It all started with a farmer's generosity. In 1924, a civic-minded citizen handed over 16 acres of lush farmland and a small group of critters to the Borough of Norristown. Today, the Elmwood Park Zoo welcomes guests in hopes of creating a future stock of wildlife lovers and conservation advocates. A menagerie of around 300 beasts indigenous to the Americas?including jaguars, howler monkeys, gray wolves, and bald and golden eagles?peer back at visitors. Guests can also spy on more than 15 species that are threatened or endangered.
Though Washington, DC, has taken Philadelphia's place as the capital of the United States, it remains a bustling metropolis rich with American history. Grim Philly's tour guides?all of whom have at least a bachelor's degree in history?dredge up past centuries' landmark events and scandals, even ghosts and pirates, during their 75-minute walking tours, which made the Philly Hot List three years in a row. Their narration blends historical facts and local insight, with stops at a theater that was once a prostitution mecca for working girls of the night, the site of the first bank robbery, and Independence Hall.
Taking in all of Philadelphia's history could take days, but the folks at Philly By Segway somehow manage to compress the city's sights into two-hour tours. Starting along the Delaware River, excursions pass landmarks like Old City, Society Hill and the historic district, and some parts of South Philly, such as the Italian Market and the Magic Gardens. Besides historical attractions, tours stop by other notable Philly spots some of which were frequented by Sylvester Stallone while he was in town filming in his one-man adaptation of Rocky & Bullwinkle.
Accommodating up to six participants, every tour is led by one of Philly By Segway's Adventure Captains. Besides narrating the entire trip, captains snap pictures throughout, which are available for guests to take home afterward.
Knowledgeable tour guides and fluctuating locales spicy up this lively approach to dinner, in which food fanatics embark upon a steered exploration of center-city cuisine. The three-hour tour ditches wayward water vessels for walking shoes and begins with appetizers of calamari fries and three-cheese flatbread and drinks at Mediterranean-fused Sangria. Next, move onto the entree portion at Made in Brazil Steakhouse for authentic grilled comestibles. Lastly, wrap up the itinerant palate party with coffee and dessert at Allentown Brew Works, located in the historic Harold's Furniture Building. Indulge in a custardy chocolate pot de crème and a professional beer talk accented with malty ghosts of armchairs and footstools. Tours include tax and gratuity and vary per weekend night.
Despite being open to the public since 1930, Lost River Caverns has been kept in immaculate condition, retaining a youthful character that belies its close to 250,000-year existence. Step underground and peer at the profusion of stalactites, stalagmites, fluorescent minerals, and other natural crystal formations filling the cavern’s five chambers—including the Crystal Chapel, which radiates with residual love from the more than 80 wedding ceremonies it’s hosted since 1949. As dripping sounds echo in the distance, you’ll encounter the eponymous lost river, whose waters originate from an unknown source before disappearing back into Earth’s great Fiji bottle. You’ll also get wise to the Lost River Caverns’ colorful history and the odd ways it’s been used by bootleggers, college fraternities, and fantasy fellowships looking to level up by fighting the caverns’ many tonberries. Once you emerge back into daylight, ogle the rare fossils, unique minerals, and gems that abound inside the Gilman Museum before relaxing over a bite in Picnic Grove, whose covered bridge overlooks the leisurely flowing Silver Creek.
Chefs at Asian Bistros II shape artisanal dishes using splashes of vibrant color and contrasting textures to create eye-catching designs. The kitchen produces traditional Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, and Thai entrees made with fresh ingredients, such as coconut shrimp, pepper steak, and seasonal vegetables. Dexterous hands build more than 30 sushi rolls and sashimi using raw and cooked seafood, while hibachi grills fire up to sear filet-mignon tips and the eyebrows of incautious spectators.