Category Archives: Within 10 Miles of Norristown

One of the Beautiful Morris Gardens

Morris Arboretum Germantown Pike Philly Review

Morris-butterflies
Many Butterflies at Morris in the Summer

For years en route to Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia I had passed by the University of Pennsylvania’s Morris Arboretum.  I always figured it was just some big park loaded with a bunch of boring trees.  So a few weeks ago during a trip to Cape May, New Jersey I was surprised at how green this beach town was and how little I recognized the names of all those wonderful plants.  Figuring the Morris Arboretum to be my botanical salvation, albeit a boring botanical salvation, I jumped in my car and visited Penn’s Arboretum.  I loved it.  It was way, way, way better than I ever thought it would be.

Arriving at the Parking Lot

There is plenty of parking at the Morris Arboretum but your experience will start much quicker if you are able to park in the limited spaces at the very top of the lot. If not, you’ll park a couple thousand feet further down hill and have to walk up like a Tibetan Sherpa or take the shuttle a few minutes up the winding road to what is essentially the entrance to the whole experience.

The Arboretum

Pretty cool. Your trip pretty much begins at the museum gift shop where you can pick up a map for free, buy some cool stuff (I bought some delicious, locally produced wildflower honey) or grab a snack at the cafe.  From there, you walk a short distance to a really interesting observation deck about 30 feet or so in the air (don’t worry, you don’t have to climb up, you are already that high when you park, you’ll see what I mean) and you more or less get to experience what seems like a giant tree house in the canopy in the trees. Pretty neat and unexpected.

Gorgeous Lake For Swans at Morris
Swan Lake at Morris

From there there are several really neat gardens to walk through with various flowers, herbs and plenty of butterflies. Again really neat (and, trust me, I a totally bad – a$$’d guy so don’t take what I say lightly ;-) and quite educational too.  Most of the trees and plants are identified by placards along the way.

There is a short but sweet greenhouse filled with tropical plants  (more on this here )…. and tropical weather too…. it’s only about a two minute walk through but pretty hot and steamy so if you are prone to heat stroke, you might want to just poke your head in the door.  Actually it wasn’t that bad, I’m sure the dead guy outside was just sunning himself… kidding.  Here’s a picture of the greenhouse

There are miles of paved trails and some wide open spaces that would make for a very nice picnic (only on summer Thursday nights as of the date of this post).  There are also some wonderful little shaded trails that take you back along tiny streams, fountains, and other pleasant nooks and crannies of the park.

On thing that surprised me about the park was how small it seems from the outside but how utterly massive it is on the inside.  The park, if you’ve ever driven by it along Germantown Pike looks big for a suburban Philadelphia park but when you get inside I assure you that you can not see from one end of the park to the other. The rolling hills filled with plant life and paved trails takes up a wonderfully deceptive amount of space that you can really lose yourself in (but without actually getting lost)

The Trains

I never thought I’d like this but I loved it. Not sure if this is a year round exhibit or not but the Morris Arboretum train set is pretty impressive too.  To my surprise, I like it.  They are miniature trains not large enough to ride on but probably slightly bigger than what you would put around the living room.   Each set had a little theme that would take the trains by famous places both locally and around the world.  Check it out. I thought it would be dumb but I enjoyed the whimsical nature of the set up.

Visitor Center at Morris Arboretum
Visitor Center at Morris Arbor

Amenities and Admission

There are public bathrooms, a cafe, gift shop and free parking.  There is admission to the museum $16 for an adult when I went but check out there website below for up to date info.

Penn’s Morris Arboretum website  -  U of P Arboretum Near Norristown 

 

 

 

 

Morris-in-the-trees
At Morris Arboretum You Can Spend Time in the Tree Top Canopy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check Out The Location of the Morris Arboretum below.  Very easy to get to. (If you are still interested in the great outdoors consider reading my review of Valley Forge Park

 

Where is It

 


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Market East Railroad Tracks

Take SEPTA Regional Rail To Philly – Cheap Fast Easy

I live in the Norristown area and absolutely love to take little trips to downtown Philadelphia.  Since I love it so much you would think that I have taken Philly’s mass transit regional rail line, SEPTA, into Philadelphia a thousand times.   No, no, up until recently I never took the ‘ol Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority into Philly or anywhere.

Market East Railroad Tracks
View of Market East Station Rail Lines

Why Not?

Well, I guess I was always a glutton for punishment.  For some reason, for years, I simply drove down the dreaded Schuylkill Expressway ( I 76 ) to get into center city.    If you aren’t familiar with this torcherous piece of macadam you clearly haven’t lived yet.   Traffic is non-stop, stop and go.  You are barreling down the road one minute (or one second might be a better way of stating this) and slamming on your brakes the next.  Most of the road is two lanes of congested, exhaust filled filth that promotes nothing but road rage and demoralization.     I swear I take this road sometimes way late at night and still hit a lot of traffic.

Enjoying a nice drive into town does not apply to Philadelphia, at least not from the west.  Enjoying this road would be the equivalent to enjoying cold brussel sprouts marinaded in spoiled milk or simply a good clubbing.

What Other Reasons Did You Drive Into Town?

Well, honestly, I liked the freedom of being able to come and going into town as I wished without being a slave to a train schedule.  This perceived freedom, as proved to me over years of travelling that God forsaken road, is a myth.  SEPTA regional rail trains even on off peak hours run an hour apart at the latest.   It could take you an hour alone just to get off Schuylkill’s Conshocken curve or to find decent parking in the city (especially if you are new to driving in town).

Why SEPTA?

