Moving to Philadelphia

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Parent Q&A

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  • Moving to Philly - Help

    (4 replies)

    We are thinking of a move to Philly, or the Main Line, next summer when our son graduates. He will most likely be attending college in NY or Boston. 

    I would love to hear from those who have lived there or are from there. I went to St. Joe's for two years, so know the area a bit, and my brother went to Villanova and lived in Haverford. I am used to snow (don't love it) as I from the East Coast, but don't recall the winters being very dreary, snow seemed moderate.  

    My husband will be semi-retired at that point and I will need to look for work in the non-profit sector.

    Ideally looking for a nice (diverse place) near public transport (walking distance to train). I like Chestnut Hill (who doesn't), and on the ML, I like Ardmore and Wynnewood.  Does anyone know about Elkins Park? Mt. Airy in Philly seems like a good spot, but don't have first-hand knowledge.

    Would enjoy hearing about the area and if it a good place for empty nesters who are artsy (not into sports - I know, kind of a sin in Philly).

    We are looking for a new adventure and being close to family.

    Although we love the Bay Area, we are moving due to the wildfires. I am in the North Bay and I am not going to go through another fire season. 


    A thumbs up forArdmore or Narberth! Both very walkable, safe, good food and access to culture and the R5 train that will take you downtown, connect to airport trains, NYC and DC bound trains. Ardmore has a world class music venue (Ardmore Music Hall) which a lot of Intl touring acts play over Philly-based venues. 

    I grew up in Wynnewood and know the mainline well. Feel free to contact me. 

    I grew up just inside the city limits from Elkins Park, and my parents and my brother and his family now live in that area (Elkins Park/Cheltenham/Jenkintown).  There's easy train access to downtown Philadelphia, and it's somewhat more racially and socioeconomically diverse than it was when I was growing up.  The Cheltenham Arts Center offers arts classes, and there are parks and arboretums for nature.  One thing I don't like is that there aren't a lot of sidewalks, which can make walking (and running) a challenge, if not dangerous.  I think also that property taxes are quite high, though I'm not sure how they compare to California.  They've had trees fall and power outages over the past few years, but no fires.

    I have good friends who live in Mount Airy pretty diverse, wonderful neighborhood, all of the resources of Chestnut Hill but not as white and wealthy.
    I have an older relative who lives in Chester Springs, on the Mainline I think. I heard via his grandson who did a semester School exchange program living with his grandfather that the school was homogeneous and boring, compared to his much more diverse school at home. FWIW. Best of luck with your move.

  • Suburbs of Philadelphia

    (7 replies)

    Has anyone lived outside of Philadelphia, especially in the suburbs of Bryn Mawr, Ardmore, Narberth, Bala Cynwyd, etc.? We love Oakland, especially the weather, many festivals and activities, and the dynamism, diversity, and open-mindedness of the community, but are very seriously considering moving there with our two young children. What is it like there?

    I lived in Philadelphia when my (now teenaged) kids were babies, and while I didn't live on the Main Line with kids, I had many colleagues who did (I lived there for a few years pre-kids).  The comment that stands out in my mind from a colleague was, "The Main Line is where everyone moves for the excellent public schools, and then sends their kids to private school anyway."  All the towns you mention are older suburbs, and have more of a small town feel, but are very white and middle/upper middle/wealthy (varies some by town).  If you want a community that feels more like Oakland, I would recommend looking in Philadelphia itself.  It has much more of what you like about Oakland, and is still more affordable than anything in the Bay Area.  The public school system is deeply troubled, although I understand there are individual schools with strong leadership and parent support.  Good luck!

    We lived in the Bay Area for many years and moved to the Philly suburbs from 2006 to 2014 to be closer to my family in PA a few hours away. 

    We lived in the NW part of Philly in an area called Mount Airy, which we found to be the closest vibe to Berkeley/Oakland in the suburbs in terms of open-mindedness. Public school options there are tough (some people navigate a couple of schools with involved PTAs), but most folks do lotteries to get their kids into charter schools, or they do private schools. (There are many great private options, many of which offer financial aid.)

