Welcome to PhillyGAF, a hangout for current residents and a place for general discussion of all things Philadelphia.
People welcome here:
- Current Residents
- Former Residents
- Potential Residents
- Potential Visitors
- Folks interested in Philly
- Anyone from the Delaware Valley (South Jersey, North Delaware, Philadelphia Suburbs)
- Almost everyone else
- The Pope
With over 1.5M residents, Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania and the fifth most populous city in the US, but, due to its high population density, the city feels much closer to cities like NYC or Chicago than it does cities like Houston or Phoenix. Interestingly the population of Philadelphia was at one time over 2M residents in the 1950s, but decades of white flight and the collapse of American industrial might devastated the city. In the 2010 census it was found that the population of Philadelphia had experienced its first increase in nearly 60 years, and the rapidity with which the population is increasing is growing rapidly. Located where the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers meet, it serves as both the economic and cultural hub of the surrounding Delaware Valley area. William Penn, a Quaker who founded the city in 1682, named Philadelphia after the Greek words philos (love) and adelphos (brother), hence the City of Brotherly Love.
Population and Demographics
Density: 11,635.3/sq mi
36.3% White (Non-Hispanic)
Philadelphia is a majority black city. Like most major cities in the US, it has extensive ethnic and cultural diversity. Throughout the city, ethnic enclaves and neighborhoods are common, with neighborhoods full of Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Liberian, and even Cambodian residents. While racial tensions can at time be high in the city due to the diversity, it also provides the city with a great breadth of cultural activities, traditions and cuisine that help make the city truly world class.
A note before this section: Do not, I repeat, do not be afraid of food trucks in the city. They often have some authentic and quality food and are held to a higher standard of cleanliness than many restaurants by the Office of Public Health.
- Independence Beer Garden – Buy a pitcher and get drunk with friends/family.
- Talula’s Garden – Expensive, but really good. It’s Steven Starr, so you get what you pay for.
- Philly Pretzel Factory – The breakfast of champions. Don’t forget to get the honey mustard sauce.
- Reading Terminal Market – One of America’s oldest farmer’s markets. Home to one hell of a sandwich at DiNic’s.
- Bistro St. Tropez – Really good French food hidden in a furniture showcase building.
- Jim’s Steaks – I’m wary to say the best cheese steaks, but they’re definitely great.
- City Tap House – As the name suggests, it has a ton of beers on tap. Also has quality food.
- The Italian Market – A south Philly staple. Open-air market that has everything you could ever dream of.
- Ladder 15 – A three-story bar constructed in a renovated firehouse in Center City.
- Howl at the Moon – Dueling piano bar. As the night goes on, they take requests for songs to face off with. It gets to the point where they’re singing Snoop Dogg songs.
- Lorenzo and Sons - Top shelf pizza.
- Dalessandro's Steaks - From what I hear, you can get a primo cheesesteak here.
Philadelphia is home to some of the greatest arts and culture institutions in the world. At one end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway sits the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the largest art museums in the US, with over 200,000 pieces in its collection. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has been pursuing aggressive expansion to create more gallery space to display its collection with the help of the design skills of Frank Gehry.
The Barnes Foundation, only a short walk from the art museum, is another treasure trove of art. The Barnes Foundation art collection represents the largest collection of impressionist and modernist masterworks outside of Europe. The remarkable collection has a huge catalog of works by artists such as Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso.
Next door to the Barnes Foundation is the Rodin Museum, features many of Rodin's most famous sculptures.
Philadelphia also has a great music scene, not only featuring a world-class orchestra, but also a thriving independent music scene. It's easy to catch a show at any of the great music venues throughout the city, such as the Union Transfer, or attend some of the giant outdoor concerts on the Parkway such as the Welcome America festival or the Made in America festival.
- Liberty Bell – It’s a bell with a crack in it.
- Independence Hall – The Declaration of Independence was written here. Has a nice park out back.
- National Constitution Center – Want to know about the U.S. Constitution? Here’s the place.
- Museum of Art – Rocky ran up the steps. There’s also a Rocky statue outside. We really like Rocky. The inside is cool, too.
