1. Living In Philadelphia Is Life In The Big City At Its Very Best...
Source: Flickr user Philippe CLABOTER
Philadelphia is the second-largest city on the East Coast and fifth-largest in the country and the hub of the nation's sixth-largest metropolitan area. That means world-class entertainment options, restaurants, educational institutions, cultural offerings, healthcare, employment opportunities and other benefits of being in a major metropolitan area.
2. But Somehow It Still Has That Small-Town Feeling
Source: Flickr user dubofadubofadub
Despite having more than 1.5 million residents, this city never seems crowded. Philadelphia feels and functions like a collection of individual neighborhoods, each with their own personality, where people know each other and small local businesses thrive.
3. Philly Is The Real Birthplace Of America
Source: Flickr user il.irenelee
Officially, it's been around since 1682, and Philadelphia was central to the Revolutionary War. It's also where the Founding Fathers got together for fun and for founding stuff. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed here. There's no other city with so much American history packed into its nooks and crannies and allies.
4. Philly's Fans Are Not Playing Around
Source: Flickr user Peter Bond
It's not surprising the city's MLB team's mascot is The Phillie Phanatic. Philadelphians love their Phillies. And their Eagles. And their 76ers. And their Flyers. And The Philadelphia Union, their Major League Soccer team. And they won't stand idly by if someone starts trash-talking. So, consider yourself warned.
5. Rocky Didn't Have To Run Up The Front Steps...
Source: Flickr user Scott Rettberg
...to make the Philadelphia Museum of Art famous around the world. One of the biggest art museums in the country, it boasts more than 227,000 works and 25 or so special exhibits every year.
See art from every point in human history, from all around the globe and from a comprehensive array of styles, schools and mediums.
6. This Is How You Say Frickin' Delicious In Philly: "One, Whiz, With"
Source: Flickr user Yuri Long
That's how you order a Philly cheesesteak-quick and to the point to keep the long lines moving. The first word indicates how many you want, the second specifies the cheese (Cheez Whiz, provolone, American or plain are standard) and the third means with or without fried onions.
Pat's King of Steaks (originator of the sandwich) and Geno's Steaks are the most famous purveyors, but Tony Luke's, Jim's Steaks, John's Roast Pork and Campo's Deli are other spots to score the real deal.
7. Benjamin Franklin Is Our Spirit Animal
Source: Flickr user hey tiffany!
At 17, Benjamin Franklin ran away to Philadelphia. The city is particularly proud of the contributions the so-called "First American" made here. Sure, he helped kickstart the country, but he was also pivotal in establishing a fire department, the University of Pennsylvania and other civic organizations, not to mention all the inventing. To this day, he's everywhere; there's a bridge, a parkway, a science museum, a football stadium, a mall, parks, businesses, suburbs and more named after him. Plus there are all the statues and portraits and historical reenactors wandering the streets.
8. Only Philly Knows Why It's Hip To Have Squares
When William Penn set this city up, he designated green spaces for healthful, aesthetically pleasing community gathering places. All around the city, blocks are maintained as parks, offering landscaping, benches, public art and refuge from city life. Washington Square, Rittenhouse Square, Logan Square, Franklin Square (guess who it's named after) and Fitler Square are just a few.
9. Play "Fantastic Voyage" In Real Life With A Trek Through A Giant Model Of The Human Heart
Source: Flickr user Kris Gabbard
It's just one attraction in The Franklin Institute (guess who it's named after), a world-renowned science museum opened in 1824. The diverse collections, hands-on learning for kids of all ages, traveling exhibits, planetarium, IMAX theater and Franklin Theater for educational film screenings provide plenty of incentive to visit over and over again.
10. There Are College Towns, Then There Are College Towns, Then There's Philadelphia
Source: Flickr user Shreyans Bhansali
Philadelphia is home to the University of Pennsylvania, one of the top universities in the world. There are also over 15 four-year colleges!
11. But This An Especially Amazing College Town For Artsy Types
Source: Flickr user dwwebber
If you're looking for a specialized higher education in the arts, you have a number of big-name options. For example:
- University of the Arts
- The Art Institute of Philadelphia
- Moore College of Art and Design
- The Curtis Institute of Music
- Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
- The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College
...are all here.
