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 Philadelphia

Philadelphia

The City of Brotherly Love

History

Philadelphia is one of the oldest cities in the USA and full of fascinating history. It is here that the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, separating from Great Britain and creating a new country. It is also the birthplace of the constitution (the country’s founding document), which today governs how laws are made and followed across the USA. The city is very proud of its history and has numerous sites and museums dedicated to sharing the significance of these early days.

 

Philadelphia is currently the nation’s sixth most-populous city and is situated between two other renowned American cities – New York City and Washington D.C. In the 21st century, the city is known for its many prestigious institutes of higher education as well as a vibrant arts and cultural scene. It is also home to one of the largest urban park areas in the country, giving visitors plenty of opportunities to escape into nature.

Did You Know?

  • That the Stars & Stripes (the American flag) was designed in Philadelphia by Betsy Ross? The Betsy Ross House, located in Old City, is a popular historic site where visitors can take in the sights and sounds of the American flag’s birthplace.  

  • That Elfreth’s Alley in Old City Philadelphia is the United States’ oldest residential street? Today, the museum and alley tours offer a glimpse into the lives of everyday colonial Americans. You can spend an afternoon strolling along the cobblestone street featuring 32 beautiful houses, built between 1728 and 1836, or take a guided tour for just $5. 

  • That the crack in the Liberty Bell is a heavily debated subject among historians? One theory is that the Bell was first cracked in 1752 upon its arrival in Philadelphia.

  • That Independence Hall is known as the “birthplace” of the United States. Within the walls of this storied building, both the Declaration of Independence was adopted and the Constitution of the United States was signed.

  • That Benjamin Franklin, perhaps the most famous Philadelphian, was a writer, inventor, printer, scientist, and diplomat? Learn more about this important "Founding Father" and his life here at the Benjamin Franklin Museum, part of the National Parks Service. 

  • That Philadelphia's City Hall is the largest municipal building in the United States, and the tallest masonry structure in the world?

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Getting Acquainted

Following the news and trends of the city will help you feel at home in no time. See our recommendations below for local news outlets and insider Instagram accounts to follow:

Local News:

Philly Social Media Accounts

  • Campus Philly (@campusphilly) - helps students integrate into Philadelphia and find jobs or internships

  • Visit Philadelphia (@visitphilly) - provides general tourism and visitor information

  • Wooder Ice (@wooder_ice) - covers Philadelphia news and events

  • When Where What Philly (@whenwherewhatphilly) - features fun stuff to do across the city

GetAcquainted

Exploring The Region

Philadelphia is an excellent starting point for a variety of day-trips:

  • City hopping: Philadelphia is just 1.5 hours from New York and 2 hours from Washington, D.C. by train.

  • Head to the hills: In summer, the Pocono Mountains in northeast Pennsylvania offer a cool escape from the summer heat of the city; in fall, the changing colors of the forests are spectacular; and in winter, the slopes become a destination for snow sports enthusiasts.

  • Beach retreats: On summer weekends, many Philadelphia residents go 'down the shore' (i.e. to the beach). You can get to Atlantic City in New Jersey in just 1.5 hours by train or bus.

  • Exploring the Keystone State: There is so much to explore across the state of Pennsylvania, from historic sites to picturesque towns to the great outdoors. You can find a wealth of options in the State Tourism Office's Happy Traveler Guide.

Exploring

Exploring The Region

Philadelphia is an excellent starting point for a variety of day-trips:

  • City hopping: Philadelphia is just 1.5 hours from New York and 2 hours from Washington, D.C. by train.

  • Head to the hills: In summer, the Pocono Mountains in northeast Pennsylvania offer a cool escape from the summer heat of the city; in fall, the changing colors of the forests are spectacular; and in winter, the slopes become a destination for snow sports enthusiasts.

  • Beach retreats: On summer weekends, many Philadelphia residents go 'down the shore' (i.e. to the beach). You can get to Atlantic City in New Jersey in just 1.5 hours by train or bus.

  • Exploring the Keystone State: There is so much to explore across the state of Pennsylvania, from historic sites to picturesque towns to the great outdoors. You can find a wealth of options in the State Tourism Office's Happy Traveler Guide.

Exploring

Philadelphia Neighborhoods

Where to Start?

Philadelphia has a wealth of neighborhoods, each with their own history and sense of community. Some are large, others are just a few blocks in each direction. If you are exploring housing options, it is a good idea to learn about the different neighborhoods you might inhabit and what to expect as a resident - both the amenities (like local stores and celebrations), and the other important considerations (like general safety and access to public transport).

