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October 29, 2015

Walk this way: 4 Philly tours that are 'off the beaten path'

Tourism Activities
Italian Market Matt Rourke/AP

Fred Landis speaks with a customer at Claudio Specialty Food at the Italian Market in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2008.

If you live in or near Philadelphia, you've likely crossed off all of the major tourist spots the city has to offer, like the Philadelphia Museum of Art (aka the Art Museum, for those in the know), the Franklin Institute and LOVE Park.

But with a city as chock-full of culture and history as Philly, there are plenty of worthwhile places you may have missed or may have walked by a million times without actually stopping to look around and learn what makes them part of Philadelphia's landscape.

Below we've rounded up four "off-the-beaten-path" places that are perfect for when the itch to be a tourist in your town arises - many of them guided, so you can actually learn the history.

The Italian Market

 By: Taste4Travel by Chef Jacquie 

Italian Market
Chef Jacquie is buddies with all the chefs and shopkeepers at the market, so that means plenty of samples for your tasting pleasures. (Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice)

As a child growing up in Philly, I often walked through the Italian Market with my grandmother to purchase homemade pasta and cheeses, passing by the caged pigeons, awning-covered produce stands and metal trash cans filled with fire to produce heat. 

As a teenager, I often avoided the congested stretch of shops along 9th Street in South Philadelphia showcasing the city's diversity through food.

But as these things often go, as an adult, I returned to being a regular at the Italian Market to purchase produce and pasta and meander through the crowded streets, taking in the flavors and scenes. 

Italian Market

The market is also a place of history, telling the stories of Italian immigrants and, later, of the Mexican, Asian and other immigrants who added to its diversity.

To learn the stories and meet the storekeepers who keep the Italian Market thriving, take a tour with Chef Jacquie Kelly, Philly native and owner of Taste4Travel. 

Yards Brewing Company

Carrying on Philadelphia’s centuries-old reputation as a great beer city, Yards Brewing Company attracts beer aficionados who appreciate high-quality, artisan brews. (C. Smyth/Visit Philadelphia)

If you're thirsty for culture, look no further than Yards Brewing CompanyPennsylvania’s first 100 percent wind-powered brewery located in a warehouse on Delaware Avenue in Northern Liberties, where the award-winning craft ales come to life. 

Take a tour of the brewery and get a taste of what it takes to brew the beloved beer.

Tours are free on the weekends. For more details, visit the website.

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Magic Gardens
Visitors stand in awe of Isaiah Zagar’s artistic wonderland, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, located on South Street. (R. Kennedy/Visit Philadelphia)

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens is an eclectic outdoor art haven and exhibit that spans half a block on South Street. 

The art haven was created by award-winning mosaic mural artist Isaiah Zagar, whose work is inspired by his travels and personal connections to international folk and visionary artists.

Zagar has devoted himself to beautifying the area with his art since the late 1960s, when Philly became his home. 

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is now a permanent art institution open year-round with guided tours, workshops, concerts and more.

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary
When construction was completed in 1829, Eastern State Penitentiary was the largest and most expensive public structure ever made. (Thom Carroll/ PhillyVoice)

Eastern State Penitentiary gets a lot of attention around Halloween due to its eerie history as a former prison in operation from 1829 to 1971. 

It's said that notorious criminals like bank robber Willie Sutton and Al Capone were locked within its walls. But beyond the spookiness, it's an architectural wonder and U.S. National Historic Landmark that is well worth a walk-through. (Bonus: The audio tour, included with admission, is narrated by "Boardwalk Empire" actor Steve Buscemi.)

For tour information, click here.

Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary along Fairmount Avenue. (J. Smith/Visit Philadelphia)