Getting to Know Philly
Whether you think of it as the City of Brotherly Love, the Birthplace of America or the City that Loves You Back, Philadelphia isn’t a city that gets hung up on formalities, so, please, call it Philly.
The Big Cheesesteak of the East Coast was the birthplace of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and the sites where these historic documents were signed draw throngs of tourists, but they’re still close to the hearts of Philadelphia residents. It’s hard not to get a little teary-eyed at the sight of the Liberty Bell, or sentimental stepping into the home where the American Flag was hand stitched. But outside “America’s most historic square mile,” the real Philly awaits, and the treasures of the contemporary city more than rival their historic past.
Philly neighborhoods are varied and alive, and cultural enclaves here mesh with arts-driven and business-centric districts. Industrial buildings have been lovingly repurposed into food halls, like the Bourse. New arts venues like Wonderspaces complement the city’s most established institutions, like the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Longstanding mom-and-pops like Tacconelli’s Pizzeria serve the same outstanding tomato pies they started baking in 1946, while newcomers like Down North and Pizzeria Beddia have started their own traditions.
And if the cultural attractions aren’t enough, the job market and relative affordability of the city should sweeten the deal. Philly has top employers from a diverse range of industries, from healthcare to finance to design, and the numerous highly ranked universities in the area ensure a constant influx of new ideas and talent. And because the city is the second largest on the East Coast and the sixth-largest in the nation, you’ll have all the amenities you expect in a major urban center with the warmth of small-town vibes.
If you’re looking for a northeastern hub with a historic heart, Philadelphia may be right for your family. Learn more about the city below and check out some of the great things about the state in our Moving Guide to Pennsylvania.
Navigating Life in Philadelphia
Four Season Climate
One of the perks of living in Philadelphia is experiencing the four seasons. Summer may get too hot, and winter can get too cold, but you’ll never feel like you’re experiencing the same day repeatedly. The average low in January/February is around 26 F and the average high in July and August is roughly 87 F, and you can expect extremes at both ends.
Like many northeastern cities near the coast, Philadelphia receives three to four inches of rain per month, which usually keeps the city free from summer droughts. This consistent precipitation usually promises about 20 inches of snow each winter, but much like New York City, Philly has been in a “snow drought” for the past 24 months — measurable snow hadn’t fallen in two years until early 2024.
Spring and fall are also genuine seasons in Philadelphia. Unlike Midwestern cities that can easily go from scorch to frost in 12 hours, Philly eases itself into spring with a muddy March thaw and back into winter in early December, reliably providing temperate weather from April through June and September through November. Spring flowers and leaf-peeping are must-see shows of the seasons.
Philadelphia’s Job Market
Philadelphia has a large nonfarm civilian workforce, which totaled more than 750,000 employees in November 2023 in the city and county alone. The greater metro region, encompassing Camden, New Jersey, and Wilmington, Delaware, has nearly 3.3 million members of its workforce. In the middle of 2023, unemployment levels in the city had been starkly higher than in the rest of the nation, but those alarming rates had fallen to 3.9% by year’s end, and a similar pattern followed in the metro area.
Greater Philadelphia has a diverse industry base, led by education and health services, which grew 5.6% over the past year to 734,400 employees. With 571,700 employees, trade, transportation and utilities also has a robust presence — no surprise with the regional proximity to the coast. Professional and business services (510,700 employees) and financial services (230,700 employees) comprise a sizable portion of the area’s workforce, as do leisure and hospitality, which grew 7.2% year-over-year to a total of 276,500 employees.
The largest employers in the city of Philadelphia include the federal government, the City of Philadelphia and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, but the Philly metro serves as homebase to commercial giants like Comcast, GSK and delivery service Gopuff, which was founded by Drexel University students in 2013.
Philadelphia also has one of the nation’s most impressive arrays of universities. There are large schools like the Ivy League’s #4, the University of Pennsylvania (Penn/UPenn), and prestigious private schools like Haverford, but no matter what kind of college experience you’re looking for, Philadelphia is a hotbed of higher education. Other prominent institutions in the area include Drexel University, Temple University, Villanova, and Swarthmore.
Cost of Living in Philadelphia
For those who think of the northeastern U.S. as one of the most unaffordable areas to live in, it may come as a surprise to learn that Philadelphia’s cost of living is actually lower than the U.S. average. And compared to other popular cities in the region, Philly is a downright bargain. The median home value in Philadelphia averaged just $215,500 between 2018 and 2022, compared to New York City’s $732,100, Boston’s $684,900 and DC’s $705,000. And, at $281,900, the U.S. average is more than $65,000 higher than Philly’s. Rent follows a similar pattern, with Philly’s low average of $1,250 being on par with U.S. rates but hundreds of dollars less than its northeastern counterparts.
Philadelphians also don’t outspend their countrymen on other common expenses like healthcare, entertainment or food. When it comes to energy costs, again, Philly residents come out fairly even, paying a bit more for electricity but about the same as the U.S. average for gasoline and utility (piped) gas.
