by Brooke Brunson
The ideal spot for joggers, runners, bikers, and rowers, Kelly Drive is a beautiful trail that winds around 4 miles along the Schuylkill River. Divided by east and west, the east end is Benjamin Franklin Parkway while the west side is Lincoln Drive/Ridge Avenue in Manayunk. Formerly known as East River Drive, it was renamed Kelly Drive in the 1980’s in honor of John B. Kelly Jr who throughout the 1940’s was an accomplished oarsman, a four-time Olympian, and a Philadelphia City Councilman for 12 years. Other than the historic and influential tales that surround this beautiful area, one of the biggest and main attractions is Boathouse Row. A historic site located on the east bank of the Schuylkill River, it is home to 15 boathouses (a building especially designed for the storage of boats) that consist of housing social rowing clubs and their racing shells. Racing shell is an ancient Egyptian term that is based on propelling a boat on water using oars.
Over the years, Boathouse Row has been known to host several major rowing regattas including the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, Stotesbury Cup Regatta, the Navy Day Regatta, the Independence Day Regatta, and the Head of the Schuylkill. The boathouses are seen as centers of the rowing community around the United States. Rowers from the boathouses compete at every level, including local clubs, high schools, colleges, summer racing programs, and international-level athletics. Local universities including Drexel, Penn, and La Salle row out of houses on Boathouse Row while Villanova, and Saint Joseph's row out of other boathouses along the Schuylkill that are not part of the Row. Each of the boathouses has its own history, and all have addresses on both Boathouse Row and Kelly Drive named after John B. Kelly, Jr. Boathouses #2 through #14 are part of a group known as the Schuylkill Navy, which encompasses several other boathouses along the river. Boathouse #1 is Lloyd Hall and is the only public boathouse facility on the Row and Boathouse #15 houses the Sedgeley Club that operates the Turtle Rock Lighthouse. The boathouses are all at least a century old, and some were built over 150 years ago.
Other than the boathouses, Kelly Drive also contains an impressive assortment of sculptures that ranges in date from the 1800s to the early 1960s that includes artist Harry Rosin's portrayal of John B. Kelly Jr. Other sculptures by multiple artists honor American history and its revolutionary peoples, such as the Puritan, the Statesman, the Revolutionary Soldier, the Quaker, the Slave, the Miner, the Ploughman, the Poet, the Preacher, and the Scientist. While ominously overlooking Kelly Drive is the 78-acre Laurel Hill Cemetery and Sculpture Garden, which dates back to the early 1800s and is overflowing with Gothic mausoleums, monuments, and elaborate tombstones. In 1998, the burial ground became one of few US cemeteries to be designated as a National Historic Landmark. Resident gravesites include those of Thomas McKean, one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence, as well as many Civil War generals and passengers of the Titanic.
There is always something to do in the area. If you have a free hour, come rent a custom cycle and drink in the sights. Whether you are planning a structured team-building event, kid’s camp, birthday party, field trip, or family outing, Wheel Fun Rentals is the perfect place for your next event. Rentals include mountain bike, road bike, electric car, canoe, surfboard, and much more. A popular trail for bikers and runners is The Schuylkill River Trail. The trail is approximately 10 miles in length, providing recreational space in the center of this beautiful and historic city.
Schuylkill Banks, located between the Fairmount Water Works and Locust Street, is a linear park that hosts a variety of entertainment and recreational events throughout the year. From Schuylkill Banks to East Falls, the trail is a wide paved surface suitable for rollerblading, walking, running, and cycling. This section runs next to Kelly Drive and takes users past Boathouse Row. From East Falls to Ridge Avenue, the trail is on the sidewalk between Ridge Avenue and Manayunk’s Lock Street. Using Main Street, the trail goes behind Main Street and uses the Manayunk Canal towpath, a section of the Schuylkill Navigation System. The Manayunk Canal towpath varies between crushed stone and wooden boardwalk. From Shawmont to Port Royal Avenue the trail uses Nixon Street.
If you are looking for a new spot to get in a nice bike ride or run then Kelly Drive is the place to be. Not only is it packed with things to do but also you can get an amazing view of the Schuylkill River while strolling down the trails.
For more info visit