Ask 12-year veteran Ride the Ducks (Sixth and Chestnut streets, Philadelphia, 877.887.8225) master captain Norman Schultz to describe his tour, and he’ll say it’s an hour-and-a-half of sit-down comedy.
“I’m the dad,” he explains, “I’m the worst joke-teller ever. I tell bad jokes and use puns the whole time. I encourage everyone to boo and quack at me.” We sat down with Schultz to see what it’s like driving the amphibious tour vehicle around town and find out what spots any visitor to Philadelphia needs to check out.
What inspired you to want to work as a captain at Ride the Ducks? I took the Duck tour for the first time in Pittsburgh. I looked at my ex-wife and said, "I could be doing a much better job than they’re doing." They were good, but they really weren’t that entertaining. When I retired from the newspaper business, I ended up here for a change of scenery. I fell in love with the city of Philadelphia. My grandmother grew up on Fitzwater Street, so I had a local Philly connection through her, even though she relocated to Baltimore when she was a teenager. I get to mix the two things I love most, entertainment and history, and explore my passion of sharing the history of Philadelphia.
How do you spend your time during the Ride the Ducks off-season? I’m an actor. I’ve been on "Blue Bloods" for four seasons, and it’s great. I’m in one of the core police groups as an office in Donnie Wahlberg’s precinct. The added bonus is I resemble Greg Jbara, so I act as his stand-in and photo double. I am so blessed to work with Greg Jbara and Tom Selleck. I go in every day and learn something. We’re like a family. Donnie Wahlberg is the best.
What is the most requested stop along the tour? To drive by the "Rocky" Steps [at the Philadelphia Museum of Art]. I always make a joke that the "Rocky" statue is in the bushes with the garden gnomes at the bottom of the steps, instead of at the top where it belongs. Popular culture will sweep you into loving this city.
Any other must-do experience in Philadelphia? Go to the Reading Terminal Market (12th and Arch streets, Philadelphia, 215.922.2317) and go to DiNic’s Roast Beef (Reading Terminal Market, 51 North 12th Street, Philadelphia, 215.923.6175). You get the best roast beef sandwich with fries and gravy there. Experience the cheesesteak. To me, there’s no other place than Pat’s (1237 E. Passyunk Ave., Philadelphia, 215.468.1546). That’s the originator. If you really want a unique experience, go to Pat’s on a Saturday at 4 am. You’ll see anybody and everybody there. It’s a fun experience.
What are you favorite Philadelphia museums? The Barnes Foundation (2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy., Philadelphia, 215.278.7200) is incredible. I also really enjoy the Rodin Museum (22nd Street and Benjamin Franklin Pkwy., 215.568.6026). I could spend all day at those two. I also really enjoy the Mummers Museum (1100 S. Second St., Philadelphia, 215.336.3050). The costumes are great, and I enjoy the history of it.
Do you travel often? As often as I can. Just recently, I went to Germany and [visited] Berlin and Frankfurt. My favorite city in Germany was a medieval town called Baden-Württemberg. I was walking around buildings that are 1500 years old. It was incredible. In the off-season there is no one there.
Favorite travel app? World Lens. It’s this great app where you can take a picture of text in a foreign language and it will translate it. It’s great for unfamiliar signage. I highly recommend it.
What destination tops your bucket list? Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast.
Norman Schultz's Perfect Day in Philly: A Guide for Travelers
You just can’t beat a diner for breakfast in Philadelphia. Go to Penrose Diner (2016 Park Ave., Philadelphia, 215.465.1097) in South Philly. You have to get scrapple!
After breakfast, pick up timed tickets to Independence Hall and take a Ride the Ducks tour. It gives you a really nice overview of the city in an hour and 30 minutes.
My hands-down, all-time favorite lunch place is the Famous 4th Street Delicatessen (700 S. Fourth St., Philadelphia, 215.922.3274). You have to go there. The portions are insane and the quality of food is great. I get the Lee Avenue [sandwich]. You can only eat a quarter of it. It’s like the never-ending sandwich.
Next, go explore Penn’s Landing. The Blue Cross RiverRink Summerfest is awesome and go to the Independence Seaport Museum (211 S. Christopher Columbus Blvd., 215.413.8655).
Afterwards, take a walk through Old City. See the Betsy Ross House (239 Arch St., Philadelphia, 215.629.4026) and walk down Elfreth’s Alley.
Go to Las Bugambillas (148 South St., Philadelphia, 215.922.3190) for dinner. It’s a small space with great service. The traditional Mexican food is incredible. They make a mole sauce that just melts in your mouth. The spicy margaritas just make you thirsty for another.
See a play at the Walnut Street Theatre (825 Walnut St., Philadelphia, 215.574.3550). It’s a great venue.