- Philadelphia Zoo – It’s pretty sweet. They have tubes going all around the place that let monkeys and big cats roam around the park instead of being in cages all day.
- The Barnes Foundation – Ridiculous amount of artwork here.
- Rodin Museum – Largest collection of Auguste Rodin’s sculptures (discounting Paris)
- The Franklin Institute - One of the oldest science education centers in the country
- The Mütter Museum - Medical history museum with some pretty sweet anatomical exhibits and instruments from the 19th century
- Please Touch Museum - Exactly as the name says. Really kid friendly.
- The Gallery – Honestly, kind of shitty, but a good source for video games and clothes. Undergoing renovations soon.
- Macy’s Center City – Both a historical landmark and a great place to shop.
- King of Prussia Mall – I’m hesitant to put it on the list because it’s not in the city proper, but by far one of the best malls in the area hands down.
- Jeweler’s Row – If you’re in the market for a rock for that special someone, this is the place to go. These people are really old school and professional.
- Dilworth Park – Recently renovated. Water park by summer, ice rink by winter.
- Love Park – It’s got a pretty iconic sign. Also due for a redesign soon.
- Fairmount Park – I’ve been told it’s one of the biggest city parks in the U.S.
- The Trocadero – Used for plays and musical acts all the same. I caught JMT there once and the venue was great.
- The Philadelphia Orchestra – Pretty self-explanatory.
- Union Transfer – Great music spot.
- Theatre of Living Arts - Another dope music venue.
- Kimmel Center - World-class performing arts center. Philly Pops and Orchestra can be found here.
- Academy of Music - Plays and shows to satisfy all.
- Merriam Theater - It's got the Nutcracker. Get there.
- Walnut Street Theatre - Shows of all kinds pop up here. I've even heard of tales of incredible magic shows.
Philly from Above!
Handy dandy map.
All forms of public transit in the city are controlled and run by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA). If you buy some tokens, they’ll work for both local rail and buses.
Regional rail will take you to the suburbs of Philadelphia (The Main Line) and can also take you to South Jersey (PATCO).
The Market-Frankford line (MFL or the El for short) and the Broad Street line serve as the two most frequented forms of transit within the city. The El is useful for taking you to West Philly, University City, Center City, Old City and Northern Liberties. The trolleys (green lines) complement these lines and more cars are run on these tracks, so you might get to where you’re going quicker.
Buses serve as a supplement to local rail services. If there’s someplace trolleys, the El or the Broad Street line can’t take you, bus routes can help get you there.
Obviously, there are taxis that can get you from place to place that are everywhere and convenient. If you're traveling long distances within the city, however, I recommend you take Uber. It's cheaper and easier to get a ride back if you're going to someplace where taxis may not frequent.
Neighborhoods of note:
Northern Liberties - This neighborhood has experience huge amounts of gentrification. Driven by it's easy public transit access but position on the fringe of the nicer areas of the city, this neighborhood has drawn many young people and artists over the years and has turned into a center of nightlife for the city.
Fishtown - Just to the north of the Northern Liberties neighborhood, this neighborhood has seen development spilling into it from the south. The neighborhood represents some of the greatest values of living as the rents are cheap and the spaces are large.
East Passyunk - Set along Passyunk Avenue this neighborhood is the focal point of some of the best dining that can be had in the city. Many of the countries youngest and brightest chefs are opening restaurants in this area. It's also the location of the famous Pat's and Geno's steaks. It's proximity to the historic Italian Market in south Philadelphia has only helped propel the neighborhood to popularity.
Manayunk - Manayunk is weird, but in a good way. Unlike most other very popular neighborhoods, Manayunk is very removed from the core of the city. The neighborhood is nestled along the Schuylkill river and features a main street filled with restaurants, bars and shops. It's an easy train ride from Manayunk to the center of the city, but the distance makes it feel more disconnected from the constant buzz of the city core giving it a relaxed feel.
Rittenhouse Square - Perhaps the ritziest neighborhood in the entire city. It's the center of the shopping district and surrounded by luxury high-rises. The square itself is a beautiful park that is very well maintained. A plethora of dining and shopping options make this neighborhood one of the finest in the city.