I hate to sound like an ad for SEPTA. Honestly, I could care less about SEPTA, the train system could be called “Satans Serpent” and I’d still be writing this article (a bit reluctantly, but it wouldn’t stop me from taking the train over that, that, ugh, road).   Anyway, for one thing, SEPTA upgraded all of their trains recently.  They are pretty nice for commuter trains.  This is not the same train as the old El that was one of the most wildest rides from Frankford to Center City. These trains are in pretty good shape and fairly comfortable.

Does The Trip Take Long

Nope. Once on the train, from where I get on,   it takes a half hour tops.  Usually a little less than twenty minutes.

So You Live Near Norristown, Which Station Do You Get On

Well, believe it or not there are two stations in Norristown and I don’t use either of them.  I’m not real comfortable, especially later at night at either of those stops.   If you have any experience with these train stations in Norristown, let me know. We’d love to hear your thoughts.  Plus, from what I understand at least one of these stops, maybe both, aren’t going to be serviced by SEPTA regional rail and instead you’d have to get a shuttle bus to the next stop in Conshohocken.

I actually drive the ten minutes or so to the SEPTA station in Conshohocken.  Parking is free and I like the area.  Plus there is a restaurant or two near by for a quick bite or drink if I get to the stop too early.

Getting on Board

If you’ve never taken the train before, I’ll give you a quick lesson on SEPTA regional rail.  Check out their website and find the destination you want to go to and the arrival time of the train to the stop you are going to get on at.   Time it so that you get there about 10 or 15 minutes early in case the train is running early (which isn’t often but still..)

When the train comes, get on board and wait for a conductor to come by.  He or she will ask you where you are going.  Be sure you know this.  There are a number of stops in Philadelphia.  The two popular center city stops are Market East Station (near the convention center, Chinatown, Old City) and Suburban Station (kind of on the outskirts of Rittenhouse / Center City / Museum / Fairmount but a good stop if headed to Rittenhouse or one of the adjacent areas).

Unless someone is picking you up and bringing you home, get a round trip ticket, not a one-way.  Two one ways cost more than one round trip.

Pay the conductor (exact change is not required, they make change) and enjoy the ride.

 SEPTA Regional Rail Website

Steel City – Great Vibe and Live Music In Phoenixville

Sitting in a cozy couch watching from side of stage
Sitting in a cozy couch watching from side of stage

Finding bands covering popular radio top 40 songs is pretty easy to do these days.  Go to any popular nightclub that is open late and you’ll be certain to find the typical bands playing the local circuit of clubs.  Finding local live cover bands in the Montgo, Delco, Chestco, Philly area is as easy as finding as finding a clothes hanger in a Kohls department store.

 

What if you want to find some original music that doesn’t sound like what is blared on the radio all day?  What if you want to find eccelectic music that involves a little artistic license?   There are a number of places in the area that caters to this creativity.   The one we’ll focus on in this post is Steel City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville.

 

Steel City is a coffee house that sits across from Molly McGuires in Phoenixville, PA.  Steel City serves the usual varieties of coffee, snacks and music. Pretty much the same old stuff right? Wrong!  Steel City has great original music, a variety of fun foods to eat and they serve only organic certified coffee from an artisan roaster. The inside of the place is pretty cool too.

 

If you like the indie, folk, soul, world, songwriter, fusion rock/jazz/blues, etc. this venue is for you.  Steel City brings in a variety of acts that keeps the music varied and interesting.  One time I was in Steel City during the Phoenixville Firebird festival (check out my review here of this crazy event) and the band played what I figure was Indian music complete with three belly dancers.  That is the sort of entertainment you may experience during a visit to Steel City.

 

Tickets for the shows at Steel City run from somewhere around $12 to say $40

Inside Steel City
Inside Steel City

depending on who is playing, when you buy your ticket, and how you want to be seated (the Firebird Festival event was free).  Tickets purchased in advance typically cost less than tickets bought at the door.  Tickets that get your reserve seating cost a bit more than at the door and at the highest price level you can get a table with an entree served.

 

Food is pretty basic and fun here. French bread pizza, mac & cheese, salads, sandwiches, all of different varieties and some catchy names.  They also serve teas, juices, etc and even some cold drinks like shakes and root beer floats.  They also have a dessert menu as well.

 

Steel City is long and narrow with high ceilings. Not exactly Sistine Chapel high ceilings, unless the Vatican has seriously redecorated but fairly high tiled ceiling with deep, rich colored walls adorned with art for sale from what I presume are local artists.  At each end of the cafe there are cozy couches and in between are wood, restaurant style chairs with small square dinner tables and small, round cocktail tables.

 

The area behind the stage is a really interesting. I guess you would call it graffiti art

Right in front of band. Notice cool hanging lights and unique design in back
Right in front of band. Notice cool hanging lights and unique design in back

but it looks very tactful and well placed (see pictures).  The stage itself is an excellent size for a coffee shop. Typically I’m used to coffee houses excusing customers as they slide tables out of the way to make space on the floor for a ‘stage’ but Steel City Really has one and it is a decent size. When I was there there were four or five band members plus three belly dancers comfortably performing on stage.

 

Overall, I’d say the place has a bit of a hipster feel, which is just perfect for this type of venue, though the crowd is diverse.  The patrons seem to be the tolerant type that really appreciates original, eclectic music along with a good cup of Joe and nothing else really matters.

 

Steel City Website

 

If you want to check the band schedule or learn a bit more about Steel City, here is the Steel City Coffeehouse web site

 

Where is Steel City?

 

Steel City is Located on Bridge Street in Phoenixville Pennsylvania.  Basically take Egypt Road all the way out to Bridge and make a left.  Here are the directions.

