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.
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 Penn's Landing, Independence Hall, and Elfreth's Alley, the nation's oldest residential street. Besides historical attractions, tours stop by other notable spots, like the art museum's "Rocky steps," which Sylvester Stallone famously climbed 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.
In 1989, Jim Kirkpatrick received a winemaking kit from his wife, Carole. At the time, neither Jim nor Carole knew it, but that kit churned out more than just wine—it also produced a dream. When Jim's homemade concoctions were a hit, the couple decided to try their hand at growing their own grapes, and soon moved to a home in Wrightsville surrounded by 3 acres of land.
Just 100 yards from Kreutz Creek, the Kirkpatrick's new location presented the ideal location to expand on Jim's newfound dream. Today, Kreutz Creek Vineyards generates an assortment of red, white, and seasonal varietals. Jim and Carole also use their tranquil grounds to host community events throughout the year, including bonfires and movie nights.
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.
Built in 1750, the old bank barn on the Sweetwater Farm bed-and-breakfast property boasted a diverse resumé before it fell into disrepair more than two centuries later; it held malting barley for distilled spirits, sheltered herds of livestock, and even hosted a party or two. After a two-year renovation completed in 2010, the barn came out of retirement to fulfill its new purpose: hosting french-oak barrels and stainless-steel fermentation tanks—custom-made in South Africa—that quietly ferment and age small-batch wines from the property's 5-acre vineyard.
Grace Winery's European-origin varietals, grown on California vines that were transplanted by hand and carrier pigeon, include merlot, pinot gris, and petit verdot. Winemaker Sean Kramer combines new technology with tried-and-true tradition to create wines such as the bright 2010 rosé, which was served at the brunch the day after Prince Albert of Monaco’s wedding. His other wines include the 2010 chardonnay reserve, aged for 14 months in french oak that imbues it with dark caramel and butterscotch flavors, and the crisp 2011 pinot gris, whose light honeysuckle aromas lead to delicate hints of citrus and melon.