Philadelphia Cheesesteaks, the Zoo, a CSA, and...?
May 1, 2013 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Please help me settle into Philadelphia.

Moving to Philadelphia. Please help me fall in love. What's your favorite thing about this city? What are your favorite places to go? Some of the stuff we do together (pretty normal stuff I guess, I feel boring just writing this): going to the movies, spending time in parks and gardens, going out for dinner (bars are ok but I need recommendations based on FOOD not drink), going to cafes with good European style coffee, going to really good bookstores, experiencing multicultural things. I would love to join some club type stuff too, and am particularly interested in resources for entrepreneurs.

Tell me what I need to do to love it here. What are the best ways to make friends? I'm here with my husband, we're both in our mid to late twenties. SUPER BONUS POINTS for recommendations for your favorite area CSA- I'm finding listings but it's hard to pick one quickly just off of what I find on the internet.

We're in the Fairmount area. I know that there are a dozen mini-questions embedded in this, but it's all about helping me integrate into Philadelphia as soon as possible. Thank you!!!
posted by cacao to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
El Vez for good food. Xochitl for the best Margaritas in town.
posted by Akke at 2:12 PM on May 1, 2013

Welcome to Philly! The obvious answer is to come to the MeFi meetups!

Here's a list of some of my favorite things about the city:
Reading Terminal Market
biking/running/strolling along the Schuylkill River
Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Local 44
First Friday
Philadelphia's Magic Gardens
Book Corner
Elixr Coffee
Kimmel Center for Performing Arts
Phillies (I don't know if you're into sports, but Philly adores its sports teams.)
posted by DoubleLune at 2:19 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Philly Love Notes is a blog that is exactly this - short essays with photos about the things that locals love.
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:34 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh man, welcome to this awesome place! Excuse me while I throw a million links at you.

If you're in Fairmount, you're probably right near my favorite of the big Philly tourist things.

Parks: The best damn urban park in the world You won't know you're in the middle of a major city. Seconding the Magic Garden too, though it's not a garden in the plants-and-flowers sense.

Bookstores: You're right by The best used bookstore in Philly, imho. Please pet the store cat for me. Book Trader is also solid for used books. If you're at all interested in radical politics or diy stuff, I'll also put in a plug for my beloved Wooden Shoe.

International House for artsy movies and their speaker series.

Elixir (linked above by DoubleLune) is the place to go if you're looking for serious coffee nerdery over atmosphere. (It's plenty nice inside, just not going out of the way to be cute and homey.) I'm not a huge fan of Mugshots, which may be your closest local coffee shop, but maybe you'll like it. Cake and the Beanstalk and Last Drop, both in Center City, have more of a homey vibe.

Delicious Burmese food. (Try the thousand layer bread with potato curry dip.) The best ice cream. A bar that manages to have both good food and a ridiculously comprehensive beer list. If you like Ethiopian food you are ridiculously in luck, there are four places in my neighborhood alone. There is so much good cheap food in this city.

The Crossroads Concert Series in West Philly gets all kinds of international acts. Free Shakespeare performances ever summer in Clark Park, and you don't have to line up all day to get a good seat.

My favorite very off-the-beaten-path museum.

Welcome again! Enjoy exploring!
posted by ActionPopulated at 2:41 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

I miss my Saturday mornings, waking up and walking two blocks from my apartment to Reading Terminal, willing to fight crowds and the anxiety they provoke in me, just for blueberry pancakes, turkey bacon and potatoes at the Dutch Eating Place. Around the corner, there is a little stand that sells fresh squeezed juice. And there are tables nearby where you can read the newspaper and usually listen to someone play the piano. After breakfast - okay fine, sometimes before - the apple dumpling.

I miss my regular pilgrimages to La Colombe, at the corner of Walnut and 19th St, right on Rittenhouse Square. It is the European-style coffeehouse of your dreams. And even if you don't want to hang out there, you can always walk across the street to the park, and possibly catch a busker or a Curtis Institute student playing.

I miss my evenings at Belgian Cafe in Fairmont, sitting outside, eating those damn french fries. Part of me thinks I should have been more moderate about how many I ate - but knowing that I didn't get to stay there, I am glad I ate plenty.

I miss the Philadelphia Museum of Art, like, a lot. A lot a lot. I miss the Rosenbach Museum. Also a lot.

But most of all, I miss my friends. And I met most of them through MeFi. So, yeah. That.

I'm gonna go have some feels now.
posted by jph at 2:44 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Philly really is 'a city of neighborhoods', as they say. I'd recommend finding out more about the Fairmount area's civic association once you're settled in, finding out when and where they meet and attending a few meetings. This is a great way to meet people who live nearby and find out more about what's happening in Philly and specifically your neighborhood. Other attendees will also likely be a good resource for more info on some of your questions, such as finding out about a good, close-by CSA option.

And seconding the "Welcome!" This is a great city.
posted by pescadero at 3:09 PM on May 1, 2013

Sorry for the scattered thoughts below.

You will probably want to try Lemon Hill, Belgian Cafe, and La Calaca Feliz near you.