Overall, I really like Steel City.  Steel City’s home, the town of Phoenixville is a fun place to visit as well. Great events and a nice vibe.

 

Please visit this site more often! We’d love to have you stop by.  I created Things to Do Near Norristown with the hopes of giving people some great ideas for things to do when they have no idea what they want to do.  Many of the activities, places and events are located in the Norristown area but there are other things to do a bit further away, but not too far, that make for a nice trip in the Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware counties and a whole lot more.  We’ll add new posts with fun ideas regularly so be sure to bookmark or simply remember it (for those of you with the Einstein type brains)

 

Other Ideas For Something to Do Near Norristown

 

Wolves used to be an animal native to Pennsylvania.  Over the course of hundreds of years they were driven out of PA never to be seen in this area again…. or are they?   I went to a park in Royersford where I saw wolves and a whole lot of other cool animals for freeBe sure to check out this post and let us know what you think of this place. It was a cool and unexpected good trip.

 

I wouldn’t go out of your way to visit this town, personally I think Phoenixville is the more fun of the two, but if you want to get on the bandwagon early, this town is an up and coming town. If you are looking to visit a cool town that isn’t quite cool yet but will be, check out my post. You might not want to plan your whole day around this place but if you are in the area there might be something here for you to do.

Photo of Inside Steel City
Photo of Inside Steel City

See Turkey Wolf Fox Owl and More in Royersford, PA

If you have never seen a live Wolf in Pennsylvania, you can see one safely and up close in Royersford, PA in Montgomery County. You can also see foxes, live turkey as well as a slew of other animals for free in Royersford.  “Where?” do I hear you say? At Upper Schuylkill Valley Park.   I’ve been living in the Norristown, PA area for a while and never realized Upper Schuylkill Valley Park is only at 20 minute drive away.   It isn’t easy to see Upper Schuylkill Park while barrelling along in a car.  From the road, the park just looks like a big, old barn but it is much more than just that…..

 

The Park

 

There are two driveways into the park. One is called the “Park Entrance” and the other is the “Nature Center Entrance.”  If you take the “Park Entrance” you’ll be led down a long narrow driveway that ends in a large parking lot. The lot is in the back of the park and is very close to the Schuylkill river.

 

The view here is very pleasant.  The current of the Schuylkill River slowly runs the length of the park. Trees line both sides of the water providing shade to anyone sitting in the numerous picnic tables, grilling on the many grills or fishing along the grassy beach.  You are far enough from the noisy road to enjoy the quiet of the outdoors (providing your kids aren’t crawling all over you :-) and forget for a moment there is a bustling metropolis not too far away.

If you are a serious hiker or outdoorsman, this park probably won’t have what you are looking for unless your activity includes the Heritage Trail, The Heritage Trail runs through is frequented by bicyclists and hikers. This trail runs through multiple towns and is only a tiny portion of this park.

 

The terrain  of the park is flat, mowed grass and scenic tree lines.  There is nothing hard-core about this place but it is immensely pleasant and wonderful for a leisurely day of picnicking, fishing and relaxation.   Upper-Schuylkill-Park-Nature-Center (3)Don’t bring your pets though unless it is a service animal. More on this later.

The Nature Center / Animal Exhibit

 

The Upper Schuylkill Valley Park nature center really was a surprise to me.  I had little expectations and wound up completely enjoying my time.  In addition to the scenic river and park picnic amenities, there is a fairly extensive, and free, nature center.   I felt like I was at a miniature Elmwood Park Zoo (my review of Elmwood Park Zoo here) only this trip cost me nothing to get in.   The nature center is between the barn and the river and is a cool place where you can walk right beside turkeys, a burro, a couple of big red foxes, goats, and, believe it or not, a couple of wolves.

 

Wolf in Upper Schulkill Park
One of Two Wolves in Royersford, PA

Wolves?! Don’t worry, you aren’t going to get mauled like meat in a blender.  All of these animals are behind fences and cages but you can get pretty close to them.The wolves were donated as pups by the New York zoo.  It was interesting to see a wolf up close. For their own comfort I kind of wished they were in a bigger cage but it wasn’t exactly a kennel either. They have space to walk or jog (for lack of a better word ) around  and it appears that the Montgomery County Park service makes significant efforts to keep the animals comfortable and in as natural environment as possible given the resources they have.

 

The Nature Center Barn and Hawk Area

 

When you get up around the ‘barn’ area you’ll find an array of aUpper-Schuylkill-Park-Nature-Center (17)nimals all indigenous to Pennsylvania.  All kinds of cool birds to look at. Vultures, owls, red tail hawks, a bald eagle and pheasants.  Some where even gorging on what looked like some sort of meaty carcass that the staff put in the cage.  It was strange to see a pheasant with such blood lust.

 

Kidding…. the pheasant was pretty much eating seeds. They don’t eat meat but the vultures do  were eating carcass of some sort. Pretty cool and not as horrible sounding as you might think.

One cool bird they have is a crow that says “Hello.”  I know what you are thinking that this guy has gone off his rocker but seriously it said hello to me.  Very strange.  Then I read the sign on the cage and they mentioned that this bird does imitate sounds of other birds and can even make a sound very similar to a human “Hello.”  It made me jump up and take notice.

 

How to Prepare for This Trip

 

OK, remember that no pets are allowed.  No pets.  If you are thinking of bringing your pet dog, cat, iguana, giraffe or whatever to Upper Schuylkill Valley Park, don’t do it.  They disturb the animals on exhibit. Of course if you have a service animal for a handicap of some sort, they are welcome but I’d suggest contacting the park first in case they need to make some sort of accomodation.

