem like fresh restaurants are opening up in Philadelphia on a daily basis. But what do those chefs (and hard-working food critics) get up to when they get a chance to step outside the kitchen? We talked to Michael Schulson, CEO and founder of Schulson Collective (which includes Philly standouts like Double Knot) and Nina Tinari, his wife and business partner; Jon Nodler and Samantha Kincaid, owners and co-chefs of Cadence, which Food & Wine named America’s Best New Restaurant in 2019; Philly food blogger John Kim and Kae Lani Palmisano, host of WHYY’s upcoming show Check, Please! Philly and a contributing USA TODAY food and travel editor. We also tapped Adam Erace, a food and travel writer and co-author of cookbooks on a couple of the city’s most newsworthy restaurants (including Laurel: Modern American Flavors in Philadelphia). Here’s how all of these big names in Philly’s food scene #OptOutside.

Inspired to make some environmental change after reading about these outdoor destinations? You can join REI on Black Friday to #OptOutside for a nationwide day of action and kick off a year of change. REI will be co-hosting cleanups with Leave No Trace and United by Blue all across the U.S. You can find your nearest cleanup at REI.com/opt-outside.

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Kelly Drive

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Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River (it’s pronounced SKOO-kil) winds its way through the city and is often home to rowers skimming over the water past banks lined with cherry trees. Along the east side is Kelly Drive, an extended paved path that’s long been one of the most popular spots for local runners, walkers, and bikers. For Michael Schulson and Nina Tinari, this is a favorite place to unwind. “During the week, we try to take walks along Kelly Drive early in the morning, usually around 7 am when the sun is rising,” they say. “It’s the best time as the paths along the river tend to be quieter then, so it’s relaxing and allows us a bit of an escape from the city before our schedules go in high gear for the day.”

R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia®

Bartram's Garden

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In Philly, getting into nature doesn’t mean you have to leave the city. For Kae Lani Palmisano, West Philadelphia is where she goes when she needs to take a moment to smell the roses. Bartram’s Garden, with more than 50 acres of gardens, wildlife habitats, meadows, and tidal wetlands, is, she says, “an urban oasis where I like to stroll through the gardens, sit amongst the trees, and enjoy a view of the city skyline over the river. The horticultural exhibits and demonstrations are also fun to get involved in. I’m always learning something new about our local environment.”

Courtesy of Bartram’s Garden

 A short drive from Bartram’s Garden is West Philadelphia’s Baltimore Avenue where you’ll find an astonishing variety of restaurants: family-run Thai-Laotian spots, bustling Indian places with loyal fans, and cafes serving gluten-free brunches all within a few blocks. Dahlak is one of Palmisano’s top picks; part lively bar, part outstanding Ethiopian restaurant, it’s been drawing folks from all over the city for three decades now. The best part? The chilled out, open-air patio at the back, where strings of lights glow after dark, and you can settle in with a beer and an enormous platter of injera heaped with tongue-tingling meats and veggies to share.

Courtesy of Dahlak

Schuylkill River Trail

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The Schuylkill River Trail is a work in progress: This incredible multi-use path will eventually extend more than 120 miles, over abandoned railway lines and through leafy sections of the surrounding counties. The city section is already finished, though, including an architecturally ambitious boardwalk extension that reaches out over the river itself, with buildings rising up on either side. Palmisano hits the boardwalk for runs and bike rides, always with her Nalgene to avoid single-use plastic water bottles. As she puts it, “The views of the city are spectacular and though you feel like you’re in the middle of a concrete jungle, you’re actually floating along the banks of the Schuylkill.” She also hits the tree-lined trail for running and biking, but when she’s not exercising she uses it to quickly access the slew of museums along the Parkway: “It’s the perfect alternative to walking through the hustle and bustle of Center City.”

J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia®

Schuylkill River Park Dog Run

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Adam Erace also heads to the River Trail when he wants to get outside — or his dogs do. “It might be counterintuitive to drive your dogs to the park,” he says, “but this one at the Schuylkill boardwalk is a favorite place to be outside. There’s a separate area for small dogs — we have two little guys — and it’s great to sit outside in the sun to watch them run around, and chat with other owners. It’s quietest and most relaxing in midmorning on weekdays, but for maximum canine enjoyment, go after work.”

