Since its renovation in 2006, Franklin Square Park has been transformed into a vibrant amusement park, complete with a carousel, two playgrounds, the impressive and historic Franklin Square Fountain, and the perfect Cheap Date diversion: an 18-hole miniature golf course designed around iconic Philadelphia landmarks like Love Park and the Liberty Bell. After battling it out on the green, my date and I cooled off by getting frosty treats from Square Burger, the park’s freestanding snack stand, and taking them on a stroll (part-way) across the breezy and beautiful Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
How cheap we talkin’: $8 for a round of golf ($7 if you have a Septa pass!)$3.50-$4.75 for a rootbeer float or shake from Square Burger.
Why this will impress your date: By showing that you can be a gracious winner. Or loser.
Score extra points: By offering to be the one to keep score. (Do not literally score extra points by cheating).
The inside game: Access to the Ben Franklin Bridge closes at 9pm, and is not reputed to be the safest after dark, so make sure you are finished walking well before sundown.
Next date: Anytime! Well, almost. The course is open from 10am to 9pm every day May 28th through September 7th. Then, through October 23rd, you can golf Tuesday through Saturday 9am-9pm (although from October 1st – 31st the hours Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are 11am-8pm). The course is also open Columbus Day, and November 26th-28th, 5-8pm. December 4th-19th golf Saturday and Sunday 5-8pm. December 27th-31st golf every day 5-8pm. Then the course will close until daily hours resume March 26th. Whew! Did you get all that???
The course (as reviewed by uwishunu in 2007) is located in the northernmost area of Franklin Square park. From the gate, it doesn’t look like there could be 18 mini golf greens back there, but there are! Each hole incorporates oversized replicas of Philly monuments as obstacles and design elements, mostly successfully. The Art Museum hole was one of my favorites, having to putt the ball up the Rocky Stairs and into a chute. By contrast, the simple Chinatown arch in the middle of an otherwise straight shot was still cool, but a little less challenging.
The is course is clearly designed for whole-family fun — most of the holes are pretty straightforward 2-par putts – but that didn’t keep my date and I from making a sport of it. The game also easily lends itself to both kinds of flirting – the ego boosting kind (“Wow, that was an amazing shot! You’re so good at this!”), and the affectionately teasing kind (“Whoa, try to keep the Love in the park, ok?”). Things can still get heated though: the couple ahead of us was taking it so seriously, when they ended in a tie they circled back to putt a tie-breaking round (she won).
It wasn’t overcrowded, and we played through all 18 holes relatively quickly, although the few times we did have to wait, the course itself made for easy conversation (“Have you ever been to the Liberty Bell?”).
After tallying our scores and engaging in more ego- boosting/affectionate ribbing regarding the outcome, we stopped in at Square Burger, the Stephen Starr owned burger and shake shack that services the park. Reviews of the burgers have been mixed, but the thing to get there is indisputably the Tasty Cake Shake. I ordered a root beer float, which was still pretty good — the vanilla ice cream was the perfect creamy consistency, but it’s a difficult beverage to take in with a straw - even an extra-wide Bubble Tea straw.
We took our treats to the southeast corner of the park and crossed 6th street to get to the pedestrian entrance to the historic Benjamin Franklin Bridge (it was once the longest suspension bridge in the world). There are walkways on both sides of the bridge, but only one side at a time is open to foot-traffic. As you might expect, the walk grades gently uphill until the halfway point, and then down again. It’s by no means an arduous climb, but you will feel it if you’re moving any faster than a leisurely stroll. It’s a long 1.8 mile walk to reach the other side; my date and I went about 3/4 of the way before turning back, stopping for awhile to watch the Riversharks game at Campbell’s field stadium from our “nosebleed” seats on the bridge. We also took in the sweeping views of the Delaware river and Camden waterfront and Aquarium, but the best views are of the Philly skyline on the way back, because you know you are heading home.