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.
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 staff at New Balance of Philadelphia & South Jersey isn't concerned with simply selling shoes—their mission is to pair customers with the footwear that will carry them comfortably through life’s arduous steps. Understanding that an ill-fitting pair of athletic shoes can cause pain to joints and potentially damage knees, hips, and the back, associates measure the length and width of each client's foot and conduct a gait analysis to chart the trajectory of their stride when walking normally or running through ball pits. The data are collected to help the staff match clients with their ideal shoe, keeping them running longer and looking good while doing so.
The Wine Room of Cherry Hill spotlights more than 25 Californian grape varieties, which guests handcraft into their very own batches. Under the tutelage of winemaking pros, students de-stem and crush the fruit, then learn to press it with authentic Italian wine presses. Finally, each batch is ready to be poured into bottles adorned with customized labels, which guests may opt to purchase and take home.
Besides winemaking, The Wine Room plays host to a variety of events—from food and wine seminars to private birthday parties—in a reception area inspired by a Tuscan courtyard.
Though Washington DC has taken Philadelphia's place as the capitol of the United States, it remains a bustling metropolis rich with American history. Independence Walking Tours' guides––all of whom have at least a bachelors degree in history––dredge up past centuries' landmark events and scandals during their 75-minute walking tours. Their narration blends historical facts and local insight, with stops at Betsy Ross House, Walnut Street Prison, and Independence Hall, where teens often go to escape their uncool parents.
Sensory overload doesn’t begin to describe Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. A seemingly boundless compilation of colors, textures, and shapes, the labyrinthine mosaic creation spans 3,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. The masterpiece originated in the brain of Isaiah Zagar, a Philadelphia native who grew up in New York. During his third year of art school, he stumbled upon Clarence Schmidt’s folk-art-inspired installations—assemblages of found objects and recycled materials—and the young artist’s view of the art world changed. “I didn't know that I was looking at art,” Zagar reflects in his mission statement. Self-admittedly, Zagar has been somewhat “copying” Schmidt’s dynamic, free-flowing style ever since.
The years after art school brought Zagar an onslaught of new opportunities. He spent time as an artist in China and India, joined the Peace Corps with his wife Julia, settled in Peru for three years, and even tried his hand at ceramics in Wisconsin. In the ‘60s, he and Julia returned to his birthplace—specifically, the waning South Street neighborhood. Isaiah quickly leapt into action, renovating dilapidated buildings and often adding mosaics to formerly barren walls. Eventually, Isaiah’s imagination outgrew their projects, and in 1994 he began constructing a new piece in a vacant lot near his studio—the project would become Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.
Isaiah spent 14 precious years, which he should have applied to Y2K preparations, scooping out tunnels, erecting multitiered walls, and splashing the entire space in colorful tile. The finished product stretches across half a block of South Street; the outside enclosure shimmering with vibrant tiles, the inside housing folk art, colored glass bottles, and countless sparkling mirrors. Now a nonprofit organization, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens invites visitors to enjoy its visual candy with guided or self-guided tours.