As the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) revs up for Appetite for Awareness in Philadelphia, we asked our local volunteer Annsley to share a few places that make this city great. Annsley is a teacher, a mom, and owner of Gluten Freedoms, a gluten-free consulting business. She also is an avid Philadelphian!
My daughter is not one to sit still (and neither am I). So, summer is the perfect time for us to play in the sun and share precious outdoor moments that don’t involve gluten.
- Go Fruit or Veggie Picking – If you’re looking for Organic, Integrated Pest Management (IMP), or just run of the mill fruit, this is the season. Strawberries have come and gone, but there are still blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and peaches to come. At Longview Center for Agriculture, you can pick fresh veggies like kale, collards, basil, mustard greens, and thyme as well as blueberries. (They happen to also make AMAZING gluten-free smoothies). Call ahead to see if what you want to pick is still in season.
My daughter and I picking blueberries.
- Go Hiking or Camping – It’s easy to get caught up in the busy city life. One of the most peaceful and relaxing things we do is find a trail where we can stop, look, and listen to nature. Philadelphia has one of the largest urban park systems in the world, spanning about 10,500-acres! You can find trails close at the Horticulture Center or at the Wissahickon Valley Park, (our favorite place), that has over 50 miles of trails that follow the Wissahickon Creek. There are plenty of state parks and the Pocono Mountains have no shortage of campgrounds and cabins.
Hiking the Wissahickon Trail
- Engage in Water Play – You can stay right in front of your home with a hose and a squirt bottle or within the neighborhood at spraygrounds, swimming pools, and creeks. In Philadelphia we are lucky to have a newly created urban wet zone called Sister Cities Park.
The girls cooling off in their ducky float.
- Visit Frog Ponds – A city is full of wildlife; you just have to know where to find it. It’s pretty cool to watch the tadpoles swim, the camouflage frogs leap in the air, and the croaks reverberate all around. The Schuylkill Environmental Center, Wissahickon Creek at Mt. Airy Ave., Pastorious Park all have ponds with croaking frogs.
We spotted a frog!
- Create a Frozen Treat – There is nothing better than a cool, sweet treat on a hot summer’s day. Once my daughter and I have picked our delicious berries, we often make them into frozen popsicles. In a pinch, we will use fruit juice or frozen fruit to make popsicles. Ice cream is also a delicious summer treat. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, there is always the fun plastic baggie method!
- Make and Play with Bubbles – Need an afternoon activity for the summer heat? Mix your own bubble mixtureand/or make your own bubble blowers out of pipe cleaners or old hangers. Of course, the store bought method is also excellent!
- Preserve or Can Fruit– I learned how to do this while spending summers with my grandma in Alabama. When we have leftover berries, we preserve them to keep that summery flavor all year round.
Our preserved strawberries
- Drink Tea at The Japanese Garden – Here you can come in and have tea and learn about the Japanese ritual, which is considered an art form, a spiritual discipline, and a way to socialize. In the Japanese culture, tea ceremonies have been practiced for over 450 years. Shofuso is the Japanese Garden next to Fairmount Park’s Horticulture Center in Philadelphia and it offers tea ceremonies and tea classes.
- Plant a Garden– You can plant in pots or in the ground, with seeds or buy a baby plant. Either way, it’s fun to get your hands a little dirty and to watch as your plant blossoms before your eyes. We like to plant things we can eat like herbs, tomatoes, and peas!
Planting peas in the garden
- Create a Lemonade Stand – Remember those youthful summer days when you made your own lemonade stand? You can squeeze your own lemons or have a quick fix with the frozen kind. It’s the perfect, refreshing, gluten-free drink.
- Bike or Rollerblade – It’s great to get out and enjoy the fresh air on your bike, scooter, or blades. Here in Philly we have a path along the Schuylkill River banks where you can bring your own set of wheels or rent them right in front of Lloyd Hall on Kelly Drive.
Biking on the sidewalk
- Go Geocaching or Letterboxing – Both are outdoor treasure hunting games where X marks the spot. If you’re an adventurous soul who enjoys a compass and a map, Geocaching using GPS might be for you. If you’d prefer following clues, than your adventure game is Letterboxing.
- Watch the Trains – Some towns have garden railways, which are miniature worlds set up in gardens through which weather resistant model trains abound. If you are local to Philadelphia, you can watch them at Morris Arboretum or the “real” big commuter and Amtrak trains at 30th Street Station.
Watching the trains at Morris Arboretum
- Interact with Sculptures – Sculpture gardens meld the outdoors with art. All ages can interact with them, and they really spur some great conversations. We went to one at the Abington Arts Center, and my daughter stuck her hand through the mouth of the sculpture. Then she promptly told me that they were saying, “No, you may not do that!” (Wonder where she got that from!)
Interacting with the sculptures in the garden.
- Watch Outdoor Concerts and Movies – Most cities hold (FREE) outdoor concerts and outdoor movies, where you can pack a picnic and share with friends. It’s a great way to go relax, be outdoors, and enjoy the cooler night air. In Philadelphia there are multiple venues all over the city (to list a few): Pastorious Park (Chestnut Hill), Schuylkill Banks (Center City), Philly at the Movies (rotating Center City venues), Moonlight Movies in Mt. Airy, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia’s Bike-In Movies (Center City South Street), The Awesome Fest Film Series at Liberty Lands Park (Northern Liberties), Gorgas Park Movie Night (Roxborough), Screenings Under the Stars at Penn’s Landing.