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.
Framed by unfiltered wilderness and the occasional supports of a crossing bridge, the Schuylkill River is a secluded getaway for water lovers looking to float down nature’s slow-motion roller coaster. Reading Rivertribe shuttles aqueous adventurers to chosen points along the river for leisurely kayaking, canoeing, or tubing, with each trip ending where it started: in the stomach of a dreaming whale or next to a CPR-certified shuttle driver.
Crystal chandeliers, stained-glass windows, and Austrian drapes adorn Abigail's Tea Room, where guests savor freshly brewed tea and finger foods inside a three-story Victorian manor house built in 1883. The tearoom hosts up to 50 diners for lunch, as teas pair with a seasonally changing selection of salads, sandwiches, and quiches. During high tea outings, attendees nibble snacks delivered on Victorian china and a tiered luncheon server while sipping tea decanted from pots with intricate floral patterns. Afterward, visitors can stock up on tea gear in the gift shop, browse the Gilded Age Hat Gallery's cranial accouterments, or unsuccessfully try to hook up their iPods to the parlor's gramophone.
The Zombie Mud Run finally gives people an incentive to exercise—the survival of their species. Amid forested trails, muddy creeks, and challenging obstacles, participants of this post-apocalyptic 5K face off to either save the human race or feast on human flesh, respectively. Clad in a flag-football belt with three flags that represent their brains, heart, and entrails, human participants race to get themselves and their fellow living athletes to the Green Zone, which grants salvation in the form of food, water, music, and beer. Meanwhile, costumed zombies—each of whom are either slow-moving “creepers” or fast-moving “leapers”—positioned along the race course pursue the humans to devour their organs or simply return that contact lens they dropped a mile ago. Human runners who reach the Green Zone with at least one of their flags survive.
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.