The following resources can help you get an overview of the city's neighborhoods:

  • Philadelphia Neighborhoods features a detailed map to help understand the different neighborhoods.

  • Visit Philadelphia provides historical context and points of interest on neighborhoods across the city.

  • Niche lets you search for a neighborhood by address or ZIP code, and offers information on an area's median rent, diversity, and safety.

  • The Philadelphia Police Department website features a tool for finding specific crime statistics on custom areas of the map.

Neighborhoods 

Center City

Center City, also known as the heart of the city, is the most accessible part of Philly, no matter where you reside, with so many nearby SEPTA stations and ways to get around. Local favorites include Reading Terminal Market for all the best eats, Ultimo Coffee Shop for studying, City Hall for a photo-op, and The Shops at Liberty Place for all your shopping needs.

University City/West Philly

University City is home to Drexel University and UPenn, as well as other surrounding colleges! Each campus has unique things to explore and it is easy to walk around. A popular spot to visit is Cira Green; they host outdoor movies in the summertime. Students also love going to Drexel Park because not only is it close to the bridge, which cuts across to Center City and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but you can always see the beautiful skyline in the distance—it’s especially amazing at sunset.

Rittenhouse

Students enjoy Rittenhouse because there is always something new to try here! Right in the middle of the city are cool new restaurants, cafes, and experiences; it’s an area you can never get tired of. A quick SEPTA ride into the city, Rittenhouse is a great area to explore on foot, with favorites like Vibrant Coffee Roasters & Bakery, various farmers markets, and the iconic Rittenhouse Square.

Old City

Full of history and iconic spots, Old City is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Philly. Old City is a perfect spot to visit some historical landmarks and museums, such as The Museum of the American Revolution, Liberty Bell at Independence Hall, Benjamin Franklin Museum, Elfreth’s Alley, Betsy Ross House, and more!

Chinatown

Chinatown is a neighborhood favorite in Philly—not only is it super accessible by subway, but it also has some of the best places to eat, like Mango Mango, Bubblefish, Bonchon, and Prince Tea House. There’s so much variety of all types of foods ranging from Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean cultures, all with different price ranges that accommodate college students!

Fairmount 

Fairmount is a beautiful, walkable neighborhood to spend a leisure weekend or try some new fun activities. Fairmount Park is one of the biggest parks in Philadelphia and the perfect place to have a picnic or change up the scenery for your run. If you are planning to have a casual weekend, head on over to Musette or OCF Coffee House to catch up with friends or try a new spot to study!

Fishtown/Northern Liberties  

Fishtown is a vibrant Philadelphia neighborhood loaded with character and history. Stepping out of Girard Station, locals and visitors can witness colorful murals filled with the passion of each artist capturing the spirit of the city. Over the years, Fishtown has become a "foodie haven" with diverse and delicious hotspots including Pizza Brain, Suraya, Federal Donuts, or a classic like Joe's Steaks (and obviously don't forget about dessert—ice cream at Jeni's)! The most notable feature of Fishtown is First Fridays, a once-a-month celebration filled with new exhibitions and free refreshments.  

The Waterfront 

Located right along the Delaware River and near Old City, The Waterfront is home to year-round attractions and scenic views for every season. Most notably, Penn's Landing is home to rotating attractions like Independence Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest for some classic winter ice skating, and Summerfest for a retro roller rink with boardwalk rides and games. Be sure to check them out, and visit during a Campus Philly Philly Night Out for discounted admission! The Waterfront is also home to Spruce Street Harbor Park, the perfect destination for a mix of relaxation, entertainment, and of course, food! Stop by to post up with a good book in one of the hammocks, or enjoy one of the many food trucks for a delicious bite.  

 

Washington Square 

Washington Square West is known for its dynamic environment, and creates community for locals, visitors, and the many college students nearby. Arguably one of the most scenic spots in all of the city, Washington Square is the perfect, picturesque green space to step back and connect with nature. Within the neighborhood, there are tons of coffee shops (like Greenstreet Coffee Co.), entertainment venues (like the Wilma Theater, which offers student discounts), shopping (including all the stores on Antique Row and Jeweler's Row), and more.   

