Insider’s Guide 2011

Forget Philly (for once). There’s more than enough to love in your own backyard, from hidden-gem boutiques and restaurants to home services and health-boosting activities.

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Love Your Local Library

Look beyond the books for a wide variety of free (or moderately priced) programs, services and materials.

Delaware County Library System
Grandchildren coming for a visit this weekend? Borrow a free “Grand Kit,” a canvas bag filled with themed games, activities and toys for kids ages 3-11. Another novel program, “Pals for Life,” encourages shy young children to build their confidence and skills by reading to trained therapy dogs.

Easttown Library
Get to know your way around a keyboard (plus the Internet and e-mail) during a free half-hour, one-on-one beginner computer class. Or hone your skills during individualized hourlong sessions ($15 per hour). 720 First Ave., Berwyn; (610) 644-0138,

Radnor Memorial Library
Board games are great for exercising strategic skills—plus, they’re a whole lot of fun. For middle-schoolers, Radnor offers a “Dungeons and Dragons” club and chess nights for players of all ages and skill levels. 114 Wayne Ave., Wayne; (610) 687-1124,

Upper Merion Library System
To help take the intimidation factor out of reading and encourage skill development, this library offers a free “Reading Buddies” program that pairs young children (K-second grade) with volunteer mentors from upper grades (fourth-12th). For entrepreneurs, the library partners with SCORE, a nonprofit small-business counseling service, to offer free and low-cost classes on starting and owning a business. 175 W. Valley Forge Road, King of Prussia; (610) 265-4805,

Take It From Them

Locals share their secret spots.

Mary Ivory
Narberth resident and nurse practitioner

Tom Ivory’s wife, quilter extraordinaire Mary highly recommends Cloth & Bobbin (235 Haverford Ave., Narberth; 610-667-5366; for its extensive pattern and fabric selections, and Lonni Rossi Fabrics (70 Rittenhouse Place, Ardmore; 610-896-0500, for its one-of-a-kind, hand-painted fabrics. Both offer classes for beginners.

Tom Ivory
Narberth resident and owner of Baker Street Bread Co.
Ivory recommends Advanced Health & Fitness (934 Montgomery Ave., Narberth, 610-664-3400), a small, fully equipped, trainer-staffed gym that’s “nonintimidating even for 50-somethings.” And although he admits he’s never taken the plunge, Ivory enjoys hearing the instructors at Aqua Hut Dive & Travel (51 Rittenhouse Place, Ardmore; 610-642-3483; talk about their underwater adventures. At this Professional Association of Diving Instructors 5-Star Training Facility and National Geographic Dive Center, novices can get their feet wet with one-day introductory lessons in scuba ($75, minimum age 10) and snorkeling ($40, minimum age 5) before they advance to certification instruction. Ask about at-home lessons in your own pool.

Ed Markus
Gladwyne resident and owner of Event Navigators

For a break from his hectic schedule, Markus enjoys perusing the latest multimedia art exhibits at Haverford College’s Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery (370 Lancaster Ave., 610-896-1287,

Dr. Dori Middleman
Merion Station resident and psychiatrist
Middleman loves to stroll the secluded, wooded lakeside walking paths on the campus of Eastern University (1300 Eagle Road, St. Davids; 610-341-5800; She’s also excited about her latest find, Rolling Hill Park (1301 Rose Glen Road, Gladwyne,, 610-645-9030), with its historic mill ruins and off-leash dog park. The park also offers a number of free or low-priced, nature-oriented activities, plus the more extensive “Knee-High Naturalists” for preschoolers and parents ($60 for five weeks of 90-minute sessions) and the “Explorer’s Club After-School Adventures” program for the K-through-third crowd ($50).