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 and the Norristown Zoological Society 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, timberwolves, and bald and gold eagles—peer back at visitors. Even though they're from Africa, giraffes get in on the fun too during certain seasons, grazing on foliage and the toupees of particularly tall patrons. Guests can also spy on more than 15 species that are threatened or endangered. All the while, smaller animals mosey around at the petting barn, tots climb aboard gentle ponies, and winged beauties sail through the air at the butterfly preserve.
The idyllic surroundings of The Vineyard at Hershey include acres of rolling vineyards and a natural, spring-fed pond. Inside a rustic farmhouse, guided tours take an in-depth look into the winemaking process, and end with tastings of small-batch Pennsylvania wines. Walk across the lawn to find the brewery, where brewmasters pour nearly 20 beers ranging from crisp hefeweizens to hop-heavy IPAs, with different brews crafted at different times of the year. Throughout the year, the Vineyard hosts events such as wine and beer release parties and concerts, including the summertime Decked-Out Live! Entertainment Series.
When the holiday season rolls around each year, the natural beauty of Symphony Woods shines a little brighter with the electric festivities of Symphony of Lights and the donations it provides to Howard County General Hospital. More than 70 animated and stationary light displays set the scene ablaze with images of candy canes, snowflakes, and toys, and twinkling string lights dress the trees in a blaze of white. Visitors can enjoy the scenery in numerous ways throughout the season, as family and pet walks, drive-through routes, and the 1.4-mile walk/run of Dazzle Dash keep eyes engaged and bodies exercising during the holidays. The lights stay twinkling seven days a week, only closing for New Year’s Eve or when the moon comes looking for who’s stealing her audience.
Blue Mountain Vineyards owners, Joe and Vickie, are pinot pioneers. Beginning with a 5-acre experiment in 1986, they discovered that the soil of the Lehigh Valley does a fine impression of French terrain, making it suitable for growing the grapes of cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and other European varietals. Since then, they've expanded to a 50-acre plot, where they now produce wines that have won awards from the Fingerlake International Wine Competition and Appellation America.
Panoramic views of the Blue Mountains overlook scenic terraces at the vineyards, where grapes spring from soil that soldiers roamed during the Revolutionary War. Tastings, concerts, and other events fill the winery's glass-flanked deck, spilling onto an outdoor patio surrounded by ponds as tranquil as a silent lullaby. Visitors admire the vines during tours, and they can also adopt their favorites to preserve the vines' flavorful histories.
Even before Richard Naylor and his wife, Audrey, founded their winery in 1978, the Naylor family had been fascinated by the winemaking process. What began as a backyard vine-growing experiment first transitioned into an barrel-producing operation in a potato cellar. It then blossomed into today's idyllic Pennsylvania winery, full of vineyards, rows of wooden barrels, and a staff of friendly wine experts. Richard and his family lead groups through tours of the picturesque estate, imparting their wisdom about the fine varietals grown there, such as cabernet franc or chambourcin. Guests can sip fine vino during regular festivals and front-porch tastings, or they can experience live bands, competitive wine-tasting events, and even weddings in the welcoming, rustic setting of the Pavilion.
All big things start small, but few major farms start as small as family-owned Kreider Farms did, with 102 acres of land and only 12 cows. Today, the farm spans more than 2,500 acres and includes approximately 5 million egg-laying chickens, 2,000 cows, and 225 employees. The farm distributes its eggs, milk, and premium ice cream throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, and reports that it has become one of the largest egg producers in the state of Pennsylvania. Kreider Farms? wares have been endorsed by multiple chefs, a more meaningful accolade than the cardboard crowns of excellence distributed by fast-food eateries. The farm takes its environmental mission seriously, treating the land with respect and adopting ethical and environmentally responsible practices. Workers happily share their knowledge and story with others during 90-minute farm tours or virtual tours on the website.