    When we left Philly in 2014 to move back to CA, Bryn Mawr, Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, etc. were all still very conservative in terms of diversity and open-mindedness. I think it was getting a bit better there (we saw a change from 2006 to 2014), but many people grow up and stay in Philly so there is a lack of overall diversity in that area of Philly along the Main Line.

    If you are looking for public schools, Lower Merion and Abington were ranked as great SDs when we were there, but I honestly would not have wanted to live there due to the lack of diversity and open mindedness. Those areas felt too conservative for us.

    Overall, I know some people who moved to Philly from other major cities and loved it. I also know folks who lived there for a time and then moved back to the West Coast. It depends on what is important to you and what you are hoping to achieve by moving there.

    As for us, we had been sick of the Bay Area when we left -- and thought Philly would be the place where we would settle forever. That said, we honestly couldn't wait to get back to the Bay Area, and were so glad to move back here in 2014. And while we have good friends still in Philly, we honestly have no interest in going back to visit - and we don't miss anything there other than the memories of our children being babies there.

    Some things we missed from the west coast... the natural beauty of the Bay Area (access to Tahoe, the Headlands, Santa Cruz mountains, etc.) and also the abundance of great food. We also missed being around a larger population of diverse and open minded people. My husband is also not a spectator sports fan (football, hockey, basketball, baseball) so he found it difficult to connect with others at work  - as most colleagues were avid sports or golf fans. The job market was also much smaller/tough there in his field. We also found that while housing is inexpensive in Philly, other things were more expensive or the same as here (utilities, car insurance, restaurants, and groceries if you want anything organic.)  And finally, we lost money on our house when we sold it - as the market had not gone up over 7 years the way we'd anticipated (and we had to spend a lot to fix it up as most of the housing stock is old.)

    FWIW, when we left Philly, a lot of folks were moving from the Main Line neighborhoods to downtown Philly (Northern Liberties, Fishtown, etc.) - so those areas have a lot going on  (restaurants, more diverse and open minded people, and very walkable). But not sure what the schools are like, or what it's like to have young kids there. that has forums by area - and can give you advice from locals. That said, many folks on there love Philly so I wanted to give you the perspective of someone who moved from CA to Philly and didn't love it.

    Feel free to PM me if you'd like. 

    We moved from San Francisco to Center City Philly first and then the 'burbs (next to Bryn Mawr and Ardmore). Happy to share my thoughts if you want to contact me directly.

    I am in Havertown Pa visiting relatives right now.Great school district.Haverford and Media are also very nice.Media has a nice artsy shopping area like Rockridge.Look for towns that are part of Mainline.

    I grew up in Wynnewood and went to middle school in Bala Cynwyd and know the area. I haven't lived there since 1991, but I don't feel it's changed much. I go back to visit family. The weather is beautiful in mid-September through October. It's really cold November-March. It's beautiful again with lots of rain from April-mid June and really hot and sticky late June-August. It got so cold, I couldn't take the winters anymore and so hot and humid in the summer, I couldn't take that either. Back when I lived there, there weren't many festivals in the suburbs. There were more downtown, but maybe that's changed. The diversity is in the city, not in the burbs. It is not as open-minded as Oakland and not as liberal.

    The suburbs are more conservative than out here. The city of Philly is too. It's totally different than here. The suburbs are safe, quiet place to raise kids if you like shopping and parks. Mountains aren't close by and neither is the ocean. The focus is different, it's not the great outdoors. I know people who are happy there but it is not diverse like out here. Life is rougher there. Philly is a rough city, harsher than Oakland. There are parts that are changing and hip, but it still isn't Oakland.

    Hope that helps. If you have more questions, feel free to reach out.

    You might want to consider Chestnut Hill or Mount Airy. They are much more like Oakland than the places you mentioned. Both are pretty with many family activities. 

    My brother and his wife lived in Manayunk for several years and loved it there. I visited with them often and always enjoyed my time there as well. I haven't been in awhile, but when they lived there, there was a vital and dynamic main street that had excellent restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, etc. It was a highlight of my time there to stroll down the street, which was walkable from their house.

