Welcome Home: Moving to Philly
Get the family-town feel in and around the City of Brotherly Love
Considered the smallest big city in America, Philadelphia is a mecca of neighborhoods filled with history, great schools, world-class health care, wonderful restaurants and welcoming neighbors. For families who have recently moved to town, there are plenty of fun ways to quickly feel like a local.
“The city is easy to get around — it’s only 25 blocks from river to river, and very flat for most of that,” says Donna Schorr, director of communications for Visit Philadelphia. “Doing activities where you’ll meet other families is a great way to work your way into the community and find other like-minded folks who can give you good suggestions. Philadelphians are a lot friendlier than maybe people recognize.”
Join the club
When Amy Greenwood moved to Bala Cynwyd from Rochester, NY in 2006, she wanted to find ways for her family to feel part of their new community. She quickly began volunteering in her son’s school and joined the local newcomer’s club.
“That really helped me learn my way around and meet people,” she recalls. “Just talking to other mothers helped me find resources in the area. We have a list to recommend plumbers, electricians and so on, and people with older children who babysit. I felt more comfortable here faster than I had when I moved to other places.”
Greenwood took advantage of the club’s outings, luncheons and other social events, where “you meet other people and also learn your way around,” she says. Beyond meeting friends at school, her son Hale, 7 at the time, joined the Haverford Soccer Club. Whether your child is into sports, the arts, nature or something else, chances are your community offers it; search by interest and location at MetroKids.com/classes.
Mailing list musts
July 4th fireworks, a neighborhood Christmas tree or menorah, engine rides during fire prevention week, summer movies in the park: Most townships offer free events throughout the year. “The most important thing you can do is get on the mailing list for your local community,” says Kristen Foote, realtor with Philly-based Berkshire Hathaway Home Services. Google the name of your town plus “mailing list,” then sign up for email or snail mail calendar reminders.
Immerse yourself in history
The Cradle of Liberty, Philly is home to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and scores of other historical sites. “So much of the history of America is right here in Philadelphia — and so many of the sites are free, which is wonderful for families on a budget,” says Schorr.
“We have the country’s first zoo here, the first mint, bank and post office,” adds Foote. “For kids studying history in school, they can step out their front door and see it all for themselves. For example, the post office is free and still looks the way it did back when it was first built. They still hand-stamp everything.”
Parks for rec
“Get out on foot, on our wonderful bike trails and new outside spaces and recreation areas, to send a healthy message to your kids,” suggests Schorr. Philadelphia’s parks, trails, bike routes, and rivers are scattered throughout the city and suburbs, offering many outdoor opportunities. An evening car ride past brightly lit Boathouse Row along the Schuylkill River is a breathtaking scene any time of year.
The city also offers free concerts, including a 4th of July extravaganza and the Mann Center’s free annual Young People’s Concert Series. “In the summer you can go down to Penn’s Landing every Friday night to watch the fireworks,” adds Foote. “In the winter there is a gorgeous skating rink outside, right on the river. You can get your hot chocolate, put on your skates, and go.”
Sights at the museum
Whether visiting the Rocky statue and running Stallone-style up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art or taking the kids to the Barnes Collection’s monthly pajama nights, families can find many free activities at Philly’s museums.
“There are special times every month at all the major museums where it’s free for people to attend,” says Schorr. “They are recognizing the importance of the family and the importance of getting children into museums at an early age. Our University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology may sound dry to some people, but they do wonderful programming for kids and have kids’ activities all year long, including arts and culture of other countries.”
Feeling at home, says Foote, is about “what you make of the town. Joining things and getting involved are how you meet people and establish relationships. Being involved in your community is really important when you get here.”
Terri Akman is a contributing writer to MetroKids.