 

The Gayborhood 

Named after a reporter's rephrasing of Mister Rogers' song as "It's a beautiful day in the Gayborhood" during the 1995 OutFest, the Gayborhood is a charming community in the city filled with rich history and celebration. There is no shortage of things to do in the Gayborhood, as there are restaurants galore, quaint shops, and streets to simply wander with pride! Some highlights include: El Vez for great Mexican food and even better ambiance, Open House for some cute home décor and Philly-themed gifts, and Philly Aids Thrift for the second-hand enthusiast.  

North Broad  

To experience some of the finest arts and architecture in the city, be sure to check out North Broad, a neighborhood right outside of Temple University! Some landmarks within the neighborhood include the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) and Rail Park. Beyond these, the neighborhood is rich with food options from fine dining to hole-in-the-wall spots. For some fun experiences, be sure to check out Libertee Grounds, The Colored Girls Museum (who offers a student discount), Bold Coffee Bar, and more!  

 

South Philly 

South Philly is home to an incredible blend of cultures and experiences. Accessible via the Broad Street Line and local buses, it is sure to provide a day full of adventure, like visiting the Italian Market for the most authentic Italian and Mexican/Latin American foods. The market is an iconic Philadelphia staple, and vendors offer everything from fresh cannolis to produce. Beyond the Italian Market, there are other markets that run in FDR at different points of the year, like the Southeast Asian Market. Many also consider South Philly their favorite part of the city, as it is home to our sports complexes. The Phillies, Flyers, Sixers, and Eagles all have stadiums located in South Philly, and welcome in all fans to come root them on! 

Manayunk 

For an "urban experience with small town charm," look no further than Manayunk, a Philly-area neighborhood located just outside of Saint Joseph's University. Visitors and locals alike enjoy strolling Main Street and shopping at the many boutiques and stores along the way; plus, for foodies, there are several restaurants, breweries (21+), and cafes to unwind or indulge! One must-try is a cheesesteak from Dalessandro's. After a day of shopping and eating, enjoy a long walk or run along the Schuylkill River Trail, or go for a hike in Wissahickon Valley Park. 

 

East Falls

East Falls is a small Philly neighborhood located just outside of Manayunk, near Jefferson University and Drexel, and right along the Schuylkill River. Local favorites include In Riva, Fiorino, and Empanadas United!

Germantown  

Germantown is home to a rich history with settlements and mansions to explore! Germantown Avenue is the neighborhood's main point of attraction, and is the perfect place to stroll for window-shopping or café visits. Looking to get outside? Be sure to check out the 57 miles of trails filled with scenic views, perfect for a leisurely hike or a challenging run.    

 

Chestnut Hill  

Cozy and quaint, Chestnut Hill is the perfect spot to break away from the hustle-and-bustle of city life. Accessible via the Chestnut Hill East/West SEPTA Line, the town is as scenic as it is lively (as it is the garden district of Philadelphia). This neighborhood is walkable, and visitors and locals alike stroll the streets for some shopping, dining, and just a breath of fresh air. When visiting, be sure to check out Cake for the most delicious/aesthetic brunch,  Occasionette for some home shopping, and Chestnut Hill Brewing Company for craft sips and flavorful pizza (pro-tip: they have trivia on Wednesday nights)!

Green Spaces

 

About 13% of Philadelphia is park land, which includes small leafy squares in urban neighborhoods and expansive natural lands within the city limits. If you crave an escape to nature or just some relative peace and quiet, you can visit some of the following parks in different parts of Philly:

  • Bartram's Garden: a park and horticultural space in Southwest Philadelphia.

  • Clark Park: a large park in West Philadelphia featuring events year-round.

  • Cobb's Creek Park: 100 acres of wooded parkland along Cobb's Creek in West Philadelphia.

  • East Fairmount Park: 650 acres on the eastern bank of the Schuylkill River.

  • FDR Park: 350 acres of parkland at the bottom end of South Philadelphia.

  • John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge: the largest freshwater tidal marsh in Pennsylvania and a habitat for wildlife.

  • Pennypack Park: 1,600 acres of woodlands and wetlands in Northeast Philadelphia.

  • Rittenhouse Square: a public park located in the heart of Center City and surrounded by fine dining, retail, and luxury residential buildings.

  • Washington Square: a public park located in close proximity to the Historic District.

  • The Woodlands: a historic, leafy cemetery in West Philadelphia.

  • West Fairmount Park: 1,400 acres of parkland on the western bank of the Schuylkill River; home to the Belmont Plateau (which offers wonderful views of the city) and the Philadelphia Zoo.

