Finding Creative Inspiration at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Tiles, mirrors, glass bottles, and bicycle wheels in Philly's Magic Gardens

Are you looking for a unique and creative place to visit this summer? Look no further than Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Here you can explore over half a city block of beautiful pathways, stairs, walls, and hidden nooks decorated with amazing everyday found objects to your heart’s content. The mosaic tiles and mirrors attached to the walls give this garden sparkle, which elevates this art exhibit above what most people would think is junk. Have a look inside Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens and see for yourself how fantastic this outdoor art exhibit is.

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All the Information You Need to Visit the Magic GardensKayla posing in her rain poncho at Magic Gardens

The outdoor portion of the Philadelphia Magic Gardens is open rain or shine. When we went, it was sprinkling, so we donned our rain ponchos and went exploring.  Located at 1020 South Street, the exhibit covers over half a block. The facility includes the outdoor exhibition, a community art center, and indoor art galleries as part of its non-profit art environment. You can take guided tours of the exhibits, sign up for educational programs, and enjoy adult entertainment such as concerts, craft nights with wine, and even happy hours.

Kayla looks like she is in a time out chair

Kayla protesting the multitude of photos I took of her by not smiling

You can find all the events on the Magic Gardens website. The Magic Gardens’ open hours are Wednesday to Monday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is closed on Tuesdays. The entrance fee is $10/adult, but if you are a Member, it is Free.Door way decorated in the Magic Gardens

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens HistoryMosaic Tiled steps in Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

This multi-layer outdoor art exhibit created with non-traditional materials such as colorful glass bottles, bicycle wheels, folk art statues, mirror fragments, and hand-made tiles took years to build. The artist, Isaiah Zagar, started in 1994, working in vacant lots near his studio. He constructed a fence around the property and, over the years, spent his time sculpting the multi-layer walls for this artistic masterpiece.Decorative garden gate

In 2002, the owner of the lots, who was in Boston, found out about the art and decided to sell the property, so Isaiah would have to dismantle the exhibit. After a two year legal battle and with tremendous help from the community, Isaiah won. He was able to preserve the artwork at the Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens site and his other art murals around the South Street area. Now, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens puts on several events throughout the year to inspire creativity and community engagement with art.Colorful glass bottles decorating a wall

Who is Isaiah Zagar?Tiled Mosaics of people on the side of Philadelphia

Isaiah Zagar is the creative mastermind behind the gorgeous mosaic art murals around Philly designed with colorful tiles and mirrors and the infamous Magic Gardens. After spending time in the Peace Corps in Peru, he came back to live in Philly with his wife. And this is where he began his lifelong work creating beautiful public art murals and promoting creativity in all its forms. Isaiah has spent over 40 years, creating artwork that has shaped Philly into a flourishing artistic community.

“He understands that in art, the artist, and the patron exist in a symbiotic relationship. One cannot realize his goal without the other. The artist creates the work, but without the patron’s passion to possess it, it can never be fully realized.”

Changing Art Display at the Magic Gardens in Philadelphia

Magic Gardens PhotosMirror and mosaic tiled wall

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens was a complete surprise for me. Kayla is the one who found out about this amazing outdoor art exhibit. Even though it was raining when we visited, it didn’t stop us from exploring all the narrow pathways, stairs that lead to who knows what, windows, and archways into a completely new area.Looking down the steps at Philadelphia's Magic GardensPathway through Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Every corner was a treat to see how Zagar transformed everyday objects into a meaningful art display. We had fun finding all of the painted quotes on the tiles that refer to his life, family, and community. There is so much to see here that you should plan to spend a couple of hours exploring the entire Magic Gardens. And don’t forget to look closely at the walls as there is so much detail added everywhere you look. I loved finding unique items to photograph that caught my eye.

A Little Bit of Disney found in Magic Gardens

Mickey Mouse silhouettes in mosaic tiles

Nearby Murals in PhiladelphiaIsaiah Zagar Art installations around Philadelphia Map

The map above shows where you can find all of Isaiah’s mosaic art murals around the city of Philadelphia. You can make it like a scavenger hunt to see how many you can find without the map. Or you can do what I did and randomly come across them as I explored the city. Isaiah Zagar's artwork on the side of a building in Philly

Art is the Center of the Real World mirrored and mosaic tiled buildingColorful Mosaic tiled art on the side of a building

SummaryFaces painted on tile at the Magic Gardens in Philadelphia

Kayla and I both loved our time exploring every inch of this magical place. Because of the rain, we were the only ones in the garden. So, all you could hear was OMG! Look at what I found! Oh, you have to see this! If you get a chance to visit Philadelphia, I highly recommend visiting the Magic Gardens, and you and your family will be exclaiming the same things. And the photographer in me can’t wait to go back and visit again someday to see how this exhibit looks in sunshine. Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is where your imagination and creativeness can go wild. Come and see this magical place for yourself. 

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Further Reading

If you are coming to Pennsylvania for a visit, check out these posts for further travel inspiration:

4 Comments

  • Wendy (The Nomadic Vegan) 5July2020 at 5:46 PM Reply

    Wow, this place sounds amazing! It reminds me of the Selarón steps in Rio de Janeiro. I will definitely check it out if I ever go to Philadelphia!

    • Heather 5July2020 at 8:12 PM Reply

      Thank you, Wendy! I haven’t been to Rio so, I will add the Selarón steps to my bucket list.

  • Lynnette 4July2020 at 9:38 AM Reply

    What a fun place to see. It seems like every step and turn has something new to see. What a wonderful way to give back to the city in a positive and unique way. Thanks for sharing your experience. It was great fun to read.

    • Heather 4July2020 at 10:27 AM Reply

      Thank you, Lynnette. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. It is truly a great way to give back.

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