    There is the Schuylkill river and river path in town, as well as a decent amount of open space and trails. They had dogs when they lived there and always said it was a great dog town. The transit system is excellent and goes into Philly from the downtown, and it is a quick drive as well. The weather is still northeastern in character, but since Philly is farther south than New England, tends to be a bit milder in the winter, though it can get more humid in the summers.

    Manayunk itself and Philly offer amazing cultural activities: festivals, museums, performances and tons of kid-friendly places and things to do (check out "Kidchella" if you visit or move this summer!). There are abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation in the area as well. Manayunk really does have a balance of quaint neighborhood and urbanish amenities. It was relatively affordable then, but not sure now. Then again, if you're moving from the Bay Area, nearly everything will appear to be affordable! Best of luck to you.

  • Advice on move to Philadelphia

    (8 replies)

    With rising home prices in the Bay Area, my husband, 2 year old daughter & I are considering a move to Philadelphia. We're visiting this summer and looking for advice on family friendly neighborhoods. A perfect mix would be a single family home w/ a backyard, safe neighborhood, decent schools, diverse, bike friendly, public transport accessible, walkable... Anyone have any advice?

    thanks in advance. 

    We actually just moved from Philadelphia to the Bay Area! You're right that Philly is much more affordable :) You should check out Mt. Airy. It's on the outskirts of the city, and such a great neighborhood. I don't have school age kids (yet!) but it's full of cute homes, very bikeable, community-centric. Parts of it are transitional, but for the most part it's a wonderful diverse neighborhood. Chestnut Hill is nearby, and also a really fun neighborhood! That's where we lived :) It's pricer, but very safe, and tons of walkable/bikeable shops, restaurants, parks, etc. If you want to be more in the city, check our the Fairmount/Art Museum area. More expensive, but beautiful and also very bikeable. If you want more of a suburb feel, check out Ambler, Abington, and Cheltenham. I know the schools in those last three are great, but less bike friendly. Hope that helps! 

    My family just moved from Philadelphia to Berkeley last summer! The neighborhood that meets the most attributes you listed is probably Mount Airy. It has tons of families, is very diverse, lots of yard space, has pretty good (and improving) public school options (as well as somewhat affordable private options, including Friends/Quaker schools) and it is right next to the Wissahickon, which is my favorite walking/running/green space area in Philadelphia. The only downside (for me) is that it's not very close to the city itself and the only way out/around is the freeway, which is just a nightmare at rush hour (and most of the time actually). But if commuting isn't a big part of your life, it would be a great spot.

    The other family-focused neighborhoods in the city are Queen Village and Fairmount. Queen Village is somewhat pricey (though not at all compared to the Bay Area) because of the highly desirable elementary school Meredith. It is a great neighborhood with many awesome restaurants/cafes/shops/parks but yard space is tough to come by and it is a pretty dense urban area (not sure if that's what you're going for or not.) Fairmount (also known as "Art Museum" because it is near the Philadelphia Museum of Art) is much more accessible to public transit than Mount Airy (though, truthfully, Philly leaves a lot to be desired in terms of city transit) but has more yard space than Queen Village and is also right next to Fairmount Park, which has a fantastic running/bike path along the river (among other things). 

    Happy to answer more questions if you have them, but those three neighborhoods come to mind first. Hope it narrows down your search a bit!

    My husband, 2 year old son and dog and I just moved from Philadelphia to the Bay Area in January. We most recently lived in the art museum area (North Fairmount) and found it really well suited for families. I'm not sure you'll find a backyard there, but the area has lots of green space, being near to Fairmount park, a great dog park right off the parkway, lots of walkable coffee shops, restaurants and stores, and the Art museum and the Franklin Institute were close by. There's a brand new whole foods, and a fantastic pediatrician - Dr. Alexis Lieberman at Fairmount Pediatrics. I biked or took public transportation to work - two buses ran a block from my house. And there were lots of young families with kids my son's age, so we felt like we had a community. 

    Other nice neighborhoods we lived in, though before kids, included Bella Vista and Graduate Hospital.

    Philly is really a fantastic city. We love the bay area, but miss Philadelphia too.

