It would be hard to find a fan base as, er, vocally expressive about its teams as the fine folks of Philly. Wherever you're watching the MLB Phillies, NHL Flyers, NBA 76ers or NFL Eagles, you always know where Philadelphians stand — and you'll find that same candor in interactions with locals.
This oldest metropolitan area in the U.S. is the nation's fifth biggest, with a population of 4 million. Philadelphia (population 1.5 million) was settled by William Penn in 1682 where the Schuylkill River enters the Delaware River.
From South Philly and Society Hill to Fishtown, Germantown and Manayunk, Philadelphians are proud of their neighborhoods — and their local institutions too. At the Reading Terminal Market in Center City, locals have jostled since 1893 for fresh meats, vegetables and fancy foods sold by Amish farmers and chocolatiers.
Philadelphia's outdoor spaces include Fairmount Park, a 9,200-acre system of green space; the Schuylkill River Trail, which extends almost 25 miles from Center City; Scott Arboretum, on the campus of Swarthmore College; and Longwood Gardens, a former DuPont estate that sprawls over more than 1,000 acres in Kennett Square. Yes, winters can be nasty here — and get nastier if the Eagles, Flyers or 76ers are losing — but spring and fall are sublime. And the fine beaches of the Jersey Shore are little more than an hour's drive away.
Philadelphia has a high concentration of doctors, specialists and teaching hospitals. The locals are of average health overall, but they have an unusually high death rate from cancer — possibly connected to the metro area's horrendous air pollution. Philadelphia is also a challenging venue for allergy sufferers, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
The violent crime rate is very high but tends to be concentrated in known bad areas, and property crime here is just above the national average. But there's been real progress: The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is fueling Philadelphia Green, which turns vacant lots into green spaces. The group worked with locals on the Norris Square Neighborhood Project, transforming blight into the Las Parcelas garden and community kitchen.
Philly has come a long way since the days that prompted the W. C. Fields quote, "Philadelphia — I spent a week there one night." Though the city retains its authentic edge, today it has morphed into a hip, diverse region with more than enough good stuff to get locals — and retirees — talking about something besides sports.
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