I personally avoid Steven Starr restaurants as a rule (decent, trendy, overpriced). Garces places tend to be good (great food, still tending towards excessively expensive).

Neighborhoods: East Passyunk is pretty far from you, but one that you might want to check out. Younger, newer, etc. Same with Northern Liberties (though that's getting a little yuppified, but still has excellent food and drink). Fishtown is worth exploring; I somehow just managed to go to Frankford Hall for the first time (for a Philadelphia Science Festival event, which sadly just ended), which is a ton of fun. (Liter beers! Forcemeats!)

I like my neighborhood, Grad Hospital. Grace Tavern, Resurrection Ale House, Sidecar, and American Sardine Bar are all worth at least one visit.

Learn the bus system. Figure out where the bus lines closest to you go. Transfers are a PITA now, but should get better with the adoption of SmartCards. The El (Market-Frankford Line) is great if you're near a stop, which you're not. You are near the Girard trolley, which can be a little dicey at night, but can take you to the zoo (west) or Northern Liberties/Fishtown (east).

Explore Chinatown and the Vietnamese places along Washington Ave. The Italian market is great for meat, spices, cooking supplies, and charcuterie. Reading Terminal is more touristy, but has good meat and produce, and man, that Amish diner is really amazing (especially if you love butter).

Events at neighboring universities are great ways to meet people. Penn has authors come by the bookstore relatively frequently. There's also Philadelphia Sports Network (kickball, wiffle ball, bowling, dodgeball...) if you are in or like to be around the mid-20s to mid-30s crowd. Tria has wine/beer/cheese classes if that's more your thing. If you like to bike, the Bike Club of Philadelphia trends a bit older (at least at the less-intense levels) but are generally great people; there are frequent rides at all levels.
posted by supercres at 3:24 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh-- CSA. We did Greensgrow last summer, which is fantastic if you have a car and don't mind driving up to their farm. (They're really great, but it turned out to not be a great fit for me.)
posted by supercres at 3:26 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

2nding Wissahickon park. Also the library is great.
posted by WeekendJen at 3:32 PM on May 1, 2013

Welcome to Philly! We've had some other recent threads on Philadelphia, especially this one. We have a ton of awesome museums, many of which have solid adult programming options (Mega-bad movie nights at the Academy of Natural Science! Swanky parties at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and also late night tours and jazz! The Constitution Center's themed parties! Motown at the African American Museum!) Bit of a self link, but P.M. at the Penn Museum returns over the summer with Wednesday night concerts in a variety of musical styles. You might be interested in the Philly Tech Meetups, Philly Women in Tech, MentorTech Ventures, or in Young Involved Philadelphia. There are also a lot of meetups around things like specific cultural groups, education ideas like Philasoup, and of course all of the various public lectures on offer at Temple, Penn, LeSalle, and the other local universities.

The AIA Bookstore is really fantastic if you like design.

I have yet to regret any food eaten at a Garces restaurant, even though I go for the stupendous cocktails. (Also Farmacia, Vietnam, and half of Chinatown. Oh and Reading Terminal Market. City Taphouse if you're over in U-City. Caribou Cafe. Lolita. All the cheeses at Tria.)

Also Mefi Meetups!
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:09 PM on May 1, 2013

Most of my favorite Philly things have already been mentioned, although somehow not the Mütter, which I love and always have to plug.

I want to second the Free Library, which in addition to being a beautiful building has excellent author speaker events that I really enjoy (some free, some not free but cheap). Example: this week, Temple Grandin.
posted by pitrified at 4:40 PM on May 1, 2013

The Franklin Institute has lots to offer. And the burgers at the White Dog Cafe in University City can't be beat! And do try the seafood -- especially the crabcakes -- at DiNardo's.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 7:17 PM on May 1, 2013

Oh, forgot to mention-- the various branches of Capogiro serve fantastic gelati and also great coffee.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:58 AM on May 2, 2013

Also, especially in the spring and fall, just wandering in Center City (probably there are nice walks in Fairmont, but I'd have to invent one) -- like most of the length of Pine Street (stopping in a couple of shops and/or coffee places), or maybe along Walnut (stopping to sit in Washington Square and Rittenhouse Square, as different as day and night). Used to love that in pre-kid-having days. (Pushing a stroller changes the experience.) Also, the Society Hill area is full of brick sidewalks and ginko trees, which makes for great fall color, just walkin' around.

Up in Fairmont, be sure to have dinner at Brigid's, and also lunch or brunch at Jack's Firehouse (which is right across from Eastern State Penitentary, which was already plugged above).
posted by acm at 6:55 AM on May 2, 2013

Yes, Garces restaurants! My favorite is Amada but Tinto is a very close second, and you can get sandwiches over the counter at Garces Trading Company. Brunch at Honey's or Green Eggs or Sabrina's. I've been dying to try Vedge, can't recommend it personally but I hear it's awesome. Seconding La Colombe (have the almond tart) and Capogiro. Pizza at Zavino. If you like hot chocolate, Rim Cafe is a must. For cannoli, Isgro's.
posted by ootandaboot at 3:38 PM on May 2, 2013

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