    I'm from philly, it's a great place if you don't mind the winter and summer;). In actual Philadelphia mt airy is a wonderful, diverse, progressive and family friendly neighborhood where you can get a nice house with a yard. Chestnut hill is another family friendly neighborhood, a little more upscale, a little less diverse and progressive. Both are residential neighborhoods that feel kinda like albany. Only problem with philly proper is that the schools suck throughout the city ( or at least they did when I was growing up). There's a good magnet school program that's public but it's extremely competitive to get into. Good school districts outside of Philly are on the "main line". It's a group of neighborhoods just along the city boarder- narberth, Bryn mawr, lower merion etc. less diverse a little less progressive but you wouldn't be in complete culture shock coming from the bay. Further out gets more conservative but there are more good schools. Good luck! We think about moving back too as the prospect of homeownership here gets father and farther out of reach:( 

    I have relatives who live in both Havertown and Haverford and they really like it.I think there are towns that are considered part of MainLine,which is also good.Except for the weather,it is a great area

    Sounds like Mt. Airy! A lovely neighborhood with a lot of families. Wish we'd decided to move there when we were contemplating our return to the east coast.

    I am originally from outside Philadelphia, specifically Bryn Mawr, and it was a great family friendly place to grow-up with excellent school districts. Not sure if you are interested in more of the suburbs, but if you are, I'm happy to chat further. We are also considering a move there in the next few years...

    Hi from Philadelphia! Excellent choice, as the city is definitely having a heyday right now. First off, are you set on living in the city? Let me start with a pitch for South Jersey, where my husband, 4yo daughter & I landed after leaving the Bay Area. It's basically an inner-ring suburb of Philadelphia over here with reliably way better schools, good housing stock with yards, small-town feel with Main Street retail strips, and the Patco train, which runs 24hrs/day. I get to my Center City office much faster than my colleagues who live in the parts of Philly that have single-family homes with yards, and I never have to run for the train. Patco has one every 5ish minutes during rush hour. Septa trains to the Northwest are more like every 30 mins. My commute is all walking & public transit. 

    Diversity varies, and some of the towns on the train line are super racially homogeneous. Economic diversity seems good to me, and the LGBT families I know haven't had any issues. Our property taxes are super high, but we found when working with our mortgage broker that our monthly payment bought us pretty much the same amount of house in NJ as PA. (Higher taxes/lower sale price vs. Lower taxes/higher sale price) And for those taxes we get good schools, quick snow cleanup, clean streets, etc. 

    All that said, if you're set on living *in* Philadelphia, I don't blame you. :) Much of the city is rowhouses, condos, and apartments, so to get a single-family home with a backyard, you'll need to be in: Northwest Philly (East/West Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill ($$$), Roxborough, maybe Manayunk or East Falls), Northeast Philly (Somerton, Bustleton, and other parts of the Greater Northeast), and parts of far West Philly (Overbrook/Overbrook Park). There are many closer-in neighborhoods with a family friendly vibe, good diversity, and walkable neighborhoods, but you'll be living in a rowhouse with a 200sq ft concrete patio in back. If you can live with visiting some of our awesome parks every day instead of maintaining your own backyard, check out Graduate Hospital, Bella Vista, East Passyunk, Rittenhouse, Logan Circle, Washington Square West, or Fishtown. I'm not super qualified to speak on schools, but minimal googling has probably already told you about the school district's significant funding challenges. School financing is a huge, intractable issue here that negatively affects the teachers, the facilities, the support name it. That said, we have some amazing magnet schools in the district; some highly sought-after, innovative charter schools, a large number of K-8 schools that range from nice to ok; and a large number of schools to steer clear of. The Philadelphia School District serves over 260K kids who bring every imaginable range of experience with them to school, so I'd probably think hard about renting for the first couple years to give your family a chance to get to know the school situation and decide what you want.

    Keep in mind that Philadelphia has a city wage tax for residents (on top of the PA state income tax), and brace yourself for the kind of political advertising that assaults people who live in swing states. Bonus though: your vote really matters!

    Enjoy your visit!

    **frequently, when I'm weeding in the backyard in 90 degree summer heat, I wish I had bought a house in the city instead.

