Best Free Gardens in the Philadelphia Area to Photograph and Explore

Google The Garden Capital of America and you will see our city shining bright. Philadelphia.

There are over thirty public gardens and centuries old arboreta within a thirty mile radius of the city. I could feel the green and the liveliness the day I moved here from winding roads through old Philadelphia suburbs, the Schuylkill River with bike paths and row houses, overhanging trees and hidden gems to spend sometime with your toes in the grass.

Summertime with children can be tricky and sometimes it nice to have a few ideas up your sleeve for a beautiful morning or a restless afternoon.

Though there are endless places to take the family, (no seriously…there are!! Checkout Philadelphiia’s Garden Passport for every detail you need to know), I tend to be very picky when it comes to exploring nature with children. 

I want close parking

I want accessibility by foot

I want wild, over grown and natural, but also colorful and nooks to explore.

I want free admission.

I want to be able to bring my own food and snacks.

And of course, I want photographic opportunities all day long.

These five places meet my checklist and have nestled in quite nicely to my nature routine here in the Philadelphia area.

Family explores The Courtesy Stables at an Outdoor Garden during Family Photography Session in Philadelphia
A horse break at The Courtesy Stables

Wissahickon Valley Park | 200 W Northwestern Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19118

This place is by far my favorite. It is also massive, so please spend a bit of time deciding which entrance and access point best suits your family and your needs.  I personally prefer to park on Northwest Avenue at the northern most end of Forbidden Drive and start my morning at The Cedars House– a healthy, eclectic, quick bite cafe with local honey, smoothies, fresh sandwiches and house made granola for your adventure.   There are meadows and horses surrounding this woodsy haven to hold any child’s interest.   With a wide, packed gravel road, stone bridges, wooden benches, a red Covered Wagon Bridge, hidden statues and over 50 miles of hiking trails, I promise it is more than enough to hold any child’s interest.

Baby holds purple flower and explores a garden in Philadelphia during an Outdoor Family Photography session with Steph Kines Photo

Jenkins Arboretum | 631 Berwyn Baptist Road • Devon, PA 19333

One of my favorite public gardens.  It has a balanced mix of manicured lawns and wild, over grown nature.  The pathways through the woods are easily walkable and there is a peaceful pond with willow trees. It is open 7 days a week until 8 pm during the summer which allows spontaneous planning and quick stopbys. 

Baby holds yellow flower and explores a garden in Philadelphia during an Outdoor Family Photography session with Steph Kines Photo

Haverford College Arboretum | 370 Lancaster Avenue Ardmore, PA 19003

A hidden gem with over a two mile loop around campus. My favorite spot: The Duck Pond.

The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College | 500 College Ave • Swarthmore, PA 19081

The Annual Rose Celebration is a free event with music, rose petal art and food. They offer workshops, activities and events all summer which is why I love this place. There is much wild color, vegetation and personality here.

Family explores Valley Forge and plays outside during an Outdoor Family Photography session with Steph Kines Photo in Philadelphia

Valley Forge National Park 

It is super popular, but also super stunning.  The hidden nooks and crannies of this place, the winding rivers, the historical buildings and bunkers, the wide lawns for games.  There really is something new everyday for everyone. My favorite spot is Betzwood Park with a gravel walking trail along the river, which you can dip your toes into, or a higher paved trail for strollers and bikes. The parking here is endless and it is a bit less crowded than other areas of Valley Forge.

Collage of flowers, trees and foliage. Photography exploring in gardens and arboreta in the Philadelphia area and along the Main Line

I am always looking for new, engaging places to photograph families in the Philadelphia Area. I have quite the compilation of outdoor locations to try and keep client travel time to a minimum. If you have any places you would like to share or have thought about photographing in, I would LOVE to hear from you.

Enjoy your family time outside this summer.


xx | IG: @stephkinesphoto | Pinterest

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