99.9% of the exhibit is outdoors so dress accordingly.  I suggest going when the forecast is favorable.   Parking

 

If you want to check out the river and picnic / fishing area in the bak, take the “Park Entrance” driveway.  If your focus is the animals only, I’d suggest parking in the nature center lot which is just past (or just before depending on which way you are coming) the park entrance.  Both lots can only be accessed from route 113

Getting There

This guy was very curious and friendly
This guy was very curious and friendly

 

From Norristown, I took Main Street to left on Egypt Road (about 3-4 miles) to right on Black Rock Road (about 3-4 miles) to left on 113 (about 1/2 mile) with the park coming up on the left.  Easy to miss, so keep an eye out. From all other points use directions / map below

 

 


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Thanks for stopping by my Things to Do Near Norristown website.  Keep stopping back as posts are updated regularly with things to do in the Norristown area, the Montgomery County area, Bucks County area, Chester County Area, Pennsylvania area….. oh, heck, there’s something for everyone here.  Please bookmark this site and come back for more.

 

Still Want Some More To Do?

 

Largest Bird in PA or Just a Big Party

 

If you aren’t tired of animals yet, you might want to save a December date on your calendar to see the biggest bird in Pennsylvania burned mercilessly to the ground.  Sounds horrible right?  Like Michael Vick gone mad or something?  Actually it is great fun and no animals (or people) are harmed.  Every year Phoenxville constructs a giant bird called, naturally, a Phoenix and they burn it to the ground bonfire style.  The whole town opens up and celebrates this event.  Check out my post on What The Wooden Phoenix Buring is All About. It is a fun party. The post I linked also has links to my 2012 review. Check both out to see if this event is right for you.

 

Theater Culture in Downtown Norristown

 

You don’t think that downtown Norristown has much to offer culturally?  It sure does.  Consider going to a musical or play in Norristown.  Click here to read about live theater in Norristown

Phoenixville Firebird Festival – Bonfire and Fun!

OK, most of the cool ‘Main Street USA’ kind of towns like Manayunk, Doylestown, Chestnut Hill, Skippack, etc. near Norristown feature events a couple times a year

Bridge Street Phoenixville
Bridge Street All Lit Up

that closes the streets and brings the community together.  We’re talking events that feature bands playing outside, food vendors offering caloric delights, bold displays of art, vendors hawking their wares, shop staying open off-hours, you know the routine.

 

Do you want a change this routine?  Are you looking for something a little different? Then what is it?  Think about that question for a second….. if your answer is “Well, in addition to bands, food and art,  I want to see guys eating and juggling fire!!”

 

Normally, a response like this I’d be like, “Eh, seriously? Eating…. fire?” I’d think you just jumped the funny farm or something. That said, I found an event in Phoenixville, PA that has all the usual fun, plus guys eating fire.

 

Let’s say though that your gastronomic flame request didn’t quite satisfy your, eh, appetite for fun.  Maybe you said, “Yeah, I want guys gargling fire and I also want to see a giant wooden bird that is something like 30 feet high.  Oh, and make it Phoenix!”

 

Again, normally I’d be thinking you were nuts. I’d probably be searching for your medication or something (because I’m nice like that). However, I also have found a place where you can see a giant phoenix, right in town, along with fire guzzlers, bands, art, and other unique performance art stuff.

 

Did I mention that when it gets dark, they burn the giant, wooden Phoenix to the ground?  OK, now I sound nuts, but, yes, the light this giant wooden thing on fire and a 30 piece drum band plays tribal music the whole time while it disintegrates into ashes.

 

Sounds pretty cool?  It is!  It’s also a total family event and a good time.  Welcome to the Phoenixville, Pa  Firebird Festival.

 

When is The Firebird Festival in Phoenixville, PA held and What is It Like?

 

Check out This Post I wrote For Firebird Festival Website, Dates, and Location

The link above will also give you a general overview.  The rest of this post below though will also give you the details on 2012′s Firebird Festival

 

The 2012 Firebird Festival Times

 

In 2012, the festival started around 3:00 and hits its peak around 8:00 when they burn the giant wooden Phoenix like we’re in Salem or something. I’d suggest getting there slightly before 5 or 6 when people start pouring in and parking gets limited.

 

Who Goes to The Firebird Festival?

I was surprifirebird-festival-phoenixville (1)sed at the age of the crowd there.  I thought it would be a young, rocking, crazy, crowd in their twenties.  The people at the Firebird Festival were mainly a relaxed 30 and 40′s something crowd though there were all ages at the event. Families, some elderly and a good deal of 20-somethings but by far it was a 30-40 year old crowd. 

 

Are The Restaurants and Watering Holes Crowded?

 

Yes! Not overly packed but definitely crowded.  Again, I was surprised at the age range and how well behaved and not-very-crazy it was. Festive for sure but we’re not talking Mardi Gras and beads and all that.

 

So What is Bridge Street Phoenixville, Like During The Festival?

 

It is comfortably crowded once it gets dark. During the day there are people milling around but things don’t begin to pick up until 5 or 6 O’clock.

Bridge Street is lit up with strings of lights and all of the stores remain open.  A lot, I mean A LOT of the stores, big and small, offer some sort of musical acts that are pretty talented.  Hey, we aren’t talking Bruce Springsteen or anything (which is probably good since his raspy voice makes me want to clear my throat every five minutes) but the acts are good and eclectic musically.  Blues, singer-songwriter, Spanish, even belly dance / Indian music.

