Get Out There!
Looking for something different, invigorating and/or unexpected to do during the hot and sticky months? Check out these sure-bet attractions and activities to make this summer the best one yet
by Sharon A. Shaw and Bill Donahue


Looking for something different, invigorating and/or unexpected to do during the hot and sticky months? Check out these sure-bet attractions and activities to make this summer the best one yet



If you’ve spent one too many days by the pool or inside with the AC on full blast, make a beeline for these kid-friendly sources of fun, exercise and, ahem, maybe even a little learning.


Dino Don’s Dinosaurium

Late last year Don Lessem opened his playfully prehistoric exhibition—“The Greatest Show Unearthed,” he calls it—in Media’s Granite Run Mall. Here, his fascination with dinosaurs comes to life through a warehouse’s worth of dinosaur-themed memorabilia and exhibits, including some of the actual dinosaurs that were used in the Steven Spielberg blockbuster “Jurassic Park.” Lessem describes the Dinosaurium as “Barnum & Bailey meets dinosaurs,” with a “whimsical” approach to learning that’s “not as dry as a museum.” Visitors can watch films starring their favorite “thunder lizards,” dig for fossils they can take home and shoot Nerf darts at roving T. rexes and stegosaurs in the Dino-Hunters shooting gallery. “We slip the science in when they’re not looking,” says Lessem, a former journalist turned author of dinosaur books, among other things. (He’s also one of the few still-living souls to have a dinosaur named after him—an Argentine planteater named Lessemsaurus.) For each $5 admission, the Dinosaurium contributes $1 to area schools. 1607 W. Baltimore Pike, Media, 484-442-8401,


Please Touch Museum

The Please Touch Museum welcomes kids to enjoy attractions such as a working carousel and frolic through “exhibit zones” of fantasy and reality-based play. Two of the most popular zones are the Shop Rite supermarket, which teaches kids about nutrition and pantry loading, and Alice’s down-the-rabbit-hole world of Wonderland, which extols the virtue of using one’s imagination. “We think of ourselves as the museum of first experiences,” says Joe Costello, vice president of external relations and business development. “We have a lot of art programs, music and theater. They’re all tied into some sort of educational component behind the curtain.” This summer kids will enjoy an exhibit called Railway Play, based on the experience of riding the Pennsylvania Railroad to the 1876 World’s Fair in Philadelphia. “If you bring your child to the museum, they will experience the museum in a certain way,” Costello says. “You can bring them back six months later and the museum will be different to them. It’s almost new every time they come.” 4231 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia, 215-581-3181,


The Crayola Experience

Expect a colorful time at the home of one of America’s most treasured childhood playthings, the Crayola crayon. The creative spirit abounds at this “factory,” where kids can draw, paint, chalk and craft with wild abandon at Doodle in the Dark, among several other new exhibits, using Crayola’s finest wares. (Rest easy, parents: Crayola takes care of the post-play mess.) It’s also one of a select few places in the world where one can watch Crayola’s signature products being made the same way they have been since the early 1900s. 30 Centre Square, Easton, 610-515-8000,


Sesame Place

Take the kids on the trip of a lifetime (and, for parents, a trip down Memory Lane) to this Bucks County institution, which offers oodles of Sesame-themed rides and slides, cool-down water attractions galore and plenty of chances to interact with Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster and the rest of the extended Sesame Street gang. 100 Sesame Road, Langhorne, 215-752-7070,




Stop and smell the roses (among countless other forms of flora) at one or more of the many excellent arboretums and public gardens dotting the Philadelphia suburbs. Here are our top picks.



A visit to Chanticleer is like an invitation to enjoy the estate of the great Jay Gatsby. Once the summer home of a wealthy turn-of-the-century family, it has been called the most romantic, imaginative and exciting public garden in America. Unlike many, which are essentially museums of plants, Chanticleer has chosen to focus on the inspiration it offers more than the precise scientific labeling of each plant. A relatively young garden—most of it was created after the death of its owner in 1990—Chanticleer is home to a pond garden, folly and demonstration gardens that offer visitors ideas for vegetable and cutting gardens, containers and low-maintenance plantings. Many of the site amenities at Chanticleer, including the benches, drinking fountains and literature boxes are functional pieces of art, built by its staff during the winter months. The garden invites its visitors to sit and read or even picnic on the grounds and is open until 8pm on Fridays through the summer to Labor Day. 786 Church Road, Wayne, 610-687-4163,


