High on a hill in Bryn Athyn, a vision of old Europe towers over the surrounding greenery. Built as a private residence between 1928 and 1939, the 20th-century castle was constructed in the medieval style, using symbolism that reflects the faith of the community's earliest inhabitants. The building now serves as a museum that houses religious art and relics dating from Babylonian times up to the present. The museum's permanent and temporary exhibits range from a medieval collection of stained glass that spans the years 1100?1300 to an Egyptian collection that includes an ornate granite libation bowl, which Egyptian priests are said to have used to dump Gatorade on their football coach.
At Thunderbird's four modern bowling arenas, families and friends demolish pins arranged at the end of up to 36 slick lanes. Boulder chuckers slip on chic rental sneakers, pirouette, and send the 12-pound sphere trundling past gutters into a smug stand of pins. The option of bumpers aids little ones in nudging smaller orbs down the timber avenue. Thunderbird's lanes are programmed with AMF automatic scoring, freeing hands from cramp-inducing feats of addition.
Fifty meters of aquamarine pasture await butterflies and backstrokes in Ashbourne Swim Club's Olympic-sized pool, where families of up to five can take unlimited advantage of swimming lessons and other summery activities. Lifeguards patrol the pool’s cement shores, keeping at least one lane dedicated to inflatable swan carpools. Separate diving and wading pools provide space in which to practice half-somersaults or doggy paddles during swimming lessons, while water aerobics and poolside yoga classes cultivate contoured templates for suntans. Not every family member will be forced to enjoy the swim club’s watery delights, as a nearby play area and sports courts offer all the dry entertainment of a British sitcom. Other club amenities include a cyber café with free WiFi, regular movie nights, and scheduled social events to honor the summer’s bountiful feast of sunshine.
Philadelphians and out-of-towners alike can find refuge from the city by way of the Forbidden Drive, a scenic expanse that extends from Chestnut Hill to Manayunk, yet feels miles away from urban life. As part of the Wissahickon Valley Park?which covers 1,800 acres?the wooded trail shelters joggers, cyclists, hikers, and even those on horseback as they explore the area's natural flora and fauna. A frequent spot for organized races, the trail is also marked by historic and geological sites.
The Friends of Wissahickson, or FOW, is a non-profit organization that started in 1924. With over 1,600 members, they work in conjunction with the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to restore historical structures, eliminate invasive plants, monitor watershed management, and restore trails with the Sustainable Trails Initiative.