Thinking of moving to Philadelphia? As America’s official birthplace, this historical and cultural East Coast city has so much to offer. Check out these 9 Philadelphia facts before packing your bags for the City of Brotherly Love.
Congratulations on moving to Philadelphia! You’re about to get acquainted with one of the country’s most historic and culturally diverse cities. With over 1.5 million folks calling this great city home, Philly is the second-largest city on the East Coast. Folks calling this great city home appreciate the many eclectic and unique neighborhoods that give it a small-town feel.
So, before you load up your belongings and head for the land of cheesesteaks and water ice, why not learn a few Philadelphia facts and get to know your soon-to-be home?
11 Things to Know About Philadelphia Before Moving There
1. The cost of living in Philly is the lowest among northeast cities.
A trend started several years ago when New Yorkers began settling in Philadelphia and commuting to their NYC jobs. Some pundits began to call Philadelphia the “sixth borough of New York.” The moniker annoyed Philly natives, but it also revealed how appealing Philly is in terms of the cost of living.
Compared to New York, Philly is a bargain. The Big Apple takes a big bite out of residents’ wallets as the cost of living is over 120% higher than the national average. A family in Philadelphia with a total income of $50,000 would need nearly double that — $97,000 – to make ends meet in New York. Washington DC is less expensive, but still, Philadelphia boasts a cost of living that is 16% lower overall with housing costs that are 48% lower.
2. There are tons of things to do in Philadelphia year-round.
The last thing anybody would call Philly is boring. There are many things to see and do, which is why it attracts millions of tourists each year. But luckily, since you’re moving there, you’ll get to explore it at your leisure.
One of the greatest draws of the Northeast is the recreational opportunities that come with four seasons. The area generally doesn’t have extreme weather, and heat or cold waves tend to be short-lived. While summer days can reach 90F or higher, the evenings will cool to a breezy 70F. Summer especially has an array of activities that suit every style and taste.
Go “Down the Shore”
Many residents go “down the shore” to one of the many shore points along New Jersey’s coast. Many beaches are only short drives and are perfect for day trips. Unlike other parts of the U.S., the water is temperate at around 70F and swimmable in the summer months. Other summer attractions include the carnival rides, roller skating and food stalls at Penn’s Landing, a walkway along the Delaware River. Virtually every neighborhood has its own festivals, which feature local food and music.
In winter, private homes and businesses are outfitted with glittering lights with neighbors in a friendly competition to mount dazzling spectacles. One popular place for a spectacular event is Macy’s department store during the holiday season. A dazzling light show accompanies a concert of the Wannamaker Organ, which is the largest working instrument in the world.
Arts and Entertainment
Usually open year-round, Philadelphia is known for its many museums, including dozens of outdoor sculptures and murals. Philly has the largest amount of public artwork in the world! It’s one of the few incredible places that fully embraces street art, and you’ll find plenty of murals no matter which neighborhood you claim as your own.
Then there are the countless world-class entertainment options, parks, plays, restaurants and bars! When you move to Philadelphia, America’s oldest still-operating theater is right on Walnut Street, and you’ll never be short of pop-up events, beer gardens and more.
3. Philly has free stuff.
You may not feel like spending much after your big move, especially if you’re still getting organized. But if you feel like getting out and about for a breather, it’s good to know that Philly has lots of free activities you can enjoy.
The city is superior with outdoor sports with playgrounds, parks, trails and sporting courts, including tennis, basketball, hockey and baseball. These free offerings are managed by the Parks and Recs Department and have information on athletics in your neighborhood. Yoga enthusiasts benefit from free or low-cost classes throughout the city, including at the scenic Race Pier.
Here are some perennial Philly favorites, which are all free.
- Independence Visitor Center at 599 Market Street.
- The Liberty Bell Center on 6th and Market Streets.
- Independence Hall and Congress Hall at 520 Chestnut Street
- The Rocky Statue and Steps at 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
- The Love Sculpture at 1500 Arch Street.
4. Housing prices are low in Philadelphia.
Did you know it’s often cheaper to buy than to rent in Philadelphia? If you’ve been on the fence about this one, then you’ll be pleased to know house prices on average are among the lowest in the northeastern United States. It also has a low property tax of 0.99%, even lower than across the state in Pittsburgh, where it’s 2.01%.
So, if you’re moving to Philadelphia to rent, you’re in the right place if you want to get your money’s worth as a home buyer in the future. With so many of Philly’s neighborhoods on the rise, the city is far more welcoming to first-time homebuyers and real estate investors than most other American cities.
Berkshire Hathaway’s Sivel Group team lead leader Jenifer Rinella says that it’s sometimes difficult to choose which neighborhood to settle in.
“The first thing I ask buyers when determining where to start is how long of a commute are you looking for and if you have kids what are your schooling needs. That allows [them] to narrow [their] search down to certain areas, then we turn to housing and lifestyle parameters.”
5. Chestnut Hill is great for families.
If you’re moving to Philadelphia with your family, consider affluent yet homey Chestnut Hill as a relocation destination. This neighborhood has many family-friendly attractions, including the Morris Arboretum, Children’s Music Express and dozens of adorable parks, shops and playgrounds up and down Germantown Avenue. It’s also not far from Fairmount Park, Philly’s largest municipal park, which is home to plenty of walking and biking trails as well as the Philadelphia Zoo!
