Moving to Philadelphia

Archived Responses: 

May 2006

Please share any advice you might have for a family considering a move to Philadelphia. Which areas would be convenient for Villanova faculty? Which for a family that will have several children in public schools? And which if one parent finds work in downtown? Are there any that fit all three descriptions? If you had no home equity at present, would you buy or rent there? Is it practical to get by with one car, if both parents hold jobs? Absolutely any inside knowledge of Philadelphia would be appreciated. Thanks! Hesitating ...

Aside from the archived advice about Philly and surrounds, the area that would be most convenient to Villanova is the area right around Villanova on the Main Line. The Main Line has a SEPTA regional rail train line that goes straight to downtown Philadelphia. I don't know how the schools are, but considering Villanova is next door to Bryn Mawr and Haverford, I'd guess that there's a critical mass of faculty children for the public schools to be really good. The Main Line also has a great yoga studio, gymnastics classes for kids, a decent gym, etc. As someone who misses Berkeley dearly, if I had to move to the Main Line I would live in Ardmore (about 10 minutes from Villanova, closer to downtown Philly). It seems to have more community with a farmer's market and such. My husband and I get by with one car no problem, because I take the train to work. Regarding the buying or renting a house question, I know one Villanova faculty member who has worked there less than 5 years and he can't afford a house nearby. In the current national housing market, I wouldn't buy a house in *any* urban area. You are much better off renting and waiting for the bubble to deflate or burst. Feel free to contact me if you want any more info, or if you are debating the move. We did it last summer and have some serious regrets about leaving Berkeley, but I think you have a shot at a good quality of life near Villanova. Good luck! Jennifer
Check out and go to Philadelphia Forums. You can read about and ask for tons of information about all areas of Philly, schools, kids, etc. Good luck! martha
Jan 2006

We're going to be moving from Montclair to Philadelphia within the next two months or so in order to be near more job opportunities for both my husband's and my careers. It is with great sadness that we're leaving the bay area!!! Has anyone lived in the Philly area before, and do you have recommendations for areas of the city to consider that are near parks for a baby? I have a seven-month old girl and we would like to rent for 6 months or a year before buying a house. I would also appreciate any info on parent or mother networks that I can tap into, or general information on what places to go with a baby (like Habitot, etc). I'm in a wonderful mothers group right now that I hate to leave. Thanks for any and all information on the area. Hate to leave

I just moved from Berkeley to Swarthmore, a suburb 10 miles out of Philly, for my husband's dream job. I also have a six month old baby. Feel free to contact me when you move. Philly has some mom's resources, but nowhere close to the amount available in the Bay area. Living in a transitional neighborhood near Fairmount Park will put you close to a Whole Foods (the *only* decent grocery store in the whole area) and I know of a decent mom's group in that area. Another alternative is to live on the Main Line - this is where Byrn Mawr, Haverford, Villanova and a slew of other colleges are located, so it is a little more happening than other suburbs without being as urban as living in Philly proper. Manayunk and Mt. Airy are funkier and more S.F.- like, but I don't know how they are for families. You are in for some disappointments moving here - decent affordable restaurants, organic grocery stores, open green spaces and big safe parks are hard to come by. But houses are cheaper, and people are generally nice. Good luck! jpf
Congratulations on your move to Philadelphia! I lived, taught, and directed plays in Philadelphia for 14 years and moved to California for my PhD -- and, can you believe it, I can't wait to move back! Philadelphia is a wonderful city, filled with rich experiences for kids, parents, artists, dog lovers, teachers, professionals . . . oh, people of all sorts. I lived in West Mount Airy, which I highly recommend for Berkeley-loving folks. It's a progressive, hip, diverse, welcoming, woodsy community that borders the largest city park in the US -- the Wissahickon, one of my most favorite places in the world! There's an organic co-op market there (Weavers Way), which everyone wants to move within walking distance of. (If you visit, go to Weavers Way to read the houses for rent and sale on the bulletin board.) And, it's only a quick train ride or a 20-minute car drive into center city. The next town over is Chestnut Hill, a more upscale version of the down-to-earth Mt. Airy. But there you have a wonderful walking down-town area like Solano Avenue. Gorgeous houses, stunning Autumn leaves, to-die for Spring blossoms, big back yards, driving distance to the Adirondaks in NY, an easy train ride to NYC, 1 hour to the ocean, a terrific center city, great private schools (like Germantown Friends School, the Miquon School, a Waldorf school) . . . I love W. Mt. Airy. I didn't have kids when I lived there, so I can't really do any more than envy you and wish you luck! You could check out the Chestnut Hill Local newspaper to get a feel for the area. www. Missing Philly
Hi, My husband was born in Philadelphia and spent a great deal of time there and could give you some basic information. We also have family in Philadelphia (our cousins, mother and father to a very bright and imaginative 5 year old) who know the area very well and could probably be very helpful with orienting information about kid-related stuff as well. They are really good people who feel somewhat isolated in the Philadelphia area given the absence of an attachment parenting type community. If you're oriented thusly, you could very well have your first new mom friend in Philadelphia - though the age difference between your kids might make for a challenge. Anyway, write to us and we'll give you contact info etc. Season
Philadelphia is a very livable city -- Philly is also very friendly, and once you choose a neighborhood and start getting settled in, you'll find lifelong friends who can point you toward great ''kid'' resources. If you like Montclair, you might enjoy Manayunk, Germantown, or Chestnut Hill, all neighborhoods that are fairly close to Fairmount Park. Even Center City is quite livable with kids -- residences, business, and entertainment are all woven together, and each neighborhood has its own characters and liveliness, but everything you need is in walking distance. There are lots of trees, and most Center City neighborhoods include small parks and many neighborhood services. North of Philadelphia is Bucks County, which is like the Marin County of PA, but nowhere near as expensive. In Bucks County, the schools are better than in Philly but you'd be only 30-50 minutes from Center City. You might look into the towns that are in the Pennridge or Abington school districts. (I know, your child is still an infant, but you'll be shocked at how soon you'll care abotu schools, and how hard it is to change communities again once the kid has friends.) Good luck -- and enjoy the balmy summer evenings, which are a real treat. Philly fan
Check out this blogsite

