If you’re moving to Philadelphia you’ll want to know all about what it’s like to live in the area and where to live. Here’s my guide to Philadelphia and the nearby suburbs to help you get the lay of the land. It includes everything from things to do in and around the city, places to see, things to do, parks, restaurants, and information to help you get started on choosing a neighborhood or town.
Things to Do in Philadelphia
Philadelphia offers something for everyone and with the size of the city and surrounding metro area, there’s always something going on. When living in the Philadelphia area you’ll find plenty of festivals, events, parks, restaurants and nightlife, things to do with kids, and new places to explore. Here are a few of our favorite things to do in Philadelphia . . .
- New Year’s Eve Fireworks over the Delaware River near Old City
- The Mummer’s Parade – A hard to describe parade down Broad Street in Center City held on New Year’s Day
- The Manayunk Arts Festival – Stroll Main Street in Manayunk at the largest art festival around
- Explore the city’s history in Old City where you’ll find the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the Betsy Ross house
- First Friday’s in Old City – Neighborhood art galleries open their doors on the first Friday of every month
- Check out the many parks from downtown parks like Rittenhouse Square and Washington Square to the 1800-acre Wissahickon Valley Park in Northwest Philadelphia with miles of hiking and biking trails to the many parks and playgrounds in Lower Merion and Plymouth-Whitemarsh there are always new parks to explore
- Dog Parks can be found in the Schuylkill River Park in Center City West, Pretzel Park in Manayunk, and other locations throughout the city
- Art Museums – Days can be spent wandering through The Philadelphia Art Museum. It’s also definitely worth checking out the more intimate Rodin Museum nearby.
- The Mutter Museum is a museum of medical oddities in Center City West. If you have the stomach for it, it’s a great place to check out.
- The Franklin Institute is a science museum tailored for kids (of all ages, really)
- 4th of July concerts and fireworks on Ben Franklin Parkway in front of the art museum. Every year another major act comes to town for this free event (I saw Elton John the first year that I was here, so it’s very big names).
- The Schuylkill River Trail follows the river from Center City through Boathouse Row and out to the northwestern suburbs. This is a popular spot for walking, running, and cycling.
- Smith Playground in Fairmount Park is a great place to take kids with indoor and outdoor playground activities including a giant wooden slide
- The Philadelphia Zoo is open year round and has both indoor and outdoor areas. If you have kids it’s worth getting a season pass (it comes with unlimited access and free parking in the parking garage).
- Go mountain biking or cross-country skiing in the winter in the Wissahickon Valley Park
Things to Do Near Philadelphia
If you’re looking for a day trip or a weekend getaway near Philadelphia, there’s plenty around. Many residents take day trips to New York City, the Baltimore Harbor, and Washington, DC. The New Jersey Shore offers everything from quaint Victorian towns like Cape May to towns with boardwalks and rides like Ocean City. Of course, Atlantic City and it’s casinos aren’t much more than an hour away. If you’re looking for a place to get away at the beach then Island Beach State Park is the place to go.
Lancaster County is a popular destination. Lancaster is home to the state’s largest Amish and Mennonite populations. It’s a beautiful area with scenic drives through farm country and small towns with local shops and restaurants.
Longwood Gardens, a 1,077 square acre botanical garden is located about an hour and 15 minutes from Philadelphia in Kennett Square, PA. Longwood has both indoor and outdoor spaces and is open year round. Throughout the year Longwood Gardens hosts numerous events and festivals. If you get a chance to go during the holiday season it’s definitely worth the trip to see their displays.
During the Fall you can check out the orchards and go apple picking at Linvilla Orchards in Media, PA, or Solebury Orchards in New Hope, PA. Both are within an hour and half of Philadelphia.
In the winter, skiing and snowboarding is within a couple of hours of Philadelphia at Blue Mountain, Jack Frost/Big Boulder, and Camelback Mountain.
There are a number of wineries in the area, as well. Chadds Ford is the closest and there are options in New Jersey in Cape May and other areas. There are several wineries along the Delaware River north of Philadelphia in Bucks County. If you’re heading in that direction you’ll also want to check out New Hope and Lambertville. These two towns are located across the river from each other and both have main streets with shops and restaurants.
Philadelphia definitely has 4 distinct seasons. The spring and fall are great times to get outside with moderate moderate temperatures during the day and cool nights. Summers in Philadelphia are hot and humid with daytime temperatures in the 90’s. Though, we tend to get short breaks from the humidity every few weeks. Winters can be cold with daytime temperatures in the 20’s-30’s during the coldest months. We typically get 1-3 smaller snowfalls of an inch or two each year. Most years we’ll also get a couple of bigger storms with snow accumulation from 6-10 inches. Every few years we’ll get a storm that brings in 18 inches of snow or more.