Philly’s Public Transportation
Thanks to some ingenuity on the part of the city’s founder, William Penn, Philadelphia is a highly walkable, easily navigable place that seems — unlike so many major metropolises — designed for humans. The historic district is particularly ped-friendly, and the Indego Philly bike share encourages novice riders to give the nearly 1,200 miles of bike lanes and trails a spin. If you’re visiting downtown for the day, the phunnily named Philly Phlash will take you to the most popular attractions in town.
But let’s get down to brass tracks. Philly is one of the country’s largest public transit systems, and SEPTA — the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority — provides train, subway, bus, trolley and high-speed services to city residents and those living in the five-county region. Bus/Metro fares cost $2.00/$2.50 per ride and regional rail tickets vary from $3.75-$10.00 per ride; weekly passes cost $25.50 and monthly passes cost $96.00. Rest assured, you can get around Philadelphia without a car, and 9.5% of residents do just that.
Center City is the core of Philadelphia’s downtown, encompassing more than a dozen distinct areas, from quiet residential districts like Society Hill to bustling shopping and dining districts like Chinatown.
One of the most popular areas in Center City is Old City — the historic hub of Philadelphia. Major landmarks like the Liberty Bell keep a steady stream of tourists in the area, but the charming red brick buildings, colorful awnings and neighborhood-y events like the weekly Farmer’s Market at Christ Church (held each Wednesday) and First Friday events keep a homey vibe for residents.
Fashion hounds will know that Center City’s Rittenhouse Square was the birthplace of Anthropologie, but this popular district is still the epitome of style and culture. Art galleries and boutique hotels populate these historic avenues, but just pop into the Rosenbach museum and library to see what life was like in early America. Well-appointed pubs like the Dandelion will give you an updated taste of bygone classics, like the Welsh rarebit, rabbit pie and their stellar fish & chips.
The center of Center City is the nexus of nightlife. Midtown Village and what’s known as The Gayborhood is chock-a-block with LGBTQ-friendly restaurants, bars and clubs, from cozy speakeasies to punky dives, cheesy piano bars, laid-back wine bars and concept-forward, yuppy retreats. When you really, really need a break from everything in your life, look no further than the Voyeur. This laser-disco escape hatch to glitterati-filled dance frenzy opens at 11 p.m. at the earliest, and you can party until the door to reality slams shut at 3:20 a.m.
One of the best spots in South Philly is East Passyunk, a down-to-earth neighborhood that has been named a top destination for foodies. The neon glow of Geno’s signs announces your arrival at one of the city’s meccas for cheesesteaks, but there are also elegant eateries like Ember & Ash and Irwin’s — its rooftop is perfect for swanky cocktails and creative mezze after work.
Just outside Center City on the western banks of the Delaware River, Fishtown was once a rough-and-tumble fishing village, but its good housing stock and modest prices have attracted creative types in droves, so you’ll now find artist studios, artisanal coffee shops and bars and great spots for live music. Favorite dining spots like Suraya, which also has a specialty market, delivers heady Moroccan flavors and a sumptuous range of Mediterranean dishes.
Note: If you’re planning to move to Philadelphia, it’s important to thoroughly research the neighborhoods and areas in the city you might be interested in living. Before you decide where you are going to reside, make sure you understand the neighborhood’s cost of living, commute time, tax rates, safety statistics and schooling information.
Explore Philly’s Unique Flavors
Taking a walk in Philly’s Historic District is the easiest way to travel back in time. Start your journey in Elfreth’s Alley, where some of the city’s oldest homes line the cobblestone streets. Then, make your way to the Betsy Ross House, to see where the country’s ideals were literally hand-stitched together. At Independence National Historic Park, you can see the bell whose toll for freedom can never be un-rung (even if the crack means it can’t be rung again, either) at the Liberty Bell Center. Other spots of interest here include Independence Hall — the site where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed — the Museum of the American Revolution and several historic homes where the nation’s founding fathers once dwelled.
Philadelphia is certainly no slouch when it comes to other cultural attractions, either. Kids will love the hands-on science exhibits at the Franklin Institute, where they can safely crawl through a brain, get in the pilot’s seat of a 1948 T-33 Jet and stare directly at the sun (thanks to a Carl Zeiss refracting telescope in the rooftop observatory.
Artists and arts afficionados will have few complaints about this highly creative city. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has a vast permanent collection that spans both time and place, from medieval tapestries to contemporary Korean craft and Pop Art. The PMA also oversees the Rodin Museum down the street. Other must-see stops include the Barnes Foundation, the Mattress Factory (a contemporary art space) and Wonderspaces Philadelphia, which features a single immersive exhibit every few months which you can enjoy while sipping cocktails and mocktails.
And performing arts enthusiasts will be satisfied with the range and depth of the city’s talents, whether you’re looking for classical ballet to drag shows, jazz or the theatre.