 

It wasn’t all musical entertainment though.  The art galleries remained open for you to check out their creations and one store was even giving art lessons and BYOB art lessons at that.  The local smoke shop featured a glass artist creating a miniature phoenix. Very cool to watch.

Speaking of music, the musicians were on the streets too.  One very entertaining act was an Irish performance band playing right in front of the Colonial Theater.  This was not the usual, same-old, bag pipe band. Actually, there were no bag pipes but there was plenty of singing, drumming, dancing and about 20 Irish performers clashing baseball bat sized sticks together in a very well coordinated, percussive, upbeat,  Irish performance.

Off Bridge Street – More Performances and The Bird-Bonfire

Just down Main Street behind Molly’s (one block off Bridge) there is a big lot set up. This part of Main Street and the lot is closed off so only pedestrian traffic (no cars) can get it.  Back here there are tents where vendors sell their crafts and there is also carnival style food for sale as well.

There is also a large stage set up where bands play.  The band I watched was a very good sounding blues band.firebird-festival-phoenixville (2)

The huge wooden Phoenix is also back in this lot and the fire jugglers juggle and eat fire around and on top of the bird.  These guys made me want to drink a giant glass of water.  They juggled fire and stuck on their tongue. They lit their arms on fire and licked it off their arms.  They set their tongue on fire and lit torches off their tongue….. what the frig man?  Cool to watch but, man, don’t licking fire off your carcass at home, or anywhere, ever…EVER!

The Burning of The Bird

 

The highlight of course is the burning of the bird. Here is where things get really firebird-festival-phoenixville (10)crowded. About eight o’clock they set the Phoenix on fire.  While the phoenix burns at 30 piece (or more?) drum band plays tribal music while it burns.  I’ll bet it burns for a good twenty minutes or more. It is actually very dramatic and fun to watch. The crowd cheers, the drums play, and that little pyro in all of us gets a big kick out of it.  You’ll love it when the fiery head comes off the Phoenix and crashes to the ground.

 

So What Did I Think?

One of the most edgy, yet G-Rated family oriented event around the Chester and Montgomery county areas that I’ve ever been too.  I highly recommend it for all ages.

Parking

firebird-festival-phoenixville (11)Get their early and parking is not a problem.  I made a day out of it and time flew by quickly. I got there at three o’clock. Did lunch, walked the town, got drinks, watched some musical acts and before I knew it Phoenix was engulfed in flames.  You’ll need to park in the neighborhood.  The festivities don’t really ramp up until like 5 or 6 o’clock then I noticed a dramatic increase in the number of people.

How To Get There

 

Well, from Norristown, PA  just go up main street to Egypt road and take Egypt all the way out to Bridge Street and make a left.  Anyone not familiar with this route or coming from other locations check out below….

 

Thanks for Checking Out This Post!!

 

Need other ideas for things to do?   Well… Phoenixville isn’t such a bad place to visit even when there are no events going on, here are my thoughts on Phoenixville sans Firebird Festival – Click Here

 

Do you like Biking, Hiking, Sledding, Fishing, Bird Watching, or just taking in the great outdoors? Well… if you don’t, this article will be a disaster for you, if you do, check out this cool place to get your outdoor activies revved up near Norristown – Click Here

Food Music Art History Phoenixville PA Near Norristown

I love little towns that offer something for everyone.  We’ve all had those days where we just want to get outside and plan our own little pleasant adventure without travelling too far to do it.  Phoenixville is one of those cool small towns that let’s you pretty much dictate what kind of day your want to have. Want to explore art? They’ve got it. Music? They’ve got it. Movies? Yep, got it. Food, drink, upscale, down scale, yes, yes, yes, yes. Fun Events… yep! Get it? Keep reading my friend….

 

What is Phoenixville Like ?

 

Phoenixville, Pennsylvania is one of those small-town-USA kind of places that have seemed to sprung up out of the ashes in and around Montgomery County, Chester County, Bucks County and Philadelphia.   The sort of town that offers  restaurants, coffee houses, music venues, bars, novelty shops, etc etc that line a main street that draws visitors from around the area.  Similar in style to Manayunk, Skippack, Conshocken (kind of), Doylestown, West Chester and Media.

 

What is nice about Phoenixville is that there really is something for everyone in this town along the main-drag, Bridge Street.  I must say it is one of my favorite spots near Norristown to visit.  If you feel like watching a game or chatting with friends at the local watering holes, there are plenty of them within just a few blocks of each other on Bridge in Phoenixville.

 

We aren’t just talking drinks here though.  This does not feel at all like college party town. This place has a lot to offer. If you need to pack your belly with some good food, there is everything from cheap finger food to fine dining in Phoenixville. There are probably a dozen or more places lining Bridge Street to grab a bite.

 

If you want some good coffee, there are a couple of great coffee shops. My favorite being Steel City where you can also check out some great bands and local art displayed on the walls while sipping your favorite cup o’ Joe.

 

Speaking of local art, there are plenty of art galleries on Bridge street where you can peruse that next painting or sculptures for your home.  Interested in learning about art?  Some of these galleries also offer lessons. Some also make their space available for rent for special events.

 

Some Cool History

 

Did you know that Phoenixville is one of the local areas where the film “The Blob” was filmed?  Ever hear of The Blob? It is one of Steve McQueen’s first movies. Ever hear of Steve McQueen? No? God, euthanize me now oh young ones!  He is considered one of the great actors of the 60′s and 70′s until his premature death, but enough about Stevie here.  The Blob has a scene where the monster chases everyone out of the Colonial Theater. Where is the Colonial Theater? Right on Bridge Street in Phoeniville. To commemorate, every year Phoenixville allows folks like you and I to reenact the ‘running out of the theater’ during the summer. It’s called Blob Fest. Basically, the whole town pays tribute to a B-movie and let’s you act out one of its scenes. Is that cool or what?