Grounds for Sculpture

This 42-acre park features more than 270 outdoor sculptures installed among thousands of unique tree and shrub species and rotating exhibits in five indoor museum galleries. This summer’s exhibits include such nature-inspired works as the 31 massive steel sculptures from Steven Tobin’s “Aerial Roots” collection, Marilyn Keating’s sculptures and prints depicting scenes from her garden and Chinese-born artist Ming Fay’s fantastical site-specific sculpture of lush forest canopy teeming with fanciful forms of flora and fauna. This park’s appeal is not limited to the interests of artists and gardeners, though; a year-round lineup of concerts, performances, workshops and festivals offers something for everyone. GFS is also home to Rat’s Restaurant, a Stephen Starr-managed property overlooking a lily pond and bridge inspired by the works of Monet. 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton, N.J., 609-586-0616,


Jenkins Arboretum

A study in the subtleties of nature, Jenkins Arboretum is “proud enough to be open all year,” according to executive director Harold Sweetman. The garden is open every day, free of charge, from 8a.m. until sunset where visitors can enjoy the mile-long paved trail. Its natural landscape is home to a diverse selection of native wildflowers, ferns and mosses—including some rare and endangered native species—as well as a world-class collection of showier rhododendron, azalea and mountain laurel, which is the state flower. If you are willing to look, there is always something to see. 631 Berwyn Baptist Road, Devon, 610-647-8870,


Scott Arboretum

Home gardeners will especially enjoy a visit to the Scott Arboretum, whose primary goal is to offer ideas, suggestions and examples to local horticulturists. Encompassing more than 300 acres of the Swarthmore College campus, the gardens display some of the best trees, shrubs, vines and perennials for landscape use in the Delaware Valley. In fact, more than 4,000 kinds of ornamental plants are used to demonstrate successful combinations and provide homeowners with the ability to compare their attributes. Though the plant collections—including selections of hollies, hydrangeas and magnolias—are all well-labeled and informative, the arboretum also welcomes visitors—and their dogs—to play on the expansive green lawns. The gardens are free to the public and open 365 days a year. 500 College Ave., Swarthmore, 610-328-8025,


Morris Arboretum

See the forest from a new perspective: 50 feet up in the treetops on the Out on a Limb canopy walk, which is part of the Morris Arboretum’s interactive Tree Adventure exhibit. Here visitors can get a bird’s eye view of the forest and children can scamper onto the Squirrel Scramble’s rope netting, such as a giant hammock nestled between two towering trees. Kids will equally enjoy the garden railway display returning this summer with the theme, Storytime Rail. This miniature world of castles and cottages set within a lush summer landscape features a quarter-mile track with 15 different rail lines and model trails that traverse through tunnels and over bridges. The 92-acre arboretum also boasts 15 unique water features, rose garden, swan pond and historic and champion trees such as the 300-year-old Bender Oak. 100 E. Northwestern Ave., Philadelphia, 215-247-5777,


Shofuso Japanese Gardens

Since the construction of the Japanese Bazaar and Dwelling for the 1876 Centennial Exposition—the first Japanese Garden in North America—there has been a Japanese presence at the site of the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden in West Fairmount Park. Designed by Yoshimura Junzo as part of a Museum of Modern Art exhibit in New York City, the house was built in Nagoya, Japan, using traditional materials and techniques. It was then given to the city of Philadelphia and reassembled at the current site in 1958, with a garden designed by Sano Tansai. This spring, after a restoration, the Sakura Pavilion—a year-round multi-use space and flagstone patio—opened there in two of the exposition’s original brick buildings. Together these structures reflect the history of Japanese culture in Philadelphia over the past 135 years. 100 Horticulture Drive, Philadelphia, 215-878-5097,


Tyler Arboretum

The oldest and largest arboretum in the Northeast, Tyler Arboretum encompasses 650 acres of renowned plant collections, champion trees, rare plant specimens, a butterfly house, historic buildings and 20 miles of hiking trails through woodlands, wetlands and meadows. Though the goal of its exhibits is education, they are also imaginative and entertaining. Its popular tree house installation, opened in 2008, will finally conclude at the end of October making this summer a visitor’s last chance to enjoy the seven remaining structures including Outlook which recalls a gigantic leaf held up to the sun; an arching suspension ladder of steel cables and bars is counterbalanced against the tree and connected to others with a web of cables. Already, though, Tyler Arboretum has begun a new exhibition entitled Sit a Spell; Seats That Tell a Tale. This exhibit encourages visitors to read by enjoying handcrafted seats—some even made using fallen trees from the Arboretum—inspired by some of their favorite fairy tales, books and stories. 515 Painter Road, Media, 610-566-9134,




Considering that Philadelphia was once the nation’s capital, it’s no surprise that our region has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to historic sites. Here are some of our favorites.  


