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.
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.
Howard Pyle's unexpected death in 1912 brought a group of artists, entrepreneurs, and businessmen together to grieve their friend. They couldn't let the artist's passion for teaching and illustration disappear as quickly as he had; so, they decided to form the Wilmington Society of Fine Arts with the sole purpose of preserving his legacy. They gathered funds from locals who felt just as strongly as they did?family members, friends, students, fans?and purchased approximately 100 pieces of his artwork.
Little did they know that, with these 100 pieces, they were starting something greater than a memorial for a good friend. The Wilmington Society of Fine Arts would, over time, add more and more artwork to its collection, growing into an 80,000-square-foot space and out of its original name. The Delaware Art Museum, as its called today, now counts more than 12,000 works of art as part of its collection. Permanent features showcase British pre-Raphaelites, the urban landscapes of John Sloan, modern American art, and, of course, Howard Pyle. The masterpieces don't stop when visitors venture outside?the Copeland Sculpture Garden adorns its lush natural scenery with nine works from the museum's permanent collection, along with a massive outdoor labyrinth.
When record amounts of water from Tropical Storm Henri ravaged Red Clay Valley, it left six historic bridges destroyed and reduced the 10-mile Wilmington & Western Railroad to a mere two miles. The railroad is no stranger to change—since officially opening for passenger and freight service in 1872, the approximately 20-mile track was gradually shortened before beginning to escort tourists on steam-powered jaunts in 1966. Through all its transformations, the rail has persevered, and its encounter with Tropical Storm Henri was no exception. By June 30, 2007, the track was restored and Royal Blue coaches followed a locomotive 98 for the first 10-mile journey on the track in nearly four years.
These days, Wilmington & Western Railroad's locomotives continue to follow Red Clay Creek on leisurely round-trip jaunts, romantic rides, and themed excursions. After their ride, youngsters can learn about railroading heritage with a series of online games, and individuals or groups can charter a train for subsequent travels to any destination along the line.