Parent Reviews

 We moved out to the mainland suburbs of Philadelphia. I would like to add: something I didn’t expect but should have known was how much I would miss being outside. The weather is obviously a lot harder. But beyond that, people just don’t seem to hang out at the playgrounds. We used to spend our weekends at the farmers market in the playground in our neighborhood, but here, it seems that people have their own place structures in their own yards and that’s where they play. If you have a little kids, that might matter. We found that we played outside in our tiny little plot of land in Oakland much more than we do in our almost speaker yard here, because the weather was just so much more pleasant in Oakland. I miss the long walks outside. People just drive everywhere here.

My 2 cents.  I moved to Berkeley to do my PhD and met my husband, who was living and working in SF. We got married, bought a house in Montclair, had kids. We made a community of friends we loved. Then half a year ago, we moved. So many of our close friends kept moving away. It made me sad. Then we decided on a third kid and since my husband works from home, we wanted more space. We also kind of felt that our beloved wood house on the side of the hill would eventually fall down (even though we did a seismic retrofit) or get swept up in a fire. We bought it in 2012 for $520k, put a couple hundred k into it over the years, and sold it in 2018 for $1350. For our new place, we wanted a functional school district and 3500 sq ft. Looking in Albany, Alameda and Lamorinda and just couldn’t find a house we liked enough to justify the prices plus CA taxes. So. We checked out Boulder and I loved the natural beauty in the bag. Surprisingly though, the houses feeding into schools in the catchments with the strongest schools were equal to or more expensive than the Bay equivalents. Same for the Seattle suburbs that we looked at (did two trips with a realtor). Prices there were jumping fast. In the end, we moved to the Mainline suburbs of Philadelphia. People here think we are crazy that we moved to a place without family or friends, since we could have gone anywhere. It takes 20 min to get downtown, less than a half an hour took us to get into downtown San Francisco.  There’s a Whole Foods and a Trader Joe’s, but God I miss Berkeley bowl. I miss Ethiopian food and Asian vegetables. We have a massive house now (7400sqft. For 1.75m). Ridiculous, actually. But beautiful and a joy to live in. The silly thing is that we ended buying a more expensive house than we set out to and (with a 30k property tax), so our cost of living is probably the same as if we had bought one of those 3500 square-foot houses in Alameda. The school here is supposedly very good, and just two blocks from us. There is a bus that picks up our kindergartner from in front of our house. However, we miss so much. We miss the diversity. They really miss our close circle of friends, smart, funny, down to earth, generous people whose kids and babies were growing up with our kids and babies. It seems harder to make friends here. There are a lot of lawyers and doctors and fewer people in Tech. Maybe we miss the nerdy bay area took types. There is definitely less racial consciousness and activism in these suburbs.  I haven’t seen a single homeless person in the Mainline. I have to drive to downtown Philly to get taken out of the Twilight zone with respect to that.It seems there are fewer people we want to be friends with yet here, but maybe that’s just because it’s a new place. I guess for us, the move was and just moving. It was also changing our lives from living very middle class in the bay area to feeling like we are suddenly raising our kids in a mansion/bubble and trying to prevent them from becoming entitled and out of touch that is surreal and weird.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Moving to Philadelphia on short notice

Dec 2014

It appears that we may be moving to Philadelphia on very short notice. Our children would be going to school in Bala Cynwyd. I am trying to do as much research as I can before we get there. Are there any internet resources there similar to BPN and 510 Families specific to that area? Is there any other way I should be trying to find out more about things to do with kids there? Sam

Welcome to Philly! We are back in the Bay Area from living in Narberth for 8 years and having our first 2 kids there. It is so very different from here, but so good in so many ways. I would think they would have a neighborhood network program similar to what they have here. I just googled Bala Cynwyd and a bunch of stuff popped up. If it's at all possible, I would HIGHLY encourage you to try to get a place in Narberth. It's a coveted, family-friendly neighborhood where tons of stuff is walkable (restaurants, 2 parks, bars, shops and the train to downtown). Bala is nice, but just not walkable like Narberth. There is also a ton of community stuff in Narberth in the downtown (parades for almost every occasion and everyone gets involved, a Narberth run, plays and musicals, beer festivals, the list goes on and on). The upside- real estate is dirt cheap compared to the Bay Area, the schools kick ass (Lower Merion was just ranked at #4 in the country) and the weather is diverse, just like the people. Even though we grew up here, we miss Philly. I never thought I'd say that! Happy to answer any questions you may have. It's scary, but it's going to be great for your family! paige