  • Wissahickon Valley Park: 1,800 acres of woods along the Wissahickon creek in northwest Philadelphia, featuring over 50 miles of hiking trails.

For cyclists, the Schuylkill River Trail also offers a safe and scenic way to explore along the banks of the Schuylkill River from deep within Philadelphia to well beyond the city limits.

Climate

Despite its proximity to the coast, Philadelphia is a city of extremes when it comes to weather. It is good to bear this in mind when considering your wardrobe!

 

Summers in the city are hot and humid, with temperatures often reaching around 90°F/32°C during the height of the season. Most buildings are air-conditioned, but not all, so this is something to consider when looking for a place to live.

 

Winters can be very cold, and the temperature often falls below freezing (32°F/0°C) even during the daytime. There are occasional heavy snowfalls between January and March, which can make it difficult to get around. Sometimes the weather causes trains and buses to stop running, and schools may close for safety reasons.

Neighborhoods

Queer Philly: Mini-Guide

From the Revolutionary War to Civil Rights, Philly is known for defining eras of change. There are a number of queer historical markers, resources, and areas of the city to explore. It's a city that's truly all about LOVE. Philly is a welcoming city with an appreciation for queer culture, and it’s a great time to take in all of the resources that the area has to offer. You can be part of the history and the fun!

History

 

Prohibition in the 1800s paved the way for a quietly emerging queer nightlife scene—hidden for both alcohol and queerness. Due to segregation and racism within the city, Black queer folks found a home in North and West Philadelphia. Certain spots in the city became hotspot destinations for queer folks, as Rittenhouse was known as the area for lesbians and gay men through the 1950s, and Locust Street became known as "Ludrid Locust," a hub for queer nightlife. As time went on, and local/federal governments refused to respond to the AIDS epidemic, local organizations formed and helped to cement the strength of the queer community in Philly.  

 

The Gayborhood

 

The Gayborhood, named after a rephrasing of Mister Roger's classic song, stretches from Chestnut and Pine streets between 11th and Broad Streets. There is a plethora of queer-owned restaurants and bars (21+) including Bud & Marilyn's, Tavern on Camac, and Tabu Lounge. Outfest continues in the Gayborhood in October, though it has not occurred over the last three years due to organizational reasons. 

 

Resources   

 

  • The William Way LGBT Community Center: an LGBTQ+ resource center in the Gayborhood that offers a number of events, counseling services, classes, and a library

  • Bebashi: a resource center focused on providing access to quality healthcare, health education, and food pantry goods to Black and Brown Philadelphians 

  • The Mazzoni Center: an LGBTQ+ healthcare center  

  • The Trans Wellness Conference: hosted by the Mazzoni Center, it is the largest transgender health conference in the world  

  • GALAEI (the Gay and Lesbian AIDS Education Initiative): a resource group that provides services to all queer communities in Philadelphia  

  • The Attic: a youth center providing young members of the LGBTQ+ community in Philly with opportunities and resources  

 

Recommendations for exploring

 

  • The Painted Mug: a queer-run café and performance spot  

  • Arch Street Meetinghouse Historical Marker: an iconic flagstone in honoring the advancements of LGBTQ+ rights. The marker commemorates the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, which brought the conversation regarding queer rights into the public eye.  

  • Ephemera: a collective Lesbian Memory Hotline honoring stories/experiences regarding the lesbian identity/experience  

  • PHLash Climbing: LGBTQ+ rock climbing  

  • Giovanni's Room: oldest gay bookstore in the country  

  • Philly Gay Calendar: a compiled calendar full of recommendations for spots to visit or events going on around the city 

  • South Street Art Mart: a queer woman owned shop featuring art by members of Philly's LGBTQ+ community  

  • Darnel's Cakes: a Northern Liberties bake shop that also works to provide HIV education and testing  

  • Halloween: an LGBTQ+ owned hole-in-the-wall jewelry store  

  • Fairmount & Brewerytown Bicycles: a queer and locally owned bike shop that promotes social justice, especially for the LGBTQ+ community  
     

Drag

Drag in Philly is fierce, and there are many options to explore! 

 

Here are a few of our favorites:  

  • Philly Drag Mafia 

  • Level Up for some great nightlife 

  • R&D for the monthly R&Divas event 

  • Tabu, an iconic mainstay in Philly's gay bar scene  

  • Bob & Barbara's for the longest running drag show in Philadelphia 

Exploring
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