If you’d asked him five years ago whether he’d be the proud parent of an Australian Shepherd puppy, Philadelphia attorney David DelCollo would have answered, “A what puppy?”
“Honestly, I wasn’t particularly familiar with dog breeds when I first started looking into adoption,” says DelCollo, a bit sheepishly. “I knew about German and Dutch Shepherds, but I’d never heard of the Aussie variety.”
Those days seem like a long time ago; now DelCollo and his Australian Shepherd pup are virtually inseparable. She’s energetic, and it’s all DelCollo can do to keep up with her. Were it not for the Philadelphia area’s robust roster of dog parks, he’d likely be at his wits’ end.
“Southeastern Pennsylvania has plenty of dog parks,” says DelCollo, “but they’re all different. Some are great, some not so much.”
DelCollo has gotten to know more than a dozen dog parks during his relatively brief stint as a dog owner. Here are eight of the most noteworthy:
- Harford Park – Radnor, PA
Harford is a beautiful, 30-acre park in Radnor Township, just northwest of central Philadelphia. It’s an oasis of woodsy calm in the midst of Philly’s bustling suburbs. But it’s not just for dogs; there are miles of walking trails connect to a dense regional network, making Harford Park the perfect stop on a long-distance jaunt across the Pennsylvania countryside.
- Pawling Farm – Valley Forge, PA
Pawling Farm isn’t just a stunning dog park in the heart of the Philadelphia area. It’s also one of the most historically significant Revolutionary War sites. General Washington’s army spent a substantial amount of time here in 1777 and 1778; the war arguably would have turned out differently had the group not had a chance to rest and recuperate during that famously brutal winter. So don’t just bring the pups — bring the family, too!
- Norristown Farm Park – Norristown, PA
Norristown Farm Park, a 690-acre expanse of woodland and cultivated areas, also has plenty of historical significance. In fact, it’s one of the oldest continuously operating farms anywhere in the United States — cows have been lowing here since before the Revolution. Dogs love the well-maintained lawns and spacious meadows, while kids and parents are sure to appreciate the period-faithful implements and garb on display.
- Rittenhouse Square – Philadelphia, PA
Nestled in the heart of Philadelphia’s vibrant Center City neighborhood, Rittenhouse Square is routinely cited as one of the nation’s best urban parks. With stunning views of the Philadelphia skyline and impeccably groomed lawns and gardens, it’s not hard to see why. The dog-friendly portion of the park is a cosmopolitan meetup space for pups of all shapes and sizes.
“Whenever I’m in Central Philly with my Aussie Shepherd, the first thing we do is head to Rittenhouse Square,” says DelCollo. “There’s nowhere else quite like it.”
- Mario Lanza Dog Park – Philadelphia, PA
Mario Lanza Dog Park is an unassuming pocket of quiet amid the hustle and bustle of urban Philadelphia. It’s not particularly large — it doesn’t even take up a full city block — but every square foot of it is well maintained and dog friendly.
“Mario Lanza is a great place for humans and dogs alike to meet and mingle,” says DelCollo. “I’ve had some great interactions with colleagues and friends there.”
- Schuylkill River Dog Park – Philadelphia, PA
Schuylkill River Dog Park (say that 10 times fast!) is another urban gem on the west side of Philadelphia. With separate areas for large and small dogs, it’s the perfect place to bring smaller pups without fear of bullying. Plus, there are plenty of dog-friendly restaurants and cafes within a short walk or drive.
“It’s hard to beat the banks of the Schuylkill River in springtime,” says DelCollo. “What better way to experience Philly’s natural beauty than with your best friend at your side?”
- Lloyd Park – Downingtown, PA
Lloyd Park has it all: a sturdy fence around the entire perimeter, a burbling brook, beach volleyball courts and a separate kid’s area. In short, there’s something for the entire family, including four-legged members!
- Beau’s Dream Dog Park (Buchanan Park) – Lancaster, PA
Beau’s Dream is a bit of a hike from central Philadelphia, but it’s well worth the drive on a nice weekend day. According to BringFido, Beau’s Dream underwent a complete revamp in 2013, transforming from a second-rate municipal-grade park into a regional attraction for dog lovers from a three-state area.
“I was quite surprised to find Beau’s Dream way out there in Lancaster, which is sort of off the beaten path for Philadelphians,” says DelCollo. “It’s definitely worth the hike, though.”
What’s your favorite dog park? Which of these sounds most appealing?