Hidden behind a wall in Philadelphia’s sprawling Fairmount Park is a replica of a 17th Century Japanese House and Garden.
Be sure to remove your shoes as you enter the Japanese House, as the floors are covered with pristine woven mats. The House has the sparsely decorated, square rooms divided by white screens that you likely associate with traditional Japanese architecture. Lovely, in its spare way.
Garden and Koi Pond
In contrast to the stark perpendicular
lines of the House, the surrounding traditional Japanese Garden is a voluptuous interplay of rounded bushes, a twisting waterfall, triangular trees, irregularly shaped boulders and sculptures. The C-shape of the garden pond envelopes a whole side of the house in its curved embrace.
Kids may enjoy feeding the bright orange koi, if they can stomach the up-close look into fish mouths. While the Garden is tranquil and inviting in any season, spring’s hot pink azaleas might be an especially dramatic contrast with the brown/white lines of the house. Cost: $7 adults, $5 children. A small gift shop has ceramics and children’s books.
If you’ve brought a picnic, consider driving about a mile to eat near Belmont Plateau, across the street from Belmont Mansion. Your lunchtime view will be the entire Philadelphia skyline.
A different brunch/lunch option is at Centennial Café, also within a mile. The Café is in the formal house constructed in 1876 for the American Centennial. The house was designed to showcase
rock quarried in Ohio and, oddly, displays names of Ohio stone masons. The Café has soup, salad, sandwiches, and good omelettes. Despite the fancy building, it is informal and friendly, with plastic tableware. Note: Hours are listed inconsistently. Most likely is Weds – Sunday, 8-3; but call if you need to confirm – (215) 877-3055.