Old City - As the oldest neighborhood in the city it has incredible historic value. In Old City you can visit Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the National Constitution Center, and many other historic landmarks. Notably it is also the center of the contemporary art scene in the city, with every first Friday signaling the beginning of new shows in the numerous art galleries throughout the neighborhood. If you are looking for boutique shopping it's also the place to be.
University City - The location of the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, this neighborhood is overrun with college students. The presence of the universities has led the neighborhood to be one of the leading areas of growth in the city, to the extent that it's becoming a part of the skyline. As the neighborhoods grow so do the food and shopping options. This neighborhood is in West Philadelphia and the character of the areas surrounding the universities has a very different feel from what you get in the city core.
Fairmount/Spring Garden - This neighborhood is along the northwestern border of Center City Philadelphia. It's notable for the great access to the cultural institutions of the city, such as the museums or the intimidating Eastern State Penitentiary museum. There is also quite a good food scene in this area.
Chinatown - One of the many ethnic enclaves in the city. In recent years the influx of Asian students to the universities throughout the city has somewhat changed the character of this neighborhood, with hip new Asian themed restaurants and bars revitalizing what was once a stagnant neighborhood. It is notable that Chinatown is right next to the Philadelphia Convention Center, a massive convention center spanning several city blocks.
- Philly Restaurant Week
- Philly Beer Week
- Mummers Parade
- Center City Sips
- Welcome America Festival
- Made in America Festival
- South Street Spring Festival
- Philly Auto Show
Philadelphia’s local government consists of a mayor, currently Michael Nutter, and a City Council, which consists of 16 seats and acts as a legislative body. Democrats have dominated city politics so much since the 1950s that one of my professors in college said that, “Republicans who run in this city are given a nice pat on the head and a token position in the administration, if they so desire it.” Having said that, elections and politics are generally interesting here as the minor differences between candidates and representatives are magnified because there is no capable opposition party. We get to choose from all flavors of Democrat.
After the decline of American industry Philadelphia has foundered economically. The core of the Philadelphia economy has had to transform itself away from its industrial roots and find a new path upon which to thrive. The solution to the economic woes has largely been thanks to "Eds and Meds". The education and medical research sectors have consistently been some of the largest employers in Philadelphia for years. Notably, Philadelphia is the home of notorious Comcast Corporation. Comcast has been a huge driver of economic activity in the region, so while the rest of the country may have a bone to pick with them, generally Philadelphian's have a favorable outlook toward the company (just not their service). In recent years moves have been made to make the city more tax friendly, and one of the results of that is there has been a general increase of businesses moving to the city, but more importantly it's lead to a thriving startup scene.
With Philadelphia having one of the highest deep poverty rates of the major cities in the US, please call the number below if you see someone in distress.
Homeless Outreach Hotline: 215-232-1984
If you guys see someone who is homeless call that number, particularly if you see someone in distress. They may tell you to direct the individual to a shelter, but you can tell them it's absolutely necessary for them to send someone out to check on the individual.
Killadelphia was the nickname used to describe the rampant violent crime problem in Philadelphia for many years. However, in the last 8 years the city has experienced a precipitous drop in homicide rates, with murder rates now at their lowest rate since the 1960s, and homicide down over 40% since 2007. The overall violent crime rate is falling too, with rates of decline of more than 7% for several years. Large swathes of the city once considered extremely dangerous are now considered safe. A lot of this is thanks to community and data based policing initiatives put in place by Charles Ramsey, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police. Ramsey had vast experience and success as Chief of Police in Washington DC and has instituted a system in Philadelphia that is clearly working. Smart policies from Philadelphia government have also helped, such as a policy that has decriminalized possession of marijuana in order to reduce the volume of arrests that lead to imprisonment for what is a victimless crime. In general crime in Philadelphia is becoming something less and less worrisome with each passing year, and hopefully soon the idea of Philadelphia as a city of extreme violence will be long forgotten.
This OP (largely based on my own experiences) is subject to change and I welcome any and all suggestions for material that should be linked or included in this post.
Massive thanks to AbortedWalrusFetus for helping me with this OP.