A not-so-secret little hideaway tucked into the South Street neighborhood of Philadelphia, the Magic Gardens is a must-visit next time you find yourself in the area.
A friend and I were on our way to visit the 9th Street Italian Market when we passed by the Magic Gardens. They weren’t quite open yet, and a crowd was slowly gathering outside. We ended up parking just around the corner, which turned out to not be as close as we thought it was to the Italian Market. A fact which I decided was fate telling me I should steal a few minutes to visit the Magic Gardens.
I took a handful of pictures from the outside and I’m sure my mouth was agape the entire time. Everywhere you look, there is something new and amazing to see. Artist Isaiah Zagar started the Magic Gardens, which was, at the time, a vacant lot near his art studio, in 1994. He began by building a fence to protect the property and then slowly added mosaic art work, paying tribute to his wife, his two sons, various world events, and other artists. As a former Peace Corps member, a lot of his art work throughout the property takes inspiration from his time in Peru and other assignments. In 2002, the owner of the property decided to sell the lot, and Zagar’s fans pulled together enough financial support to preserve the area, turning it into a non-profit.
You can purchase admission to view the property, filled with winding pathways, tunnels, and nooks and crannies, in a self-guided manner, going at your pace. They also do guided tours, where they will share stories behind various pieces, workshops directed by Zagar himself, special events, and even weddings. For children visiting, there is a scavenger hunt available at the front desk, sending the kids’ off to search for special pieces throughout the property.
It truly is a one-of-a-kind place to visit, and not to be missed. Beyond his work at the Magic Gardens, Zagar has adorned over 200 walls throughout Philadelphia with his special brand of mosaic art.
1020 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147