General Question

knittingandcanning's avatar

My family and I have been thinking about moving to Philadelphia from Olympia WA. What are some things about Philadelphia that we should know before relocating? Is there another city that would fit our sitation better?

Asked by knittingandcanning (346 points ) September 19th, 2008

My family consists of my partner who will be a college graduate by the time we would want to move. We are hoping to someday own our own restaurant. Our daughter is 5 months old – we would love to live in a house with a yard and find a great school for her to someday attend.

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10 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I used to live in Philadelphia years ago, and just retiurned from a visit there. There will be some culture shock moving from Olympia.

Philadelphia is a real major city. It makes Seattle look small (to relate it to your neck of the woods).

PROS
It has a very livable downtown if you like urban life.

It has an incredibly good mass transit system including subways, elevated trains, commuter rail, as well as bus. I lived there and commuted quite a distance for ten years and did not own a car. I have friends that live there now and choose not to own a car.

It has a vibrant restaurant and foodie scene, and would be a good choice for your new venture.

CONS
In some directions, you have to go fairly far to find that house with yard and swing set.

Many neighborhoods are not integrated although many more are.

It is neighborhoody like Chicago. South Philly is very Italian, for example.

People are more stratified (in my personal opinion) than they are in the West. I was shocked to find when I was introduced to someone in Philadelphia, they would immediately ask me what religion I was (that had never happened to me anywhere in my life before).

Still, the city is cleaner and the downtown more vibrant (sidewalk cafes everywhere) than when I left in 1986. My husband and I both said to each other that we would enjoy living there again.

Climate. You will find the winters harsher (well than Washington winters used to be before the last few years) and the summers humid (you’ll adjust). Make sure you have at least a room AC for nights. The fall is gorgeous. Rural Pennsylvania is beautiful anyway and the leaves put on a show. It never gets really roastingly hot for endless days the way it does here in Orlando.

Happy move.

willbrawn's avatar

do you like Olympia? My and my wife are thinking about moving there.

marinelife's avatar

@willbrawn I have only been there many times not lived there, but it is a lovely small town a reasonable distance to the Pacific Ocean, to big cities, and to as much gorgeous Northwest wilderness as you could dream of. Economic activity? Not so much. A typical sleepy state captial.

Steeleworks's avatar

I live an hour North of Philly and have worked in Seattle, lived in Oregon. Major climate difference. A bit colder for some reason. Another difference, you will pay to go across most bridges.

You will be closer to New York City and Washington DC. There are several things you should do at each before you die.

gailcalled's avatar

Philly, as Marina said, has dozens of neighborhoods that do not look very urban. Center city is just what it sounds like, however. Urbane, chic, cleaned up. We lived in East Falls (legally in the city) in a huge house with a yard one block from the train station. Gorgeous huge woods and parks nearby, lots of newly rehabbed areas, wonderful biking along the Schulkyll river, terrific zoo, museums, music, eateries. U. Penn, Temple U, Drexel U, and several good smaller colleges right there.

Our house abutted on the tennis courts of an Independent Quaker Day School (Wm Penn Charter). My husband was the Headmaster of another near-by Independent Quaker Day School (Germantown Friends) and my oldest step-son is the chair of the history dept. at Friends School in Haverford. Quaker Schools in area

You haven’t given us enough info, really. What kind of employment are you looking for before you start up your restaurant. Olympia and Phila. are as different as chalk and cheese.

I loved having my two (Jewish) kids and my three step-sons (Protestant) attend a Friends School. They got both a superb education and a life-long understanding of social service and peaceful resolution of conflict. However, the private schools are not cheap (but they all have terrific financial aid programs.)

susanc's avatar

LEAVE Olympia? I can’t imagine. In spite of the Philly Cheese Steaks and the nice Quaker schools. Don’t go!!!

gailcalled's avatar

Certainly don’t relocate because of the Cheese Steaks. You can dupe them anywhere-squishy white rolls, shaved mystery beef, lots of grease, sauted onions….

I understand that Susanc has a grease-fueled car (parked in Olympia) that smells just like a cheese steak.

(And I should add that one of the Fluther gods was born and raised in Oly.)

knittingandcanning's avatar

@willbrawn: Olympia is a fairly nice place to live. Great foresty trails and nice parks. Day trips to the beach or Seattle are readily doable, if you don’t mind driving in order to have an adventure. The diners and cafes were fun for a while. Oly has a lot to offer, especially when I first moved here for college and didn’t mind staying up until 2am at a house show or diner.

@gailcalled & susanc: It’s no longer the right place for me – my life has changed so much since I moved here. I came to Olympia right out of high school enthralled by the thought that I could finally do whatever I want and my mom wouldn’t find out. Now, however, two years after moving here, my partner and I have a 5 month old daughter and go to bed by 9pm. We don’t want to drive all the way to Seattle in order to go to the zoo or a museum. We’re also not interested in the atmosphere of the cafes anymore – too busy and loud.

I will always love Olympia for what it gave me, though – a wonderful partner and daughter!

wundayatta's avatar

If I were moving to the city now, I’d live in Northern Liberties, or just North of Girard. It’s a pioneering area at the moment (N of Girard, I mean—N Liberties is already The Place) but there’s land to be had and shells of houses to be remodelled, and you’re just North of Northern Liberties, and there are lots of pubs and coffeehouses and galleries, and even clubs. It works whether you’re a musician, a young family, or single. I drive past it every day, and my mouth waters, but I’m settled in West Philly.

You can get small yards just about anywhere in the city. If you want a big yard, then you have to go to Mt Airy, which can be pricey, and is a longer commute to center city. You could also try Germantown, which has many graceful old houses that are being reclaimed from neglect. If you’re anarchists, you should live in West Philly, near the A Space. Wobblies also live in the neighborhood, and they have a book store there. If you don’t know what a Wobbly is, you should find out, because it is a venerable part of US history.

Schools: well, if you live in Powelton village, Chestnut Hill, or Queen Village, you can send your daughter to public school (Powell, Henry, and Meredeth schools, respectively). There may be a few other elementary schools that are good in other neighborhoods, but I’m not familiar with them. Oh, there’s the new university sponsored school in West Philly. If you want to go to any of these schools, make sure you get a house inside the catchment area. We live 50 feet outside the catchment area for the university school, and thus have to send our kids to progressive school (read private school).

Private school is a tradition in Philly because of the Quakers. I think we have perhaps the highest portion of children in private school of any major city, and this was also true before racial problems. I.e., it isn’t white flight. Of course, if you go to private school, you can expect to pay at least 24K a year. Parochial schools are a good deal less expensive. Public schools are free, of course. So you can see the advantage of living in a neighborhood inside the right area. That would also preclude Northern Liberties, I think.

Philly is a big city that feels like a small town. You run into people you know all over the place. Because of the Quaker influence, there is this notion that we are all “Friends.” Concensus building is an important thing here. You may not notice these things at first, but eventually, you’ll start to notice it.

I ended up here by accident, and have come to love it very much. I came in a recession, and have seen the city grow carefully. We’re not as badly off as others who indulged in wild growth. There’s so much culture here, and a lot of very interesting things going on that don’t necessarily get publicized outside the city. It’s a gem, and at the very least you should visit, even if you don’t live here.

jballou's avatar

If you want to open a restaurant one day- Philly is GREAT for that. I’ve never before met so many restaurant entrepreneurs as in Philly. I lived there for 6 years, and for a major American city, it was surprisingly accessible in that way. New restaurants were constantly popping up and the city seemed very supportive of them.

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