You can read all about philly, neighborhoods, etc., and ask questions about it too. Be sure to read others' opinions with a grain of salt, but there is a lot of great info on here. Good luck! from philly

I tried to move us to Philly but the husband wouldn't go for it. Polling parents I know and realtors, most everyone recommended Art Museum for in the city and West Mount Airy and Chesnut Hill for a more suburban environment. There seems to be no shortage of parents with small children so I am sure you will find tons of activities. There is so much to do in Philly and in the east coast in general, hopefully you will love living there! Elizabeth
Dec 2004

Moving to Philadelphia/Delaware area

There's a good chance my family will be moving this year for a job in Wilmington, Delaware. We've heard that schools are better in Pennsylvania, so we're looking at the area between Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware. Any recommendations for cities in this location, housing information, school information, and just general info on the quality of life in this area? Many thanks! Jennette

As a kid my dad worked in Wilmington and we lived in Chester County (West Chester, to be exact.) It is a beautiful and pretty diverse place to grow up - with excellent schools. Westown is another nice spot in Chester County. Look on to see how the schools are rating in Chester County - you might be guided to a good town in that way. I miss my PA days sometimes. Enjoy. It's a lovely part of the country. Signed, A Pennsy Gal
I grew up near Chadds Ford, PA -- near Wilmington, DE. and left to go to college 30 years ago.... While the area is more populated now than it was, Chester County, PA, is still one of the most beautiful parts of the country, rich in revolutionary and pre-revolution heritage, home of Andrew Wyeth, etc. If you want to know what the scenery is like there rent ''The Village'' (plot notwithstanding). I recognized the trees and the fieldstone buildings from the movie's preview, then discovered it was filmed on a farm I knew, near the Delaware border

Schools vary from place to place, with the same caveats as here... suburbs test higher, and have less diversity. If you will work in Delaware, you might want to consider living there. When I left they had no sales tax and an excellent state university. At the time PA had sales tax but no state income tax. Penn State is good, and every small town has a University of its own. William Penn is the fellow who brought you religious tolerance -- so PA has a history of interesting religions. I didn't know until I left that not all counties had Quakers and Shakers and Mennonites and Amish (well they're in the next county over -- and the Shakers died out).

It may all be different now. If you want rural you can still find it within driving distance of Wilmington, but probably on the PA side. It snows in the winter, and is hot and sticky in August.... great place for gardening if that appeals to you. I'd start with the Chamber of Commerce for Wilmington, DE and Chadds Ford, Kennett Square and West Chester, PA.

BTW -- I think the house I grew up in may be for sale... 7 bdrm stone victorian summer house (built for rich Philadelphians in 1840) with 6 acres, pool and tennis court... for about a million bucks. (That's more than my parents sold it for in 1982, I fear) Just imagine what it would cost you here!!!