Brandywine Battlefield

On Sept. 11, 1777, approximately 30,000 British and American soldiers fought in the Chadds Ford area in what is known as the Battle of the Brandywine. On that warm day, musket and cannon fire echoed over the rolling hills of the Brandywine Valley and changed the views of its inhabitants—and the nation—for years after. Brandywine was the largest one-day battle of the war. Washington’s loss here paved the way for the British to enter Philadelphia less than two weeks later. Most of the park is free of charge and open to picnickers and history buffs, and hosts several summer events including an historic scavenger hunt for kids put on by The Friends of the Brandywine Battlefield. 1491 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, PA 19317, 610-459-3342 ext. 3001,


Civil War Museum

Bucks County is well known for its role in the Revolutionary War, but the region was also home to the 104th Regiment led by Gen. Jefferson Davis in the Civil War. Just a half block from the courthouse in Doylestown sits the Bucks County Civil War Round Table Library and Museum, dedicated to preserving and educating the public about this aspect of local history. The museum is open to the public, free of charge on Saturdays, in an 1835 Federal-style building where coffee and baked goods are served to visitors. Uniformed tour guides demonstrate firearms and explain highlights of the collection such as a bronzed mask of Abraham Lincoln and items belonging to his wife, Mary. 32 North Broad Street, Doylestown, 215-348-8293


Gettysburg Battle Site

On July 1, 1863, the history of America changed forever. The Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and the Army of the Potomac, commanded by Union Gen. George G. Meade, met by chance at Gettysburg and engaged in battle that was considered a turning point in the Civil War. Gettysburg was the war’s bloodiest battle, spanning three days can causing 51,000 casualties. It would take Gettysburg years to recover from its battle scars, but it also became the inspiration for President Abraham Lincoln’s immortal Gettysburg Address, given during the dedication ceremonies for Soldiers’ National Cemetery in November 1863. All this history—and then some—is on display here. 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, 866-889-1243,


Washington Crossing

On Christmas night 1776 Gen. George Washington and his Continental Army crossed the Delaware River at this Pennsylvania ferry crossing en route to its march on Trenton, N.J., and both sides of the river now maintain parks to commemorate the historic event. At Washington Crossing Historic Park in Pennsylvania, tours of several sites are available including the Thompson-Neely House and McKonkey Ferry Inn, as well as Bowman’s Hill Tower, a 125-foot-tall structure commemorating the American Revolution. Across the river at Washington Crossing State Park (355 Washington Crossing-Pennington Road, Titusville, N.J., 609-737-0623,, a museum showcases more than 500 Revolutionary War artifacts including swords, muskets and documents. Perhaps its most unusual attraction is an outdoor theater showing various films and live performances. 1112 River Road/Route 563, Washington Crossing, 215-493-4076,




If you live in the suburbs and shopping is your thing, you are in luck. Following are our recommendations for where to engage in “retail therapy” of your choice.


QVC Studio

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at QVC or wanted to appear in a live broadcast? On the QVC Studio Tour see and experience how QVC products are sourced, tested, brought to life on air and delivered to millions of customers. There are views into QVC’s more than 58,000 square feet of studio space, including a view from the Observation Deck where guests may be able to watch QVC programs in progress and catch a glimpse of their favorite host or guest. Fans who crave more can take the all-access tour to see where the broadcast design, lighting and sets are created and learn about the corporate world of QVC. Of course, the best way to enjoy live television is to be part of it. QVC’s 130-seat studio theater offers visitors an opportunity to be a member of a studio audience and interact with program hosts, on-air guests, and celebrities during live broadcasts. 1200 Wilson Drive, West Chester,



Suburban Square

More than just a place to shop, the merchants of Suburban Square have created a sense of community. Many of its stores and restaurants host special events including happy hours, contests, workshops and charity events for patrons to participate in. City Sports, for example, offers a Saturday morning runners club for enthusiasts of all levels. The unique mix of retail, dining and services includes the Ardmore Farmers Market with vendors selling fresh flowers, vegetables, meats, baked goods and specialty items such as homemade pasta and finely crafted children’s toys. 6 Coulter Ave., Ardmore, 610-896-7560,