I'm originally from Philadelphia and I think it is a great place to live. I grew up in Mt. Airy which is has wonderful older homes with that are reasonably priced (ie cheap compared to what you get here in the bay area). In addition, Mt. Airy is only 30 minutes from Center City. The downside is that Phila.public schools are not that great and the good ones are hard to get into. Chestnut Hill is another great neighborhood that borders Mt. Airy. You also should check out Wyndmoor. It borders Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill, but its located in Montgomery County. Wyndmoor is in Springfield Township, Montgomery County and the schools (elementary & high school) are highly recommended. I also think you should look into Cheltenham and Abington Township. Again, these areas have great houses good schools, a sense of community and great r.e. prices. We relocated to the bay area in 2013 (due to hubby's job) and I'm still dreaming of moving back to PA. The people there are friendly, diverse and genuine. You will appreciate the change in seasons and springtime in the Phila area is absolutely beautiful! Phila is also great because of its close proximity to D.C., N.Y. (you can be in the middle of Times Square in 1.5 hrs) and don't forget the Jersey Shore (ignore the reality show). You can take the kids to the beach for great summer vacations. Can you tell that I miss Philadelphia and the East Coast? LOL! Philly Girl

Moving to Philadelphia suburbs

July 2012

Hello! We are considering a move to the Philadelphia suburbs, and we are going there soon to visit and check out neighborhoods. We were wondering if anyone has familiarity with the area and knows of a walking-friendly, tight knit neighborhood within 30mins of the city? We were thinking to live along the Main Line where public schools are good. We currently live in Berkeley and love how easy it is to walk to shops, restaurants, schools, and parks/playgrounds. We would love to find a similar area. Thanks in advance for your help!

Seeking East coast walking neighborhood

There are many directions to go outside of Philly but you should look at Newtown, PA. It is in the Council Rock School District, one of the best districts in the country and it is a small historic town with a walkable downtown. I grew up near there but most suburbs of Philly are all spread out developments of suburbia. Definitely NOT walkable. Newtown is about 20ish minutes from the edge of Northeast Philly in Bucks County CA girl born in Bucks

From my brother -- who used to live in and now lives farther outside Philly than you're apparently aiming at:

They can't go wrong on the Main Line if they can afford it ... it meets their criteria, schools are good, places are walkable. Compared to CA they will probably find real estate affordable even there (smile). Ardmore (on the main line) is close in and has some affordable areas.

My brother has lived in Havertown for over 25 years and loves it.My parents live in Haverford and are very happy there too.Probably can not go wrong in some of the nearby cities as well. Ellen

We moved here a year ago from Philadelphia and though we lived very happily in the city, we did consider moving to the Main Line for the excellent public school system and spent a few months house hunting in that area. Though we ultimately decided to stay in the city (which I love and miss) in the end the only place I really considered on the Main Line was Narberth. It has a nice small town vibe with a busy playground and main shopping area which is very walkable. It's probably a 15-20 minute ride into the city and you'll find lots and lots of young families around too. Whenever my city friends and I debated a move to the suburbs, it was always Narberth we all agreed on. Good luck! Always be a Philly girl

Hi there, I grew up in Jenkintown, PA and my family is still there...Its a small borough of about 4,000 and is less than a square mile just north of the city. Its a bit of a secret with its old stone houses at costs that make my jaw drop with every visit. It has a small town feel.

Growing up the schools were excellent. The enrollment is about 550 for K-12! The town itself use to offer so much more, but is now struggling like most places.

It also has a train station. Philadelphia (center city) 20-30 minutes depending on the line as well as all the way to the airport.

