Urban Retreats

It’s cold out there, but don’t let that discourage you from taking a winter adventure somewhere in or near Philadelphia. Use some of that free time in your schedule to put down the books and

It’s cold out there, but don’t let that discourage you from taking a winter adventure somewhere in or near Philadelphia.

Use some of that free time in your schedule to put down the books and strap on some outdoor gear. Make sure there’s a little gas in your car or a few SEPTA tokens in your pocket, and then all you have to do is sit back and hope for some snow.

The best thing about finding winter fun in the city is that you don’t have to go very far. Take the Fairmount Park system for example. Boasting 9,200 acres of public land within its range, Fairmount Park stretches across a large portion of Philadelphia.

West and East Fairmount Park are no farther than two miles from Temple’s Main Campus. To get there by car, just head West on Diamond Street to where it connects with the park entrance.

Fairmount Park’s Schuylkill River Trail is the most accessible trail from Temple’s Main Campus. Currently under expansion, the trail covers a total of 10.5 miles between downtown Philadelphia and Conshohocken.

According to the Schuylkill River national and state area’s trails project manager, Madeline Cantu, upon the expansion’s completion, the trail will stretch for over 130 miles. It will snake from Schuylkill County in the north to its meeting with the Delaware River in the south.

“We’re trying to create a common user experience throughout the entire Schuylkill River basin,” Cantu said.

If you want to do some exploring beyond the city, join in on the Philadelphia Trail Club’s winter excursions through the city’s countryside.

The organization’s members hike every Saturday and Sunday throughout the year. Official membership requires completing three hikes and paying $10 in dues.

According to the hike program manager Murray Zanger, each hike ranges between five and 15 miles. Some recent club hikes have taken place in Valley Forge, Upper Wissahickon Valley, Tyler State Park, French Creek State Park and Evansburg State Park.

“In addition, we sponsor excursions overseas and to other parts of the country,” Zanger said. “In recent years we have had trips to Scotland, England, Switzerland and Austria.”

Had enough hiking for one day? Lock into your cross country skis and head out to Ridley Creek State Park in Media. Only a 45-minute drive from Main Campus, Ridley Creek has 12 miles of trails for trudging through the snow. That is, once the snow shows up again.

“We have one paved multi-use trail that exceeds four miles in length, which provides a smooth surface for cross country skiers,” said the park’s manager, Roger McChesney.

The remaining trails in the park are not designated for any one activity in particular, according to McChesney. The trails are color coordinated so that users can easily identify the level of difficulty for each. The park also has a grassy hill near the park office for excellent sledding and tobogganing opportunities.

“People can also horseback ride during the winter through the Hidden Valley Farms’ concession located inside the park,” McChesney said.

So you’re not down with being outdoors all day long? That’s no problem, just head to Walnut Street for an ice skating session at the Class of 1923 Ice Rink. Located at 3130 Walnut St., the ice rink is easy to get to via subway.

The rink is open for public skating on Monday and Wednesday from 1:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 2 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.; and a special late night skating opportunity on Saturday nights from midnight through 2 a.m.

After picking out your favorite winter hotspot in Philly, you can kiss the winter doldrums goodbye. After the fun is over, we’ll all be back with our noses in the books stomaching that horrible low budget coffee, but now there’s an alternative.

T.C. Mazar can be reached at tmazar@temple.edu.

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