Acme is the major grocery store chain in the area, however there are several other including ShopRite, Giant and Fresh Grocer. You’ll find two Whole Foods locations in Center City, The Plymouth Meeting Mall in the Plymouth-Whitemarsh area, and one in Wynnewood on the Main Line. There are Trader Joe’s locations in Center City and on The Main Line in Ardmore. Wegman’s stores are located in nearby Cherry Hill, New Jersey and in Malvern, PA on The Main Line.
You can also find groceries at several unique local spots including Reading Terminal Market and the Italian Market in the Center City area and Weaver’s Way Co-op with locations in Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill in Northwest Philadelphia.
Many neighborhoods have Farmer’s Markets during the summer. Farmer’s Markets can be found in Clark Park just outside of Center City in University City, Fitler Square, Rittenhouse Square, Headhouse, Fairmount, East Falls, Roxborough, Manayunk, Conshohocken, .
Big Box Stores
Big Box stores can be found in and around Philadelphia. Ikea, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Target have locations in South Philadelphia and in Plymouth Meeting just outside of Northwest Philadelphia. Target has mini-stores in several locations in the city.
Shopping Districts & Malls
Philadelphia has plenty of places to shop. Popular destinations include the fashion district along Walnut Streets and Chestnut Streets in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood where you’ll find everything from H&M, Zara, and Old Navy to luxury boutique stores.
Many of the neighborhoods around Center City and the towns outside of the city have their own central shopping districts. The most well-known in Philadelphia are Main Street in Manayunk and along Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill. Outside of the city many Main Line towns have shopping districts near their train stations along the main street that runs alongside the tracks. Popular destinations are Narberth, Ardmore, and Bryn Mawr. Each has their own unique local shops and flavor.
The biggest mall in the area (and second largest in the country) is located in King of Prussia in Montgomery County just outside of Philadelphia. The Plymouth Meeting Mall is a smaller mall with the major stores, a movie theater, several chain restaurants, and a Whole Foods.
If you love food, you’ll love living in Philadelphia. As the largest city in Pennsylvania and the 6th largest city in the US there’s no shortage of amazing places to eat in, and around, Philadelphia. You really can find just about anything that you’d want here. One of the interesting things that you’ll find is that Philadelphia is full of BYOB restaurants where they don’t serve alcohol but you can bring your own drinks. The reason for the BYOB restaurants is because of the liquor license laws but for many restaurants it allows them to really focus on their food.
Some places to be sure to check out in the Philadelphia area (and this is by no means an extensive list) are al fresco dining at Parc in Rittenhouse Square, Tacconelli’s Pizza in Port Richmond (you’ll need to call early in the day to order your pizzas), BYOB’s Mercato and Audrey Claire in Center City, Distrito in University City, Kraftwerk and Lloyd in Fishtown, Sang Kee in Chinatown, The Goat’s Beard and Taqueria Feliz in Manayunk, The Spicy Belly in Wissahickon, Jules Thin Crust Pizza in Ardmore, and From the Boot in Lafayette Hill. Of course, if you want a cheesesteak the tourist destinations are Pat’s and Geno’s in the Italian Market but you should also try Jim’s Steaks on 4th and South and Delasandro’s in Roxborough.
Except for the heavy traffic, getting in and out of the city by highway is pretty easy. I-95 runs between Philadelphia International Airport past Center City East and into the northeast suburbs and New Jersey. I-76 goes from South Jersey through South Philadelphia near the stadiums and arena then follows the Schuylkill River through northwest Philadelphia and into the Montgomery County suburbs. I-676 goes runs east to west through Center City and connects I-95 and I-76. I-476, called The Blue Route, joins I-95 near the airport and goes through The Main Line past the Plymouth-Whitemarsh area.
Getting around the area by public transportation is pretty easy. SEPTA, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, runs the area’s bus and train system. PATCO operates a train line from Center City to South Jersey.
The central hub for trains is 30th Street Station on the western border of Center City. There are other main stops on the east and in the center of the city, as well. Train stations are easy to find throughout Center City and the nearby suburbs so many who commute to work in and around the city use the train. There is a train line that runs from the Philadelphia Airport directly to 30th Street Station which makes airport access easy even without a car.
In addition to the Regional Rail commuter lines, SEPTA operates subways and trolleys in Center City. Buses run throughout the region and are another very common way to commute to and from work. Amtrak operates trains to nearby cities including New York and Washington out of 30th Street Station, as well.
Uber, Lyft, ZipCar, and Taxis
The area is served by ride sharing companies Uber and Lyft. There are also plenty of taxis, especially in the Center City area. The car share company ZipCar offers members the ability to use their cars for shorter term rentals. ZipCars are located throughout the city and nearby suburbs.
Philadelphia International Airport
Philadelphia International Airport is located just a few miles southeast of the city. The airport is the largest airport in the state and serves about 100 domestic and about 35 international destinations. The airport is easily accessible from Center City via the regional rail system from 30th Street Station and via the major highways in the area. Without traffic (admittedly, that’s rare) getting to the airport is only about a 15 minute drive from Center City and less than a half hour from Northwest Philadelphia many of the nearby Montgomery County suburbs.
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