Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (PA)

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens are covered floor to ceiling in discarded items, which create a magical, mosaic labyrinth of art.

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- Jennifer Boyer

Discover Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG), on South Street in Philadelphia, consists of two indoor galleries and a sprawling bi-level outdoor sculpture garden adorned with a mosaic of materials such as handmade tiles, bottles, bicycle wheels, mirrors, and international folk art. Conceived and constructed by mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar the garden artwork is his largest and most celebrated work to date.

Beyond its role as a gallery space, PMG actively engages the community through outreach programs, hands-on activities, exhibitions, and guided tours. Today it is a beloved cultural gem in Philadelphia.

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- John Leszczynski

Creating Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Isaiah Zagar's artistic journey began in 1968 when he and his wife Julia moved to Philadelphia's South Street neighbourhood. They embarked on a mission to rejuvenate the area by purchasing and renovating dilapidated buildings, brightening up both public walls and their private spaces with colourful mosaics. The mission became known as the “South Street Renaissance.”

Julia's folk art store, the Eyes Gallery, was their first major project and from 1994, Zagar began creating the Magic Gardens on a vacant lot adjacent to his studio. After 14 years of dedication—excavating tunnels, crafting intricate grottos, and tiling and grouting every surface—the gardens came into being. Despite facing challenges over the years, including threat of commercial development in 2002 and threats of closure in 2004, PMG opened to the public in 2008 and continues to exist as the colourful legacy of Isaiah Zagar.

Today, covering 3,000 square feet, the installation spans half a city block. The space includes both outdoor sculpture gardens and indoor galleries where every surface—from walls to ceilings—is a canvas adorned with a kaleidoscope of ceramic tiles, cement, glass, plastic pieces, mirrors, and repurposed found objects. Educational programs, performances, and mosaic workshops are also offered to visitors.

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens 2
- Jennifer Boyer

Guided Tours at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Morning Magic Tours

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens offers Morning Magic Tours on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 10:00 am. These 40-minute guided tours, followed by 20 minutes of independent exploration, provide exclusive access to the gardens before they open to the public.

The tour includes exploration of the fully-mosaicked basement, typically closed to general admission. Tickets must be purchased in advance and tours operate rain or shine—if certain areas like the outdoor sculpture garden are closed, refunds will be given.

Guided Site Tours

On Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 12:00 pm, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens hosts Guided Site Tours lasting 75 minutes. These tours cover the outdoor sculpture garden, indoor galleries, several public murals, and also provide access to the fully-mosaicked basement.

Group Visits

For groups, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens offers tailored experiences including guided tours, hands-on activities, and self-guided visits. Groups can explore the gardens and discover the artwork at their own pace while learning about the history and techniques behind the mosaics.

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens 3
- Jennifer Boyer

Visiting Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

It takes around 30 minutes to explore the artwork at the Magic Gardens in Philadelphia. To make the most of your visit, it’s recommended to purchase tickets online for a specific entry time, especially during peak periods. Consider the weather as much of the experience is outdoors. Annual memberships are also available for frequent visitors.

Visitor Guidelines

To ensure the preservation of the artwork and the safety of all visitors, please refrain from touching or climbing on the artwork, including sculptures. Additionally, visitors must keep their bags small and handheld or worn on the front of the body, as there is no coat check available. No selfie-sticks, tripods, or disruptive activities like playing music or shouting are permitted. Shirts and shoes must be worn at all times, and children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. The Magic Gardens reserve the right to refuse entry to anyone wearing offensive attire or causing discomfort to others.

Certain areas marked as off-limits to the public must be respected, and items like firearms, fireworks, scooters, wheelie shoes, and skateboards are not allowed. Personal belongings should be kept with visitors at all times, as PMG is not responsible for lost or damaged items. Light food and beverages are allowed inside Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, provided visitors dispose of waste responsibly to avoid damage to the art. However, alcoholic beverages are only permitted during specific events hosted by PMG.

Directions and Parking

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is located at 1020 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147, between 10th and 11th Streets. It is easily accessible by various modes of transportation, including driving, public transportation (SEPTA), and biking (Indego Bikes). PMG does not have onsite parking; however, metered parking and parking garages are available nearby.

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- Jennifer Boyer

Discover Zagar's Mosaics Outside PMG

Since Zagar’s career began he has created over 200 pieces of art, located around the world. In Philadelphia alone there are around 100 pieces on display, which visitors can explore with a self-guided tour.

Free Public Mosaics on S Schell St. and S Alder St.

For those looking to explore Isaiah Zagar's mosaic artworks without paying an entrance fee, several of his public installations can be found near Philadelphia's Magic Gardens. Wander through the streets surrounding South Street, particularly on S Schell St. and S Alder St., where you'll encounter many displays of Zagar's mosaics.

While these outdoor installations lack the enclosed, labyrinthine structure of the Magic Gardens, they showcase Zagar's signature style, talent, and contributions to the neighbourhood.

Eye's Gallery and Surrounding Streets

Eye's Gallery, located just six blocks away from Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, is a folk art shop managed by Zagar's wife, Julia. This shop provides insights into the broader folk art tradition but also displays Zagar's works.

Along the way to the gallery, take time to stroll through the nearby streets, where additional outdoor mosaics by Zagar can be admired. These colourful creations enrich the landscape and offer a unique perspective on Philadelphia's artistic community.

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
- Jennifer Boyer

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What you need to know

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
1020 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
39.942806, -75.159340
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