Not long ago, Philadelphia warranted the derision captured by the quip, "Philadelphia — I spent a week there one night." But Philly has since carved out more than its gritty, blue-collar crown and is now a hip, manageable and fun city.
America's oldest metropolitan area is its 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.
Philly's impressive cultural institutions include the Pennsylvania Ballet, the 42-acre Philadelphia Zoo (founded in 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, 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 1893 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 around 1930. Others are loyal to Pat's King of Steaks, in South Philly, or Geno's across the street, or some other neighborhood joint.
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.
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. And progress marches on: The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is fueling Philadelphia Green, which turns trash-strewn 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.
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