Dilworth Park’s New Attraction Helps Spread the Rich History of Horticulture in Philadelphia

Dilworth Park has been the peak of the attempt to modernize and redesign City Hall here in Philadelphia. Since its remodel in 2014, it has become a staple of events and attention within the Center City Area

This year the Center City District is introducing a new attraction to go along with the ice rink that comes along every winter season. America’s Garden Capital Maze was implanted into Dilworth Park, a holiday-inspired garden that shares history of Philadelphia and the winter season.

The maze is created to embody all 32 public gardens, arboretum, and historic landscapes that are located within a 30-mile radius of the city, showing why Philadelphia is known as the Garden Capital of the Country. Centered by a welcome gazebo, the maze is designed for both children and adults featuring willow-branch archways, evergreens, trees, perennials, shrubs, topiary sculptures, and winter plantings covered in Christmas lights end to end.


Many of the local gardens are participating in the maze including Longwood Gardens, The Philadelphia Zoo, The Highlands Mansion and Gardens, and Tyler Formal Gardens at Bucks County Community College.

This backs on the strong history of gardens this area has since settlers first came to America. The Quakers who settled the land were very interested in understanding nature and the land as a way to understand god. This is shown through the maze with its homage to William Penn and the first Pennsylvanians.

According to Garden Visit, Pennsylvania has the sixth most gardens within a state with 20, most within the 30 mile radius of Philadelphia. These do not include the several gardens in New Jersey and Delaware that are easily accessible to those who are within the Philadelphia area.


The Center City District is partnering Greater Philadelphia Gardens to help make this maze come to life. The group was created in 1989 when several of Philadelphia-area gardens came together to promote their gardens and push for larger numbers of visitors. This was the first creation of any kind of organization like the Greater Philadelphia Gardens, and now brings in more than two million visitors a year.

Nancy Goldenberg, the vice president of planning, development, and research, and executive director of the center city district foundation, helped create the idea for the maze.

“Following two successful seasons of ice skating at Dilworth Park, the Center City District was seeking new ideas to activate the southern portion of the park, the portion occupied by the Greenfield Lawn,” said Goldenberg.

“For the (Center City District), our goal is to bring more people to Dilworth Park, particularly after the holiday and engage them in a fun, unique activity; for Greater Philadelphia Gardens, they hope to promote the fact that there are more public gardens and arboretum in this region than anywhere else in the country – Philadelphia is the Garden Capital of the Country.  So it really is a perfect match, with each organization having different but mutually reinforcing goal.”

The maze won’t only be a place for visitors to experience the gardens that surround the Philadelphia area however, the maze is set to host an array of horticultural programs, such as how to create your own terrarium, and tree care for the homeowner, beginning in January and continuing until the end of February.

“Our goal is to have the maze help push visitors of the park to stay longer, spend time eating and shopping at the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market, and return later on in the season once the market is taken down,” said Goldenberg.

“Were also hoping for the strong relationship we have between the Greater Philadelphia Gardens and the (Center City District) encourages people from both sides to visit both the gardens within the area, and the attractions at the park this winter.”

So far the maze has been a welcomed addition to Dilworth Park by visitors of the center city area. Janet Pierson, 44 of Glendora, New Jersey, loved the new attraction for her and her family.

“I’ve been coming to the park since it opened to bring the family for some winter time fun” said Pierson.

“The maze was an awesome new experience that I wasn’t expecting. With the free activities too I’ll definitely be back to try out all the interesting garden classes they have to offer”.

The park also includes several other events and attractions that run throughout the winter season. One of these events include The Rothman Institute Cabin, a dining experience that features dishes such as poutine and chili while also featuring special cocktails. The area will also host music by the Philadelphia Orchestra played over the speakers at the rink every Sunday with professional skaters performing once a month, and a spin one Center City Sips called Cocktails and Cold Ones every Wednesday.

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