Philadelphia Skyline

Penn Admissions Blog

An Insider's Guide to Philly
Queenie | April 18, 2019

Philly is a diverse city. There’s always somewhere to go and something to do, see and eat. Through my time at Penn and my time living in Philly, I have come to know Philly pretty well. I’ve compiled this insider’s guide on things in Philly that I believe are worth checking out.


If you’re looking for something to engage your creative mind: First Fridays

Every first Friday of the month, the Old City district of Philadelphia has many art galleries that are open and free to the public. The art in these galleries often times changes from month to month with different artists featured so there is always something new to see. You can observe some nice sculptures, paintings, and modern art and engage with your creative mind. On some First Fridays, the Clay Studio offers interactive workshops for free where you can learn how to make a bowl or design a tile. Some of my personal favorite galleries are the Center for Art In Wood and the Jewish Art Center where different mixed media are used for art like wood and metal.


If you’re looking for a place to buy groceries and foods that remind you of home: Chinatown

A painting of Chinatown that I made
Painting of Chinatown I made for an art gallery event on campus

As someone who’s from Philly, home is literally 10 minutes away. But sometimes I find myself not missing the physical home that I lived in growing up, but rather missing the taste and smells of home. I, alongside many of my friends, am able to find those tastes and smells in Chinatown. The markets are a fun place to shop and veggies are always fresh. Chinatown is a place where I can study in bubble tea shops like MIUCHA, feast on Bonchon with my friends, or order some affordable takeout from Ting Wong to bring back to campus. You can’t go wrong with taking a trip to Chinatown.


If you’re looking for hummus that will change your life: Zahav

This is a meal I’d recommend for everyone to try at least once during their time in Philly. Whether it’s a date night with your partner or you’re just looking for an excuse to have a fancy dinner with your friends over great food, Zahav is the place to go. I recommend their Taste of Zahav menu where you can try multiple items on the menu for a set price.


If you’re looking to connect with nature, go fishing, or volunteer with the community: Bartram’s Garden

A pumpkin picking and painting trip to Bartram's Garden
Taken at a fall event where we were able to paint our own pumpkins.

This is a place I recently discovered last year when I added “go fishing” to my bucket list. As a city girl from Philadelphia, I wanted to try fishing and wasn’t sure where I could do that. I learned that at Bartram’s Garden (only a short trolley ride away) I would be able to learn how to fish for free! As the name suggests, there is also a lot of green and flowers in the area as well if you want to go off campus to take in fresh air and relax. They also have many volunteer opportunities and also many community events like the one pictured above.


If you love to people-watch: Rittenhouse Square

Many of my friends go to Rittenhouse Square to enjoy an afternoon read in the park or to study in the Barnes and Noble nearby. I personally enjoy visiting the bakeries for cannolis or dropping by for a palm reading by Mrs. Lena. There are always things to do and people around (not to mention the variety of dogs on walks) so this is the place to be if you want to immerse yourself in the environment around you.


If you’re looking for a fun place to go with friends: RiverRink

The RiverRink at night!

Every year, my high school friends and I have our annual ice skating tradition. Over the years, I’ve lost interest in ice skating itself, as it’s a real leg workout and I don’t have the best balance on land (or ice), but it’s also fun to bring your own marshmallows and snacks to roast over an open flame or to play in the arcade. In the summertime, the ice rink becomes a land rink where you can roller skate.


If you’re looking for a place to calm your mind: Schuylkill River Trail

The Schuykill River Trail as the sun sets!

This is the place to go for a nice long walk along the river. There are people jogging, running, skating, skateboarding, biking – you name it. There are benches to sit and watch the ducks on the river and also a lot of grass space to lay down and read on a nice spring day. It’s close to campus and definitely one of my favorite spots to go to when I want to calm my mind.


These are my top spots, but Philly has so much more to offer in addition to this list. I encourage everyone who has a chance to visit and explore Philly to check out these spots and to find your own favorite spots in Philly!

About the author

I am majoring in Psychology. South Philadelphia, born and raised, I decided to attend a college 15 minutes away from home. Despite being so close to home, Penn has led me to pursue many interesting experiences and adventures that are normally far out of my comfort zone such as traveling to Singapore and Malaysia, joining a sorority, and managing an entire cultural show production.

As an aspiring counselor/therapist, I not only love helping my friends through their own journeys of self-discovery but I’m also a big fan of my own self-reflection through various mediums like blogging, writing, and painting. In my blog posts, I aim to be completely candid and true to how my experiences made me who I am today and to help inspire self-reflection in others as well.

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