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.
Propelled by an affinity for fresh air, the family that helms Hispaniola Cycling fosters the same free-spirit mentality in its guests who embark on the outfit’s bike tours, which include cycles and helmets. Hispaniola’s guides are experts on the local topography, calling upon their respect for Mother Nature and a healthy fear of her mood swings to guide groups for spins around town or weekend jaunts through Valley Forge and along the Schuylkill River Trail. They can also expand fitness with wellness tours and camaraderie with corporate tours that follow custom routes around worksites, kick-starting employee heart rates a midday slump after they wrestle faulty fax machines.
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.
Schuylkill River Outdoors outfits guests with tubes and rafts before sending them off to take tranquil, relaxing jaunts downstream. Customers can choose from three different aquatic sojourns—a brief, one-hour float, a two- to three-hour trek, or a five-hour marathon—to complete at their leisure. During trips, tubers and rafters can take time out to wade in the shallow waters or invent backstories for the wild turkey, ducks, and bald eagles they may encounter along the way. Multiple islands populate the gently flowing waters of the Schuylkill River, providing a convenient spot for explorers to stop to picnic or skip rocks. Schuylkill River Outdoors recommends that customers bring along their own snacks and drinks, sunscreen, bathing suits, and a pair of water-friendly shoes as footwear is mandatory.
A champagne toast signifies luxury, but Air Ventures provides an even more luxurious amenity—champagne toasts conducted while floating in midair. Customers sip from bottles of bubbly while on one of the company’s hot-air-balloon rides, which float over Chester County’s rolling hills, glistening lakes, and historic estates at either sunrise or sunset. The rainbow-hued balloon’s trips range from one-hour jaunts to flight packages with overnight inn stops. After their airborne adventures, passengers take home a souvenir picture of the balloon, which they can supplement with downloaded shots of their own tour.