Quirky Spots? 19 of Them to Delight You

Physics-Defying Benches, A Showcase To The Three Stooges & Insects Galore Are Some Of The Region's More Unusual Gems

Mar 04, 2011, 15:41 ET from Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation

PHILADELPHIA, March 4, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- For those visitors who like to stray off the beaten path, Philadelphia is bursting with attractions that pay homage to the unusual. The region boasts a slew of delightfully quirky spots, including a pair of benches that seems to contradict the laws of sound, the country's largest bug museum, an anatomical model made of a human nervous system and more. Here's a look at some of the Philadelphia-area attractions that make the region just a little delightfully weird:

Collections Of A Natural Kind:

  • There's a reason an anatomical model outside the bookstore at Drexel University College of Medicine's East Falls campus looks so eerily true to form: It's the remains of a real human body. What appears to be string art is actually the nervous system of a college cleaning woman who willed her body to science in 1888. The school's foremost anatomy professor at the time spent five months manually picking out every piece of bone and flesh from the cadaver before wrapping each strand of the nervous system in wet gauze and preserving it with paint and shellac. 2900 Queen Lane, (215) 991-8100, drexelmed.edu
  • If a trip to the dentist seems like a painful chore, it's worth letting one's mouth go agape at the old-fashioned dental drills, chairs, X-ray machines, furnaces, photographs and recreated Victorian office at The Edwin and Trudy Weaver Historical Dental Museum that interactively recounts the 148-year-old history of the Temple University School of Dentistry. 3223 N. Broad Street, (215) 707-2900, temple.edu/dentistry
  • The country's largest bug museum is the Insectarium, where thousands of live and mounted insects crawl through the imagination of children and adults who can see and sometimes touch newly discovered and extinct species, bug out while watching insect movies and creep through a manmade spider web. 8046 Frankford Avenue, (215) 335-9500, myinsectarium.com
  • While hospitals are typically places to avoid, students of medical history flock to Pennsylvania Hospital for tours of the first chartered hospital in the nation. Peering in on the operating ampitheatre, visitors are reminded that early 19th century surgeries were performed in front of an audience, with no electricity, no sterile technique and a choice of rum, opium or a "tap on the head with a mallet" for anesthesia. A seven-inch tumor removed during one such procedure by Dr. Phillip Syng Physick, the "father" of American surgery, is on view in the Historic Library. 800 Spruce Street, (215) 829-3370, pennmedicine.org/pahosp/vi_files/historictours.html
  • With so much emphasis placed on cutting-edge and interactive cultural and science centers, it can be an educational change to wander the halls of the Victorian-era Wagner Free Institute, where visitors can learn just as much about traditional museum curation as they can about natural history. Specimens include mounted birds and mammals, insects, fossils, rocks, one of the oldest mineral collections in the country and the first American saber-toothed tiger, discovered during an 1886 expedition. 1700 W. Montgomery Avenue, (215) 763-6529, wagnerfreeinstitute.org

You Collect What?:

  • How has human culture interpreted and depicted death and grieving through the ages? It's perhaps not a topic that often emerges in conversation, but it is the focus of the Museum of Mourning Art in Delaware County. Inside a replica of Mount Vernon are mourning items, such as a valuable souvenir ring containing a lock of George Washington's hair, a horse-drawn hearse, a 400-year-old instruction book on how to get to heaven and objects engraved with emblems of death. 2900 State Road, Drexel Hill, (610) 259-5800, arlingtoncemetery.us
  • Sex and the City character Carrie Bradshaw has nothing on the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine Shoe Museum, a small by-appointment, non-lending shoe library that displays 250 pairs (out of a collection of 900), from ancient Egyptian burial sandals to Joan Rivers' Manolo Blahniks and Bernie Parent's Stanley Cup skates. 148 N. 8th Street, (215) 625-5243, podiatry.temple.edu/pages/about/shoe_museum/shoe_museum.html
  • Fans of The Three Stooges can relive the hilarity at The Stoogeum, the headquarters of the 2,000-member fan club and the world's only center devoted to the lovable characters. The Stoogeum is open about once a month for visitors who wish to peruse 100,000 pieces of Stooge memorabilia or attend a film screening or workshop. 904 Sheble Lane, Ambler, (267) 468-0810, stoogeum.com
  • The only museum in the country dedicated to the collection and preservation of black dolls is The Philadelphia Doll Museum, which highlights the story of how African-American people have been perceived throughout world history by exploring the subtle societal messages conveyed by its 300 handmade and manufactured dolls from Africa, Europe and America. 2253 N. Broad Street, (215) 787-0220, philadollmuseum.com

