How to Spend a Summer Evening in Philadelphia

Hanging out in a Spruce Street Harbor Park hammock during a summer evening on the water in Philadelphia (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Hanging out in summer hammocks at Spruce Street Harbor Park in Philadelphia (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The business conference was over.

The last handout had been put away, the last PowerPoint finished, the laptop was shut down.

Time for a little evening exploration in the conference host city, Philadelphia.

Some Googling around in local event calendars showed that some place called Spruce Street Harbor Park, downtown on the Delaware River, had free live music plus food trucks in the summer. It was easy to reach by public transportation from my hotel near Rittenhouse Square, so off I went.

The trusty Google Maps public transportation directions on my phone said I could catch a bus about every 15 minutes at the stop one block away for US$2.25, which worked out perfectly for taking me to Penn’s Landing near the park.

In summer, they hang 50 hammocks around the park for lounging, plus build a landscaped floating barge to hold more tables and chairs, food places, and spots to literally hang out, like these “net lounges” over the water….

Net lounges over the water in summer at Spruce Street Harbor Park Philadelphia (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Net lounges over the water in summer at Spruce Street Harbor Park Philadelphia (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Nearby is part of the Independence Seaport Museum – the 1892 Navy cruiser Olympia, which was Commodore Dewey’s flagship during the Battle of Manila Bay in the Spanish-American War, alongside the 1944 submarine Becuna.

Both were closed for tours in the evening, but they added to the park atmosphere.

USS Olympia and submarine Becuna at sunset in Spruce Street Harbor Park Philadelphia (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

USS Olympia and submarine Becuna at sunset in Spruce Street Harbor Park Philadelphia (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

As night fell, a local band played in the park’s small amphitheater area. Magical lights came on throughout the trees and on the waterside barges.

The barges include floating gardens that help to clean the river water.

Spruce Street Harbor Park at night in Philadelphia (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Spruce Street Harbor Park at night in Philadelphia (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

All sorts of people wandered the park.

There were families large and small, singles, couples, suited corporate folks who had wandered over after work, and this group on the barge doing their own impromptu jamming once the band finished.

Hanging out and doing a little singing at Spruce Street Harbor Park in Philadelphia (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Hanging out and doing a little singing at Spruce Street Harbor Park in Philadelphia (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

After a delicious fish taco at one of the food trucks, and making the important decision that the line at the ice cream truck was too long to mess with, I decided to walk back to my hotel via the same street that the bus had taken to bring me to the Penn’s Landing area.

It was only a 30-40 minute walk, and I had seen out the bus window that by going up Chestnut Street, I would go right past two U.S. Revolutionary War icons: Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

As the bell chimed in the Hall’s clock tower for 10 p.m., this was my view….

Independence Hall in Philadelphia at night (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Independence Hall in Philadelphia at night (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

You know which bell used to hang in that clock tower?

This bell….

The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia at night (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia at night (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Even though the Bell’s museum is closed at night, you can walk up to a side window to look in at it, right here….

Liberty Bell in Philadelphia at night (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Liberty Bell in Philadelphia at night (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

I feel like I’m starting to become the queen of “how to see a thing in minimal time” (see for example, how to see a major museum in one hour,) but it’s a fact that we are all busy, and open wandering time is a precious thing.

The Spruce Street Harbor Park is just a tiny look into the city of Philadelphia, but when you only have a few evening hours in the summer, you can’t beat its combination of easy public transportation access, free music, good food options, a little history, lights, and of course, those hammocks.

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