But Philadelphia’s treasures aren’t all indoors. Fairmount Park is one of the city’s most popular destinations, whether you just want a quick stroll along the Schuylkill River on your lunch hour, or you want to spend a whole day exploring the 2,000+ acres of this green space, hiking the woodland trails, visiting the historic house museums on site, or perching in the Pavilion in the Trees, hammering out the last few chapters of your first novel.
North of the city, Wissahickon Valley Park awaits with its 50 miles of hiking and biking trails. You can opt for rocky and rugged or flat and paved, depending on your desire for adventure. Watch out for horses (and their contributions to the trail) — many of the pathways are shared by equestrians. Anglers can try their luck flyfishing at Wissahickon, and ornithology enthusiasts should keep their eyes peeled for piliated woodpeckers and 200 other species of birds in the area.
Off the beaten path but squarely on the offbeat one, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens are a romp through the imagination of artist Isaiah Zagar. This whimsical outdoor space in the South Street neighborhood fashions a wonderland from found objects, and families can see additional art exhibitions indoors and take fun workshops to learn to make your own mosaics inspired by Zagar’s unorthodox methods.
Catch a Game
In this athletic-obsessed town, sports fans in Philadelphia needn’t worry that they’ll be left out in the cold, except maybe for NHL Flyers fans, but the newly renovated Wells Fargo Stadium does promise ice hockey fans heated seats in some sections. The NBA’s 76ers also play here, as do some of the biggest bands in the land, and with the stadium’s fantastic food and state-of-the-art amenities, every event here is a blowout.
Football fans will spend their fall at Lincoln Financial Field, where the Philadelphia Eagles play, as do the Temple University Owls. The Eagles finally clinched their first Super Bowl win in 2018 against their bitter rival, the New England Patriots.
But no fans are fiercer in Philly than Phillies fans. That may be because they are the longest-running team around that still exists under their original name and in their original city. The Phillies history dates way back to 1883, and while they’ve struggled to secure the victories that their rivals have enjoyed, they have taken home two World Series titles — most recently stinging the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008 — and eight National League pennants. Hopefully good things are in store for the Phillies this year at Citizens Bank Park.
Philly cheesesteaks may keep this city on the culinary map for classic Italian American fare, but there’s so much more to Philadelphia’s food scene than this delicious, gooey indulgence. There are the humble delights of Fink’s legendary hoagies, and the classic Philly roast pork sandwich attains new heights at Woodrow’s. Philly’s street eats don’t get any better than a soft salty pretzel or a refreshing water ice (“wooder ice”) in the summertime. And you can tell by their breakfast plates that Philadelphian’s share New Jersey’s love for pork roll…even if Jersey doesn’t share their taste for scrapple. Whatever you do, don’t ask anyone about the origin story of Philadelphia cream cheese. That was invented in New York state.
If you’re hankering is more for haricots vert and duck confit, Philly is also a destination for global cuisine, like the impeccable French dishes at Royal Boucherie. Maybe you’re craving for Korean barbeque cooked right at your fireproof, stainless-steel table, which, in that case, we’d recommend you head straight to the snoot at the newly opened Mr. Pig. But if meat is never on your mind, you’ll find impossibly elegant vegan fare at Pietramala.
In Center City, the Reading Terminal Market offers a wide range of culinary and craft delights from near and far. You’ll find Pennsylvania Dutch country treats, like Beiler’s Doughnuts, and specialty wares all the way from Morocco.
You’re sure to make regular visits to the South 9th Street Italian Market to glimpse the epicurean depths of the city’s south side. You’ll find cheesemongers to butchers to bakers in this 140-year-old outdoor market, but everyone in the neighborhood shows up for their annual festival. Sure, there’ll be kettle corn and beer and live music, but the signature draws to this party are the Grease Pole Competition, where overcoming the laws of physics earns you prizes of meat and cheese, temptingly suspended from the pole’s crown, and the Halfball Tournament, where grownups keep this children’s favorite street sport alive and sticking.
Tips for Moving to Philadelphia
Are you ready to make the move to Philadelphia? If so, Mayflower is to help. Before you move, make sure you do your research on the best moving companies, so you’ll fully understand the moving quotes you’ll get from different movers.
Making a cross-country move to Philadelphia? Why not leave the work to the professionals? Mayflower’s nationwide network of long-distance movers helps you eliminate the hassle of relocating. By hiring a trusted moving company like Mayflower, you will know that your long-distance relocation needs will be taken care of by professional movers.
Mayflower is licensed for interstate moves, and we can help your family move to Philadelphia from anywhere in the country. If you need full-service moving solutions, we can customize a moving package tailored to your needs, including services like packing and unpacking, storage for your belongings, shipping your car and even removing debris. Mayflower is here to help make your move easy and stress-free.
Even if you are planning a DIY move, we can help. Handling your own move is easier when you utilize Mayflower’s moving resources.
And no matter how you move to Philadelphia, Mayflower’s moving checklist and planner can help keep your move on track and organized — including your budget.
Looking for tips for settling into your new home? You can trust Mayflower to help your family even after your move is complete.