What are good neighborhoods to consider in the Philadelphia area?
November 27, 2007 3:11 AM   Subscribe

PhillyFilter: My wife and I are relocating to the Philadelphia area and could use some advice on what neighborhoods or (shudder) suburbs to consider.

We currently live in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, having previously lived in the Clifton neighborhood of Cincinnati and in the East Lakeview part of Chicago, meaning that we prefer neighborhoods that are more artsy/diverse. We have a new little girl, so safety, schools and greeenspace are important.

We've been looking at places on the "Main Line" but I don't want to live in a generic suburb, and so our attention has been turning more to Germantown and Chestnut Hill, but we could use more suggestions.

I'll be working in Upper Gwynedd/West Point, but am willing to tolerate a commute of up to 45-60 minute if it means living in a neighborhood that we both are happy with.

For the sake of this AskMe, assume that we're a late 30s/early 40s family of 3 and that cost doesn't matter nearly as much as quality of neighborhood, schools, housing stock, safety, etc.

And if you have a minute, what's the scoop on the Friends schools? They don't have them here in Beantown.
posted by scblackman to Travel & Transportation around Philadelphia, PA (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There is a Friends school in Cambridge - Cambridge Friends School who you could probably talk to about Quaker schools in general and then perhaps similar schools in Philadelphia. I have a friend whose kid goes there and it seems like a really excellent, friendly place.
posted by jdl at 4:21 AM on November 27, 2007

Germantown Friends is excellent.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 4:23 AM on November 27, 2007

Ambler. PA


It's easy to forget that you're even near Philly and is easily accessible to everything in Montgomery county. If you want to go into the city, the R5 train has a station in Ambler.

Full disclosure: I lived there for 2 years in the early 90s.

Good luck!
posted by sandra_s at 4:27 AM on November 27, 2007

I grew up in Jenkintown which has a population of only about 5000 and its own school district. My cousins are bringing up their kids there now and say it is a very cool small town/school experience.

And if you're looking for a Quaker School, Abington Friends is an option.

Good luck with your move!
posted by suki at 4:55 AM on November 27, 2007

Best answer: Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy is full of young parents that fit your profile. The houses in Northwest Philly are gorgeous but can be very pricey, also. Anyway, I personally would choose CH/MA over the Main Line any day of the week, there's more character, more of an ethnic mix and lifestyle mix. There's just more diversity in general and that's reflected in the local commerce, also.
posted by The Straightener at 5:24 AM on November 27, 2007

Best answer: I grew up in Chestnut Hill and loathed it. It's extraordinarily homogenous, and seems disproportionately filled with people who have more money and time than sense. That said, it was fine when I was a (very insulated) little kid, and is a quite safe place to grow up, but *you* may hate it.

I've got a lot of friends who are young couples, with and without kids, who are thrilled with Mt. Airy -- it's quite safe, except for a few parts, very diverse and with a booming arts scene. And just about twenty minutes or so by train from Center City.
posted by kalimac at 5:41 AM on November 27, 2007

check your pm
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:49 AM on November 27, 2007

Having grown up on the Main Line, I think it's worth pointing out that, while I wouldn't choose to move back, it's certainly not the case that the Main Line is generic suburb. Towns like Narberth, Bryn Mawr, and Wayne all have plenty of local character, with active downtowns, good restaurants, and excellent schools. If you live in the right neighborhood the towns are very walkable, the train is close at hand, and your neighbors will be friendly. It's certainly not the most diverse place in the world, but, living in New Hampshire now, I can say that it was much more diverse there than it is here.

It was a fantastic place to live when I was young. I was able to ride my bike all over the place, able to go to the park by myself when I wanted, walk to school, and had lots of friends my age living in my neighborhood. I might like to live in Chestnut Hill or Mount Airy now, but I suspect I would have had a very different -- although not necessarily better or worse -- growing up in a more urban neighborhood.

