Tucked away in Philly’s towering urban fabric are tons of pocket parks waiting for your enjoyment. What’s a pocket park you ask? Pocket parks are small urban spaces open to public and are often created on vacant building lots or irregular pieces of land. These spaces are a great way to meet other people in the community and provide a unique green space in the city. So here's a roundup of the best pocket parks and green spaces west of the river.

The BioPond

Where: Off Hamilton Walk, near 38th Street

The James G. Kaskey Memorial Park, more commonly known as the BioPond, is the oldest green space on Penn’s campus. Created in 1897 by botany professor Dr. John M. MacFarland, the BioPond has served as an urban oasis for over one hundred years. The towering trees and lush undergrowth transport you from the hustle and bustle of Philly and into a magical mini–forest. 

At the center of the park is a pond filled with live goldfish, turtles, frogs, mallards, and even crayfish! The pond provides drinking water for visiting birds and a variety of songbirds have been spotted at the park over the years. The five–acre park is so hidden that many Penn students spend four years on campus and never discover the enclave behind the Quad. The pond is maintained by a full time staff and can be reserved for special occasions. 

Photo: Sophia Zhu

Innovation Plaza

Where: S 37th Street

Located on 37th Street between Market and Chestnut Streets, Innovation Plaza is a pocket park that reflects the energy of University City. The park is also home to the Innovators Walk of Fame, which celebrates the tradition of discovery and innovation in Philadelphia. With plantings, chess, checkers and backgammon tables, free WiFi, and a variety of seating options, this park is great study or hangout spot on a beautiful day! 

Cira Green

Where: 80 S 30th Street

High in the sky, Cira Green provides amazing views of University City, Center City, and the Schuylkill River. Located on 30th Street between Walnut and Chestnut Streets, the park is great place for everything from a picnics to yoga to just relaxing and enjoying the scenery. Cira Green’s unique design and location takes any activity to the next level. 

The park is open 7 days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. during summer months, and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. the remainder of the year.  

Trolley Portal Gardens 

Where: 40th Street and Baltimore Avenue

Through a partnership between the University City District, SEPTA, and the City of Philadelphia, the Trolley Portal Gardens was recently launched as a new public space to serve as the gateway for West Philly trolley passengers. With a brick walkway, green landscaping, and vibrant colored seating, the Trolley Portal Gardens makes commuting to and from West Philly a fun experience with a deep sense of community. Next time you’re taking SEPTA, make sure to swing by Trolley Portal Gardens and to grab a bite at Trolley Car Station, the restaurant next door. 

Spruce Hill Bird Sanctuary  

Where: S Melville Street

In a small green space off the beaten path, the Spruce Hill Bird Sanctuary is a great place to get to spot some rare bird species. Hidden among backyards of West Philly row homes, the Bird Sanctuary is maintained by the Spruce Hill Community Association. The Sanctuary has spray misters to attract hummingbirds, fruit bushed to attract hungry birds, and blue spruces, hawthorns, and dogwoods that provide shelter, fruit and/or cones. Try to spot gray catbirds, Carolina chickadees, American goldfinches, song sparrows, and more! 

The Woodland Avenue Pedestrian Plaza 

Where: 42nd Street and Woodland Avenue 

A former lifeless traffic island, the Woodland Avenue Pedestrian Plaza is now a vibrant urban oasis compete with trees, planters, tables and umbrellas. Not only is this Pedestrian Plaza a beautiful green space in West Philly, it also helps make the surrounding intersections safer for pedestrians. The plaza also stitches together the businesses in the area and makes the area as a whole more community–friendly. 

Powelton Summer Winter Community Garden 

Where: N 33rd Street & Race Street 

One of the oldest community gardens in Philadelphia, the Summer Winter Community Garden is named after the nearby Summer and Winter streets. The garden is run entirely by volunteers; gardeners maintain their own plot and grow whatever they wish! The garden provides a deep sense of community among its members and a unique beauty and calm peace in the middle of Philly. The Summer Winter Community Garden also supports Pennsylvania Horticultural Society City Harvest, a program that grows food for Philadelphia’s hungry! If your interested in applying for a garden plot, send an email to request an application at summerwintergarden@gmail.com.


Coming Soon:

Al–Bustan Pocket Park 

Where: 40th Street between Ludlow and Chestnut Streets

Al–Bustan Seeds of Culture is a West Philadelphia–based nonprofit that is creating a pocket park on a now–empty lot located between two buildings at the entrance on 40th Street. Al–Bustan hopes that the park will be a safe space that welcomes all individuals and encourages discussion about diversity. This pocket park could be a great way for Penn students to get involved in the West Philadelphia community and learn more about their neighbors. A crowdfunding campaign is currently raising money for the park’s development!