Great Collections In Interesting Spaces & Places:

  • What's unusual about the James A. Michener Art Museum, named for the native Bucks County author, is that the permanent and traveling collections of photography, sculpture and literature are contained within an imposing 100-year-old stone shelter that spent most of its life as the Bucks County prison. 138 S. Pine Street, Doylestown, (215) 340-9800, michenermuseum.org
  • Stuffed inside every conceivable nook, cranny and crevice of the six-story concrete castle that is the Mercer Museum are 40,000 artifacts chronicling early American working life. Collected and cataloged by 19th-century archaeologist Henry Mercer, finds include a whale boat, a stage coach and a Conestoga Wagon - all of which are hung from the ceiling. 84 S. Pine Street, Doylestown, (215) 345-0210, mercermuseum.org
  • Unofficially recognized as one of the most unique buildings in the United States, The Wharton Esherick Museum is housed in three structures - a tower, silo and original barn-like space- that the so-called "dean of American craftsmen" Wharton Esherick designed as his home and studio, now used to showcase his curved walls, rooftops and staircases and sinewy hand-carved furniture and sculptures. Horse Shoe Trail, Valley Forge, (610) 644-5822, whartonesherickmuseum.org

Mechanical Revolution:

  • Nearly three dozen civilian and military helicopters, autogiros and convertiplanes wow visitors at the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center, where films, memoirs, documents and choppers old and new detail the past, present and future of rotary aircraft. 1220 American Boulevard, West Chester, (610) 436-9600, helicoptermuseum.org
  • In introducing his Simeone Foundation Museum of racing sports cars to the public, Fred Simeone compares the progression of these fast machines to Darwin's theory that only the fittest survive. Perhaps he's also referring to his own prowess as the owner of approximately 65 world-class racing vehicles that include two Bugattis, two Ferraris, a 1909 American Underslung and a 2002 NASCAR Dyno Mule - all arranged on mock racetracks by historical theme. 6825 Norwitch Drive, (215) 365-7233, simeonefoundation.org

More Delightfully Quirky Spots:

  • Though the explanation for the two "Whispering Benches" in Philadelphia is best left up to scientists, it is fact that the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial on Kelly Drive and the Smith Memorial Arch on the Avenue of the Republic both boast stone benches where two people sitting on far ends of each 50-foot bench can whisper yet hear each other clearly. Samuel Memorial, Kelly Drive between Poplar & Brewery Hill Drives; Smith Arch, Avenue of the Republic near Please Touch Museum, Fairmount Park
  • Looming over a prominent Center City intersection is the Masonic Temple, which looks like a Norman cathedral from the outside and contains a dizzying array of architectural styles on the inside - from the Moorish Oriental Hall fashioned to resemble the Alhambra to Gothic Hall that aesthetically mimics the European Knights Templar. The National Historic Landmark is home to the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania and offers guided tours of its seven stunning halls. 1 N. Broad Street, (215) 988-1900, pagrandlodge.com
  • Located in a squat building as colorful as the costumes the Mummers wear to strut up Broad Street, the Mummers Museum is the official repository for all historical items related to the 15,000-strong social league that stages the annual lavish and elaborate Mummers Parade and performance competitions every New Year's Day. 1100 S. 2nd Street, (215) 336-3050, mummersmuseum.com
  • "Magical" may be the best word to describe Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, a 3,000-square-foot plot of urban land covered in its entirety by a labyrinth of mirror, tile and reclaimed trash mosaics designed and inlaid by legendary folk artist Isaiah Zagar. 1020 South Street, (215) 733-0390, philadelphiasmagicgardens.org
  • Ringing Rock Park in Northern Bucks County is one of the only places in the world where a rock can be struck with an object to produce a series of musical tones. Though there's a name for this type of rock - sonorous or lithophonic rocks - geologists have never fully explained the reason for their musical aptitude. Ringing Rock Road, Upper Black Eddy, (215) 348-6114, buckscounty.org/government/departments/parksandrec/parks/ringingrocks.aspx

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For more information about travel to Philadelphia, visit visitphilly.com or uwishunu.com, where you can build itineraries; search event calendars; see photos and videos; view interactive maps; sign up for newsletters; listen to HearPhilly, an online radio station about what to see and do in the region; book hotel reservations and more. Or, call the Independence Visitor Center, located in Historic Philadelphia, at (800) 537-7676.

SOURCE Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation