Setting out for the City of Brotherly Love...
March 26, 2007 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Moving to Philadelphia later this year. I want a general overview of what's going on in the city (politics, demographic trends, etc.) in one place, as well as some advice about places to live.

I've reviewed some of the other Philly-related threads here, but haven't quite found what I'm looking for... I've been looking around, but was wondering if there were some other resources with information about Philly. seems helpful, but not as substantive, in terms of information about the city.

Any opinions on the helpfulness of the Philadelphia Inquirer ( Is it a good newspaper?

I've heard good things about Mt. Airy and Manayunk. Any suggestions for those areas, or others?

Any other suggestions for Philly reading material (history, politics, etc.) are most welcome.

posted by midatlanticwanderer to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

Don't get scared off by the vast numbers of people complaining about the violent crime going on in the city. By and large these are people who love Philly and are pissed off about what's been going on over the past few years, and sadly the boards are reflective of the overarching number one problem facing the city today.

Also:, These 2 are the "alternative press" - akin to the Village Voice, Washington City Paper, etc. Good for finding out more general goings on in the city, as well as excellent apartment and restaurant listings.

Good blogs:,, Also, if you are politically active, you'd be moving in the midst of a monumental political season - we have all of city council and the mayor's race going on now, check out

Hope that helped. My email might be in my profile, email me for more info.
posted by LilBucner at 11:29 AM on March 26, 2007

Our city politics are so...entertaining...that we don't need to watch The Sopranos.

The Inky was once mighty, but is now struggling through budget cuts and changes in leadership.

Mt. Airy is lovely, especially if you want to buy a house and raise kids, but it is a bit far removed if you want to experience the city.

Manayunk enjoys a great reputation among suburbanites...I don't really get it. (31d1, wanna weigh in here?)

I love, love, love my neighborhood in South Philly. But when I moved to the city, I lived in Center City for a few years. If you can afford it, I'd recommend this -- it's good to be in the middle of everything for a bit, and as you get to know the city, you can figure out toward which other neighborhoods you are gravitating.

PhillyWeekly and City Paper are totally required reading. I don't find PhillyBlog to be very helpful, myself.
posted by desuetude at 12:08 PM on March 26, 2007

What type of area do you want to live in? What's your price range? How old are you? Stuff like that will determine what neighborhoods might fit you.

I think the Ink is a good paper--used to be better, but...
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:10 PM on March 26, 2007

I guess I'd prefer somewhere that's relatively calm... I've lived in quite a noisy neighborhood recently, and I want something calmer. I'll be renting, and want to pay under $800/month if possible. I'm in my mid-20s... I'd like to be relatively close to NW Philly because of where significant othe will be living.

Hope this helps!
posted by midatlanticwanderer at 12:34 PM on March 26, 2007

Mt. Airy and Manayunk are pretty far removed from all the fun stuff inside the city, and the local transit (SEPTA) is, well, flaky from service outages — either from strikes, threats of strikes, or run-down equipment and all-around mismanagement. If you're working in the city or West Philly, it's nice to be close enough to bike or walk to work.

I would definitely recommend City Paper and Philadelphia Weekly as reading material. If you want to keep up on local politics, the Inquirer is okay. The Daily News is a tabloid.

If you want to learn something about the dynamics of race relations in the city, learn a little about former mayor Frank Rizzo and work your way up to the MOVE bombing and our current mayor John Street.

Add in FBI investigations into pay-for-play scandals and an upcoming mayoral election and it's a fun time for politics in the city.

I have a friend who bought a house in South Philly last year. If you're buying, it's an inexpensive neighborhood. Neighborhoods to the north of Vine Street like Northern Liberties and Fishtown have become "up-and-coming" areas that developers have torn down and rebuilt for hipsters to move into. Along with all that new development are the usual cheap construction scams and extant crime.

I lived in West Philly for a couple years. Some blocks are okay, some are beautiful, some are sketchy. There are a lot of African immigrants to the west of 40th, and trust fund hipsters who live in the shadow of UPenn's real estate investments. The resulting gentrification has been offset by far-left political movements taking residence and demonstrating in the area.

Food in Philadelphia can't be beat. All kinds of restaurants to fit all kinds of tastes and budgets. There's Reading Terminal Market, which makes living outside Center City much less fun. There are organic farming programs which bring local produce into the city.

All around, in my experience, Philadelphia is a complex, fun city.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:40 PM on March 26, 2007

Midatlantic wanderer, it's not particularly close to NW Philly, but I'm moving out of my place (into my new house!) before May 1st. $695/mo, decent-sized one bedroom, awesome, safe, calm-yet-vibrant neighborhood. E-mail's in profile if you want the details.
posted by desuetude at 12:48 PM on March 26, 2007

It's a dangerous city. There are shootings every day.

Stay in the Rittenhouse Square/Center City area- where I am. They post foot patrol police on the corners- and there is always a police cruiser or two parked in the area. Always.

Having said that- a man was stabbed to death last week right around the corner from my apartment.

The food here is over-rated (but I'm from NYC and I've lived in Paris and Bologna). Learn to cook and buy a water filter for your tap.

Generally- they have one world class museum and a few nice ones. And if you run or bike there's a great path along the river. There's a very nice (huge) park along the same river.

It isn't Newark or Bismark, but it also isn't NYC or Boston.
posted by wfc123 at 1:10 PM on March 26, 2007

I went to school in Philly, and lived there for a while. First odd thing about Philly is that neighborhoods go from quite nice to real sketchy in three blocks flat.

Manayunk is basically one street of bars and boutique shopping, and then a whole bunch of houses with inadequate parking, sitting on steep hills. I think it's about 15 minutes to get from there into the city, but you'd be driving and would have to park on both sides. Kinda mediocre.

If you won't be working in the city, look for places outside city limits, so you can dodge the city wage tax. (I think it's 4 or 5%.) (Maybe Conshohocken?)
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 1:20 PM on March 26, 2007

Coming from Baltimore, I understand about crime. Thanks for everyone's comments.
posted by midatlanticwanderer at 1:27 PM on March 26, 2007

midatlantic, my family is from Balto and I grew up in Anne Arundel County. Crime-wise, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised in Philly.
posted by desuetude at 2:13 PM on March 26, 2007

Do you have to live IN the city?

I used to live in Ambler, PA (19002) which is almost touching the city and found it to be charming, safe, clean, friendly, 50/50 politics, and not nearly as expensive to live there as my friends inside Philly were paying.

Also, the R5 train by SEPTA would get you in and out of the city (right to downtown) rather fast and inexpensively

Also, I found the entire SEPTA train system to be very easy to use and not expensive at all.

Good luck!
posted by sandra_s at 3:20 PM on March 26, 2007

If you want NW Philly, check out Chestnut Hill. I've no idea what the renting situation is like, but it's nice there. Nightlife is nonexistent, but there are the requisite coffeehouses and some decent restaurants and neighborhood taverns. Two train lines to Center City will get you there in 25 minutes or so. Depends on what you're looking for, I suppose.

And welcome! Philadelphia is a great city -- too corrupt and too violent, but it has soooo much going for it.

Blogwise, check out E-mail is in the profile if you have more questions. Good luck!
posted by shallowcenter at 4:21 PM on March 26, 2007

You do NOT have to stay in Center City to avoid death. The person who posted that is being rediculous. Yes, there is a lot of crime here, but it's generally isolated to North Philly, far West Philly, South West Philly, and Kensington. Basically, if the neighborhood looks like shit, don't go there. It's not that hard.
I live in a neighborhood that looks like shit, actually, and as a young, blonde female, I have no problems. You can bike everywhere, and everyone does. There are plenty of cool neighborhoods to live in. I suggest Graduate Hospital (SW Center City) area, which is also "up and coming". Fishtown is a friendly cool place. The Art Museum area (below Wallace) is pretty Yuppy now.
I moved here from Boston and I love it (I'm still loyal to Boston, but Philly has grown on me). Amazing food, fun bars, awesome museums (check out the Mutter and the Rodin!)...There's a lot to love here.
posted by nursegracer at 4:46 PM on March 26, 2007

I lived in Philly for about two years (in the mid nineties) and had a blast!

While there I lived in Manayunk. Parking was a total hassle but you quickly figure out the patterns and where to find a spot. (it seems this problem extends to pretty much everywhere in town). Getting on the freeway is a piece of cake from that neighborhood and provided quick access to other parts of the city. It also (at that time) had a great collection of bars and restaurants that were great to have within a short walk. However, I still found myself spending way more time going down to Center City.

The best thing about my philly experience were the friends I made. There are lots of 'cool' places around, but the people are absolutely what really make it special. Get to know the folks around, make some friends, and you'll find your own 'cool' neighborhood.
posted by purenitrous at 5:57 PM on March 26, 2007

The problem is you go a few blocks beyond Center City and everything "looks like shit". Even the main drag - Market St. - is dangerous. And that's near city hall.

Muggings, shootings, homeless, drunks, drunk driving. It's all here. It's NYC in the 70's all over again.

I work for a local station here, so I hear about the crime that goes unreported- simply because we don't have enough airtime to cover it all. I work past 11:00 pm and always take a cab back to my apartment- which is only 10 blocks away. There was a drive-by shooting right in front of the station one night.

Sorry, but this is the reality-- and it seems to be getting worse.

A city-specific gun control law would help-- a lot. Hell, it works in NYC.
posted by wfc123 at 6:01 PM on March 26, 2007

I grew up in East Mt Airy and lived there until after college. The best thing for me was hitting my bike and riding down into Fairmount Park, along the Wissahickon Creek, down to the Schuylkill River, all the way downtown. About 10 miles long, mostly isolated from traffic, and I used to make this trip most days.

Mt Airy is right next door to Chestnut Hill, which is very nice as well. Lots of quaint shops, decent public schools, and summertime things like music in outdoor parks, etc.
posted by chookibing at 6:06 PM on March 26, 2007

The problem is you go a few blocks beyond Center City and everything "looks like shit".

Oh, please. This is not true. And please stop derailing the thread.
posted by desuetude at 7:11 PM on March 26, 2007

Seriously, wfc123, are you that afraid of Market St? I am female and I have no fear walking around at ten or eleven at night, or even later. I live slightly north of Center City and have walked home from the train or bus at one in the morning. I agree with desuetue.
posted by nursegracer at 8:57 PM on March 26, 2007

Coming late to the discussion: The Straightener's Today I Saw blog may be apropos.
posted by zamboni at 12:31 AM on March 27, 2007

purenitrous, nursegracer, and desuetude, thank you all for your comments. Right now I live somewhere that, at a glance, doesn't look absolutely fantastic, but in the grand scheme of things is perfectly fine. Thanks again for everyone's comments... I might be emailing some of you individually.
posted by midatlanticwanderer at 10:15 AM on March 28, 2007

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