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.
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.
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.
Though it looks old-timey, The Pride of the Susquehanna Riverboat is actually a late 20th-century creation, built and launched in 1988. Yet it still harks back to simpler times such as the 1800s or last Thursday, with mahogany woodwork lining the interior, punctuated by stained-glass ceilings and a front bar covered in copper and brass tacks. As guests enjoy cruising the Susquehanna River, they might enjoy a tasty dinner or just see the sights along the shore. On the boat, Susquehanna River School teaches students of all ages about the history and natural wonders of the mighty river, and what's being done to preserve them.
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.
Touring groups, clued in by a cast of live actors and cryptic puzzles, gallivant about the streets of downtown Gettysburg in an interactive quest for Lincoln's Lost Treasure. The escapade begins before the scavenger hunt-style romp, when a phone call reveals the hunt's secret starting point. Groups of up to 10 are commissioned by a wealthy, offbeat entrepreneur to locate a lost trove of treasury gold that Abraham Lincoln hinted at with his final breath. Set in modern-day Gettysburg, the plot then unfolds as teams sleuth through the historic downtown, traveling by foot or hoofing it via hover-chariot. Groups gather clues from an eccentric cast of characters, and dodge FBI agents out to foil the mission and ratchet up jaywalking arrests. During stops along the way, appetizers and two beverages refresh minds, enabling them to keep puzzling out clues throughout the 2-3 hour experience. The staff prefers that kids aged 10-15 be accompanied by adults, though youths as young as five have been known to join in the live action fun.