Philly is so much more than the cradle of America's democracy. It's a city of progressive neighborhoods, brotherly love, strident opinions and mouth-watering cuisine ranging from haute to hot. It's also a place with ample culture, accessible natural attractions and an outgoing, engaging populace.
The city anchors one of the oldest metro areas in America (founded 1682) and the fifth biggest, with a population of nearly 4 million. Philadelphia (population 1.53 million) was settled and still sits where the Schuylkill River enters the Delaware River.
Icebreaking opportunities for first dates here are extensive: Philly's impressive cultural institutions include the Pennsylvania Ballet, the 42-acre Philadelphia Zoo (founded 1859), the Philadelphia Museum of Art (more than 225,000 objects in a majestic Greek Revival temple ) and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed. The Philadelphia Orchestra, which performs at the 2,500-seat Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, is considered by many critics to be one of the best in the world.
Philadelphians are proud of their neighborhoods — from South Philly and Society Hill to Fishtown, Germantown and Manayunk — and proud of their local institutions. At the Reading Terminal Market in Center City, locals have jostled since 1892 for fresh meats, vegetables and fancy foods sold by Amish farmers and chocolatiers.
For the iconic Philadelphia cheesesteak, some locals swear by Rick's Steaks. Rick is the grandson of Pat Olivieri, who invented the sandwich with his brother in about 1930. Others are loyal to Pat's King of Steaks, in South Philly, or Geno's Steaks across the street, or some other neighborhood joint. The only way to decide for yourself is to try them all.
Philadelphia's ample 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 du Pont estate that sprawls over more than 1,000 acres in Kennett Square. The city is also a mere hour's drive from the beaches of the Jersey Shore.
Philadelphia has a high concentration of doctors, specialists and teaching hospitals. Overall, Philadelphians are of average health, but they have an unusually high death rate from cancer — possibly connected to the metro area's horrendous air pollution. Philadelphia is also challenging for allergy sufferers, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
The violent crime rate is very high, and property crime here is just above the national average. But the tide is turning: The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is fueling Philadelphia Green, which turns down-market 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.