Though Washington, DC, has taken Philadelphia's place as the capital of the United States, it remains a bustling metropolis rich with American history. Grim Philly's tour guides?all of whom have at least a bachelor's degree in history?dredge up past centuries' landmark events and scandals, even ghosts and pirates, during their 75-minute walking tours, which made the Philly Hot List three years in a row. Their narration blends historical facts and local insight, with stops at a theater that was once a prostitution mecca for working girls of the night, the site of the first bank robbery, and Independence Hall.
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 Old City, Society Hill and the historic district, and some parts of South Philly, such as the Italian Market and the Magic Gardens. Besides historical attractions, tours stop by other notable Philly spots some of which were frequented by Sylvester Stallone while he was in town filming 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 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, gray wolves, and bald and golden eagles?peer back at visitors. Guests can also spy on more than 15 species that are threatened or endangered.
Northeast Mountain Guiding's adventures take place everywhere from the lofty peaks of the Himalayas to the canyons of Arizona and the waters of upstate New York. Guided by outdoors experts that are trained by organizations such as the Professional Climbing Guides Institute, students and expedition groups tackle rocky inclines, mountainous trails, and swiftly flowing waters. Whether Northeast Mountain Guiding is organizing an overnight jaunt through the Adirondacks or a daylong introduction to ice climbing, the company ensures that every detail is considered, drawing on the local familiarity that each of its regional offices possesses to prepare for any possibility. In keeping with this meticulous approach, the professionals either provide any necessary gear for the journey or remind adventurers what they should bring, such as sunscreen or a pint-sized sleeping bag for their teddy bear.
In 1881, arriving by water or rail, visitors to the Jersey Shore met a rather startling sight: an elephant, trunk lowered in a feeding position, towering six stories high. The elephant?shaped building, nicknamed "Lucy," was designed to attract prospective real-estate buyers to Margate, New Jersey. The brainchild of the elephant, James V. Lafferty Jr., actually had designed three gigantic elephants, but by 1969, only a derelict Lucy was left. Thanks to the dedicated Save Lucy Committee, which formed in 1970, the landmark?now listed on the National Park Registry of Historical Landmarks?reopened in 1974.
Constructed from wood and metal, Lucy weighs 90 tons; her ears each weigh 2,000 pounds alone. Every 30 minutes, guided tours enter the spiral stairway in her hind legs, which climbs through her insides up to the howdah on her back. This perch affords a stunning 360-degree view of Josephine Harron Park and the surrounding shore, where beachgoers sunbathe, splash in the water, and struggle to pay the mortgage on their sandcastles.
Staring into the Fresnal lens atop Absecon Lighthouse is like looking into a giant, all-seeing eye?one that's guarded New Jersey for more than 150 years. It was 1857 when a lighthouse keeper first climbed the tower's 228 steps and brought the lens to life, offering safe passage to ships and fish with poor night vision. In 1999, the tower opened to the public, solidifying Absecon Lighthouse's current role as a museum and educational center.
Today, Absecon Lighthouse lets visitors climb its spiral staircase and gaze out from the third tallest lighthouse in the United States. Beyond the view, expansive grounds house a replica of the original keeper's dwelling, as well as several exhibits showcasing photos from the 1800s, info on shipwrecks, and much more. Absecon Lighthouse also hosts fun and offbeat events, from fashion shows to murder mysteries.