Category Archives: Within 30 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