 

The Colonial Theater also has some great live rock and eclectic music performances as well as great old and new films.

 

Fun Special Events in Phoenixville

 

OK, I mentioned the BlobFest above right?  The whole town, celebrates their moment of cinematic fame on this day but there are other events too throughout the year.  The most notable, besides BlobFest, is The Firebird Festival!   Not sure what the Firebird Festival is? Check out my post on the Firebird Festival here. You’ll be impressed. This features great music, art, a fun parade and the burning of a giant wooden Phoenix.

 

Who Will Like Phoenixville?

 

This town is small town but still urban in some ways. I do occasionally get stopped by a pan handler looking for spare change but that somehow just adds to the appeal of this place.  I’m in my 40′s and feel just fine visiting this town, very comfortable actually. There is a hipster scene, 20 something yuppie (if that word is still used) scene, stuff for people in their 30′s and 40′s, stuff for musicians (including an instrument store), artists, theater lovers, etc.  Check it out sometime. Cool town.

 

How to Get to Phoenixville, PA

 

Other Things to Do Near Norristown…..

 

There are other cool things to do in the area as well.  All within 20 miles and certainly different from hanging at home watching the television (also one of my favorite pasttimes :-).   Click on some of these links…… Want to check out some revolutionary war history and maybe stop in nearby Chestnut Hill for good times, visit the Cliveden House in Germantown PA.

How about Lansdale, PA? Are you ever in the area?  OK, I probably would not go out of my way to visit Lansdale as I would Phoenixville but if you live around the Lansdale area or find yourself nearby, check out downtown Lansdale and my review here….

Keep coming back to our site here at ThingsToDoNearNorristown.Com for more great things to do in your spare time.  We love having you here! More great articles on things to do added regularly!

The Phoenixville PA Firebird Festival Held In December – What Is It?

Phoenix Before it Burns in Phoenixvill
The Phoenix Before They Light it On Fire

Every December Phoenixville, PA holds it’s annual Firebird Festival.  The Firebird Festival is a way for Phoenixville to celebrate their town pride with local members of the community and with tourists from other regions of the area.   It is typically held on a Saturday (in 2012 the event date is Dec 8th).   This is a festive and cultural event.

 

Performers take to the street where they play music, perform tricks, do dances and other artistic performances   Most if not all of the stores are open for this event.  Visitors can shop and browse the window displays.   Restaurants and local watering holes are open too for food and drink.

 

The Firebird Festival is largely an artistic and creative venue.  In addition to the musicians and performers that I mentioned above there is a significant art and crafts fair that lines the walkways of Phoenixville during this festive day.    Paintings, blown glass, fired clay, jewelry, photography, garments and other art painstakingly created by talented artists will be in full display.

 

The crescendo of the Firebird Festival is the lighting of the Phoenix.  Basically, there

is a giant Phoenix (I’ll says it is about 20 feet tall by my guess) constructed out of

Phoenixville's Phoeinix
Look! The phoenix is staring you down :-)

wood and after the fire magicians do their performance the giant Phoenix is lit into a giant bonfire for all to see.

 

When Does it All Start?

 

Check out their website for the exact schedule time.  Events begin around three o’clock but the actual burning of the bird isn’t until early evening after dark.

 

Getting There

 

The trip by car is easy enough but leave yourself plenty of time.  If you are out in the Norristown area, your best bet is to travel from Main Street to Egypt Road until it dead ends at Bridge and then make a right.  Some more seasoned visitors might take Egypt out to Pawlings but I’ll provide a map below.

 

Is Phoenixville a Cool Place to Visit When There’s No Event?

 

 

Actually it is a pretty good place to visit.  I’ll talk more about that another time, but it is definitely has one of those small-town, fun things to do, artistic, cultural, food, drink, kind of vibe to it.  More on that another time though.

 

 Another Post By Me

 

If you live near Norristown or if you find yourself in downtown Norristown sometime, I might have just the place for you to stop in for not just a sandwich but for a step back into time.  When I go into this sandwich and pizza shop it doesn’t feel anything like the usual run of the mill take out / eat in joint.  Everything looks like it has froze in time from an era almost forgotten, the old time local eatery.   Check out my post on this great, old school, sandwich shop in downtown Norristown and see if you think you’d like to eat here some time. Be sure to stop back here to check out some other fun things to do near Norristown.

My purpose of creating this site is to give good people like yourself some fun ideas to pass the time in Montco and the surrounding areas.  Thanks for coming by and please stop back, bookmark us, sear the though of this site into your brain :-)

Tour the Cliveden Grounds in Nearby Philadelphia

The Cliveden Grounds (note reenactors are only there on special occasions)

Driving through Germantown one day I stopped at the Cliveden house and was wondering what the heck I was doing there? It isn’t the most exciting looking place to look at and there was no way it was as hip as nearby Mount Airy or quaint as nearby Chestnut Hill.  I mean, staring at the Cliveden house didn’t seem like something a cool, handsome, single guy would be doing on a Saturday afternoon.  Then it dawned on me, that I’m ugly and lame and it all suddenly made sense to me why I am there.

 

Kidding.   I am ugly and lame but, trust me, cool and beautiful people like you will enjoy a trip to Cliveden as well.

 

Here’s a little background…. The Cliveden grounds used to be owned by the Chew family. It served as their Revolutionary War-era summer home when they were away from their regular home in Philadelphia.   The Chews were both influential and controversial during the years we struggled for independence.  They were influential in legal in business matters and controversial as the the Chew family didn’t fully support the revolution.  Historically they hold some infamy too as supporters of slavery.