If you’re looking for great schools for your kids, Chestnut Hill is also home to several good public and private schools and has a free library. It even boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the city. Jennifer Rinnella enthuses about the neighborhood and the city as a whole, “We have an incredible balance of museums, sports and arts with an impeccable location, allowing for an equally easy drive to New York, Baltimore, and DC. [Chestnut Hill] has access to award-winning schools within a 25-minute drive of center city, [which] makes [the area] a true gem.”
6. Manayunk is great for young professionals.
If you’re moving to Philadelphia to connect with the younger professional crowd, then Manayunk, just 15 minutes from the city center, is a great neighborhood for you. With lots of restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs, along with incredible local festivals like the StrEAT Food Truck Festival every spring, there’s always something going on. It’s known for being a dog-friendly district, too, so a perfect place to live if you have a canine friend. Your pooch will love a walk along the hill to Pretzel Park.
There’s a wide variety of housing types in this neighborhood, too, from turn-of-the-century row homes to contemporary townhouses to chic lofts and even a few converted churches.
7. There are plenty of other great neighborhoods in Philly to move to.
Apart from Chestnut Hill and Manayunk, there are lots of other neighborhoods to check out if you’re moving to Philadelphia. Each has something to offer, either to live or to visit. Get acquainted with these neighborhoods:
Rittenhouse Square and Old City
Rittenhouse Square and Old City appeal to those who want to live in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. Old City is within a dining district, which means there are many places to go and see right outside your doorstep. However, some complain that the neighborhood is too loud on weekend nights when the bars are open, and festivities are in full swing. In contrast, Rittenhouse Square is quieter and has a Parisian flair. There are numerous outdoor cafes and restaurants, which are perfect for a conversation over coffee or a meal on a sunny day. Rittenhouse Square Park is a favorite relaxation spot where children play while couples lounge on blankets.
University City is home to the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, which are nationally ranked schools. The area attracts students from around the world who often settle down in Philly. Also, the area has hospitals and medical services, which have a national reputation, such as Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. As a result, many physicians, health workers and medical students choose this area to be home.
Fishtown and Northern Liberties
Fishtown and Northern Liberties have emerged as the most popular neighborhoods for couples and families due to the variety of housing ranging from older, craftsman-like housing to new construction with modern amenities. Furthermore, the areas are accessible to public transportation and are easily walkable. This area has also become an arts center with an array of studios, galleries and pop-ups. The area has a hipster reputation due to the lively arts, music and craft beer scene, but it also attracts parents who want to raise their children in a vibrant city environment.
…and so many more. There are dozens of more neighborhood niches in Philly to discover.
8. Philly is awesome for transportation by foot, bike and car.
Despite Philly’s parking woes made famous on the A&E show, Parking Wars, the city is navigable by car. Any local will say that the Philadelphia Parking Authority should be feared. They are unforgiving for cars parking for even a minute past time. Parking is a concern for many residents, and it’s suggested you either get a designated parking spot, pay for zone parking or live where street parking is ampler. It is advisable to learn the rules of the streets to avoid parking fines.
Philly is also known as a walkable and bike-friendly city as new dedicated trails and bike paths continue to grow. The Schuylkill River Trail is 75 miles of pedestrian and bike paths that begin in the city and extend to the suburbs. The trail is popular for serious athletes and families who want to picnic and stroll.
9. It has heaps of American history.
As you may have noticed from the list above, Philadelphia is packed with historical landmarks. After all, it is the birthplace of American freedom, where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. Many of the Founding Fathers called Philly home, too, and the Old City district is a must-see. Many of the original Colonial homes and streets have been preserved, including Elfreth’s Alley, where you can freely stroll the 300-year-old cobblestones.
For a one-stop shop to brush up on your Philadelphia history, the National Constitution Center should be your first port of call. As soon as you’re done, browse through a few of the used book stores in Old City and check out Shane Confectionery, America’s Oldest Candy Store!
10. It is situated above sea level.
If you’re concerned about global warming, here’s one of the Philadelphia facts you may want to know: is it above sea level?
Rest assured that most of the city is. The lowest point in Philly is 10 feet above sea level near the Delaware River, while the highest point is 445 feet above sea level in Chestnut Hill–another good reason to move to this neighborhood!
11. Philadelphia has a lot of nicknames.
The two most common nicknames Philadelphia has are ‘The City of Brotherly Love’ and ‘Philly,’ but there are lots of others that you may not have heard of.
Other nicknames for Philadelphia:
- The City of Neighborhoods
- The City of Brotherly Shove
- The Workshop of the World
- The Quaker City
- The Cradle of Liberty
- The Athens of America, and finally
- Our favorite: The City That Loves You Back!
Moving to a new city can be nerve-wracking, but you’ll find Philly offers all the benefits of a big city without the intensity. If you’re still not sure, take a trip there first and check it out in person! Grab yourself a water ice (it’s pronounced “wooder”) and stroll around. Take in the city, see some sights and keep a close watch out for the bicyclists! Philadelphia is sure to enchant you, and you’ll be even more excited to call it home.
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Update: This post was originally published on June 6, 2018. It was revised on July 5, 2020, with new information from Philadelphia expert, Mary O’Brien, and again on April 6, 2021, with new information from Philadelphia expert Caroline Leopold.