As far as Friends Schools go, my dad has worked as a teacher and principal in Friends Schools for much of his career. There are many good ones, some already mentioned above, but also several others -- Lansdowne Friends, Haverford Friends, West Chester Friends, Westtown Friends, each of which might appeal to you if you live in their respective neighborhoods. Academically these are good schools, but they really try hard to also teach students to value diversity, respect each other and their differences, resolve conflicts without violence. That's not to say that kids get indoctrinated with Quakerism in these schools, but they certainly work to teach Quaker values.
posted by dseaton at 6:01 AM on November 27, 2007

Nthing that Mt. Airy seems right up your alley.
posted by desuetude at 6:04 AM on November 27, 2007

I grew up in the Philadelphia area and went to Friends schools. If you're willing to live in the suburbs (and have a little money to throw around) I suggest looking into the Newtown/Holland area. Really great, upscale community. There's also two Friends schools in the area - Newtown Friends (which is elementary/jr. high) and George School (high school). Both are great institutions.

If you want to live in Philadelphia proper, Olde City is beautiful... but can be pricey.
posted by tundro at 6:19 AM on November 27, 2007

I'd think that anywhere in Philly to Upper Gwynedd would be at least an hour's commute. If you have normal business hours, it's no fun to drive anywhere in Philly.

To stay out of generic suburbs, avoid Conshohocken, King of Prussia, Langhorne, and Bensalem. Blue Bell, Doylestown, Abington, and Jenkintown all have some individual character and are convenient both to the city and your job. Further afield, Newtown is really nice but the surrounding area really does feel rural (great farmers' market, though). I went to college in Delaware County and really liked Swarthmore and Media, but they are further down the blue route (476) and might be too long a commute for you.
posted by CiaoMela at 7:14 AM on November 27, 2007

Do yourself a safety favor and move to the 'burbs.
posted by UMDirector at 8:22 AM on November 27, 2007

I'd like to second Wayne. Right on the R5 line (I've ridden it for 25 years and it's the most reliable line in the system, and trains run express from Wayne to Center City and then beyond ... think, like, 20-25 minutes and, bam, you're home.) Excellent schools. It's also home of the Bobos, a term coined by David Brooks in his book Bobos In Paradise. Wayne was profiled as a quintessential example of Bobos In Paradise. Wikipedia has a brief entry on it. It's becoming diverse but mostly in an Asian and not an African American way. But safe indeed. No McMansions and a good chance at a house with a porch and sidewalks where people walk by. There is a vibrant downtown with its own movie theater. Nectar is as hip a restaurant as anything in the city. And it's worth being in Wayne just to have access to Teresa's Side Door with it's amazing selection of beers. No, it's not Center City. But it's not your typical suburb either. I don't live there but I'm not far away and frequently go there to eat, drink and shop.
posted by lpsguy at 8:58 AM on November 27, 2007

Yeah... I used to live in Mt. Airy -- dunno how it is for kids, but it's nice 'n' diverse, lots of stuff within easy walking distance. I've got mixed feelings about Philly in general, but that neighborhood was awesome.
posted by ph00dz at 10:06 AM on November 27, 2007

If you want to live in Philadelphia proper, Olde City is beautiful... but can be pricey.

Old City isn't the best neighborhood for green spaces, and it's not the most family-centric area, what with the nightlife. If you're considering moving to the city proper, look into Fairmount, Bella Vista and Passyunk Square. (Or Rittenhouse if you're independently wealthy.)

Friends Select is in Center City. Our public school system is a holy steaming mess, but there are a number of excellent charter schools in the city.
posted by desuetude at 10:59 AM on November 27, 2007

Within the city:

Bella Vista is a lovely area in South Philly. Safe, insanely clean, and full of Italian restuarants.

Mayfair and Tacony are also nice, though a bit distant from Center City. That's where I live.

You can still find sane rents in Center City, depending on where you look.
posted by SansPoint at 11:28 AM on November 27, 2007

Oh, desuetude reminded me -- for the love of little green apples, don't send your kids to Philly public schools. The Central/Girls High/Masterman trifecta is still good at the high school level, but otherwise, definitely look into the Quaker schools.
posted by kalimac at 7:28 AM on November 28, 2007

« Older Help build my contrarian library   |   How can I come to terms with making mistakes? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.