Feel free to contact me, I may be able to help you find the right people to answer questions. Heather

Check out Doylestown, PA in Bucks County. They have great schools, a wonderful downtown, etc. My husband and I considered moving there, but just found that it would be too long of a commute for it to be practical. anon
I grew up in a small community called Arden, just north of Wilmington, DE. It is an oasis in the middle of suburbia. I attended public schools in the Brandywine school district, and loved them all. I really like North Wilmington. Arden is a really special place, an artists community, built on the Henry George's idea of single tax. There are a lot of funky friendly people. And it is beautiful and woodsy. The community iteself is comprised of 3 Ardens; Arden, Ardentown and Ardencroft. I grew up knowing just about everyone. There are town meetings, civic comittees, and a great network for kids. As far as being a kid in the Ardens, it was the best place in the area to grow up. Its safe, there's trees, creeks, playgrounds, a pool, a summer program, Shakespeare in the summer and other plays, trails, many dogs, a dinner theatre, a library, and even its own town fair. And I believe only 1500 people live there; It is small. Check out the website: I also enjoyed growing up so close to Philadelphia, but not in it/ still in nature. Sorry, I know this is scattered, but feel free to email me with more questions about the area! Katja
I have a friend who grew up in Wilmington and just moved back there after liiving in Boston and Bethesda, MD. Her husband runs a foundation in Wilmington dedicated to improving the Delaware school system and they both know a lot about the area and its schools. She'd be happy to talk to you over the phone or by email. If interested, contact me via email. raissa
I went to Swarthmore College,in Swarthmore,PA. It's a beautiful town. the schools seemed good. Seemed like most of the faculty children went to the local public schools. it's a quick train ride to Philadelphia. I loved it there, but that was almost 20 years ago. My guess is that traffic is now more of an issue b/c many of the roads were 2 lanes. Feel free to email me with any questions! andrea
Hi -- I missed the original posting. I grew up in Wilmington and after college worked in politics for a couple of years there. My parents live in Newark now, and I'm going back for a visit in a few days with hubbie and daughter. My brother and his family (3 kids aged 1 to 9) live there too. Please feel free to email me if want another perspective. Good luck! Cindy
Please email me about Philly/Delaware. I grew up in Lower Merion, went to U. of Delaware in Newark, go back twice a year, so I know a lot about local recent development, and my mom has been in Real Estate there for years. Even if you do not settle for the areas she represents, she'd be glad to talk to you about it. Helene
March 2004

We are probably moving this summer to Philadelphia, where my husband will be working at the University of Pennsylvania. We would like to live near the university if possible, probably renting. We were wondering if anyone has any recommendations for neighborhoods that are good for families with young children (or ones that are not). Actually, we'd appreciate comments or information of any kind about living in Philadelphia. Thanks, Caroline

I was born and raised in Philly, and go every year to visit family for a few weeks. Email me directly and I'd be happy to talk/email with you about that great city! Debbie
I lived in Philadelphia from 1995-2000 while I was in graduate school at Penn and absolutely loved it. The city has changed quite a bit since I left (for the better), but we do go back fairly regularly to visit friends who are still there. In general, I would not recommend living in West Philadelphia, which is the area closest to campus, as that is where most undergraduates tend to live. I lived in Center City just across the Schuylkill River from campus in the Fitler Square/Rittenhouse Square areas (approx 20-30 min walk to campus), both of which are very desirable. They have a definite neighborhood feel, great restaurants, shopping, green spaces. While I didn't have children, there were definitely a lot of people in the area who did (and friends who still live there either now do or are expecting). There are so many things I enjoyed about living there that I don't even know where to begin but would be glad to share if you want to contact me. michelle
I moved from Philadelphia to the Bay Area in 88. I grew up there and went to college at Penn. My parents still live there, as do some close friends. I'd love to discuss it in detail with you. Please email me. Thanks, David. dave
I grew up in Philly, and though I left 10 years ago to come here, my parents still live there. I would like to recommend a wonderful neighborhood to live in- Mt. Airy. It is in northwest Philly, 20-30 minutes from Penn, but as other posters mentioned, living in West Philly (where Penn is) can be questionable. Mt. Airy is the closest thing to Berkeley I have ever seen (and better in many ways)- very diverse, both racially and economically, and a very progressive, open-minded community. It is also very beautiful with treelined streets, and even a groovy food co-op! It is accessible to public transportation; the local train runs through at a few different spots and takes you to 30th street station which is close to Penn. After growing up there, it is hard to live anywhere else! And you'll be very happy about the cost of living when coming from the Bay Area. Feel free to email me if you have more questions. martha
I read the previous posting recommending Mt.Airy, and I thought I have to write. I too grew up in Mt. Airy, and it really was a wonderful place to grow up. Trees everywhere, and the Wissahickon woods right there, so you can go hiking without driving. The train to downtown is great, and the food co-op. And ditto all the things the other person wrote-progressive, friendly, family-oriented. the down side is there is some crime, probably similar to Berkeley. But it is a great neighborhood. You can email me. Monica