Best. Kim

I grew up in Philadelphia, and I know it's changed-but when I lived there, the Main Line was rich and privileged-lots of 'old' money. Maybe it's very different now. I lived in West Mt Airy which was progressive, beautiful (lots of woods around) and an easy train ride to downtown, as well as close to Chestnut Hill, which is full of cute shops and restaurants. I don't know what the schools are like, but I can imagine there are good charter schools there. There is a great community food co-op that was started in the 70's and is thriving. It was a great place to grow up.

Hello I lived in the West Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia for over 30 years. I always considered it a mini-Berkeley. Great people, beautiful park with hiking, food co-op, integrated, liberal, etc. The schools are city schools and there are charter schools. Chestnut Hill is another great section of Philadelphia. For suburbs, I would suggest Narbeth. It is has good schools (Lower Merion School District) has a walkable, small townish center, is close to the city and has public transportation. Jenkintown also is another possibility-Many people also like Cheltenham, but it doesn't have a walkable center. Karen

Moving to Philadelphia for a job at UPenn

April 2007

my husband is graduating from UC Berkeley this year and he got the professor position in UPenn (University of Pennsilvania) in Philadelphia. We never lived there. We have 5 month old and 4 years old children.

I wanted to get some recommendations on where it is better to live there (I know that suburbs will be better option for kids). Maybe you can recommend specific suburb towns/places and/or internet sites I can look to to find housing there. We plan to buy a house in several months after our move, but for now just looking at the area to see where we would want to rent for the first months.

Any info is really appreciated! Thanks! Anni

Our relatives mostly live in Mount Airy/Germantown. Germantown is more upscale -- their kids are grown, but the elementary school off of Germantown Ave., has a tremendous playground, and seems to have a strong parent community (we play there when we visit.) Germantown has some beautiful and historic houses, that are much less expensive than 2-bedroom Berkeley Houses. There is also a commuter train that gets close to U of P. Check out the transit network before buying anywhere, because it is more convenient, and less stressful if you live near one of the lines. I also wouldn't rule out center city before you go -- my mother always regrets moving us out to the suburbs versus moving to center city. There are many families with kids living in those historic row houses. I think most of the middle class kids go to private elementary school, but the elite public middle/high schools are very good (relatives went to RISD, Harvard, and UC from Central High.) It is a big, complicated metro area, and I'd suggest renting for six months to a year, before you choose a neighborhood/town.

Hi there! Congrats to you and your husband for graduating and landing a professor position at UPenn. I grew up outside Philadelphia (but haven't lived there in over 15 years), but hope my thoughts help. First, especially with kids you probably really do want to live in the 'burbs. There are nice parts in Philly, but the area right around Penn is definitely on the sketchy side. I'd suggest looking for college towns/suburbs nearby; you might try: Swarthmore (home of Swarthmore college, and I know that many Penn profs live(d) there, too); Haverford (home of Haverford College); Bryn Mawr (home of Bryn Mawr college, and right next to Haverford). These three are also on the commuter rail line -- a nice option to have available.

Also, it's not as robust there as here (at least last I checked), but Craig's List does have a Philadelphia site. Good luck!

Just had to write in after I read the first couple responses. I left Philadelphia two years ago, and at that time Mount Airy was safer and more upscale than most of Germantown. It's probable that the home near Germantown Ave. that the poster referenced IS really nice and near a wonderful school. But if you're picking listings off of Craigslist, you'd be much safer with Mount Airy.

I personally find the University City neighborhood (where UPenn is) to be nice, but it is very urban. It's also next to West Philly (go figure) which as we all know from watching ''Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'' is not safe or nice. Most of the regional rail lines stop at 30th Street station, within 10 blocks of UPenn, so any neighborhood on a train line would be convenient enough. Most commuters seem to live on the R5 line which has it's ups and downs: HUGE congestion trying to get anywhere on the trains. On the other hand, generally nice neighborhoods.

Good luck! Philadelphia is lovely in many ways. I miss it quite a bit. I'm no expert, but feel free to email me if you have further questions. jessica

Moving to Philadelphia for a job at Villanova

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

Moving to Philly with a baby

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

Moving to Philadelphia/Delaware area

Dec 2004

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

Moving to Philadelphia for a job at University of Pennsylvania

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