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

FDR Park

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This sprawling network of fields and lagoons near the city’s stadiums is referred to by born-and-bred South Philadelphians as “the Lakes,” according to Adam. “It makes a great bike ride, and there’s plenty of nature and architecture to admire, from the Swedish Museum to the skate park under I-95. I pair it with a trip to Pop’s on Oregon Avenue for a water ice and pretzel. Go on a Saturday, when South Philly brides and grooms and their entourages descend on the Lakes for wedding photos.”

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

Pizzeria Beddia

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American’s favorite pizza restaurant (seriously, critics can’t stop talking about it) has a problem: it’s too popular. There’s almost always a wait for the spicy arrabbiata, the whole-milk mozzarella topped with crimini mushrooms, pickled chilis or sicilian anchovies, and the espresso and sweet cream soft serve. But chef-owner Joe Beddia has cleverly designed an outdoor patio, equipped with picnic tables and powerful heatlamps for winter, where guests happily settle in, whiling away the time with an amaro Old Fashioned, a Mexican coke, or a glass from the impeccable wine list of small producers, and a slice of chewy, slightly sweet tomato pie in the fresh air.

Jason Varney

The Moshulu

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Philadelphia’s second river, the Delaware, runs along the eastern edge of the city and has one especially unusual attraction. The Moshulu is the world’s only restaurant aboard a permanently docked tall ship, and it’s where John Kim heads when he wants to grab cocktails with friends. Standing on the deck of the century-old square-rigged sailing ship overlooking the river and enjoying a chai Negroni, you’ll feel like an old-fashioned captain about to set sail — only with much better drinks.

Allison Guzy Photography

Cira Green

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One of the best outdoorsy spots in the city is actually 12 stories above the sidewalk. Cira Green is an urban park in the sky, built on the roof of a parking garage. Lush green grass makes the perfect spot for a chilled-out midday picnic; you can shop for metal or silicone drinking straws and a chic reusable picnic basket at Kitchen Kapers, the city’s favorite spot for innovative cooking and eating items. John suggests picking up cinnamon rolls or a couple kouign-amann from the nearby Walnut Street Cafe before grabbing one of the tables and checking out the unimpeded skyline views. John’s other suggestion: Stop by at night for the free movie screenings.

Courtesy of Brandywine Realty Trust

The Wissahickon Trail

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If you’re looking for densely forested paths where the noise of traffic recedes until the only sound you hear is the birds chirping, the Wissahickon Trail is for you. John likes to bring his goldendoodle, Porter, here, suggesting, “Come by early to beat the crowds and get prime parking, but it’s worth getting up to have the varied hikes and the creek almost to yourself.” The Valley Green section, tucked away in the Mt. Airy neighborhood, feels especially rural, with miles of dirt trails running along the creek, where dozens of noisy ducks are the only thing disturbing the peace. He cuts down on waste by toting two reusable water bottles: one for himself, one for Porter.

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

Swarthmore

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A 30-minute drive from Center City, Swarthmore is the kind of charming, well-heeled town where you can while away an entire day strolling the tree-lined streets, exploring farmers markets, and snapping photos of historic homes that have barely changed in a century. For Jon Nodler and Samantha Kincaid, Swarthmore is where they go to #OptOutside. “We don’t get out of the city too often,” they say, “but in the past year we’ve found ourselves heading to the Swarthmore area multiple times for fun and function: to walk around Scott Arboretum or Crum Woods, and shop for interesting and sustainable bottles of natural wine at 320 Market Cafe.” Always looking to promote sustainability (they encourage their employees to cut down on waste by supplying them with refillable metal thermoses to use during their shifts), they also buy native perennials at Redbud Native Plant Nursery in nearby Media for their backyard garden. “They create a host environment for beneficial insects (who act as pollinators, mini waste-composters, and food for birds) in our little pocket of the city,” they add.

