The first outdoor artists were trees, which decided to paint their leaves orangey hues once a year in order to stop green-loving leprechauns from burrowing into their roots. Witness the latest in five centuries of outdoor art with today’s Groupon to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Tours are held on Saturdays at noon and 4:00 p.m., and Sundays at 4:00 p.m. Advance registration is required, and spots may fill up quickly. Choose between the following options:
- For $14, you get a tour package for two (up to a $28 value).
For $24, you get a tour package for four (up to a $56 value).<p>
- Each member of your group receives:
- Admission for a one-hour guided group tour (up to $10 value each)
- Choice of one souvenir magnet (a $4 value each)<p>
The pet project of mastermind mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is a whimsical labyrinth of mosaics, an outburst of creative sculptures, mirrors, and multihued tiles (the New York Times calls it “endearingly bizarre”). Since its inception, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens has become the epicenter of the South Street renaissance, with Zagar’s mosaics spreading throughout the neighborhood. During a guided one-hour walking tour, you’ll get an in-depth look at Zagar’s ethereal creations, learn about his creative techniques, and hear the stories behind the murals’ magical subject matter. Each person receives a Magic Gardens souvenir, and lucky visitors may even meet the artist himself, who frequently roams the exhibit when not busy fulfilling his duties as a linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Philadelphia's Magic Gardens
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 reflected 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 1960s, 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.
1020 South St.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19147