Wednesday, June 02, 2004

As a Philadelphian immigrant, I've been getting a lot of questions lately about Philly life. So I thought I would write a little "Outsiders Guide to Philly"

Philly Neighborhoods
There are 5 billion Philly Neighborhoods, none which are on a map. I personally believe they have all these neighborhoods to confuse the non-native. If this is the goal, they HAVE succeeded! An article on About.com about Philly Neighborhoods says "If you ask ten residents of Philadelphia to name the neighborhoods of the city, you'll probably get ten different answers." So here are my takes on some of the Philly neighborhoods in Center City.

Rittenhouse Square - Popular Whartonite Haunt, bordered by Broad St and 22nd St East and West and Chestnut and Pine North and South. Rittenhouse is full of restaurants and hip hangouts for the yuppie set. There are many high rise apartments in this neighborhood. Because of the location, apartments here are more expensive than other areas of the city, although bargains can be found south of Locust St.

Art Museum/ Logan Circle- this area is sandwiched by Rittenhouse to the South and North Philly (scary!) to the north, and runs from about 28th St to Broad west to east. The Art Museum area is home to many of the city's museums. Very residential area. While the upper part of the Art Museum area is not that convenient to school commuting, the southern part of the area (around Race/Cherry/Arch Streets) is within walking distance to the trolley and bus lines to Penn.

Old City - Front Street - 6th Street East-West/ Vine - Pine North- South. This is the area is home to the Liberty Bell and Betsy Ross' house along with MANY historic monuments. You'll also find cobblestone streets and cute little shops. Also LOTS of restaurants and bars. And lots of drunk people from NYC. There are some great apartments that are converted factories, etc. Very hip scene.

University City - 29th to 50th East to South/ Spring Garden to Woodland North to South. UC is home to many of the cities universities, including U Penn, Drexel, among others. The neighborhood is full of victorian houses converted into apartments to accommodate the many students that are in the area. While there are some sketchier parts of UC, there are some relatively safe patches in the neighborhood.

Here is a good map with descriptions of center city.

Philadelphia Parking Authority
Yes, these people seemed to be aligned with the devil. Basically, do not illegally park in Philadelphia. The minute the meter expires, a parking ticket magically appears on your windshield. I am convinced that PPA uses a GPS system to locate any parking transgressors IMMEDIATELY. For instance, last week I pulled over my car to switch drivers in a "No Stopping" Zone. 33 seconds after stopping, a PPA official pulled up to write me a ticket. Luckily I started moving before they could give me the ticket, but PPA DOES NOT PLAY!

Residential Parking Permits - If you live in Philly, have PA plates and registration, you can get a residential parking permit for $35 per year, which allows you to park at metered parking spots (within your assigned district) without feeding the meter. You can find out more info here.

Housing Resources
Here are some internet resources to aid your apartment search.
Craig's List
Philadelphia Weekly Rental Classifieds
City Paper Rental Classifieds
Four Walls in Philly
Centra Associates - Historic Philadelphia Brownstone Apartments
JMH Realty
Brandywine Management Apartments
Philadelphia Management Apartments
Historic Landmarks for Living - Philadelphia Apartments
Philadelphia Real Estate Blog

Frequently Asked Questions
What the heck is WaWa?
WaWa is for real. The residents are not joking when they say they are going to WaWa. WaWa is a prolific corner store like 7-11 or Stop-N-Go. I have no idea what possessed the store owners to name the place WaWa.

Where can I get a decent Philly Cheesesteak?
First of all, never call a cheesesteak a "Philly" Cheesesteak. It signals the natives that you are not from here, and they will smell blood and attack! I'm not a big fan of the Cheesesteak. The grade of meat used is probably akin to the grade of meat used for dog food. Also Cheese Whiz (which is supposedly the true cheese of a cheesesteak) is just plain nasty. But if you like cheap beef, along with processed "cheese food" then cheesesteaks are the meal for you. Tourists typically go to Geno's or Pat's in south Philly (see Ryan's post about the virtues of both) or they may go to Jim's on South Street. But the natives tell me that the best cheesesteak can only be found in the 'hood.

What does it mean when they say a person is "newsy?"
Newsy = nosy in Philly speak.

What the heck is Wooooaata?
Wooooaata = water in Philly speak.

What's up with Philly Politics?
I'm not sure. The political scene here is OUT OF CONTROL. Every election day, there is some sort of brawl or incident at the polls. Seriously. People get beat up because they voted one way or another. Sorry I can't explain that one.

How bad are Philadelphia Schools?
The perception of the quality of the schools depends on who you ask. The public schools in the poorer neighborhoods absolutely SUCK, no doubt about it. But the schools in center city probably are not that bad - given the demographics of the neighborhoods (very affluent) they are in. You can look up public school achievement stats here. There are also parochial/private schools, and many Philadelphians send their kids to these instead of public schools. There are also a growing amount of Charter Schools, but the quality of Charter Schools varies. This site, Center City Schools, has useful info about the different schooling options available in Center City.

How safe is Philadelphia?
Again the perception of safety depends on the individual. Don't get it twisted - Philadelphia is a city, and as such has crime like every other major city on the Planet. Some neighborhoods are safer than others. The neighborhood near U Penn, University City is pretty active and relatively safe. Rittenhouse is relatively safe. As in any city, you should always be aware of your surroundings. Don't leave your car unlocked. Don't leave valuables in plain sight. Don't flash your money around. Be alert when walking. Walk with authority and confidence. But you should take these kind of precautions in any major city. Here's a database of Philly crimes by block between 1991-1999 from the Inquirer.

Are car insurance rates in Philly high?
Yes. Be prepared to pay out the nose. When I first moved here my insurance payment was higher than my car note. Why is it so high? Because Philly drivers suck and they seem to like to sue.

Where can I find out more (actually legitimate :)) info about Philly neighborhoods, living, etc.?
Philly Blog Forums- Lots of opinionated people chatting about Philly neighborhoods and goings-on
www.philly.com - you can find the two major newspapers here as well as regional papers and other Philly info
www.gophila.com - Lots of tourist info about stuff to do in the region
Center City District - the official website of the CC district
University City District - the official website of the UC district
SEPTA - the major transportation provider in the region
www.phila.gov - The official Philadelphia government site

Hopefully this info will help get you acquainted to the lovely Philadelphia - The City that Loves You Back!

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