 

Flash forward to the present time and the Cliveden grounds is now a registered historic site.  While the Chew family history might have some of you falling asleep or removing my website from your coveted bookmark space, trust me, it really is interesting.  In addition to their history, there is something even more interesting about Cliveden…. the battle of Germantown.

 

The battle of Germantown was waged all over the immediate area but the real dramatic part of the battle occurred right on the Cliveden grounds, right inside the Cliveden house!  It is a really interesting story that I think could easily be made into a great movie someday.   I won’t bore you with the details but if you want to learn a little more, I linked an article toward the end of this post that I wrote about visiting Cliveden when they do the Germantown Battle reenactment every year.  For now though, let’s skip the annual reenactment and just talk about a routine day visiting Cliveden.

 

 Cliveden is a cool place to divert your afternoon. It won’t take but an hour or so of your time and will only cost about $10 bucks.  You can park nearby and walk the Cliveden grounds.  You can tour the house the Chew family lived in as well as learn about the British occupation of the home during the battle of Germantown.  When you tour the house, keep an eye on the walls not only for some really impressive old paintings but for the bullet holes that still remain all these years later from the fight.

 

If you are thinking of going, I’d suggest doing it as part of other activities nearby.  If you are planning on hiking the Wissahickon or visiting nearby Mount Airy or Chestnut Hill for a bite, a stroll, some theater or shopping, be sure to swing on down to Cliveden on Germantown Avenue. This historical site will give you something new to talk about.

 

The tour will also take you to the nearby carriage house which features a dynamic video that further explains the relevance of the site.

Cliveden is open year round but be sure to make a special, additional trip in October.  For one weekend in October, Cliveden hosts the reenactment of the battle of Germantown.  I wrote an article on Germantown reenactment here.

 

Where is Cliveden?

Cliveden is about 10 miles from Norristown, just a mile or two from Chestnut Hill.

 

Great Coffee Bakery and Spices – Tabora in Lansdale

True coffee shop lovers love comfortable, independent coffee shops.  I’ve mentioned before that while Starbucks are as common as fleas on mange, they always seem to miss the point. They aren’t cozy at all.  Starbucks has the all the coziness of a bomb shelter corridor and their overpriced food really isn’t very good either.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Starbucks hater.  The service is generally very good and Starbucks has introduced cafes to areas that never had them before.  With that in mind, every so often I find a great coffee house not far from Norristown (or at least kinda not far) and want to mention it to you in case you are yearning for a higher coffee experience.

What makes a great coffee house?  I look for comfortable, independent, with some sort of twist that sets it apart from the big chain places (live music, great art, etc)

 

Which brings me to Tabora Farm and Orchard in Lansdale, PA.  Is this really a farm and Orchard? Nah, at least not at this location. Tabora Farm and Orchard in Lansdale is a coffee house that serves up all your coffee varieties, baked goods and plenty of herbs and spices.

 

The store has a ton of simply delicious, fresh baked goods.  Much better than other coffee shops. I picked up a blueberry roll during one stop and just loved it.  During another trip I bought a couple of nut bars (pictured) and just loved them too. My mouth was in such heaven I quit kissing as I knew such intimacy could never live up to such great flavor.  OK, I’m kidding, I gave up kissing because I’m too damn ugly, but that’s another story.  The food is great though.Nut Bars and Coffee at Tabora

 

I haven’t tried their coffee varieties, just their regular Tabora brand coffee.  Great stuff. Smooth, full bodied with much less bitterness than other coffees. A pleasure to drink.

 

The leather seating is comfortable and cozy but with plenty of space.

 

 I love the woody decor that gives the place a rustic, yet still modern feel.  The front of the store (along Main Street) is my favorite spot.  This corner store has huge windows that allow for people and trLeather Seating and Spices at Taboraaffic watching along Main Street, yet the interior’s dark paint and wood keeps the inside of Tabora from being too illuminated like a Kentucky Fried Chicken during a supernova. Tabora keeps it shaded and laid back inside.

 

The Spices!  Almost forgot!  OK, honestly, I know as much about herbs and spices as Gandhi does about thermonuclear warfare, however, Tabora has tons of herbs and spices for sale (also pictured).   Be sure to check out their huge selection.

 

Where is It?

 

Tabora Farm and Orchard is located in downtown Lansdale, PA. Interested in learning more about this part of town? Check out my Lansdale review on Things To Do Near Norristown right here.

Tabora Farm and Bakery on Urbanspoon

Looking For More Things to Do In The Montco / Norristown Area?  Try this out….

When you are drinking great coffee or eating delicious baked goods do you find that you are are searching for sporting events on television?  Are you a big sports fan that lives in the Montgomery County area?  How about football? Do you love the ol’ pigskin?  If yes, you should attend a Villanova football game in the fall.  ‘Nova is one of the closest college football programs in the area.  I wrote a review on Villanova Football that details my experience at the game. Click here for my review of Nova Football.

Still Want Some Great Coffee but in a Different Location?

OK…. so my review of Tabora Farms wasn’t enough.  You are hurting for drinking some great coffee in a hip coffee shop located somewhere, anywhere in the area.  Have you been to Wayne, PA?  If you think you’ll be out there check out my review of a great little coffee shop right on Lancaster Ave.

Thanks!

Please keep stopping back to my website here.  I know it isn’t perfect but I’m really putting my heart into it.  I want to create a site that gives great people like you some cool little ideas of things to do near Norristown, PA as well as other areas such Phoenixville, Collegeville, Blue Bell, Chestnut Hill, Philly, Conshohocken, West Chester, Media, etc. etc. etc.