12. Forget The Grocery Store, Head To The Italian Market Instead
Source: Marnie Vaughan
This city has the second-largest Italian population in the country after New York City. South Philadelphia is the residential and commercial center for the Italian community, and the Italian Market (aka the South 9th Street Curb Market) is the place to go for the best meats, seafood, cheeses, produce, baked goods and other Italian goodies.
13. Pass Through The Friendship Gate In The City Of Brotherly Love
Source: Flickr user Britt Reints
Since the mid-1800s, Philly's downtown Chinatown area has been organically evolving, really taking off in the 1960s. Pass through the famous Chinatown Friendship Gate at 10th and Arch Streets to find a core area of about seven blocks with lots of authentic Asian restaurants, bakeries, cafes, groceries and other stores.
14. You'll Meet The Mummers
Source: Flickr user Kim
Mummers are troupes of actors and musicians with a centuries-long history and traditions rooted in the British Isles and other parts of Europe.
The term means many things today, but for Philadelphians, the Mummer's New Year's Day Parade is invariably the first thing to spring to mind. It happens every New Year's Day, with many Mummers divisions decked out in the most over-the-top costumes they can put together.
15. Every Kind Of Body Oddity You Can Imagine (And Many You Can't) Are On Display
Source: Flickr user Aaron Watson
From Mummer to Mutter... The Mutter Museum, operated by The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, is a fascinating museum of medical oddities. Check out the collections of weird, puzzling, gruesome and sometimes downright disturbing stuff, and don't miss seeing "The Soap Lady" and reading about her mystery.
16. Discover One Unassuming Block With An Impressive Claim To Fame
Source: Flickr user Celine
Nestled amongst the many historical sites in Old City sits America's oldest residential street, Elfreth's Alley. It dates back to 1702 and has 32 homes built from the early 18th through the early 19th century. Pop into the museum while you're there.
17. The Great Green Escape
Source: Flickr user Michael W Murphy
When you need a breather from the urban environment, head to Fairmount Park. Technically, the system includes 63 different parks with a total of 9,200 acres; however, one main park offers 4,100 acres of natural beauty, with a good deal of public art thrown in.
The Morris Arboretum at the University of Pennsylvania is an idyllic 92 acres of gardens and natural scenery. Also, the 46-acre Bartram's Garden is the oldest existing botanical garden in North America.
18. CHOP Is Here For Your Kids
Source: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia via Facebook
The country's best medical care is available to your children here. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was the first kids-only hospital in America. U.S. News and World Report named it Best Children's Hospital in the country for 2013-2014 for the third consecutive time, and it made it into the top 4 for all 10 ranked pediatric specialties. Parents magazine named it Number 1 Pediatric Hospital in 2013, too.
19. Adult Healthcare In Philly Ain't Too Shabby, Either
Wikimedia user Rytyho usa
Philadelphia is a leading healthcare center, home to Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital. The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital regularly rack up many honors in the annual U.S. News and World Report Best Hospitals reports. Hahnemann University Hospital, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Wills Eye Hospital, and Lankenau Hospital (technically right across the street from the city limits) are some other nationally recognized hospitals.
20. Take A Stroll Down The Avenue Of The Arts
Source: Flickr user Jeremy Proffitt
The stretch of Broad Street south of City Hall is known as The Avenue of the Arts. It's a cluster of world-class performing arts venues offering the best in concerts, plays, musicals, dance, film, visual arts and more.
Just to name a few venues, there's The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, The Academy of Music, the Prince Music Theater, the Merriam Theater, the Wilma Theater, the Suzanne Roberts Theater, the Uptown Theater and Gershman Hall.
You'll also find art galleries, great restaurants, jazz clubs and more here.
21. Sneak A Peek Inside The World's Most Secretive Temple
Source: Flickr user Andy Chase
On the north side of City Hall sits the historic, opulent Masonic Temple. Construction of this medieval-style building began in 1868, and today it's the headquarters for the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, Free and Accepted Masons. Tour much of the stunning structure and learn a little--but just a little--about this infamous secret society.
