Coping with the cold Philly-style: Skydiving, surfing, a Penn basketball game

Patrick McMillan, 18, spends a cold day inside, flying with instructor Dave Catena at iSKY King of Prussia, on Saturday. The day’s 15-degree high set a new record for a Jan. 6.

There was only one way to escape Saturday’s frigid temperatures — stay indoors. And many in the Philadelphia region did just that, some resorting to adventurous, thrill-seeking ways to escape the polar-like blast that set a record high for the region with a measly 15 degrees.

In King of Prussia, iFly, an indoor vertical wind tunnel for “skydiving,” had every flight slot booked from 7 a.m. to the last one at 10 p.m.

Among those who showed up to soar in relative comfort was Patrick McMillan, 18, of Malvern, and his cousin Keele Howard-Stone, 29, of Astoria in Queens, N.Y.

“It was really cold and hard to breathe and sort of fun,” McMillan, a freshman at Hobart College, said of the experience as he caught his breath after his flight. An avid skier, he said it was too cold to hit the slopes Saturday.

Howard-Stone, a comedian in town for a photo shoot for Netflix, added: “I got the whole roller-coaster feeling. The higher up I got, the more fun it became.”

Camera icon DAVID SWANSON
Jaden Amjed, 6, spends a cold day inside, flying with instructor Dave Catena at iFly in King of Prussia. 

McMillan’s mother, Stacy Stone, 58, watched the duo from outside the flight booth. Stone said she booked her son and nephew online late Friday — securing the final two slots left for 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, at $69.95 a person for two one-minute flights.

“I was thinking, ‘What could we do today?’ ” Stone said. “It was so cold outside, but we didn’t want to stay cooped up indoors either. This was a fun alternative.”

Saturday’s temperature broke the record for the lowest high temperature for a Jan. 6 — 18 degrees — set in 1942.

The forecast for Sunday looks only slightly warmer — a high of 19 before a warming starting Monday leading to a balmy 50 degrees by Thursday.

Inside Sahara Sam’s Oasis in West Berlin, Camden County, a 70,000-square-foot indoor water park, on Saturday, it was a toasty 84 degrees. Families splashed and frolicked in various wet attractions, including a “Lazy River” and a surfing simulator dubbed the “Flow Rider.”

Camera icon TIM TAI
Syncere Gonzalez, 13, of Northeast Philadelphia, rides a boogie board on the Flow Rider surf machine at Sahara Sam’s Oasis in West Berlin on Saturday. 

Xavier Gonzalez, director of operations at Sahara Sam’s, said business was up 10 percent to 15 percent from a typical Saturday thanks to the elements outside.

“We’re lucky,” he said. “A lot of other businesses around here had to close. But the temperature actually helped us. You come in here and everyone’s sweating.”

Sweating — or at least some form of warmth — was on the minds of Michael Laphen, his wife, Therese, and daughter Annalise as they admired a $4,000, 7-by-7-foot hot tub at the Greater Philadelphia Home Show at Valley Forge Casino Resort, which concludes on Sunday.

“It would be nice,” Michael said.

Adding encouragement was Stewart Strauss of Daniel’s Lawn & Garden Center in Harleysville.

“There’s nothing like getting in one in this weather,” he said in a sales pitch to the Laphens. His hot-tub booth was among the most popular Saturday.

A short distance away, Helen Wickersham, 58, of Drexel Hill, had found another effective antidote to the nastiness outside: a penny slot machine called Hot Shot Progressive. She had been playing for five hours.

“It was either this or shopping,” said Wickersham, who works in finance for Amtrak. “It’s too cold to do anything else.”

She said she and her husband, Brian, 60, usually go to Bally’s in Atlantic City, but “it was too cold to make the drive.”

In Philadelphia, aside from the butterfly exhibit at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, where the temperature is always 85 degrees, another place where warmth is usually a certainty is the Palestra during a Penn-Princeton game.

Camera icon DAVID MAIALETTI
Jennifer Rahm, of Arlington, Va., visits the butterfly exhibit at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

But the old arena wasn’t full Saturday afternoon, and plenty of fans kept their jackets on. Sheila Gladstone wasn’t complaining.

“It’s actually comfortable,” said Gladstone, Penn Class of ’62, in the hallway at halftime with her husband, Hank, Class of ’61. “It’s usually stinking hot.”

Staff writer Mike Jensen contributed to this article.