Magic on the Eastern Seaboard

Magic is the things that are hidden in plain sight. The secrets that everybody can see, but yet nobody knows about. I’m still learning about my patron city Philadelphia; when I was over there last month there was plenty still there for me to explore. Here are my favourite magical secrets from my holiday.

1. Murals of Philadelphia

“Muses of Philadelphia” Mural, in South Philly.

They take up whole walls of buildings and have spread to every other block in the city. And yet when I went on the Mural Mile Walk around the South Philly neighbourhood I was surprised at how many streets I had walked down and evidently missed a mural. The detail in some of these pieces is stunning, yet my eyes & brain didn’t know what to look for.

Just off Broad Street “The Theatre of Life”

As well as the intricate and fantastical murals photographed here there are impressionist-style nature murals, murals to fit their building (an LGBT-themed piece on a community centre, a pet portrait collection on the side of an animal shelter, etc). Hidden in the most obvious place, indeed.


2. The Jersey Shore all to myself

In the summer, the New Jersey shoreline is mobbed with day trippers from the cities after a spot on the immaculate sand and a dip in the water. It’s commercialised and packed.

Unless you go down to the beach at 7am, which is what myself and my friend did when we passed through Asbury Park, NJ. He had insider knowledge and a cousin who lived in an apartment 2-3 stone throws from the Boardwalk.

…Nobody there.

Being cynical and British and from the colder end of the Isles (i.e., Scotland) I assumed that the reason people did not frequent the beach at this hour was because the water was too cold. No, August sea temperatures remain rather nice actually even first thing in the morning. Few things start off a day like swimming in the sea, especially when that was also the day I visited a nearby university. My hair was wet and a probably still had sand between my toes when I stepped onto the campus…but I didn’t mind at all.


3. Philadelphia Magic Gardens

Here’s the final piece of magic, this one actually advertises itself as such. A skilled magician can create magic armed with only a pack of cards and a top hat, imagine what would happen if he was equipped with a few tonnes of land-fill material! That’s the charm of the Philadelphia Magic Gardens: an enchanted place (half a city block) created from glass bottles, pottery shards and bicycle wheels.

Almost a 3D mosaic, almost a political statement….

Isaih Zagar’s creation isn’t exactly hidden – many houses in the vicinity of South Street have his mosaics tattooed on their walls – but if you step inside the Gardens feels like you’ve left the city far behind. It’s a very peaceful space. It’s available for private hire for parties and receptions, so maybe if I end up back here and want to celebrate the fact…

The Gardens are a series of walkways, underpasses, nooks and little spots of serenity.


I’m back in Scotland right now – perhaps the transition has led to a step-down in magicality, perhaps there are equal quantities of secrets in full sight just waiting for me to notice them.

The adventures continue…

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