Andy Shelter

The Shore

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Sure, it’s not technically part of Philadelphia, but it’s so full of Philadelphians, at least in the summer, that it might as well be. Says Erace, “One of Philly’s greatest advantages is being able to be at the ocean in 45 minutes. Going down the shore is the number one way I #OptOutside and recharge.” His favorite stretch of sand is Raleigh Avenue in Diamond Beach, at the very tip of Wildwood Crest. “The land from here to the Cape May Harbor is all protected bird sanctuary, so there’s no development or pollution, making for water so clear you’d swear you were in the Caribbean. It’s not uncommon in the summer to see schools of skates gliding by in the shallows and pods of frisky dolphins less than 20 yards out.”

Craig Terry/Cape May County Tourism
This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, REI, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.

Kelly Drive

Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River (it’s pronounced SKOO-kil) winds its way through the city and is often home to rowers skimming over the water past banks lined with cherry trees. Along the east side is Kelly Drive, an extended paved path that’s long been one of the most popular spots for local runners, walkers, and bikers. For Michael Schulson and Nina Tinari, this is a favorite place to unwind. “During the week, we try to take walks along Kelly Drive early in the morning, usually around 7 am when the sun is rising,” they say. “It’s the best time as the paths along the river tend to be quieter then, so it’s relaxing and allows us a bit of an escape from the city before our schedules go in high gear for the day.”

R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia®

Bartram's Garden

In Philly, getting into nature doesn’t mean you have to leave the city. For Kae Lani Palmisano, West Philadelphia is where she goes when she needs to take a moment to smell the roses. Bartram’s Garden, with more than 50 acres of gardens, wildlife habitats, meadows, and tidal wetlands, is, she says, “an urban oasis where I like to stroll through the gardens, sit amongst the trees, and enjoy a view of the city skyline over the river. The horticultural exhibits and demonstrations are also fun to get involved in. I’m always learning something new about our local environment.”

Courtesy of Bartram’s Garden

Dahlak

 A short drive from Bartram’s Garden is West Philadelphia’s Baltimore Avenue where you’ll find an astonishing variety of restaurants: family-run Thai-Laotian spots, bustling Indian places with loyal fans, and cafes serving gluten-free brunches all within a few blocks. Dahlak is one of Palmisano’s top picks; part lively bar, part outstanding Ethiopian restaurant, it’s been drawing folks from all over the city for three decades now. The best part? The chilled out, open-air patio at the back, where strings of lights glow after dark, and you can settle in with a beer and an enormous platter of injera heaped with tongue-tingling meats and veggies to share.

Courtesy of Dahlak

Schuylkill River Trail

The Schuylkill River Trail is a work in progress: This incredible multi-use path will eventually extend more than 120 miles, over abandoned railway lines and through leafy sections of the surrounding counties. The city section is already finished, though, including an architecturally ambitious boardwalk extension that reaches out over the river itself, with buildings rising up on either side. Palmisano hits the boardwalk for runs and bike rides, always with her Nalgene to avoid single-use plastic water bottles. As she puts it, “The views of the city are spectacular and though you feel like you’re in the middle of a concrete jungle, you’re actually floating along the banks of the Schuylkill.” She also hits the tree-lined trail for running and biking, but when she’s not exercising she uses it to quickly access the slew of museums along the Parkway: “It’s the perfect alternative to walking through the hustle and bustle of Center City.”

J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia®

Schuylkill River Park Dog Run

Adam Erace also heads to the River Trail when he wants to get outside — or his dogs do. “It might be counterintuitive to drive your dogs to the park,” he says, “but this one at the Schuylkill boardwalk is a favorite place to be outside. There’s a separate area for small dogs — we have two little guys — and it’s great to sit outside in the sun to watch them run around, and chat with other owners. It’s quietest and most relaxing in midmorning on weekdays, but for maximum canine enjoyment, go after work.”

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

FDR Park

This sprawling network of fields and lagoons near the city’s stadiums is referred to by born-and-bred South Philadelphians as “the Lakes,” according to Adam. “It makes a great bike ride, and there’s plenty of nature and architecture to admire, from the Swedish Museum to the skate park under I-95. I pair it with a trip to Pop’s on Oregon Avenue for a water ice and pretzel. Go on a Saturday, when South Philly brides and grooms and their entourages descend on the Lakes for wedding photos.”

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

Pizzeria Beddia

American’s favorite pizza restaurant (seriously, critics can’t stop talking about it) has a problem: it’s too popular. There’s almost always a wait for the spicy arrabbiata, the whole-milk mozzarella topped with crimini mushrooms, pickled chilis or sicilian anchovies, and the espresso and sweet cream soft serve. But chef-owner Joe Beddia has cleverly designed an outdoor patio, equipped with picnic tables and powerful heatlamps for winter, where guests happily settle in, whiling away the time with an amaro Old Fashioned, a Mexican coke, or a glass from the impeccable wine list of small producers, and a slice of chewy, slightly sweet tomato pie in the fresh air.

Jason Varney

The Moshulu

Philadelphia’s second river, the Delaware, runs along the eastern edge of the city and has one especially unusual attraction. The Moshulu is the world’s only restaurant aboard a permanently docked tall ship, and it’s where John Kim heads when he wants to grab cocktails with friends. Standing on the deck of the century-old square-rigged sailing ship overlooking the river and enjoying a chai Negroni, you’ll feel like an old-fashioned captain about to set sail — only with much better drinks.

Allison Guzy Photography

Cira Green

One of the best outdoorsy spots in the city is actually 12 stories above the sidewalk. Cira Green is an urban park in the sky, built on the roof of a parking garage. Lush green grass makes the perfect spot for a chilled-out midday picnic; you can shop for metal or silicone drinking straws and a chic reusable picnic basket at Kitchen Kapers, the city’s favorite spot for innovative cooking and eating items. John suggests picking up cinnamon rolls or a couple kouign-amann from the nearby Walnut Street Cafe before grabbing one of the tables and checking out the unimpeded skyline views. John’s other suggestion: Stop by at night for the free movie screenings.

Courtesy of Brandywine Realty Trust

The Wissahickon Trail

If you’re looking for densely forested paths where the noise of traffic recedes until the only sound you hear is the birds chirping, the Wissahickon Trail is for you. John likes to bring his goldendoodle, Porter, here, suggesting, “Come by early to beat the crowds and get prime parking, but it’s worth getting up to have the varied hikes and the creek almost to yourself.” The Valley Green section, tucked away in the Mt. Airy neighborhood, feels especially rural, with miles of dirt trails running along the creek, where dozens of noisy ducks are the only thing disturbing the peace. He cuts down on waste by toting two reusable water bottles: one for himself, one for Porter.

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

Swarthmore

A 30-minute drive from Center City, Swarthmore is the kind of charming, well-heeled town where you can while away an entire day strolling the tree-lined streets, exploring farmers markets, and snapping photos of historic homes that have barely changed in a century. For Jon Nodler and Samantha Kincaid, Swarthmore is where they go to #OptOutside. “We don’t get out of the city too often,” they say, “but in the past year we’ve found ourselves heading to the Swarthmore area multiple times for fun and function: to walk around Scott Arboretum or Crum Woods, and shop for interesting and sustainable bottles of natural wine at 320 Market Cafe.” Always looking to promote sustainability (they encourage their employees to cut down on waste by supplying them with refillable metal thermoses to use during their shifts), they also buy native perennials at Redbud Native Plant Nursery in nearby Media for their backyard garden. “They create a host environment for beneficial insects (who act as pollinators, mini waste-composters, and food for birds) in our little pocket of the city,” they add.

Andy Shelter

The Shore

Sure, it’s not technically part of Philadelphia, but it’s so full of Philadelphians, at least in the summer, that it might as well be. Says Erace, “One of Philly’s greatest advantages is being able to be at the ocean in 45 minutes. Going down the shore is the number one way I #OptOutside and recharge.” His favorite stretch of sand is Raleigh Avenue in Diamond Beach, at the very tip of Wildwood Crest. “The land from here to the Cape May Harbor is all protected bird sanctuary, so there’s no development or pollution, making for water so clear you’d swear you were in the Caribbean. It’s not uncommon in the summer to see schools of skates gliding by in the shallows and pods of frisky dolphins less than 20 yards out.”

Craig Terry/Cape May County Tourism

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