Maybe you work in the city for long hours and are growing weary of all the hubbub. Maybe you toil away in a cubicle and have some pent up energy you need to release. Maybe you lack Vitamin D? Or maybe you work outside of the city and are tired of all the “best venues” requiring a train ride to Jefferson Station. Well, this article is chalk full of solutions. If you’re looking for the best outdoor event venues for a day of corporate fun DIY or facilitated, then search no more my friend. No matter which cardinal direction you desire, we’ve done your research for you.
Pennypack Park — large space, pavilion, permit required
Though the Pennypack may not have the same classic Philly punch as the Rocky statue, it is an incredible choice for an outdoor event space if you’re looking north of the city. Sprawling fields, gurgling streams (gurgling is not an appealing word, I just realized), and fantastic trails. There’s lots of open space for fun corporate events and even a pavilion to cool down in after your business shenanigans. The space can support loads of people, though any additional furnishing would rest on your capable shoulders. To reserve the pavilion area, you’ll have to test your luck with the permit process of the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department (which is a recurring theme for these outdoor arenas, and we’ll throw ye’ olde Parks and Rec. a link at the bottom for your convenience). Permits for events are approved on a case-by-case basis, and it can be difficult to get answers about what will and won’t be approved. You just have to submit your application (with a fee) and cross your fingers, mostly. However, if you want a small event (under 50 people) with no amplified sound, you may not need a permit. For a larger event (200+) with amplified sound, they might not even grant you a permit even after the application process. And if they do, it will likely be expensive. To make it less of a bear, I’d suggest calling up the Friends of the Pennypack Park, affectionately coined “FOPP”, so they can help walk you through the process.
We’re hitting you up with the inside scoop here. Why settle for an outdoor only arena when you can rent a gorgeous outdoor space AND a museum AND a library all in one for a max of $150/hr? And that’s the highest price for a corporate rental outside of regular hours. Maybe they’re pulling a fast one on us, though, because that’s an absurdly good deal. The outdoor space might not be as vast as the Pennypack, but it’s certainly capable of hosting an insane day full of corporate entertainment for up 100 people! Seriously, this is an ideal location for any business event in need of a terrific outdoor/indoor venue. And if things take a romantic turn in your day of fun, onsite marriages are not out of the question. I mean, come on, look at that place. It’s begging for an impromptu wedding.
FDR Park — options galore, permit required, gallons of fun:
Self-ascribed as “Philadelphia’s Hidden Gem,” the greenery of FDR Park in South Philly has been a staple Philly getaway since the early 1900s. And we can see why. It’s spacious, gorgeous, accommodating, and gives terrific views of the city. With numerous onsite activities (e.g. tennis, rugby, a skate park for you crazy kids out there), there’s no shortage of options. You can even go to Wheel Fun Rentals and rent bikes, carriages, or even get a little paddle boat or kayak (though none of those cheesy swan boats, we asked…). Much like the Pennypack, to reserve a corporate event, you’ll need to go through the Parks and Rec. Department (linked at the end of this article). Luck rewards those who plan ahead, right? That’s a saying, I think…
Runner-Up: the American Swedish Historical Museum
Fun fact, this cross-cultural museum resides in FDR park! But as they say, two headings are better than one. I’m on point with my aphorisms today. The museum is pricey to rent during the weekends, but less so during the week (you’re looking at around $1k Sun-Thur)! So get your Thursday in gear and mark it on your calendar. This event venue has both indoor and outdoor accommodations with space for up to 250 guests inside. It is a stunning location that includes onsite catering and free parking too. And because it is within FDR park, all of the extra park features are right at your fingertips. Now, I will put in another plug here for spontaneous weddings, because the museum is too pretty for someone not to fall in love and monogamously dedicate their life to someone else.
The Camden County Boathouse — technically Jersey, more indoor than outdoor, stunning
East Philly means Jersey territory, which doesn’t suit a primarily Philadelphia-biased article. But we’ll throw a humble pitch for this amazing boathouse anyway. Like the American Swedish Historical Museum, you’re going to want to snag a reservation during the weekdays, where the price is anywhere from ½ to ⅓ of the weekend price, depending on number of attendees (anywhere from $115/hr to $200/hr, up to about 200 guests). So if you can swing it, what awaits you? Great question! This boathouse has several meeting rooms, scalable catering (in terms of how swanky you’re feeling), occupancy up to 220, and decent yardage for outdoor events. So if you choose Jersey, you get your fun outdoor business entertainment, and then get to head inside to be wined and dined on the company’s dime while looking at the fabulous Philly skyline. Uh… yes please.
WEST PHILLY! *resist the urge to sing the Fresh Prince theme song
Fairmount Park — classic Philly space, permit required
A Philadelphia outdoor event/venue list would be sadly incomplete without Fairmount Park. It’s enormous and spectacular. It has areas of stunning woodland and of manicured rows of trees, pristine athletic fields and picturesque bridges. The Schuylkill River is right there too, so whatever your outdoor event, Fairmount Park has the perfect space for it. To reiterate, you will need to go through the permit process to reserve a spot here, but the reward is worth it. Fairmount Park is a classic Philly spot, and a terrific way to reward some quality employees for a day of events and entertainment. Similarly, you could ship over to Morris Park, which is more true west of Philadelphia. It’s smaller, but still spectacular. And yes, it requires another permit.
THE DEEP WEST (King of Prussia Friendly):
Valley Forge — the Philander Chase Knox Estate
About 25 miles outside of Center City and right in the incredible Valley Forge State Park is this historic estate. It has everything you could want for an elegant, rustic event. Rolling hills, towering trees, indoor and outdoor availability, and to top it off: George Washington stayed there during the American Revolution. I’m not saying you should LARP on the grounds, but you certainly could. Valley Forge is breathtaking, this estate is breathtaking, and your day of corporate fun could be breathtaking too. It can fit up to 200 people, and is in a prime location outside of Center City and close to any businesses near King of Prussia. However, the rental price is not listed online, so we’re imagining it taking a good gut shot at your company wallet.
King of Prussia — several options, local businesses, (but yes, permits…)
The King of Prussia area is home to several beaut—yes, we know, it has a great mall—iful little parks that are all perfect for outdoor corporate events, and also several indoor areas within the mall that would be more suitable for indoor events like game shows. Though you have to go through Merion Township’s park permit rental process for most outdoor venues, our intuition says that it might be easier than going through the larger Philly Parks and Rec. Department. So go ahead and check out Heuser Park, Sweetbriar Park (creek included!), Walker Field, and several others to see what outdoor aesthetic best suits your eventertainment vision. And if you’d like an indoor option, there are several eateries within the mall that would love to host an event for an affordable rate, such as Sullivan’s Steakhouse or the Cuba Libre Restaurant.
(Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department permit website: https://www.phila.gov/services/permits-violations-licenses/get-a-permit-to-use-a-philadelphia-parks-recreation-space/)
By Leo McConnell