22. There Are More Museums Than You Can Shake A Stick At
Source: Flickr user Jim, the Photographer
I don't know why you'd shake a stick at museums, but should you decide to, there would be a whole lot of stick shaking in Philly. OK, moving on.
Besides all the aforementioned, some other diverse options include (here we go again)...
- The Rodin Museum
- The Barnes Foundation
- The Please Touch Museum (for little ones)
- The African American Museum
- The National Museum of American Jewish History
- The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
- The Academy of Natural Sciences
- The National Constitution Center
- Rosenbach Museum and Library
- The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Fireman's Hall Museum
- The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum
23. Jeet Yet? Philadelphians Don't Just Eat Cheesesteaks
Source: flickr user minonda
Scrapple is a thing here. What's that? You'll be glad you asked. It's a fried semi-gelatinous loaf made from pork scraps and trimmings. It's the Pennsylvania Dutch breakfast of champions. People here are also big on soft pretzels, Tastykake snack cakes, hoagies and "water ice," the redundantly silly regional term for Italian ice.
24. Explore The Entire Animal Kingdom
Source: Flickr user fPat Murray
In this city of firsts you can visit the country's first zoo, too. The Philadelphia Zoo, opened in 1874, keeps more than 1,300 animals from all around the world-many of which are endangered or rare-on 42 acres. There's also a children's petting zoo, interactive educational exhibits, paddleboats and other things to do.
25. Philly Is Proud To Be LGBT
Source: Flickr user J.D. Thomas
Philadelphia is a decisively gay-friendly place. "The Gayborhood" has been officially recognized by the city, which attached rainbow pride flags to many of the area's street signs in 2007 and 2010. The neighborhood has numerous LGBT-focused businesses, including bars, restaurants, stores and services. The LGBT bookstore Giovanni's room is a central part of the community here.
26. Step Back In Time And Into Famous Historical Figures' Homes
Source: Flickr user JCardinal18
Take a tour of the Betsy Ross House, the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial or the Paul Robeson House Museum. Edgar Allan Poe's old home is now the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site. Learn the intriguing story of Dr. Philip Syng Physick, the "Father of American Surgery," at his 18th century mansion The Physick House. Jazz fans, stop into the John Coltrane House. There's no shortage of historical homes to visit in Philly.
27. Avail Yourself Of A Famed Public Market
Source: Flickr user regan76
Forget the grocery store. More than 100 merchants, including many Amish vendors, sell an incredible variety of foods, crafts, clothes and other goods in the large, bustling Reading Terminal Market. Eat at the prepared foods stations and take home delicious, high-quality, affordable, local groceries and other locally made items.
28. Catch A Show At One Of The Coolest Outdoor Music Venues
Source: Flickr user bob reid
You'd be hard-pressed to find a better place to catch open-air concerts from international headliners than the Mann Center for the Performing Arts. Located in West Fairmount Park, the Mann has 4,700 covered seats and additional uncovered seating for more than 8,600 people.
29. The Best Time You've Ever Had Behind Bars
Source: Flickr user Donnie Nunley
Touring Eastern State Penitentiary is an essential Philadelphia experience. It was in use from 1829 to 1971 and held some famous criminals, including Al Capone and Willie Sutton. Its use of separated incarceration, its emphasis on rehabilitation over punishment and its wagon wheel design were all innovative in its day.
The prison also hosts the annual Terror Behind the Walls, a seriously scary interactive haunted house that runs for more than a month around Halloween.
30. Get Acquainted With The Neighborhoods
Source: Flickr user Lucius Kwok
To truly appreciate this city and find the best place to visit or call home, explore the different neighborhoods and discover what each has to offer.
Hipsters, head to Northern Liberties and Fishtown. For the collegiate types, there's University City, where the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel are located. Things around Rittenhouse Square and Washington Square tend to be upscale and pricey. South Street is touristy, but there are unique shops and places to eat. The Northeast feels more suburban.
This is just a small sampling; you can spend a lifetime discovering all the niches of Philadelphia.
Feature Image Source: Flickr user mollyali