  It has been a lot of fun so far doing this and hope that you keep stopping by and comment some day on some of my posts…. especially if you are a really nice person, we like nice……loathe mean……like nice.  Kidding, sort of, if you have something to say let us know.  Would be great to hear from you.

 

Battle of Germantown Revolutionary War Reenactment

If you like the sound the sound of fireworks and the pulse of a great historical story, I’ve got something for you to do near Norristown that you might enjoy.

 

Have you ever been to a battle reenactment? You know, where people dress up in historical uniforms and act out a famous battle complete with (almost) real gunfire, heroic charges, famous last stands and all that?  If this sounds like something you’d like to do, each October there is one held in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, right on Germantown Avenue.

 

About The Battle of Germantown

 

The battle of Germantown is a cool piece of Revolutionary War history that I never heard of.  I’ll give you the gist of it here.  During the Revolutionary War Philadelphia was our nations capital.  The British took it over and George Washington, if you ever heard of him was the General of the American army, decided he was going to take Philly back by mounting a huge assault.

 

As Washington marched his army toward Philadelphia he came upon a town called Germantown.  There he skirmished with some small British forces.  Washington only had limited ammunition and rations to conquer Philly so he decided, “Eh, let’s skip Germantown and continue on to Philly so we don’t run out of supplies.”

 

One of Washington’s subordinate Generals though, disagreed stating, “Sup George? Dude, if we leave this British force here, we’re just gonna have to fight these muthas on the way back from Philly when we are weak an tired.”

 

Or something like that the exchange went.

 

Taking his General’s advice, Washington decided to fight the Brits in Germantown first.  It didn’t go well.  About 100 British troops packed themselves into this small house called “Cliveden”   You’d think that a bunch of guys throwing themselves into a house surrounded by thousands of troops that want to eat them for lunch is a bad idea. It wasn’t. Unbeknownst to anyone this house was strong enough to survive a comet hitting the Earth.   Washington attacked this house with 9,000 men and many cannons.  He tried shooting it down, burning it down and charging the house.  The home was so indestructable and the British so resolved to fight that Washington could not capture the grounds.  When the battle was over something like 2 British troops where killed and Washington lost hundreds of men.  Even worse for George, he expelled so much ammunition and other resources that he was left unable to attack Philadelphia.  That’s pretty much why he had to go back to Valley Forge, PA and lick his wounds for the winter.

 

Want to Visit Valley Forge Close By? Here’s My Review 

 

Cool story right?

 

Tour The Cliveden House

 

Before watching the battle I highly suggest paying the couple dollars to tour the Cliveden House.  This is the home the British packed into to make their stand against Washington’s overwhelming forces.  The guides will tell you all about how it was built, the owners of the house, the attitudes of the time and how the home related to the battle.  Some of the bullet holes in the walls still exist to this day. Be sure to look out for them.

 

Touring the house from the inside will help you to better appreciate the battle reenactment from the outside.

Checking Out The Reenactment

 

Prior to the battles there are tons of reenactors mulling around the Cliveden grounds.  Actually, the reenactors almost outnumber the amount of visitors.  Their uniforms look great. There are British redcoats, Continental blue coats as well as Hessian (Germans allied with British) forces, women dressed in period piece clothing etc.  Most reenactors are generally accessible for conversation and ready to lend a history lesson of their own.

 

The Course of the Battle

 

The battle reenactment basically fights its way up Germantown Avenue, through the Cliveden Gates and up the Cliveden front lawn where the British then retreat into the house where they duke it out with Washington’s forces.  I want to say the whole thing lasts 45 minutes but I can’t say for sure. I lost track of time.

 

Here’s a video of the Battle on the Front Lawn (Keep Scrolling Down after the Video for More on This Event) 

The History Lesson

 

While the battle rages on, there is a really interesting history lesson that takes place.  A history teacher stands between the spectators and the battle. He lectures the whole time and gives a very clear picture of the purpose of the battle, the strategies used, the conditions the soldiers faced, how it affected the surrounding areas and the aftermath of the battle.

 

Here’s Another Video of The Battle - The British Are In The House!! 

Overall I Liked It

 

The reenactment was a lot of fun.   If you like history and the sound of musket fire, you’ll like it. Even if this isn’t your favorite thing to do, if you haven’t checked it out before I recommend it.  For someone who hasn’t seen history reenactors, this really is a great way to see folks who are passionate about a hobby that is so unique and engaging.

 

Their Website

Cliveden’s Website is Here

Where is It


View Larger Map

If you have a minute, please go back to the home page of this website and read some other great posts. If you live near Norristown, Blue Bell, Collegville, Conshohocken, etc there are plenty of fun and unique things to spend you day doing.  This site will provide you recommendations of unique things to do that we have actually experienced and want to share.

 

Thanks again for checking out thingstodoinnorristown.com.    Be sure to get out there and experience some really neat stuff in the community

 

 

Other Great Posts

 

 

Ever been to Wayne, Pennsylvania?  This is a nice, small town that packs a punch.  A great place for a date or just meeting up with friends. Heck, I’ve even gone there alone.  Check out my post  Wayne, PA Review and let us know what you think

 

 

Do you want to learn more about history?  How about learn more about anything and have some fun too while you are at it.  When was the last time you went to the library?  There are plenty of them in the Montgomery County, PA area.  I did a quick review on the Norristown Free Library, check out my post and hopefully you’ll get time to take advantage of all the free things they have to offer.