The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley

The diverse offerings of the Promenade are just one of the many reasons to make the trip north toward Bethlehem. In addition to anchor stores such as L.L. Bean and Fresh Market, salons and spas (including one for teens) mingle with photography and paint-your own pottery studios, as well as fashion, home and pet boutiques; dogs are welcome in many of the stores. Its events, however, are what truly really set this destination apart. During hot days children are welcome to play in the central fountain, which also hosts a Friday night summer concert series. The cinema offers a free PG movie for kids on Tuesdays in the summer and a classic movie series for all to enjoy, along with the latest blockbusters. For those who believe “dinner and entertainment” should be a more cultured event, many of the restaurants—premier dining locations include Shula’s Steak House, Melt and Kome Fine Japanese Cuisine—offer a package in conjunction with the Shakespeare festival taking place at nearby DeSales University throughout the summer. 2845 Center Valley Parkway, Center Valley, 610-791-9707,


Shops at Valley Square

With more than 35 restaurants and services, the Shops at Valley Square offer great shopping in a great location. Here one can pick up everything needed for summer fun: the latest fashions from some of the most popular brands, the toughest outdoor gear from Eastern Mountain Sports, even an improved attitude after a visit to Massage Envy. While shopping enjoy lunch with friends at one of the cafes with outdoor seating, including Ted’s Montana Grill, take the kids for ice cream with all the fixings from Maggie Moo’s, share fondu at The Melting Pot or pick up a few bottles at Taste: Sand Castle Winery’s Gourmet Experience. Route 611 and Street Road, Warrington,




The Philadelphia Museum of Art may be the most visible museum in the region, but the region is rich with museums celebrating all kinds of collections—from fine art and woodwork to vintage automobiles and medicine. Here are a handful of others that aim to arouse.


Mutter Museum

There’s only one place locally—and, likely, anywhere—to get an up-close look at Einstein’s brain and priceless works of art by the likes of John Singer Sargent and Thomas Eakins: the College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum. Although some might consider it a morbid collection of gross-out medical oddities (amputated limbs, a wall of skulls, etc.), the Mutter’s primary goal since its creation was to assist in the education of medicine and understanding of humanity. “If you were to go to an art museum, you would find people who are very interested in art,” says J. Nathan Bazzel, director of communications. “With the natural science museum, you find people are very interested in the natural sciences. If you look at people who visit the Mutter Museum, you find they are quite literally everyone: moms and dads from Middle America with kids; celebrities and musicians like John Legend or Ashton Kutcher; punk kids, artists and everyone in between. What is it about the museum that draws all these individuals to us? We all have an interest in what it means to be human, where we came from and who we are as a society.” Bazzel has an unusual tie to the museum in that he has donated parts of himself—his hips, to be specific—in the aftermath of avascular necrosis he suffered as the result of a medical condition. 19 South 22nd Street, Philadelphia, 215-563-3737,


The Wharton Esherick Museum

Known in some circles as “the dean of American craftsmen,” the late Wharton Esherick has left behind an inimitable property that has become something of a mecca for woodworkers, according to museum business manager Lauren Otero. Guided tours of the museum are offered, usually of groups of 10 or less, and reservations are required. “There’s a very playful feel about this place,” Otero says. “By the end [of the tour] it’s not a museum experience; it’s very interactive with the home, as things were left in place from when Esherick passed away. People who come here get a unique look at an artist who was very passionate about what he did in a place that’s tucked away in the woods. … It’s such a treasure chest.” Horseshoe Road, Paoli, 610-644-5822,


The Barnes Foundation

Formerly in Lower Merion per its late namesake’s final wishes, the Barnes Foundation’s priceless collections of impressionist, post-impressionist and early modern art—works from Cezannes, Degas, Gaugin, van Gogh, Manet, Matisse, etc.—have since settled, rather controversially, in the heart of Center City. The newly built museum itself is almost as breathtaking as the art inside, but its much-ballyhooed mid-May opening might caution some people to wait and let the sea of art lovers recede. 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, 215-278-7000,

Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum

This fuel-injected collection of racing sports cars from Dr. Fred Simeone, one of the world’s foremost neurosurgeons, features 65 beyond-classic cars collected over a 50-year period. The Simeone features extremely rare cars in dioramas built to reflect the areas where they were raced, including the Bonneville Salt Flats, Le Mans and Mille Miglia. “Many of the cars in the collection are one of a few models ever made in history,” says Harry Hurst, the museum’s director of communications. “Almost all of the cars are operational. One of the missions here is to expose people who have never had the opportunity to see, hear and experience these cars running. We have a demonstration day on the fourth Saturday of every month, where we take them out to the three-acre lot and drive them spiritedly, so you can get an idea of what they looked like, sounded like, smelled like.” The Simeone, which earned a “Museum of the Year” distinction from the 2011 International Historic Motoring Awards, also has a whole section devoted to the history of NASCAR racing. 6825 Norwitch Drive, Philadelphia, 215-365-7233,


Artfully Yours

Two of the region’s most prominent museums—the James A. Michener Art Museum (138 S. Pine Street, Doylestown, 215-340-9800, and Brandywine Museum (1 Hoffman’s Mill Road, Chadds Ford, 610-388-2700,—are now showcasing priceless works of art from highly regarded collections. Through August 10, feast your eyes upon “treasures” from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, such as oil paintings by legendary artists Botticelli and Titian, among many others, depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments (pictured). At the Brandywine, an exhibition through Oct. 28 features artist Andrew Wyeth’s view of his studio in paintings and drawings lent from private collections. Of the approximately 20 paintings on display, half have never before been on view to the public, in addition to many of the artist’s major works painted in the studio during his 70-year career.




The Philadelphia area has no shortage of places to get out and get moving—hiking, biking, dancing, zip lining, etc. Here are a few well worth your time and attention, not to mention your sweat.


Crystal Cave

Have a cool experience—in multiple senses of the word—at Crystal Cave in Kutztown, one of the most-visited natural attractions in Pennsylvania. Walking tours take willing adventurers 125 feet underground, to experience a year-round temperature of 54 degrees, along with some of the most fascinating natural formations—stalactites, stalagmites, crystals, etc.—found anywhere on the East Coast. “You can’t see the hand in front of your face [when we turn the lights off] so people can experience it as it was before they had electric lights,” says spokesman Doug Miller. In November 2011, Crystal Cave celebrated a significant milestone—140 years after it was discovered by two farmers. “It takes millions of years for caves to hollow out, and for some of these formations to grow an inch it takes 100 to 500 years,” he says. Open March 1 to Nov. 30, with extended summer hours, Crystal Cave also boasts a museum, nature trail, ice cream parlor and picnic areas. 963 Crystal Cave Road, Kutztown, 610-683-6765,


“Dancin’ on Air”

A reincarnation of the hit Philadelphia dance show from the 1980s and ’90s now being filmed at The Fuge in Warminster, “Dancin’ on Air” airs Saturday mornings on PHL17. The show features many of the same regulars who made its predecessor famous but with plenty of new 16- to 23-year-old faces, including local music acts and dancers. “The talent is different, the kids are different—it’s a new age and the music has changed,” says Clyde Evans, one of the show’s hosts and professor who teaches hip-hop dance at Drexel University. “A lot of these kids have stars in their eyes and want to excel. They want to know what’s next.”  Interested in putting on your dancing shoes? Visit for details.


Mount Tammany/Mount Minsi

Head north and get climbing at Mount Tammany (on the New Jersey side) or Mount Minsi (on the Pennsylvania side). Your prize: nice elevations and some of the best mountain views within a few hours of Philadelphia. Depending on the route, you might also pick up the Appalachian Trail and see where it takes you. Either way, you’ll treasure an exhilarating day among the trees, picking wild blueberries atop Tammany, swimming in the trailside watering holes and, possibly, viewing black bears, timber rattlesnakes and countless raptors in their natural environment. Along Route 80 in Delaware Water Gap,


Spring Mountain

Tour the canopy from the top of the mountain to its bottom via a series of zip lines, which move riders through the woods at an average speed of 45 miles per hour. There’s also something known as the No Hands Bridge of Doom and, at tour’s end, a rock wall down which one must rappel in order to get his or her boots back on the ground. For an even more exhilarating experience, do it at night during a so-called Heart of Darkness tour. 757 Spring Mount Road, Spring Mount, 610-287-7900,


Valley Preferred Cycling Center

Every Friday this summer, the world’s best track-cycling talent comes to this velodrome on the outskirts of Trexlertown—a short drive up the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s northeast extension—for the World Series of Bicycling, a mix of Olympic-level sprint and endurance events. Perhaps the most-celebrated velodrome in the history of modern American cycling, the Valley Preferred Cycling Center has hosted World Cups, Olympic trials and the Junior World Championships. 1151 Mosser Road, Breiningsville, 610-395-7000,