With ethereal, rustic prints and paintings that combine art and nature, Aftyn Shah of Rise and Wander captures the whimsy and wonder of the forest, the mountains, and beyond. From her home studio outside of Philadelphia, Shah creates illustrations, intricate block prints, and apparel featuring her designs, with a portion of all sales benefiting environmental conservation, women’s issues, and educational organizations.
Based on the themes of her work, it’s no surprise that Shah enjoys exploring the great outdoors, so we asked her to round up a few of her favorite Philly-area outdoor hangs. (So you know they’re expert-approved.)
Shah says: “This is such an obvious choice for anyone in the Philadelphia area who wants to get outside because there’s something for everyone! My personal favorite is packing a picnic in my backpack and bicycling along the Schuylkill River until I find a good spot to relax and watch the water (or until my legs get tired). As an artist though, one of the most defining features of the massive park system for me is the public art showcased throughout the more natural landscape, including mosaics and sculptures.”
We say: From Boathouse Row to Belmont Plateau, Fairmount Park is the largest green space in the city. Separated by the Schuylkill, there’s plenty of room for roaming, running, picnicking, and playing on both sides of the river. Hit up a concert at the Mann Center (and marvel at the skyline views while you’re at it) or go for a walk on Kelly Drive along Boathouse Row and you’ll forget you’re in a city.
Shah says: “While many Philadelphians have heard of or visited Fox Chase Farm, a functioning and educational farm in the Northwest, just outside of the city in Plymouth Meeting is Maple Acres Farm. It’s a working farm and a vibrant part of the local community, with a massive farmer’s market stocking just about any seasonal fruit or veggie you could want. The absolute best activity, though, is picking your own Zinnias!”
We say: Open all year long, this farm is great for all your outdoorsy needs, from pick-your-own flowers and produce to hayrides. With over six acres of flowers, Maple Acres Farm offer floral arrangements that you can design yourself with freshly picked blooms.
Shah says: “The Morris Arboretum is one of the prettiest places in Philadelphia. With a massive collection of plants and a robust research element, the arboretum is beautiful in any season and hosts a number of interesting educational activities. They also have storytime sessions for kids, walks, plant sales, and group activities.”
We say: Founded in 1887, Morris Arboretum is home to more than 2,500 types of plants from all over the world. They host a number of events year-round catering to all ages, from bird watching weekends to late-night summer picnics. For the more serious horticulturalists, you can sign up for sessions in botany, birding, and more.
Shah says: “The Philadelphia Zoo rightfully boasts that it’s the oldest zoo in the United States, but more importantly, they are currently doing a great deal of research and conservation to help animals today. The zoo is laid out with beautiful walkways and tree canopies, making it a pretty place to take a walk—with the added bonus that you’ll see all sorts of animals, from the adorable to the majestic.”
We say: The Philadelphia Zoo checks off all the boxes when it comes to zoo necessities: dozens of animal species, including reptiles, cheetahs, giraffes, monkeys, and more. The Zoo 360 animal exploration trails give critters (almost) free roam throughout the zoo via overhead walkways, giving visitors an even closer view.
Shah says: “This is technically part of Fairmount Park System, but it deserves its own mention because this is the place to go if you want to forget you’re near a major urban area. I’ve gone walking or hiking by myself, with my husband or friends, and with my little ones, and there’s a trail for everyone. When I want to walk and chat, or if I bring my baby in his stroller, I take it easy along Forbidden Drive, a wide and level path. It’s a beautiful walk, still tree-covered and following the water. But when I’m feeling more adventurous, I love wandering the wooded trails and finding beautiful new views.”
We say: Home to Forbidden Drive, Pennsylvania’s 2018 Trail of the Year, the Wissahickon is the outdoorsy-type’s dream. Not only can you explore on a number of hiking trails—up to 50 miles’ worth—you can fish, horseback ride, birdwatch, or marvel in the Andorra Meadow, a plot of land for birds and other wildlife.